Badly behaved visitors anger Wuhan University students during peak cherry blossom season

Society & Culture

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Spring weather has arrived in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, as crowds of locals and tourists were out enjoying its iconic cherry blossoms that have reached full bloom since last week. For students at Wuhan University, having hundreds of cherry blossom trees on campus can be a blessing — or a nightmare, if tourists flocking to the school show zero respect for the precious spectacle.

On March 24, the official Weibo account of Wuhan University published a video of a visitor hopping fences to shake the branches of a cherry blossom tree for a petal “rain.” Accompanying the man’s questionable conduct are cheers from other tourists on the scene and opposition from a few students. “You can’t shake that tree! You are not allowed to shake that tree,” said one student, whose voice was clearly captured in the clip.

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The footage was first posted on social media by a student who witnessed the whole incident. In the description of the video, the angry student said that the misbehaving man, visibly drunk, first jiggled a branch while repeatedly asking his child at full volume, “Does it look beautiful?” When he approached another tree, a male student came forward asking him to leave. But after resting for a brief moment, the man started to shake trees again and shouted, “Let me see who dares to stop me! Does it look beautiful?” to which his child replied, “Beautiful!”

“We don’t welcome tourists like you. This pretty much sums up how you behave in your entire life and how your child will be like when he grows up,” the student wrote in the description. “Someday, you will be punished for your stupid behavior.”

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The video soon attracted a lot of attention after the university reposted it on Weibo, urging visitors to “treat cherry blossoms respectfully” and not to “harm grass and flowers.”

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Wuhan University is one of the most popular spots to catch a glimpse of cherry blossoms in the city. Though it’s documented that the school’s history of sakura — the Japanese name for cherry blossoms — can be traced back to 1939, when some Japanese soldiers introduced about 30 cherry blossom trees to the school during the Second Sino-Japanese War as a symbol of occupation, and the number of sakura trees continued to grow in the subsequent years, it was not until recent years that the campus became flooded with tourists craving social media-friendly cherry blossom photos during the peak season.

To restrain the influx of tourists, Wuhan University initially sold tickets to an on-campus sakura tour every year. But as many people argued that the cherry blossom trees that the school owned are public assets, the university decided to offer free access to every tourist as long as they booked a visiting time online.

The welcoming policy, however, soon backfired, as many tourists were caught shaking, kicking, or climbing trees for pure fun or a perfect snap.

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Outside Wuhan University, rude and violent behavior toward cherry blossom trees was spotted in other parts of China. Last week, a man was caught kicking the trunk of a cherry blossom tree on a street in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, the same location where a middle-aged woman was also photographed climbing on a sakura tree in high heels. After their misbehavior was exposed, local authorities in Nanjing warned that any tourists caught damaging natural property would face fines and even be blacklisted from certain areas.