Travel writing is a messy genre. If you can get past the othering, there’s the whole problem of gendered travel writing in which men go on “adventures” and women go on “journeys of self-discovery.” In both cases, it’s rare to even get so much as a glimpse of another culture or place—the former is loaded with uncomfortable conquering metaphors, the latter is more psychodrama than trip abroad. Travel writing as a storytelling genre has long avoided documentation in favor of interpretation—or, as Christina Xu calls it, “colonialist bullshit.”
Multi Entry is a multimedia travel documentary that will compile photo essays, interviews, guides, and other media to introduce China from Chinese perspectives. Taking advantage of the project’s namesake—the Multiple Entry Visa—Xu will spend a total of two months traveling throughout eastern China in the fall of 2015, visiting Beijing, Chengdu, Kunming, Shangrao, Shanghai, Fuzhou, and Xiamen.
A first-generation immigrant, Xu moved to the United States from Fuzhou, China, at the age of seven in the 80s—her cousin Ming, however, stayed behind. Growing up, Xu’s relationship with her cousin gave access to two narratives—the Chinese and the Chinese-American experience. These perspectives, Xu insists, are completely contrary to the images of China perpetuated in Western media.
Xu aims for authenticity when it comes to providing multiple cultural entry points. And in order to create an honest ethnography, Xu will be embracing a serendipitous methodology, “exploring subcultures, falling down internet rabbit holes, and making friends with strangers”—examples of which she provides, but does not limit herself to, on her Kickstarter, such as: “What it’s like to run a hipster coffee shop in a ‘small’ city” and “five karaoke songs to kill the game in 2016.”
A prolific writer on Medium, Xu has documented the cultural impact of WeChat, the ubiquity of QR codes, and the intricacies of gongfu tea in China. In addition to the multimedia online documentary slated for production in late December 2015, Xu also plans to print a thirty-two-page zine of her most important tips and recommendations for traveling in China, which she aims to ship out by February 2016.