Zara Zhang ’17 pens an Opinion for Harvard Magazine. She writes, "Whenever I see throngs of Chinese tourists jostling to take pictures with the John Harvard statue, I am reminded of the Buddhist temples in China that I sometimes visited as a child. Touching the shiny tip of John Harvard’s shoe is almost akin to crouching in front of a golden Buddha—in both cases, worshippers are paying respect in the hope that the act will bring them good luck.
For the Chinese, Harvard is like the Mecca of higher education: the greatest university in the world, worth traveling thousands of miles to visit. The Chinese pilgrims who swarm Harvard Yard today include not just aspiring high-school students and parents, but also random people who just want to “be in the air breathed by the world’s best students,” as a tourist once told me. Every inch of its holy ground must be trod with awe, every building must be photographed."