Thursday, May 28, 2015
We started the day with our second Chinese 101 class where we got to interact more with the Chinese students. We were all more comfortable with each other after the class and exchanged WeChat information to talk during the day. Then we went to the martial arts building and dressed in our white robes to attend our first Tai Chi class. We walked into the building and received stares from all of the students. Our instructor Li Wei was very enthusiastic to have us there and wanted to teach us everything! We started by warming up and stretching and the Chinese students found it hilarious how horrible all of our flexibility was. We learned the first 4 movements to an 8-movement choreography. It took us almost 2 hours to learn and we still needed to watch Li to remember the moves. He taught us about the flow of energy and how the moves are all based on fighting to defend the city. The studetns joined us throughout the class to help us and correct our form. During our breaks the students performed their skills including a chain whip and traditional Wushu Tai Chi. We learned that some of the students were national champions and famous in China and that a group of them were training for the upcoming nationals. We took a lunch break and then practiced for 2 more hours and some of the students took turns teaching us.
We were scheduled to perform in the closing ceremony of the 7th new arts festival and one of our students Keryn was performing a musical piece with two other Chinese students. When we entered the auditorium it was packed with hundreds of Chinese students who all followed us to our seats to take pictures of us. We sat and watched the end of the festival until we were introduced and we had to stand again for all the Chinese students to see us. We felt very embarrassed because we were all in our white outfits and clearly not Chinese Tai Chi students. We walked to the front stage and did our performance, which went very smoothly. All of the students were very impressed with how much we learned in just one day. Keryn performed next and did an amazing job and all of the Chinese students were in awe of how well she played.
After the performance we had dinner and went to a “party” hosted by the Chinese students in their school. They prepared many games for us including draw the nose on the girl and other games similar to Pictionary. They were great icebreakers and the students became very comfortable around us. They invited to go to a tourist area similar in concept to the commons but much bigger to walk around and try Chinese beer. The streets were decorated with lanterns and flags and there were many vendors and shops and restaurants to go to. We sat outside by a small pond and ordered Chinese beer which was similar in taste to budlight but was much stronger. Then we tried a German beer, which was more flavorful than the Chinese beer. We played a few drinking games and noticed that the Chinese students did not drink very much but Chinese adults drink a lot. They all either didn’t like the beer or did not want to drink. We got to know the students much better and had a really enjoyable night with them all!
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Today in our Chinese Language class Professor Yang Fei gave us a brief introduction to his beautiful city of Chengdu. It is the capital of the Sichaun Province and is a very important economic hub in this part of China. Chengdu is over 3,000 years old and is filled of amazing stories and many historic places. The city was voted the 4th most livable city in China by China Daily. It is referred to as “the country of heaven” or the land of abundance because of all of its resources. Chengdu was built of circles surrounding center city which is called Tianfu Square that has numerous amounts of historical building as well as many important businesses.
Yangfei told us about many different historical and tourist sites that would be fun to go check out during our stay in China. These included the Jinsha site which is museum that has many ancient artifacts and relics and Mt Qing Cheng which is a Taoist temple. Taoism is the only recognized religion in China and one of its main philosophies is that “everything comes from nothing” and the goal is to find inner peace and make use of your self. He also talked to us about different Taoist temples as well as one Buddhist temple named the Wen Shu Temple. There is a panda sanctuary located in Chengdu which we are visiting this weekend! He also told us about a few streets with local bars and clubs, which we were all very interested in. We actually ended up visiting one of the streets later that night and it was beautiful!
We also learned more Chinese phrases including hello, how are you, I’m very good, and how much is this, which were definitely useful as we walked around the town later. We learned how to say different family members names as well as I love you and I like you. YangFei was joking around with us about picking up Chinese students and taught us how to say handsome and beautiful. The other class we took today was Wushu where we learned Tai Chi and watched some of the martial arts students perform. It was amazing!
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Our group went to Nanchung on May 25th. We visited China west normal university for the day. Chinese educational universities were traditionally called normal. This differentiated them from universities or schools that were for specific skills like martial arts, not educational. Now "normal" is not included in the names of new educational schools.
We took a High speed train from Chengdu to get to the university. The train reached 200 km/hr or 120 mile/hr and took us an hour and a half. Along the way we saw power plants and the many rice patties the are across the country side.
We each got matched up with 1 or 2 Chinese students from West Normal university. They told us about what they studied and they showed us their campus. Throughout the day they stayed with us. Across the board of reactions from all of the students of Ithaca College, our friends from West Normal University were some of the most inviting and hospitable students we've met. It gave us an example of how we can all extend a helping hand to those around us and care for each other no matter what race we are, or what region of the world we come from.
One of their kung fu professors taught us Tai Chi. We had already learned a few sequences of 8 part tai chi at Chengdu sports university. At China west normal university we learned 2 different variations of tai chi. The first one was yang style which was the same style we had learned from Chengdu sport university. The other was Chen style, which incorporates more quick explosive movements. It was challenging to learn both styles and incorporate it into one performance. With practice and help from the students studying tai chi at China West Normal we learned the sequences well for the short amount of time we had to rehearse.
One of the seniors who works with the international department gave a great presentation on the Sichuan province and Chengdu. He gave us an overview of the local culture and new things to explore. In addition to some of the things we had already experienced like the pandas, traditional Jing Li street (the Ithaca commons of China), Sichuan's famous spicy food, and the Chengdu opera, he also talked about some famous facts about the area.
The Sichuan province (provinces of China are comparable to the states of the USA) is home to many historical and important ancient places. Mount QingCheng holds the famous Taoist temple. It has been around for a very long time. Most people say that China does not have a major religion. Although, many Chinese follow the lessons and Taoist teachings to live in a right way. The E mei mountain is one of the 4 Buddhist mountains in China. Buddhism was taken from India and adapted into Zen Buddhism for widespread practice across China in ancient times, it is still a common belief.
In Leshan there is a giant Buddha carving. It is the biggest stone Buddha in the world. It was carved out of the mountain and is actually part of the mountain.
The ancient city of langzhong has a written history over 3000 years old. It is one of China's most traditional cities and still has some of the architecture from ancient times.
219 of the current fortune 500 companies have at least a branch in Chengdu. Making this city and area of China a hub for international business. As world trade, economics, and international business have continued to become more and more prevalent in daily life Chengdu prospers while it remains true to the integrity of it's cultural history.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
We left Shanghai very early to catch a 7:30 am flight to Chengdu, which is our second destination. Upon arriving at the airport we found it to be very disorienting because there was very little in English and many of the workers did not speak English. We also experienced a lot of staring from the Chinese and we were asked to pose in pictures with them. They really showed no boundaries of personal space and got very close to examine the different color eyes of some of our students, especially the blonde ones. Once on the plane we were all so exhausted we slept for most of the 3-hour flight. Once we landed we were met by Chinese students from Chengdu Sport University and they escorted us to a bus. We drove ~1 hour to the university and during the bus ride the students were very welcoming and curious about us. They asked us many questions and were shy about their knowledge of English. At the University we went to lunch with the chancellor of the university who was one of the friendliest people I have met in China. He was excited to have us there and wanted to tell us all about his university. We had a delicious meal and took turns toasting each other and the faculty of the university because it is a custom of Chengdu to toast frequently throughout the meal. At the end of the meal which consisted of pork, chicken, beef, fish, soup, dumplings, noodles, rice, eggs, tofu, veggies and countless other dishes, the chancellor presented us with a gift of Tai Chi robes for our class the next day. We left lunch full to the brim and attended 2 classes; Chinese 101 and traditional Chinese medicine. After class we were scheduled to have Tai Chi class but we were all so tired that we ate dinner and postponed the class to the next day.
Hongwei surprised us by telling us that the students were having an event on campus that they specifically integrated English into because we were attending. We walked into the auditorium and were faced with cell phones and stares from all the students. It was a weird feeling to see them all want pictures of us and want to know so much about our lifestyle. We sat towards the front as a long judges table and the show opened with a performance by their dance team. It was interesting to see their style of dance because it was not very different from our own and some of us even thought it was more risqué than our own. The announcers came out and said everything first in Chinese then again in English. We could see how much effort they put into learning how to say everything in English and how hard they worked at the pronunciation. They then thanked us for coming and welcomed us to their school and we were asked to stand up and received a loud applause from the 300 students in the room who were all snapping pictures of us. Some student in front of us even took selfies with us in the background. The show was 6 contestants all competing to be named the best “host”. From here on out the show was all in Chinese but we figured out that they were given a certain amount of time to host their own mock show. One contested mimicked a cooking show and another hosted a fake marriage. At the end of each performance they were graded by judges and given a total score. It became hard to focus on the show after a while because it was all Chinese and we were already so tired. We left after each contestant went and went straight back to our dorms and went to sleep!
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Chengdu Sport University is the only higher education facility in all of southwest China. It was founded in 1942 and is compromised of ten different faculties including physical education, sports iatrology, athletic sports, wushu, economics and management, journalism, foreign language arts, leisure sports and football sports. They also have multiple graduate programs including doctoral and masters degrees.
As soon as we arrived on The Chengdu Sports University Campus we went straight to class. We started in Chinese 101 were Professor YangFei introduced himself and welcomed us to the campus and to China. He discussed how since we only have a few classes with him to learn some of the Chinese language he is going to focus on simple phrases and words that will help us communicate during our visit. We learned that the language consists of a Chinese alphabet as well as Chinese characters and he decided to focus on the alphabet rather than the characters. The characters are basically pictures that stand for different phrases and are much more complicated to learn in a short period of time. He explained to us that there are four different tones used; 1=flat, 2=up, 3=up/down, 4=down/command (once you hear them it is easier to distinguish between the four).
I couldn’t help thinking to myself how difficult and complicated this language seems but how interested I am in learning about it. YangFei taught us how to say these few phrases the first day: who are you?- Ni shi shei, I am Lauren and I am American- Wo shi Lauren wo shi mei guo ren. While in class he introduced us to Chinese students who are majoring in the Foreign Language Department and who have been studying English for years. We were able to converse with them and introduce ourselves and they were all great at speaking in English, even if they were a little shy to do so.
The next class we went to was Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which was taught by a Professor Dong Jing, who is an expert in the field. She started off the lecture by explaining the early history of TCM including different pieces of works in which TCM is mentioned or taught including The Yellow Emperor, Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic, and Classic on 81 Medical Problems to name a few. Each of these pieces of work discussed important factors of TCM including the earliest record of acupuncture and moxibustion, the discovery of the four diagnostic methods, and a specific work done by Hua Tuo (earliest ancestor of surgery) that focused on exercises related to animals that later turned into a practice called Wuqanxi that is still practiced today. Professor Dong Jing talked about how important pulse taking is with regards to TCM.
She also taught about the basic concepts of TCM including the five elements water, wood, fire, earth, and metal, which play a huge role in the practice of TCM. Each of the elements can either nourish or restrict one another creating an imbalance of one or over production of the other. Each different element is associated with unique characteristics including organs, season, taste, color and property. We then discussed herbal medicines and how that also ties in with the characteristics of the five elements. She showed us their herbal room, which contained hundreds of different prepared and fresh herbs and natural medicines and it was amazing! The lecture was very informative but sometimes hard to follow because of her broken English. However, she was so knowledgeable on the topic and was able to explain it in a way in which the language barrier was not the focus. Can’t wait for the next class!