Yangtze river cruise.

The Yangtze river cruise was one of the main highlights of the trip so far. We got the opportunity to visit some of the more rural towns located close to the river banks ad well as see the three gorges and go through the three gorges dam. One moment that really stuck with me was when we saw the gorge that was on the ten yuan bill in real life. First we started from Chengdu, which was an amazing city where we saw the panda reserve and a while different way of life. 20141126_091515

 

Then we went on to ride down the Yangtze transitioning between alot of natural scenery and city skylines frequently. This was some of the most uniquely beautiful scenery I have seen in my life, and that’s including the great wall from our Beijing, Xi’An trip. One of the most exciting experiences was going through the three gorges dam. The pure mechanical feat of taking boats down several meters in water was impressive to say the least. On the second or third day we stopped in this small riverside town where there was a temple built into the side of a mountain, where it had been for hundreds of years.

Visual of the surrounding town across the water from the temple

Visual of the surrounding town across the water from the temple

In addition, a day or so before that, I saw one of the more impressive sculptures I’ve seen at a location near the the forst gorge (depicted in the first photo). It stood several times taller than me and boasted intricate details that indicated a high level of craftsmanship.

Sculpture

Sculpture

The sights only got better by night as lights lit up the banks of the river. Besides the visual aspect that made the trip great, I also learned a good amount about the Yangtze river from the experts on board. I learned that the Yangtze is almost 4,000 miles long and for that has earned the spot of Asia’s longest river and the world’s third longest river. I also learned about the famous 1998 Yangtze river flood. It apparently took a huge toll on the country, leaving over 25 billion dollars worth of damage in its aftermath. It lasted for three months and is considered by many to be the worst flood of the river’s history. This was no doubt a huge impacting flood because, as I also learned from the experts aboard the ship, approximately one third of chinese citizens live along the river. Together, learning about the river as well as seeing with my own eyes the beautiful towns and nature that lined its banks, made for an amazing and unforgettable experience.20141127_144057

 

 

 

“Fake Market”

Before coming to China I had heard about the fake market in vague detail. There was a place where you could go purchase goods for discounted prices. You could get things that would elsewhere cost three or four times more. When I arrived in China I heard more of the same thing from my peers at Fudan. This market intrigued me more as I learned more about it. There seemed to be something else besides the cheap prices that kept people going back – bartering. This seemed to be the key attraction to the fake markets. In my marketing placement class, this was something one of the groups presented on. People loved the thrill of bargaining for a low price. So the product, in turn, became a bargain that you, the buyer, felt proud about. As I looked back on my trips to the market, this definitely was the case. First, I went to the market looking for a good deal on shoes – I ended up buying this hat.

Stuntin'

Stuntin’

 

The reason I abandoned the shoes and went for the hat was the exact reason the market placement group had suggested most people do. When I approached the shoe stores, I had in mind how much I was willing to spend (around 100 kuai) on any given pair. As I was talking to the store owners, I realized that I was not going to reach the price I wanted. Many of them refused to go under 150 kuai. This frustrated as I had met friends who had gotten the same shoes for cheaper than that. In the shop owner’s unwillingness to go below a certain price, though, I saw another peiece of information I had heard upon coming to China come into play. Many store owners had quality items and were not willing to cave to consumer perceptions of their goods being “fake”. This was a part of the fake market that I had also come to learn influenced the fake market culture. However when I started looking at the hat, it was at a much higher price than I expected, but I got it down to 10 kuai, a price I was really proud about. Looking back, this was my motivation for the purchase and my motivation for continuing to return to the market after this specific visit. So instead of goods being the main takeaway from this experience at the fake market, I learned much about the interesting market place culture that made things work there.

 

Senior Citizens and Taijichuan

One of the main aspects of Chinese Culture we have learned about during our time here has been Taijichuan (In American we pronounce it Tai Chi). Taijichuan is a matial art that consists of beautiful flowing forms and deals with the transference of energy. In a fight, someone who incorporates Taijichuan into their style of martial arts would use thier opponents energy against them. But today, Taijichuan is most commonly utilized as a meditative exercise tool. A large percentage of Taijichuan practitioners consist of the elderly. When I took a visit to peoples park, this was something I had noticed. There’s a large trend in which older citizens of Chine meet in parks to do several forms of physical activity. There is what seems to be organized dance, as well as badminton, and of course, Taijichuan.    We had learned this already from professor Shao–Taijicjuan was not only a main aspect of Chinese Culture in general, but also a huge part of Chinese retired life as well. In public spaces (especially parks) This seems to be a subculture within itself–when I went to the park and shanghai, and when we visited a main park on one of our trips, I noticed that there was a sense of community among the elderly.   Taijichuan therefore plays another role in this case–a social one. As one could imagine, there is not much to do in retirement. This is why many of the Chinese elderly come together in parks. It seems like daily park time and Taijichuan play a central role in the life of the Chinese elderly. In this way Taijichuan is beneficial on many levels. One one hand it gives the elderly something to do.  And beyond this, there are potential health benefits of Taijichuan, among which is supposedly longevity. And while claims like this should be taken with a grain of salt, it has been noted by Harvard medical school that there is scientific evidence for the health benefits of Taijichuan. Overall, I think it is both interesting and great to examine the role that Taijichuan plays in the lives of China’s senior citizens; it seems to be the kind of exercise I would want to practice.

Xi An and Terracotta Warriors

This week we went to Xi’An and Beijing, two of China’s Major cities. The main attraction in Xi’An was the Terracotta Warriors. Going to the museum to see them was one of the most surreal experiences I have had thus far on this trip. Before coming on the trip, I had only heard the name, and I kind of knew what the warriors were, but I did not know the full story until our tour guide filled us in. First, we learned the cause for the warriors. The Emperor Qin Shi Huang, considered by many to be the first Emperor of China, wanted to have his army with him when he passed on to the afterlife because he feared enemies he had defeated in his life on earth would try to attack him when he died. From this spawned the idea of the Warriors. But the idea was not always to have the sculpted soldiers that the world knows as the Terracotta. Initially, the emperor wanted to have his real life army buried with him! This no doubt meant that some would be buried alive! In an effort to save many lives, one of the emperors officials convinced him to use the sculpted warriors instead, and then began the manufacturing of one of the worlds most amazing sites. Upon seeing the sculptures, I could NOT believe how old they were. Even though many of them had to be put back together, it still amazed me that the material had not deteriorated over the years. Standing in the room, I imagined in my head the hours of work it must have taken to accomplish this feat. Even considering the large number of people that were involved in the project, its still remains impressive how many pieces of art they managed to produce. This experience was truly one that will stick with me as a highlight of my semester abroad.

Journey to the West: Pinpointing Spiritual Themes

A good way into Journey of the West, we are not yet able to analyze the novel as a whole, but there is much that can be discussed. One main topic that continues to arise is the one of the roles of Buddhism and Taoism, as related to each other, in the story. We have noticed as a class that many things hint to Buddhism being favored over Taoism, as many Buddhist characters appear to be more powerful, and there seems to be a general shift towards Buddhism as the story progresses. One point to mention when speaking of how this appears in the novel, is The Monkey King’s story before he meets Sanzang. After being introduced to Monkey at the story’s opening, the reader sees him acquire immense powers. In discussions with Professor Shao, we learned that these powers were rooted in Taoism. With these powers, Monkey begins to wreak havoc on earth, stirring up conflict wherever he goes. Many characters–who also have powers characterized as Taoist– try to defeat him, including some of the most powerful warriors from the upper levels of heaven. Even they prove to be inadequate when facing The Monkey King. Finally, those trying to defeat monkey call on a great Buddha, who in turn, defeats monkey. If anything, this passage at least suggests that the powers of Buddhism are greater than those of Taoism. Especially when considering how easily the Buddha subdued The Monkey King. Another hint that suggests the idea of Buddhism being favored in the story is Sanzang’s (the main character) seemingly Buddhist spiritual progression, symbolized through his disciples. As a class, we came to find that there was an analysis in which Sun Wukong symbolizes Sanzang’s mind, and Piggy symbolizes his desires. As the novel progresses, Sun Wukong (another name for The Monkey King) defeats several monsters along the Journey, including one who in turn, became Piggy. The monsters can be interpreted as obstacles blocking Sanzang from reaching enlightenment, and Sun Wukong’s constant battles with said monsters can indicate Sanzang’s mind struggling to overcome said obstacles. Specifically, In the case of Piggy, when Sun defeats him for the first time, he begins the battle to gain control over desire. Another key indicator of this theory is Sun Wukong’s conversion to Buddhism after he is freed by Sanzang from the Five ELements mountain. This is especially potent as an example when you look at the fact that chronologically speaking, he converts after he is subdued by the Buddha, illustrating a strong Taoist figure’s defeat by, and submission to, Buddhism.

 

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