Lama Temple

Lama Temple

My return to the Beijing hutongs was bittersweet. This summer, I spent most of my free time after my internship getting lost in the chaotic grey-brick mazes that enclave the Lama Temple and Confucius Temple. It was remarkable to see that in the span of a few months, the hutongs that I’d become so familiar with had completely changed. My favorite coffee shop on Yonghegong? Gone. Now just a brick wall with a tiny window that used to be the glass door entrance to this popular specialty coffee shop. That one cement table with four plastic chairs always occupied by 老北京人 (Old Beijingers) playing Mahjong? Gone. Now a state-of-the-art public bathroom with Western toilets.

I appreciate the preservation efforts of Xi and the mayor of Beijing to “carefully polish every historical cultural block.” Even though less than 1/3 of the hutongs remain, they still remain an integral part of Beijing’s OG identity– one step into the hutongs instantly transports you back to the old days. This summer, most of the hutongs around the Lama temple were barricaded by piles

of bricks and construction workers. This time round, there was much less construction happening, but it seems as if the more the government touches the hutongs, the less preserved it feels. According to a recent article by the New York Times, The government is hellbent on clearing out all unregistered settlements and private businesses.

Construction in Wudaoying Hutong

Installation of the public bathroom

Even though a lot of small businesses are being replaced by traditional grey-brick walls, the relentless preservation efforts seem to also be driving out the soul of hutongs. It saddens me to see the hutongs lose their exciting unpredictability. As long as Xi doesn’t knock down my favorite 炸酱面 (Beijing fermented bean noodles) or 面茶 (peanut porridge) place I can’t complain too much.

 

After spending a few nights reacclimatizing to the hutongs, I joined our group on a tour the Lama Temple. We lit up some incense and pretended to know what we were doing in front of the first shrine.

Visitor in prayer

After about the 5th buddha statue I decided to take a few pictures of the architecture and colorful artworks. The last shrine was home to an impressively large Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of the future). With a clear emphasis on the future, I hope the Lama Temple and its surrounding hutongs continue to be cultural strongholds of Old Beijing– despite the questionable renovations.

炸酱面 (Fermented bean noodles)

面茶 (Peanut Porridge)

 

Cupping, Acupunture, and Basketball?

I had an amazing experience living on my own in Shanghai for two months working at 上海三爱中医门诊部 (San Ai TCM).  San Ai TCM is a Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinic that focuses on holistic methods specializing in acupuncture and cupping specifically. My work at the clinic mainly consisted of assisting doctors with their acupuncture and cupping procedures, learning how to perform the procedures, and preparing medicine in the pharmacy.

The prescribed medicine consisted of various natural herbs, roots, and minerals from all over the country. Each individual ingredient had it’s own drawer or jar and the sheer number of  them made it seem like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Working at San Ai TCM also blew away my preconceived notions of technology being absent from these Traditional Chinese methods. Special machinery is used to control temperature, moisture, and dispense coffee like grades of the ingredients. I was not expecting to see such a technologically savvy electronic inventory inside a clinic based on the foundations of the past.

My coworkers and even my patients were all very friendly and patient with me when it came to getting them what they needed. With me knowing some Mandarin Chinese but being no where close to fluent I fumbled around my first week pretty badly. However, throughout my time seeing the extentivness of TCM and the faith in which people put into it coupled with me being there long enough to conclude results in my regular patients was powerful.  My schedule at work was also flexible enough to allow me to make multiple overnight trips to other cities for the full Chinese experience. I was able to visit The Great Wall Of China In Beijing, The Great Yellow Mountains of Huangshan, and the gondola of The Water City Suzhou.

Out of all of my trips hiking The Great Yellow Mountains in Huangshan had to be my favorite. I was able to catch up with Maxwell Zucker, one of my classmates, who was also in China for the summer. Together we  climbed over four hours in the elements, ultimately experiencing the most beautiful scenery we’ve ever seen in our lives. After reaching the peak and taking in the scenery for awhile, we came across a random blacktop basketball court on top of this beautiful mountain in the middle of rural china with a ball. Despite the monstrous cardio we went through the scenery and opportunity was too perfect for us not to play. After 15 mins of us messing around throwing up shots and playing one on one we had a crowd of over 200 people watching and cheering us on. This was definitely a once in a lifetime experience that I could never forget.


Traveling the world and experiencing different forms of medicine first hand has allowed me to acquire unique health care skills and form my own opinion on the current state of Western Medicine. Not only that, but I was in the best place in the world to put my Chinese i’ve been learning at Davidson to the real test. I am extremely grateful for the many lessons and the opportunity as a whole.          

Taipei vs. Shanghai

This video was produced by Alex Bau and Shanel Tage, for ANT 372 and the Davidson in Shanghai Program in the fall of 2012.

Goodbye to Shanghai

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It is hard to believe that the semester is already ending, but I have finished up my last homework assignments, bought all my last-minute gifts, and started packing. Although I came into this semester as a rather sheltered student from the suburbs, I feel like I’m leaving it as a jet-setting international traveler.

I have loved my time in Shanghai. Every time I ride in a taxi and look up at those big skyscrapers at night, I can feel that I’m at the center of a passionate global city. From eating street food at night near Tonghe to walking along the Bund, it has been an amazing semester.

My time in Shanghai is ending, but Shanghai will always have a very special place in my heart. I made such meaningful friendships and had such wonderful experiences in one of the interesting cities in the world.

My Semi-Eco, Shanghainese Lifestyle

Trying to be environmentally mindful in a city like Shanghai takes a great deal of blind faith. It takes blind faith because almost every “recycling” or “sustainable” facility doesn’t look like that at all. In a country where I don’t speak the language or know much about local sustainability, I simply trust and hope that a few of my recyclables end up somewhere other than a landfill.

The air quality suffers in China, which means that my lungs suffer, too.

I lived in Davidson College’s Eco-House during my last academic year, so I had a relatively well-established routine in trying to be environmentally thoughtful. Of course, that routine was drastically changed when I arrived in Shanghai. In some ways, my carbon footprint has significantly increased, but in other ways, I have actually become more energy efficient while living in Shanghai.

Here’s an example of the advantages and disadvantages of an environmental lifestyle in Shanghai. In the United States, I carry around a CamelBak filled with tap water. In Shanghai, I carry around huge plastic bottles of mineralized water. The major downside is that I drink massive amounts of water, insane amounts of water according to my friends. I am always well-hydrated, so I amass piles of plastic bottles. I put them outside my apartment door with the rest of my trash, and I cross my fingers that the Tonghe employees throw them in with recycling. Or if walking on the street, I throw them into one of many old trash cans with two sections labeled “recycling” and “other waste.” I really do not know the ultimate outcome, though.

Fingers crossed that these get recycled.

Luckily, I am more energy efficient in other ways. For example, I hang-dry my clothes. The washing machines are not equipped to dry clothes, so like all the other nearby apartments, I dry my clothes on the porch or in my room. It saves energy, but I never actually started hang-drying my clothes until coming to Shanghai.

Hang-drying clothes is also a stylish way to decorate a dorm room.

Environmentalism is a complex topic for most developing countries, but especially for China. Shanghai had a global environmental spotlight for some time because Chongming Island was originally planned to be the world’s first purpose-built eco-city. As Chai Lu, Feng Ran, and I have researched throughout the semester, that eco-city has not come to fruition. Many of the environmental initiatives around Shanghai seem similar: they are great in theory but hardly executed in practice. Still, Chinese environmental efforts are definitely still active and on-going. My plastic water bottles might be plentiful, but I do believe that at least some of them are being recycled.

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