Monday, August 4, 2008

Last Day in Tianjin

July 10 was our last day at Nankai University. Students took their final language exams in the morning and prepared for leaving in the afternoon. The College treated us a nice banquet for lunch, and then we had the closing ceremony.

After several talks by the Dean and teachers, students received their certificates at the ceremony. They also presented what they had learned in the Taichi and Chinese classes. Below are the film strips of their performances:

The form they practiced was Young style Taichi of 24 movements. Students learned this form by getting up daily at 7 AM for four weeks. It was supposed to be a part of course for training perseverance.

After Taichi, there were three skits performed by three student groups. Each group prepared a short skit to reflect what they learned from the language classes. Due to the size of the films, only one of them is shown here:

All three of the students in the skit attended the elementary class. It was quite an accomplishment that they could use their language skills to entertain the audience.

At the end, Monica and Robyn also spoke and thanked the teachers. We also took a group picture with the Taichi Instructor: Zhang Laoshi.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Trip to Xi An

Students didn't have either Taichi practice or language classes on July 4. It was not because it was the Independence Day, but because we were flying to Xi An on this Friday. I told students that I will try to find some firework, so that we can celebrate this US national holiday. However, it turned out that private firework is prohibited in XiAn.

We first visited the Terra Cotta Museum. Last time, when I came here in 2000, our bus drove directly to the parking lot in front of the museum. Now, the government built a park around the park to prevent pollution, and all visitors need to walk through a park full of persimmons trees. I welcome this change!

The entrance of the museum complex. The building of "Pit no. 1" is in the background.

We took yet another group picture before leaving the museum complex. The next stop was Hua Qing hot spring (华清池), where the famous Yang Gui Fei (杨贵妃) took her bath.

After breathing the fresh air at the foot of Li Shan (骊山) mountain range, we went back to Xi An City and payed a visit to Taichi Grand Mater Chen Quan Zhong (陈全中大师) and his school. They prepared a set of performance for us and gave each one of our students a T-shirt.

After dinner, we went to a music water show in front of the pagoda(大雁塔), where Buddhist Monk Xuan Zhuang (玄奘) translated sutra from Sunkist to Chinese. The view of the ancient pagoda with the colorful water show, generated by modern technology, was extremely beautiful. It was such a great delight to see thousands of people enjoy the show together, while many young people danced under the water and got soaked wet. To our surprise, there was a firework display after the water show. We had the delayed 4th of July celebration after all!

In the morning of the last day in XiAn, we rode bicycle on the city wall. It took us about 45 minutes to bite through the 17 Km long wall, which is the best kept city wall in China.

Before boarding train to return to Tianjin, we also visited a mosque. I learned that even in China, these Muslim (回教徒) have to study the Koan (可兰经) in Arabic language.
The pavilion below in the mosque is called Phoenix Pavilion (凤凰阁) because of the spread-out wings. Since it is my name sake, I need to take a picture!

The train trip back to Tianjin, which took us more than 18 hours, was really an experience. I am sure that in the discussion class on Wednesday, we will have enough to talk about. In a way, we saw the side of China we never saw- high density of population in the station, low quality of traveling condition, etc.. I am glad our students were among the most regular people in that train instead of getting VIP treatments.

Chinese Opera Class

On Thursday, July 3, our group had a Chinese Opera class. It was the second class. The teacher first showed us his own TV performances and then taught the class to sing a "airier" in a well known opera Su San Qi Jie (苏三起解). Li Laoshi is a retired performer, who has learned Chinese Opera since he was 7 years old.

After the class, students also learned about the facial make up and how to use facial expressions.

It then took an entire hour for three professionals to dress our students up as different roles. Below are some of the roles they "played":

Monica as an empress.

Spencer was the brave general 吕布

Monica and James played a married couple in their wedding dresses

Brett played a Robin-Hood type of hero

Monica and Joe are empress and emperor

Unfortunately, my camera ran out of battery for other roles. However, you can skim through my students' blogs to see more of the pictures.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Trip to Beijing and the Great Wall

The "Bird's Nest"Olympic Stadium 奥运鸟巢馆

Olympic Village 奥运选手村

1994, I spent three days in Beijing with my family. However, this city has changed so much that I hardly can recognize it. Just imagine a humongous city, which needs 6 beltways to regulate its traffic. This year, of course, all the emphases is focus on the Olympics.
The local people said that Chinese government has put in enormous amount of money to make all the cities, which host Olympic games in August, a face lift. I am glad that although I won't be able to attend any Olympic game, I witnessed the effort how China has tried to show its best side to the world.

Our students also visited the traditional tourist site, such as Tiananmen Square (天安门广场), Mao Mausoleum (毛泽东纪念馆), the Forbidden City (故宫、紫禁城), and the Summer Palace (颐和园) 。
The Structure of the Forbidden City impressed our students enormously

A Dragon Turtle in the Forbidden City 故宫里的龙龟
The Mao Mausoleum 毛泽东纪念馆

The Summer Garden 颐和园的神牛
Tiananmen Square 天安门广场

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The second week

The students survived another week of hard work. Their day starts with Taichi practice at 7 AM, then with language classes in the morning and cultural classes in the afternoon until 3 PM. On each Wednesday, we have a class meeting for cross-cultural discussion.

Last week, students toured Tianjin City and visited the famous " Cultural Street" (文化街), two blocks full of small shops selling Chinese painting, jade Jewries, Wu-Shu weapons... etc. We also ate dinner in a restaurant within the "Food Street" (食品街), a mall with more than 50 snack shops and restaurants. I bought a good sword and fan for my own Taichi class in the Cultural Street and got a pretty good deal.

This week students participated in a Chinese painting class to learn the differences between Chinese and western oil painting. They also tried their hand with pain brush and drew crabs and lobsters.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Trip to Shan-Dong

In the first week, students had language classes for five days. In addition, they learned TaiChi, Chinese Opera, and Wu Shu.

After a week of studying with textbooks, the class traveled to Qufu (曲阜)- the birth place of Confucius (孔子) , ZouCheng (邹城)- the hometown of Mencius (孟子), and Mount Tai (泰山) during the first weekend in China.

Qufu was full of tourists because Confucius (551 - 479 B.C.) was the most influential scholar, educator, and philosopher in the Chinese history. His tomb, temple and residence showed us how highly he has been respected by all the emperors from Song (宋) through Qing (清) dynasty.

ZouCheng, in comparison, is not as well visited. We had difficulties finding the site because the signs were not as clearly displayed to direct the tourists. Nonetheless, I am glad we went to Mencius home town. The relationship between Confucius and Mencius is like that of Socrates and Aristotle in the Western civilization. It is also similar as Mendelssohn revived J.S. Bach's music in music history. Without Mencius's effort, the Confucianism won't be as widespread as it is today.

One of my students said that Mount Tai (1,545 m. above sea level) took his breath away and that as he sat above the clouds he came to realize why Tai Shan is world renowned.

There are abundant scripts written into the boulders by famous scholars or emperors.

The incense sticks are especially long for faithful people, including our students. On our way up, I talked to a woman who sat next to me in the bus. She said she couldn't have children after getting married for five years. So, she climbed the 6,600 stairs of Mount Tai to pray to the Goddess 22 years ago. Her daughter is now studying in a college in Kansas, USA. She (the mother), who lives over 600KM away, came back to thank the Goddess. Apparently, lives of Chinese people still associate with superstitions.

Nan Tian Men (南天门) has been seen as the gate to heaven. It took us about 30 minutes to climb to the top of the mountain from this point.

After a week of Tianjin smog, we really enjoy breathing the fresh air on Mount Tai!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The first week

Greetings from China!

Life in Tianjin is not as hectic as in Maryland. Here, I only teach in the afternoon, so the lax schedule allows me to take private Taichi and Chinese Medicine lessons every morning and practice as much as I want.

Nankai University has a rather big campus. Walking from its West Gate to East Gate takes over 30 minutes. Famous people like Zhou En-Lai (周恩来), Wen Jia Bao(温家宝), famous mathematician Chen Xing Shen (陈省身), respectable poet Ye Jia Ying(葉嘉莹) all graduated from this university.

Since this is the first cooperation between Nankai and the University of Maryland, our group received a very warm welcome on the first day. Both the Dean of the the College of Chinese Language and Culture, and the Director of Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland attended the Opening Ceremony on Monday, June 16.

In addition to teaching, I hope my Taichi will improve under a professional teacher's correction and instruction. The air pollution is rather serious in Tianjin, because everywhere is under construction to prepare for the Olympics. The soccer games will take place in a newly finished center in Tianjin, called Water Drop (水滴).

Students in our group attend Chinese class the entire morning, and one cultural class each afternoon. We also enjoyed two city tours so far. This weekend, the group is going to Shan Dong (山东) Province to visit Confucius birth place (孔子故居) and the Tai mountain (泰山).