U.S.-China Institute at Bryant University

China Blog

Dr. David Lux, Dean
College of Arts and Sciences, Bryant University

In September 2010, David Lux, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences traveled to China. During this time he posted daily blog entries here. Dean Lux’s primary purpose in traveling to China was to reach Qufu, Shandong Province, to participate at the 3 rd Session of the World Confucian Conference. At the conference, he represented both Bryant University and Bryant’s Confucius Institute. As he traveled to and from the World Confucian Conference in Qufu, Dean Lux also visited a number of Bryant’s study abroad partner sites. In this part of his travels, David visited sites in Shanghai, Xi’an, and Beijing. This was Dean Lux’s fourth trip to China, and as he traveled he looked for material to build on his earlier observations dealing with travel in China and what the Chinese people have to tell us about themselves.

Qufu – hometown of Confucius – is a small city that maintains some older ways such as these horse drawn taxis.

Professor Zeng and Dean Lux at the grave of Confucius in 2007. Professor Zeng is a direct descendant of Confucius, Kongzi, the 6th Century BCE Chinese scholar and sage.

Day 1 - Travel

Bryant students who have traveled with me in Europe or in China over the past few years can testify that I really do believe in thorough preparation for travel. Knowing where you’re going, and what you want to accomplish saves time, and it also helps you get to places and see things you’ll miss when you just go with the flow. Guidebooks, travel blogs, visitor reviews, and your travel itinerary – these are the tools that get us beyond the tedium, confusion, exhaustion, and boredom that are among the most frustrating perils of travel. Personally, I live in fear of coming home to hear a chorus of people saying, “you walked right past the best things!” I genuinely enjoy new sites and new experiences, but I want to have some sense of what to expect. Read more>>>

Day 2 - Travel Unexpectedly Extended!

Well, things do not always go exactly as planned. My travel itinerary on Saturday was to take me from Providence through Boston to Minneapolis and then on to Shanghai – with a brief layover in Tokyo. Altogether, this should have consumed about 25 hours – door to door. In the end, it proved nearly two full days. Things went well until we left Minneapolis on our 747-400 – fully loaded, and with enough fuel to get us to Japan. We had just gotten the go-ahead for i-pods, game boys, and feverish blogging when the plane lurched, shuddered, and noticeably went into a gentle dive. More shudders, screeching, and more strange mechanical noises followed. Curiously, there were absolutely no signs of panic among the passengers, no one jumped up that I could see, no one screamed. I went on blogging for Day 1. Read more>>>

Day 3 - Shanghai Study Abroad Visits

Today was a day for engaging Bryant’s study abroad partners in Shanghai, along with some potential partners. It was a very productive day despite some significant failures in those logistics of communication.

We currently have three partners in Shanghai – The Alliance for Global Education, CIEE, and IES. We are also exploring the possibility of partnering with the Education Abroad Network. Moreover, several of these partners actually operate more than one program in Shanghai. IES, for example, has three very different and distinctive programs. The Alliance operates two separate programs, one at Fudan University and another at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. Actually, my count (which may not be absolutely accurate) says that with our current partners, Bryant students can already choose among nine different semester programs in Shanghai. With the summer programs, that number more than doubles. Read more >>>

Day 4 – Suzhou

Curious how quickly your luck can change. On Day 4 Yichu Yin and his son Dunwei Yin took me to Suzhou as their guest. What good fortune!

To back up just a bit for context, I’ll need to remind you that before this trip
I spent time asking Bryant faculty and staff who were born in China about what special things a visitor to China might look for? In part this was prompted by the idea of possibly visiting the Shanghai Expo. More significantly, it was prompted by the visit to the Opium War Museum in 2006 and by some recent readings, particularly Richard Todd’s The Thing Itself: On the Search for Authenticity . Todd’s essay probes a series of ways in which we define our “real experiences.” An artwork sells for huge sums until it’s unmasked as a forgery. We want our travel to take us “off the beaten track,” but when we get there do we find ourselves actually privileging an artful recreation? Overall, Richard Todd questions the relationship between how we see “value” and “authenticity.” How do we experience objects, places, events, and our personal lives? What’s valuable? Read more >>>

Days 4 (Cont.) and 5 - Study abroad in Xi’an

I’ve combined the entry for Days 4 and 5 because they really did run together in my visit with the Alliance Program in Xi’an. A bit over half of Day 4 got consumed in getting from Shanghai to Xi’an, But once I got there Darren Wright, the Alliance resident director, proved an indefatigable and gracious host. This visit left me with a clear understanding of what I’d do if I had a magic elixir that could return me to the world of college students thinking about a global education. I’d try to get at least a semester in Xi’an.

I had expected the Alliance program to be good, but Xi’an itself had proved a real surprise. A number of people – both in the U.S. and in China – had given Xi’an a bad rap – heavily industrial, polluted, dull, extreme poverty, and very provincial. Overall, I expected the “Terracotta Warriors” set outside a dull, backward town.

Not so. True, the Terracotta Warriors are just outside the city, but almost nothing else I’d been told about Xi’an got borne out on the ground. Besides a very, very deep history, Xi’an proved itself one of those places you’d have to mark as “on the move.” Things are happening there. Read more >>>

Days 6 and 7 – Xi’an, History and Culture

This entry is for days 6 & 7, Saturday and Sunday, in Xi’an We got an early start on the weekend, however, and Darren Wright and I managed a few hours late Friday (Day 5) to visit the Grand Mosque in Xi’an. As we left the Alliance students late Friday, Darren and I set out for the Grand Mosque in a pelting . Taxis proved very scarce, but we finally found a motorized rickshaw driver – one of the most truly Chinese experiences possible in modern China.

The driver was a bit hesitant about taking on the heavy pedestrian traffic in the Muslim district, so we walked the last several blocks through narrow alley ways to the Xi’an Great Mosque. The Xi’an Great Mosque was first set up in 742 CE during the Tang Dynasty. For those of us who know our history through Western Civilization, that’s the year Charlemagne was born, and it was just 10 years after Charles Martel had turned back the Moors at the Battle of Tours. The Xi’an Grand Mosque has been in use virtually continuously since that time. Rebuilt and renovated under the Song, the Yuan, the Ming, and the Qing Dynasties, the Mosque is now under the special protection of the Communist Party and the People’s government. Government support ensures an annual allocation for restoration and upkeep. The walled complex covers nearly 140,000 square feet (over 3 acres), almost half of which is occupied by buildings. Read more >>>

Day 7 to 11 - World Confucian Conference, Qufu

All along, the real focus for this trip to China has been attendance at the Third Session of the World Confucian Conference in Qufu, Shandong Province. Qufu is the hometown of Confucius (551 – 479 BCE), and there have been annual ceremonies marking his birthday on September 28 for over 2,000 years. In fact, this year’s celebration marked 2,561 years since his birth. Read more >>>

Day 12 - From Qufu to Beijing

China offers seemingly unlimited horizons for new experiences. That seems as true for the Chinese as it is for visitors. For the Chinese, change seems to be everywhere: new buildings, new careers, new roads, new technology, new opportunities and new ways of thinking.

For visitors, there are unlimited vistas both in trying to comprehend the scope of these recent changes for the Chinese and in seeing more traditional areas of Chinese life for the first time. Sometimes, it’s not easy to tell the difference. What belongs completely to the New China? What’s a re-tuned version of something quite traditional? Read more >>>

Day 13 – Study Abroad in Beijing

China’s National Day (October 1) marks the founding of the People’s Republic of China. National Day provides a focal point for the fall holiday season. The day itself is one of parades, patriotic pride, huge meals, and fireworks. For students in China, National Day marks a highlight in the traditional fall break, which might be compared to the spring break so familiar on campuses across the U.S. The week or so before and after the holiday are a time for a travel and holidays. Classes are suspended, and campus life slows to a crawl. During this time, Bryant’s students studying in Beijing took the opportunity to travel. In fact, this is the time they took off on their Fall Field Experience with Bing Han, the Resident Director of the Alliance Program for Global Education in Beijing. Read more >>>

Day 14 – China Film Group

Chance can play a critical role in our lives. China’s National Day closed down the universities and a good many businesses in China. It also created the vagaries of flight scheduling that left me with my only really ‘open day’ at the end of two weeks in China. At the outset of this trip, I really didn’t have a plan for Day 14. The one possibility was something that Ting-ru Huang suggested when we talked about the question of what Chinese people would like foreign visitors to see. Read more >>>

Day 15 – Another Long Day of Travel with Some Final Reflections.

Well, the trip home was slightly less eventful than the trip going to China, but only marginally so. It featured a taxi ride that took me to the “other” international terminal. Next, there was the personal security escort that got me onto my flight before it left. On time arrival in Seattle was followed by slow luggage delivery for clearing customs, which left about 40 passengers stranded when our flight – yes the same flight! – re-boarded and left on time without us. Frantic re-ticketing got me onto a flight leaving almost an hour later and headed for Minneapolis instead of Atlanta. A gate hold in Minneapolis got me onto the connection with zero seconds to spare. Read more >>>

Read the blog of 2010 Summer Faculty and Student Research Trip to China >>>