All nineteen students, teachers, and interns were nicely dressed and ready to go this morning because later today we would go to the Confucius Institute Headquarters to meet and thank our sponsors. But that would take place in the afternoon. In the morning, we went to the Drum Tower where drums thundered to tell time during ancient times. This tradition was stopped after Henry Puyi’s reign ended, but today, there are drum shows every half past the hour which we were going to watch.
The Drum Tower was a large, red, two-story high building about a little less than 50 meters tall, with traditional slate-tiled roofs that slant up at the edges, and large arched openings. The second floor had a balcony with columns that supported the roofs and there was green-gray décor under the roofs, and yellow designs on the balcony. When we entered the tower we didn’t realize that we had to climb more stairs! In fact, there were 99 more stairs to climb, and most of us were in dresses or skirts, and wearing nice shoes. So, I put in my iPod headphones and climbed the many steps while listening to my “Recently Added” playlist. (I had done this while on the Great Wall, too. It made it more fun and distracted me from the climbing and fatigue.)
Upon reaching the second floor, we explored the balcony and saw the view. We could see the white pagoda in front of us, the skyscrapers to our left, and the shopping centers and train station to our right. After ten minutes of looking around, the 10:30 AM drum ceremony began. Five athletic men dressed in white, silk uniforms and red sashes filed out in front of the seven large drums inside the tower. They each took a place in front of a drum – two smaller drums on either side of the largest drum. Then they started drumming. It was unexpectedly loud and the noise thundered throughout the tower. I wondered how far away people could hear the drumming and I marveled at how the drummers could remember all of the different rhythms and parts that they drummed. After all, the ceremony was a good ten minutes long, and each drummer had a different part like different instruments in an orchestra. They must have practiced a lot AND they must work out because their drumming seemed like arduous exercise.
After the ceremony ended and they bowed to the clapping audience, Jacky led the group back downstairs so that we could all get on rickshaws. Originally pulled by people, modern-day rickshaws have upgraded to being pulled by bikes (obviously with a driver pedaling the bike). Each rickshaw held two people, so we paired up with our roommates. Crystal and I got a large rickshaw driver who wore blue, Hawaiian shorts. As a group, the line of rickshaws followed Jacky and Chris’s rickshaw and we went through the Hutong neighborhoods, which are old-looking houses arranged so that there are courtyards in the middle of each housing complex. In between these neighborhoods are alleyways that Hutong gets its name from.
Our first stop was in front of a main door to a Hutong neighborhood, where we only lingered for a few minutes and took some pictures. At the next stop, we were actually invited to a woman’s Hutong house where she sat us down and talked to the teachers about her life and showed them pictures from when she was younger. She had a small, adorable dog and date trees and pomegranate trees in her yard. I also found it interesting that there were a couple of ornaments on the pomegranate trees, which made it look as if it was decorated like a Christmas tree. Although the outside courtyard looked very traditionally Chinese, the inside was modern with couches, tables, fans, and a TV. After much conversation and pictures with the owner of the house, we exited, and got back onto our rickshaws.
After much swerving and fast cycling, our rickshaw driver delivered us to our final destination – Nanluogu, a street full of unique shops that, according to Jacky, sold items that we may not find anywhere else in the road. Because we had limited time, we did not stop at any of the shops, but the group got an idea of what they could find if they came back later this evening. There were cheap spas, small bars, movie and music stores, cafes, souvenir shops, and clothes stores. We also passed one of the best yoghurt stores in Beijing, a newly-wed couple who was taking pictures, and a large, white duck with an ID tag around his neck. By the time we got to the end of the street, we all wanted to come back later in the evening – there were just too many interesting things there!
Our restaurant for lunch was nearby, so we walked another two minutes there to eat. After a long, but delicious lunch, we got back on the bus and rode to the Confucius Institute Headquarters. The Headquarters was located in a great gray building furnished with shiny green marble floors and high ceilings. We waited around the reception desk in the lobby where there were a display of flags from many
The museum had various interactive activates that informed guests about the culture of China in different regions and during its history. For example, the first thing I went to was a rack of clothing where I wore an empress’s robes and headdress. Other activities included taking a picture of one’s face and putting it in the head of a character in the Beijing Opera, using a computer to do Chinese paper cutting on one’s Chinese zodiac, writing one’s name in Chinese characters, reading about the different provinces in an interactive map of China, and browsing through different Chinese cuisines. There were also clothing, instrument, weapon, and jewelry displays in the exhibit. After thirty minutes of exploring this area, we went back out to the lobby and met our sponsor. With our sponsor, the whole group took a picture in front of the collection of flags, making sure to hold out the Chinese and American flag in the background. Finally, we thanked our sponsor and said good-bye. He graciously accepted our thanks and sent us on our way with nifty little Chinese-English dictionaries for each of us.
It was early afternoon, so we had time to go back to our hotel to rest up a bit. Some students and teachers rested in their rooms or hung out with each other, while others went exploring the area a bit. Nevertheless, we all met in the lobby at 5:30 to go for dinner.
Tonight, we had Peking duck – it was so appetizing that I definitely ate more than I should have. The restaurant we went to was famous for its duck. (Also I’d like to mention that we had to climb so many stairs to get to our floor in the restaurant.) According to Jacky, sometimes it is so full, and people who do not make reservations and have to wait makes a line that extends out of the restaurant. Also, whenever foreign diplomats come, they sometimes go to that restaurant (i.e. Henry Kissinger). Anyway, the food was great, especially the duck, and when we left, I felt ready to burst – not good, but the food was worth it.
Unfortunately, my story for the China Study Trip ends here, and this will be my last blog. After dinner, we went back on the bus and I retrieved my bags and suitcases that I had put on the bus earlier this morning. Crystal and I are going to Taiyuan, Shanxi for a couple of days to visit our family, and then we’re going back to Shanghai to fly back to America. We had checked out of the Xiang Da Hotel
Being in China with the students and teachers has been a wonderful experience. I have made many friendships and I have learned many new things, even at the places I have visited before. I’ve even enjoyed being a tourist in a place where I guess I could call home, since I have been here so many times and I have relatives here. Sure, going from Shanghai to Suzhou to Hangzhou to Beijing has been a long, tiring journey, but it is one of the best journeys I have ever taken and I hope to someday travel again with students and teachers from Bryant.
While everyone is flying home after this incredible trip, I hope that they also feel that they’ve gained so much from this unique experience in China.
by Emily Yang, NYU '14