U.S.-China Institute at Bryant University

2010 K-12 Study Trip to China

Day 1 (7/31) Shanghai Day 2 (8/1) Shanghai Day 3 (8/2)
Day 4 (8/3) Suzhou Day 5 (8/4) Hangzhou Day 6 (8/5) Hangzhou
Day 7 (8/6) Hangzhou Day 8 (8/7)
Day 9 (8/8)
Day 10 (8/9)
Day 11 (8/10)
Day 12 (8/11)

Day 12 (8?11?, ????)

After a wake-up call at 8:00 in the morning and a quick breakfast we were all ready to go to the Temple of Heaven. As we exited the hotel it started to rain, which was appropriate weather considering our destination. We were on our way to the Temple of Heaven which was historically used as a place for the Emperor to pray for good weather when people were just beginning to plant seeds and to thank the gods after a good harvest. And good weather meant rain, and lots of it. When we first arrived at the gate our group began our trek to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. Along the way we saw a group of people crowding around a spot on the path, in the middle of the crowd some of these people were dancing to music playing overhead. As we stopped to take pictures some of us were pulled in to dance. This experience was such a contrast to American culture because in America people don’t trust strangers. Americans don’t ask complete strangers to dance just because they feel like it but in China that is accepted and embraced.

When the song ended we bid our dance partners good-bye and thanked them for a wonderful experience that not many Americans get to say they’ve had. We rejoined the group and continued on our way to the hall. As we got closer, the building grew in size and we could easily make out the intricate details. We climbed the three rows of nine steps leading up to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest; the gorgeous structure with three tiers. Blue roofs sat on top of each red circular base engraved with different patterns, usually containing a phoenix and a dragon to symbolize the Emperor and Empress. Inside this hall the Emperor would kneel and pray for a good harvest each year when these traditions were still practiced.

After we’d taken our pictures and taken in the scenery we descended the slippery steps and made our way to the Circular Mound Alter. This was an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stairs. In the middle of the platform was a small mound where the Emperor would kneel and pray for favorable weather. Jacky later told us that there were nine steps and that each ring of stones surrounding the small mound contained a multiple of nine stones. In Chinese culture the number nine symbolizes longevity, so the amount of stones represented a long life. Once again we all took our fill of pictures and left the alter. Saying our goodbyes to the Temple of Heaven we walked back to the bus and piled on to go to lunch.

After a filling meal, we drove to the Peal Market and upon arriving at our destination everyone rushed out of the bus and made a mad dash for the doors. Inside the market there were hundreds of stalls filled with all sorts of goods. We passed by different paintings, jewelry, clothes, large fans and shoes. Anything we could have ever imagined could be found in that building. As we browsed each store the salespeople would grab your arm and yell trying to get your attention, for example they would yell “Come pretty lady take a look!” at us while pointing at various products they wanted to sell. Many of us bought souvenirs to take back home but also saved money for the next market. The experience was like no other- a crowded environment filled with noisy and aggressive salespeople who would stop at nothing to sell you their goods. After an hour and a half of exploring and purchasing, we met outside with lighter wallets, or money belts in some cases, and heavier bags. All of us piled onto the bus and left the array of goods behind.

After a short ride of browsing each others’ purchases we reached our last destination of the day, the Silk Market. Once again, we rushed through the doors to be met with many stalls and a lot of noise. We were thrown right back into the chaotic environment that we had left behind not so long ago. Each floor had its own design and its own specialty products. One floor was filled with nothing but fake designer bags while another had gorgeous handmade paintings lining the walls. Whenever we passed the vendors they would call out to us, and once they had reeled us in would offer ridiculous prices for their goods. But you are not meant to actually spend that amount of money; you are supposed to barter until you reach a more satisfactory price. This is a big part of the Chinese culture; bargaining with the vendors is a bit of a sport for them. Seeing how low you can get the price and the feeling of victory when you buy something for a particularly low price. In the two hours we spent there each person in our group bought many things to keep as a memory of the wonderful experience.

Our last day in China was definitely a busy one, filled with cultural experiences one would never experience back in America. But even though there are a lot of differences between our nations, there are also a lot of similarities. A fact that became clearer and clearer over our time spent here. When we first arrived here most of the people in our little group only noticed things that made China and the U.S.A different. But as we journeyed through the modern streets of Shanghai, serene roads of Suzhou, the traditional feel of Hangzhou and the chaotic atmosphere of Beijing we all came to the same realization: that even though the two countries are very different, they also have a lot of similarities. But they’re bound to have differences; even China has a lot of differences in various parts. No place is the same, each contains completely different aspects of Chinese culture.

Written by: Shannon Conley and Olivia Hallam

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