2010 K-12 Study Trip to China
Day 4 (8?3?, ???)
Our wake-up call came at 5AM this morning. When we were ready to leave, we lugged our backpacks and suitcases downstairs where we ate breakfast and got onto the bus.
Before we drove away from the hotel, we said a sad good-bye to Christina, but we were happy that we would get a chance to see her again at Bryant in the fall where she will be working at the Confucius Institute. The next hour on the bus was spent saying good-bye to the city of Shanghai as we drove south towards the rural outskirts, Suzhou, and ultimately Hangzhou. In the rural part of Shanghai, we stopped to visit the Zhu Jiajiao water town where there were ancient southern-Chinese style houses built along a river. What made it unique was that it wasn’t very modern compared to the rest of Shanghai. It was funny to see a KFC and a 4-foot statue of Haibao, the blue mascot of the Shanghai World Expo, in the middle of this old-looking village. Once again, it was a very hot day. Although it was not as warm as yesterday, it was more humid, so in no time at all, the back of my shirt was drenched with sweat. Attractive.
Boat ride on the water A temple on the waterside
Jack led the group to the riverside where we split into four groups to take a boat ride through the village. While we waited to board the little wooden boats, there was an old woman who was selling goldfish. Apparently, they are not to be kept for pets – instead, the customer purchases the goldfish so he/she can set it free back into the river. It’s supposed to be for good karma, although Jack pointed out that there was no point wasting our money since the fish would be caught again. Anyway. The boats were operated by men in straw hats who moved the boat by moving the rudder quickly back and forth. It was a nice, calming ride and showed us the daily activities performed by the villagers as we passed by them. When we disembarked, we followed the flag through the village back through the way we came. This place reminded me of a Chinese, less modern version of Venice since the sidewalk we walked on was along the river’s edge, while the buildings were on the side of the sidewalk opposite the river. Because many tourists came to this village, there were many little shops opened along the sidewalk and it was tempting to want to stop at one or two of them to purchase little souvenirs. However, Jon Lu, ever concerned about following Jack, told us to face forward and not to look to the side, as we would have time to shop later. After we walked for about 20 minutes and crossed a bridge that was the biggest arched bridge in Shanghai, we wound up to the place we were before we had boarded the boats. At this time, we were given time to browse the different shops and stands for 30 minutes. So many things were being sold: mini-bicycles, postcards, playing cards, food, beverages, hats, clothes, toys, and fans. I purchased a packet of Shanghai postcards and a deck of Lady Gaga playing cards (for those of you who do not know about my obsession with her…well, basically I’m a big fan). Although I was happy with my purchase, I was not happy that my light purple shirt was turning dark from all of my sweat. It was way too hot, and I was ready to get going. At the end of the alotted time, everyone else was pretty much in the same condition and ready to get back onto the air-conditioned bus.
From there, the bus drove us an hour and a half to Suzhou. With about 1 million people living there, it was definitely a much smaller and older city than Shanghai. Unfortunately, I slept through most of the bus ride there and cannot describe most of the city when we entered it. I woke when we arrived at the Silk Museum and I reluctantly rubbed the sleep from my eyes and got off the bus to go into the museum. First, Jack surprised me when he was our tour guide through the museum – his knowledge of silk and the silk making process was incredible. He gave us an overview of the life of the silk worm and how the silk was made. Apparently, the life span of a silk worm/moth ranges about a month. Within that time, it hatches, and grows into a silk worm that eats mulberry leaves and sleeps all the time (what a life!). Then, it spins a cocoon and turns into a moth as soon as it finishes its metamorphosis inside the cocoon. The silk itself is the material the cocoon is made out of, so silk farmers harvest these cocoons, put them into boiling water or steam to kill the
larvae inside, and make silk out of them. The larvae can be used as protein in body lotion, as food to locals (apparently they taste like peanuts), or as food to chickens and ducks of the local farmers. Jack also showed us how we could tell the difference between silk and polyester so we wouldn’t be ripped off in the future. Silk can be crumpled into very small space and not wrinkle, while polyester couldn’t and would wrinkle. Also, if one burns silk, there is white smoke that smells like burnt hair, and the fabric simply burns away. Polyester smells like burnt plastic, since it is made of the same material, and the fabric itself shrivels. Jack took us through the rest of the museum, and we actually saw the whole silk-making process. We watched a worker differentiate all of the good cocoons from the bad ones, since cocoons that were miscolored were of low-quality and cocoons that had holes in them could not be used to thread in a single strand. Then we saw a machine that twisted 6 individual strands of silk into one, because the thread of a single cocoon was much too thin. After that, we walked past machines that wove the silk. Finally we were given an interactive presentation that showed us how double cocoons were used. Apparently, some silk worms “love each other” (Jack’s words) and weave on giant cocoon. However, this super-cocoon cannot be used in normal silk making because it contains two different threads, so instead it is stretched and added on with other layers and stretched some more to be put into the inside of bedspreads. Some of the students helped to stretch the silk, so it was a fun little experience. Afterwards, we were given the opportunity to shop for silk everything – bedspread, dresses, shirts, underclothes, scarves, ties, and much more. However, a lot of it was extremely expensive so I just browsed and looked hungrily at all of the pretty, comfortable clothes and accessories that I could not afford to buy.
Display the thin silk Jack explained the life span of silk worms
After that, we went to a restaurant on the same property and we had a western and Chinese cuisine buffet. Then we hopped back onto the bus to go to the Zhou Zhengyuan. To tell the truth, I am not a huge fan of gardens, especially on a hot, humid day like today. When I was in 3 rd grade, my parents brought my sister and I to our fair share of gardens, and all that I remembered was aching feet, sweaty clothes, and fatigue. Of course, this garden was beautiful and unique in its design and buildings, but there were still ancient Chinese buildings with ancient Chinese furniture. The ponds were covered with lotus pads and had peddlers cutting off the lotus flowers to sell to the tourists for more money than it should be. The garden walkways were paved with little stones, sometimes having designs of money and flowers, or a ring surrounded by 5 bats for good luck. Something in the garden that I had never seen in any other garden before was a special rock formation that very much resembled a lion’s body. Other than that, it had corridors, pagodas, pavilions, trees, and flowers much like the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai. It was very beautiful, but we were relieved to be leaving because, once again, everyone was drenched in sweat and dragging his or her feet in the heat.
It was only a ten-minute walk to the Suzhou Museum, our next destination, but it was tiring, as well. The museum’s building was designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, whose family was originally from Suzhou. (His house was just down the street from the museum.) The museum showcased much of Suzhou’s rich art history. It was a cool (literally!) place to hang out for an hour.
After the museum , we went to an embroidery museum to kill time before dinner. The embroidery museum showed us how well people could embroider and actually allowed us to watch them embroider the tiny stitches to make a beautiful scene or piece of art. At the end of the tour, we were allowed to shop, but most of the great pieces of work were well over 100,000 yuan. We understood that so much hard work went into each masterpiece, which is why everything was so expensive, but I still didn’t have the money to buy anything. After we were finished there, we ate dinner nearby and then left Suzhou for Hangzhou.
The bus arrived in Hangzhou at around 8PM after we were on it for 3.5 hours. Jack told us that Hangzhou was the second biggest city on the Yangzte Delta, the 1 st being Shanghai, of course. It was one of the ancient capitals of China, and it was the capital 800 years ago during the Sun dynasty. As a big city covering 3000 square kilometers, Hangzhou citizens are richer than those of Suzhou, even though Suzhou has the 2 nd best economy because of foreign investments. Accurately enough, I thought Hangzhou was DEFINITELY smaller than Shanghai, but it was much bigger than Suzhou.
We checked into a really nice hotel, the Victoria Regal Hotel near the West Lake, which is one of the destinations tomorrow. Everyone showered and felt refreshed after settling in. Right now, I am going to go straight to bed because I am exhausted! Until tomorrow!
by Emily Yang, NYU'14
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