I was actually excited to get up early this morning because I knew that I would get a chance to sleep on the long bus ride to the Hemudu Archaeological Museum. So after a quick breakfast, I hopped on the bus, put my iPod on shuffle, and closed my eyes hoping to sleep for the next 2 hours we were supposed to be on the bus. My nap was intermittently interrupted by the occasional bumps and beeps of the bus. That’s another great thing about China – the driving. If you think the stereotypical Chinese-American is a bad driver, then you won’t be able to imagine what it’s like in China. It’s pretty bad, especially in cities. At least in New York, if you walk across the street while a taxi is driving towards you, the taxi will usually slow down and/or stop. Not in China. In China what happens is that the taxi will beep at you and keep plowing forward. You hopefully leap out of the way in time. While cars drive on highways, there’s also a lot of beeping for seemingly no reason at all, and the drivers like to switch lanes abruptly or make really sharp turns. This is an interesting culture difference, in my opinion. I think the reason for this is because Americans have a stricter procedure of obtaining a license or permit to drive (I remember those long hours in drivers’ ed 2 summers ago), and we also tend to follow the rule of law more. Another thing I have noticed every time I have been to China is that there doesn’t seem to be much police enforcement for bad driving. In any case, our bus driver doesn’t seem to understand what a pothole is. Every pothole we went over threw me half a foot into the air, since I was sitting towards the back of the bus, but somehow I managed to fall back asleep each time.
Keeping Cool with Chinese Fans
Instead of taking the expected 2 hours to arrive, it took about 3.5 hours to get to our destination. Since I was asleep for most of it, I missed the exact reason for the delay, but I heard something about an annoying detour and getting lost. Personally I didn’t mind since today was probably the most relaxing day compared to previous days.
When we finally did arrive at the Hemudu Archaeological Museum, most of us, save for the ones who needed to use the bathroom, were reluctant to leave the air conditioned bus, but we all filed out anyway. It was only 37C° today (98.6F°), so it wasn’t as bad as other days either. We took refuge from the sun underneath the tent of a vendor who was selling touristy souvenir trinkets. It was strange for the vendor not to be shoving his wares under our noses and yelling out a price for them. Instead, he smiled at us and sat behind his desk. Another thing that was different about this place than other tourist spots was that our bus was the only one in the lot, while there were maybe two other cars there, too. We surmised that an archaeological museum was not one of the hottest spots to visit near Hangzhou, which was good because there were no crowds, no yelling vendors, and no confusion – it was quiet and calm there save for the ever noisy cicadas in the trees. Personally, an archaeological museum would not be somewhere I would visit either if I came to China, but in a way it was good that we came because it was definitely a change compared to the Chinese pagodas and gardens that we normally visited. After Jack purchased our tickets, we proceeded into the Hemudu Archaeological Museum (the HAM, haha, I’m going to call it that now!).
Now, “what is Hemudu?” you may ask. It was a Neolithic culture that inhabited the area where we were in Yuyao, Zhejiang, China, just south of Hangzhou. I learned this in the museum as well as much else. We had a tour guide who could speak pretty good English and who led us around the museum. The Hemudu culture lasted from 5000BC-4500BC and much of the tools and remains of the civilization that is displayed in the museum was found in the 70s. We saw that this culture was proficient with tools made mostly from animal bones (i.e. deer scapula for shovels), and their pottery was made with clay and was decorated with drawings of animals. The Hemudu people lived in houses built on stilts, so there is a lot of wooden planks and boards found in the remains – one of the exhibits literally displays, “wooden plank,” “wooden plank,” “wooden board,” “wooden plank,” in the case. One of my favorite parts of the museum was seeing an old wooden well in its original placement – the museum built around it so that you could see it through the glass case that was on the museum floor overlooking the well. The well was square shaped, which has archaeologists wondering if the character for “well” in Chinese, ? (jing), comes from the shape of this ancient well. I thought that it was no coincidence. As we continued on through the museum we saw a wooden cylinder that was supposed to be a drum, and some arrows and jewelry adornments made of bone and wood. In the last exhibit, there was a display of human remains and I noticed that the Hemudu were not that short. The skeleton was a young adult and he or she was 5 foot 7 inches, which is about my height! I expected them to be much shorter, but instead they seemed to have been about the same as our size today.
After the museum, we made a stop at the museum gift shop where I was eyeing a fancy long sword, until Jon Lu reminded me that US customs wouldn’t really approve of me bringing a 1.5foot long sharp weapon into the country. Jon did, however, try to convince me to buy a 10RMB slingshot, though I figured that I would have no use for that except for shooting rocks at people from my dorm room window, I suppose… As tempting as that sounded, I still decided not to purchase it.
Next, we took a quick walk to the nearby restaurant where we had lunch. Because the restaurant was in the middle of the countryside along with the museum, it was small and, well, not as clean as we were used to. Right as we walked in, we saw cages of live chickens, ducks, pheasants, and even a rabbit. Yum, lunch! Actually, when we sat down to eat I was hesitant of eating the meat because I did not always know what kind of meat it was. I mean, I would not mind eating unusual meats, like rabbit, but I would like to know what I am putting in my mouth before I eat it. Luckily, there was nothing too unusual about lunch, except for that thick incense smell that usually marked the present of a nearby toilet. No rabbits in any case. When our plates were almost empty, one of the students noticed two huge eggs that were in the refrigerator of the small room at the front of the shop. We all abandoned the rest of our food to investigate. We found that the huge eggs were actually ostrich eggs, but that wasn’t the only unusual thing in there. There was also crocodile feet, dead turtles, dead snakes, and of course, fish in the same refrigerator and nearby tanks. Yum yum yum.
After leaving the restaurant, everyone got back on the bus. The teachers, who I think had more beer during lunch than usual, were playing with Anne’s bandanna, transforming it into the shape of a bunny, and singing “Little Bunny Foofoo.” I actually watched their whole little puppet show because I never knew the whole song. You learn something new every day: give the teachers more to drink next time, just to see what they do ;) Anyway.
We spent only ten minutes driving to our next destination, which was a local village. This village was a little different from the slum in Shanghai, mainly because it was in the countryside and there were some big houses in the village. It was actually interesting to see some of the big houses and then see a smaller one next to it. One big house had a sleek, red Honda car parked outside of it, which was a huge status symbol in the community. Most of the houses, however, were small and poor looking. Although we obviously couldn’t see the inside of the houses, most of their doors were hanging wide open and we saw that they didn’t really have much going on inside of the houses. The smaller houses were shacks, really. They didn’t have much of a yard, and if they did, it was mostly dusty dirt. The shacks were basically one story with white walls and shingles. Lining the narrow village streets was a drain of sorts. I’m sure it could contain sewage, too, though the village was not bad smelling. Another interesting aspect of the village was the way they treated their dogs. The dogs’ sole purpose in the household is to guard the house, so they are generally not played with or spoiled. Even before we got off the bus, Jon Lu had warned us not to tease the dogs or they might bite. There was also less laundry hanging in this village than the one in Shanghai, and the few people that we saw in this village were actually excited about seeing foreign people. It seemed like a big deal especially to the little kids of the village, who ran towards us screaming to each other that there was “wai guo ren” (foreign people). Two young girls even had the courage to speak to Tim and some other teachers. Chris and Fan, who were with a couple other teachers, were also conversing with locals and straggled behind the main group.
After spending much time in the village, we got back onto the bus and drove another 15 minutes to the Tianluoshan Site Museum. This museum showed the Tianluoshan site, which was a new place where archaeologists found another Hemudu settlement. A dome was built over the excavation site so that the harsher elements wouldn’t get to it. The site itself did indeed look like a professional dig site, with ancient wooden posts sticking up from the ground and ancient fences marked by signs as well. The dig is going to continue next summer, but meanwhile, what archaeologists have dug up in the site so far is open to the public for viewing. We saw it after we watched an informative movie about the history of the site. (In a way, this movie was hilarious, too, because the narrator had a really nasally voice, especially when he spoke English. It was so funny to the point that our tour guide, Jack, chuckled a bit.)
This museum was our last stop today before driving three hours back north to Hangzhou. Along the way, I took pictures out of my window of the beautiful mountains in the distance and of the rice paddies that we passed. Instead of sleeping, I listened to music as I watched the landscape pass and mindless thoughts drifted in and out of my mind. =D
When we arrived in Hangzhou, we went to dinner at a very nice restaurant, which was such a different environment than the place we had lunch at, that it seemed like a whole new world! Everything in Hangzhou was so modern compared to that of the countryside.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel to rest and get refreshed, and to prepare for the evening’s activities. The whole group met up again at 7:30 to walk a few blocks down the street to a large park. This park had a little kids’ carnival going on, as well as a dance exercise being done by crowds of middle aged men and women (mostly women). Crystal and Mia tried keeping up with the dancing, but it was weird that so many people knew the dance moves…and it was a very long dance. It reminded me of the Electric Slide, so maybe it was something like that. On the other side of this park was the night market where there were so many stands selling so many products: food, drink, toys, hats, knives, canteens, lighters, instruments, scarves, key chains, jewelry, watches, the list goes on and on and on! Further down the street was a neighborhood of old looking traditional Chinese buildings that were turned into little shops. It was so crowded there! We went into shops that sold dresses, wallets, purses, communism propaganda, bakeries, incense, bubble tea, and many many many more items. In the middle of the street were artist carts that reminded me of the Simon mall carts in the middle of Providence Place or Emerald Square Mall. These artists showcased glassblowing/making, sculpture making, portraits of people, egg designs/carving, doll making, metal coil art, etc. There were just so many things to see, that it was exhausting just walking down the street and trying to look at everything.
Crystal, Mia, and I ended up going to a tea shop because Mia wanted to buy some things for her brother – tea was perfect, especially West Lake Longjing Green tea, because it is one of the best kinds of tea in the area. Mia was hesitant about her purchase, so one of the young ladies who worked at the shop and spoke the best English sat us down and poured us some tea. She went through the whole process of cleaning the cups and swirling the tea – similar to what the lady did in the tea ceremony at the tea museum yesterday. Once again, the longjing tea was very good so of course Mia got some.
By the time we circled back to return to our hotel, we were all exhausted just from our night market excursion and were ready for bed. Tomorrow we leave Hangzhou, so tonight I hope to get a good night sleep during our last night here even if it is already really late. =P Sweet dreams! =)
by Emily Yang, NYU '14