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 8 (8?7?,???)

Our first day in Beijing began with a good buffet breakfast in the hotel that lasted until we boarded the bus at 9AM, and drove away to the Forbidden City. Along the way to the Forbidden City, we passed by parks where people walked by themselves, with their dogs, and with their birds. Yup, birds. Apparently, these people carry their pet birds in birdcages and walks through the park with them. Then they hang up the cage on trees and play cards or mahjong with other friends. Obviously, this is not something people do in the USA, and it is another distinctive aspect of Chinese culture.

We finally arrived near the Forbidden City after a 20-30 minute bus ride. I have been to the Forbidden City twice before, but this year’s tour of it was much different (and much better, in my opinion). First of all, we entered through the north gate, while we usually enter via Tiananmen Square in the south. Another thing that was different was the weather. Usually it is too hot to explore the Forbidden City, so we would just breeze right through it, moving quickly from entrance to exit. This time, however, the day’s temperature was so cool compared to previous year’s and to that of Hangzhou/Shanghai. Jon Lu claimed that this was because there was a cold wind blowing from Siberia. Thank God for Russia =)

Since the weather was so comfy, Jacky had a chance to stop once in a while and tell the group a lot of information about the Forbidden City. Jacky whipped out a photo album binder where he kept pictures and maps that had to do with the Forbidden City. It was home to the royal family since 1420 until the last emperor, Henry Puyi, was driven out during a coup d’état in 1924.

As we went further south through the City, Jacky told us about the emperor’s lavish lifestyle full of concubines (at first, he accidentally said “cucumber” instead of
“concubine” because he claims they are similar in English like “tomato” and “potato”) and empresses. He explained that the emperor’s relationship with concubines was better because it was usually true love, where as marriage with the empress was not so happy because it was arranged. The concubine had love, but no power, while the empress had power, but no love. Who’s better off here?

Jacky led us through a path that was not directly in the middle of the Forbidden City and more off to the side. This was good because there was less people and a lot to see. The City is divided up into two sections – residential and administrative. We were in the north part, which was the residential area. We saw more buildings that exhibited many old furniture displays, we walked through smaller alleyways and walkways, we walked through smaller courtyards, and we saw many statues of phoenixes and dragons, which were powerful creatures that represented the empress and the emperor. We also walked through a lot more thresholds (apparently, men are supposed to walk over them with their left leg, and for women, the right leg) and passed huge sized vase-looking tubs, which were supposed to be filled with water to be used to put out an emergency fire. Also in the area where we walked was an indoor exhibit on the last emperor. The last emperor came to the
throne at age 2, but was dethroned at age 6 during the 1911 revolution.

However, he still stayed in the palace until the coup d’état in 1924. His received a well-rounded education, and learned English and western customs from a British tutor. He preferred to eat western food and to dress in a western style. During his life, his concubine divorced him, his wife died from an opium overdose, he was the puppet emperor during the Japanese rule, and he eventually died of cancer in 1967.

After we saw this exhibit, we walked further south until we ended up in the administrative part of the City. This is when we went into the City’s Center walkway where there were so many people and it grew very chaotic. Jacky, a born and bred city person, walked very fast and wove in and out of the crowd very quickly, giving it a hard time for the rest of the group to follow his flag. Despite the masses of people, the administrative buildings are everything foreigners expect to see in old Chinese buildings – gold foil, gold, green, and blue painted décor on a red building with yellow tiles.

We kept walking south past beautiful buildings until we finally reached the main gate and eventually into Tiananmen Square. There was so much to see in the world’s biggest square – people who tried to sell us souvenirs, formations of police marching in groups, and other tourists. I wondered why there were so many marching policemen – it seemed as if it was just for show since they made it seem as if the government and the police force had a lot more power….maybe more than they really did. As Jacky talked, souvenir salesmen tried selling their wares to people in our group until Jon Lu began yelling at them to back off (go
him!), and other Chinese tourists asked Kristine and Chris to pose in pictures with them. Something I noticed that was missing were beggers, cripples, and orphans asking for money. The past two times I have been in Tiananmen, there were so many of these people asking the tourists for money, but I suppose the government cleared them out (so maybe the marching police are really doing their job after all) so that they had better tourist satisfaction.

As we made our way out of the square, we passed by a line for Mao’s tomb. Although some of us wanted to see it, we noticed that the line was being closed off. According to Jacky, visiting hours ended at around noon, which was the time then. So instead we exited the square and went to a restaurant across the street on the east side of Tiananmen for lunch.

When I sat down at the lunch table, I realized how tired I really was. A lot of the people in the group started developing headaches, which was strange because the weather was perfectly fine and we were normal other than that. Lunch went well and the food was good. Something I noticed during last night’s dinner and today’s lunch was that the cuisine was much different than that of Shanghai’s and Hangzhou’s. There were just different dishes, less seafood, more meat, and less vegetable platters. It was interesting to note the differences of tastes from the different areas of China.

After lunch, we walked to the Beijing planning museum. This museum showcased Beijing’s past, present, and future, and was originally designed in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games.

The first thing we saw was a bronze statue model of Beijingand its surrounding mountains, then we saw a 3D display of the Forbidden City.
In another room, the whole floor tiling was made up of what looked like the
Google map image of Beijing, while the main, center part of the city was in the
same 3D model display as the Forbidden City exhibit. Some notable buildings in this model were the Bird’s Nest, the standing square CCTV building, and the Temple of Heaven. The next exhibit was a movie on a large IMAX-like screen that talked about the history and present-day story of Beijing. Then, we went into another theater to watch a movie where we sat in chairs that moved while the film took us through time in space to see when and where Beijing began developing as a modern city and how it would continue to develop as such. This ride reminded us of the one in the Shanghai Pavilion at the World Expo, but it was smaller and not as exciting. Next, we had some time to explore the museum on our own. Due to my massive fatigue and headache, I explored maybe one or two more rooms, and then I
explored the gift shop and sat down to enjoy an ice cream that somewhat
relieved my headache.

We departed from the museum at around 4PM and drove to an acrobatic show. I have seen this show two other times, and although it has been different both times, during one of the times, everyone was so jet lagged we could not help but fall asleep during it.

I was afraid that I was so tired that I would also fall asleep during today’s performance. It did not help that our seats were in the very back of the 2 nd balcony in the auditorium, too, because in the
past we were usually in the front, near the stage. However, the seats were actually good because everyone could see everything going on onstage, and the show was one of the best that I have ever attended. It was less like an acrobatic show and more like a collective performance. The theme was flight and birds. In the opening act, there was a cool bird man who summoned a live macaw, and later other live parrots to fly throughout the auditorium. Then it led right into the first act, which was with a seasaw that the acrobats were flown from to land on stilts, chairs, elevated platforms, each other, or just the mat below. After that there was this act with a plank and wheel where the acrobat flipped up bowls and utensils into a hat on the top of his head. Then, the acrobat went on a table that was being held up by two women who were standing on the shoulders of another man who was on another plank and wheel on a table. It was awesome. The next act included girls balancing multiple umbrellas with their feet while they lied down backwards on chairs.

After that was a group of girls who did amazing tricks with the Chinese yo-yos, followed by an act with two men on this contraption which spun when they walked in a gerbil-wheel-looking thing. This act seemed the most dangerous. The act after that was three buff men who did gymnastic acts that involved holding each other up and balancing on one another. Finally, the last act was acrobats jumping through hoops of different heights, the highest being a stack of four hoops! The finale after that was acrobats wearing crazy costumes, the curtain call, and one final appearance of the birds. It was pretty epic, too. After the show, everyone was raving about how great it was. We were still talking about it as we went to dinner and later when we went back to the hotel for the night.

All in all, our first day in Beijing was very fun and eye-opening. Can’t wait for another day tomorrow!

by Emily Yang, NYU '14

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