NEXT TRIP: SUMMER OF 2015!! If you are interested, please contact Dr. Flatt for details! (email@example.com)
China Trip - Summer of 2013.
During August, the Chemistry Department at WOU hosted their first study abroad program to China! The program was designed so that students would learn about Traditional Chinese Medicine practices, such as Acupuncture, Tuina, Cupping, Moxibustion, and Preventative care strategies such as Tai Chi Chuan and meditative exercises such as Qigong.
During the first part of the trip, we traveled with a Chen-Style Tai Chi Chuan group from Manchester, England. Master Liming Yue, originally from Xiangtan, China, headed the group. As a student of Grandmaster Chen Zheng Lei, Master Yue has over 40 years of experience in Chen-style tai chi chuan and is also familiar with Shaolin Kungfu. We also found out that he has a magic phone, that he constantly uses to organize a seamless and fabulous journey through the country...thank you Liming for all the hard work that you did for us on this trip! We all had the time of our lives!
During the second part of the trip, we spent a week at the Zhongfang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital where we learned about different practices within Chinese Medicine, participated in hands-on demonstrations of these applications, and traveled with hospital doctors into a local village to offer free care to poor people that cannot afford health care. We would like to offer Dr. Peng a special thanks for taking such good care of us during our hospital stay. We look forward to working with you again in the future.
Below, please find a more detailed description of our daily lives and adventures during our stay...
Day 1: Arrived in Beijing after 24 hours of travel. We all felt exhausted, except for Yijun Su, aka. 'Pluto'. Pluto, who is an international student studying at WOU, is originally from Shanghai. He had left a few days earlier than the rest of the group to spend some time with his parents. Upon our weary arrival, all hungry and bedraggled, to our amazement, Pluto and his parents had arranged for us to have one of the most splendid traditional Chinese dinners I've ever had. They had arranged for us to dine in a private room at a very nice restaurant. We tried all kinds of new foods including jellyfish (which was very crunchy!) and a hot walnut milk drink that was to die for. It was such a wonderful way to be welcomed into the country. I was so flattered that Pluto and his parents would go to so much trouble for our group.
Day 2: In the morning, we met Master Liming Yue and his group from England. Because Master Yue is an elite martial artist, I felt quite intimidated to meet him, and wondered what he would be like. I was surprised by how personable and funny that Liming was right away. It was obvious from the start, that he is really in his element teaching and leading a group. Three of his students, Pam, Paul, and Fred had traveled with him from England, and others would be arriving later and joining our group en-route.
------------ Our new English Friends: Paul, Pam and Fred ------------------------ liming and Tomena -------------------------
-------------Our new English Friends, Paul, Pam and Fred ------------------------ Master Yue and Tomena Flatt -----------------------------
We all had breakfast together in the hotel. The meal had some traditional American options like eggs and french toast, but there were also lots of Chinese options as well, such as rice porridge and steamed buns, along with an assortment of vegetables and meats. Amazingly, we noticed at breakfast in the hotel, that their silverware was made in the United States! After breakfast, we all piled into a large van and headed for the Badailong section of the Great Wall. We all hiked for about two hours out to the end of the section where visitors were allowed to go. Beyond that point, they were currently doing reconstruction of some damaged parts of the wall. There were some very steep areas along our journey, and lots of stairs. The weather was about 85 F and pretty high humidity. We all enjoyed cold drinks at the end of our journey.
Great Wall 1 great wall 2 great wall 3
Teri, Pluto, Yilun, Tomena, Aqua, & Courtney---Pluto and Kylie walking the wall--Steep stairs were no problem for our group!
Later that night, Pluto found another great place to take us to dinner! We went to a Hot Pot - Dancing Noodle Restaurant. It was amazing. At the tables there were cooking areas where boiling water and spices were placed. All of the meal items ordered would come out raw and we would cook them in the hot pot at our table. Pluto had us trying all kinds of new foods, once again. We had duck tongue, which looked like a little alien sitting on your plate, blood that was prepared into cubes, much the way tofu is, bamboo, and the most delicious noodles, that were prepared at your table by one of the waiters. They would come to the table and do a 'noodle dance' to stretch out the noodles before adding them to your hot pot. They were hard to get back out with just your chopsticks, but were delicious. One of our other favorites were the steamed buns with honey milk. Very sweet, almost like a donut! We would continue to look for and enjoy these for the rest of the trip!
stemed buns with honey milk duck tongue blood
----- Steamed Buns with Honey Milk -------------------------- Duck Tongue ------------------------------------------ Blood -------------------------
Day 3: After breakfast at the hotel, where they had delicious mango juice, we went for a visit to the Summer Palace. Roughly 60,000 people visit there each day! The Summer Palace served as a relaxation palace for Chinese royalty. When the name of this palace is translated, it means "Gardens of Nurtured Harmony" and it definitely lives up to its name. The park has a huge lake in the center, Kunming Lake, with a small island in the middle. The surrounding park area has several halls and pavilions that are brilliantly decorated with elaborate paintings and carvings. There are also several temples and other grand buildings located in the area. Upon walking into the summer palace, one is struck by the peacefulness and happiness that abounds within its walls. When we entered, a group of women were sinking together in a pavilion while an older man accompanied them on a lyre. We stayed and listened to a few songs before moving on. Listen in by clicking the link below:
As we walked enjoying the beauty of the long outdoor hallways, we came across several older men that had long PVC pipes attached to a water bottle with a sponge brush at the end. They were doing calligraphy along the sidewalks. One wrote the names of a few of our students, and they really enjoyed this interaction.
calligraphy 1 calligraphy 2 open air hallway
------- calligraphy art ------------------- Tomena and Calligraphy Artist ---------------- Artwork from an outdoor hallway -------------
As we continued our journey, we came across a paddle boat rental place. So we rented two rigs and took them out on the lake. We circled the lake, viewing beautiful pagodas and bridges, and once in awhile crashing into one another. After the paddle boat, we walked along the outdoor hallway to continue enjoying the beautiful artistry. It was very crowded and many people stopped to ask if they could take pictures with our group. To keep from getting separated, we adopted the Manchester United soccer chant, 'Ole, Ole, Ole....ooollllleeeee, ooooollllleeeee' to find eachother again. It worked brilliantly and we ended up adopting this chorus for the remainder of the trip. After regrouping, we took a small boat ride to a special area of the lake. In this region, the Qianlong Emperor recreated a beautiful shopping street from Shanghai to please his queen and make her feel like she was back at home. The small shops were located along a canal that contained beautiful lotus flowers and lily pads.
paddleboat 1 paddle boat 2 recreation of shanghai shopping area
----- paddleboat crew having fun ---------Paul and Liming manning the paddleboat ---Recreation of Shanghai Shopping Area --
After visiting the Summer Palace, we went to a local restaurant and had a wonderful lunch. They served fresh fruit juices, like pear and watermelon and we had 'Chinese Hamburgers' which were essentially a spicy meat sandwich prepared on a steamed bun. We all are still getting used to using chopsticks, but I think my favorite part about meal time, is that all of the dishes are shared. Usually at the Chinese restaurants there is a huge lazy susan in the middle of the table, where all of the dishes are served. You can then spin the lazy susan around to the dish that you are interested in trying. To me, it makes the meals more personable and group oriented to share all the dishes. I really enjoyed meal times.
After our lunch, we rushed off to make it to the Forbidden City, which doesn't allow guests to enter the area after 3:30 pm. We just made it in time. The Forbidden City was the Chinese Imperial Palace from the early portion of the Ming Dynasty (about 1403) to the end of the Qing Dynasty (1912). In 1403, the Yongle Emperor, Zhu Di, moved the capital city from Nanjing to Beijing and began the construction of the Imperial City, a large, walled-area that could be guarded well with soldiers. Construction took millions of workers and 17 years to complete. At the center of the Imperial City was an inner series of chambers called the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City served as the residence of the emperor and his family. The palace contains over 980 buildings and has an extensive collection of artwork and artifacts from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Forbidden City 1 forbidden city 2 Forbidden city 3
-------------------------------------------------------------Pictures from the Forbidden City -------------------------------------------------------------
After our tour of the Forbidden City, we continued to walk to a huge shopping district within Beijing. There were a wide assortment of shops in this area, from a huge outdoor food court with food options and cuisine from different regions in China and other outdoor shops with traditional Chinese crafts and clothing, to huge malls containing The Apple Store, Starbucks, and a little reminder of home, The Oregon Scientific Store. We ate a dinner of steamed buns filled with pork and a green bean/lentil soup from a restaurant in the mall and then continued on to the outdoor food market for our 'dessert'. The outdoor food market had a very interesting fair of foods, from cutely decorated steamed buns that looked like little pigs, to fried tarantula on a stick! My lovely little students decided that they wanted to eat a scorpion on a stick. So I decided to film their epic food adventure. Little did I know, what they had in store for me, as well! See the video below for details....
oregon scientific in beijing! really cute steamed buns Courtney trying out the octopus
---- A taste of Oregon in Beijing! ---------------- Really cute steamed buns ------------------- Courtney tasting the octopus -------
insect cuisine insect food 2 sea star on a stick!
------------ Interesting Cuisine ----------------------- Tarantula on a stick anyone? ----------- No? How about Sea Star on a stick?
Day 4: Today we were joined by Victor Yao, a long time student and Kung Fu brother of Liming's. He would visit with us today and then rejoin our group in Wudangshan. He was very sweet and personable and fit in with our group right away. After breakfast, we visited one of my favorite places in Beiing, the Temple of Heaven. Within the park area, there are three main temple regions: The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, The Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Circular Mound Altar. One of my favorite aspects of this park is that the people who come here play games in the park, like hackey sack, dance, sing, and do tai chi. They aren't worried about what other people will think of them or concerned about their reputations. They are just out having a good time together and enjoying life. The temple grounds have religious affiliation to Taoism which emphasizes living in harmony. It certainly feels like harmony when you are walking around the Temple grounds. It just makes you feel happy inside. As a group, we had our first Chen-style tai chi experience in the park. We participated in some silk reeling exercises and in qigong meditation. Qigong literally means 'Life Energy Cultivation' and is the practice of aligning the breath, movement, and awareness for exercise and healing. It was very relaxing and makes you feel very good!
I've noticed on my return to the United States, how under-utilized the park in my neighborhood is. I have been going to the park regularly to practice tai chi and rarely see anyone else there. Only the ducks by the pond. It is quite a contrast to the experience in the Temple of Heaven and other regions in China.
My favorite area of the Temple of Heaven was the Circular Mound Alter. This is an empty platform altar built for special ceremonies during the Ming Dynasty to pray for rain and good harvests. The architecture of this alter circulates around the number 9. Within the concepts of Yin and Yang, Yin represents the even numbers and Yang represents the odd numbers. The number 9 is the largest single digit odd number and thus, is considered to be very Yang in nature (or high in releasing energy). The number 9 also represents the Chinese Dragon and this in turn, represents the emperor. In the center of the alter is the Heaven's Heart Stone which is surrounded by concentrically arranged flag-stones. There are 9 stones in the first circle, 18 in the second and 27 in the third, continuing through the 9th circle which contains 81 stones. Our group went up to the top of the alter and stood on the mound together holding hands. It was a really unique experience.
temple of heaven tai chi temple of heaven Group Photo Temple of Heaven
---- Tai Chi in the Temple of Heaven ---------Courtney, Tomena, Aqua, and Pluto -- Group photo at the Circular Mound Altar
After our visit to the Temple of Heaven, we attended a tea ceremony where we tried a wide assortment of Chinese Teas, from more traditional teas like oolong and green tea with jasmine, to a unique dried fruit tea and the aged pu'er tea. It was a wonderful experience. Following our tea excursion, we took our bus down to Tiananmen Square. The translated name for this square is 'The Gate of Heavenly Peace' where it serves as the gate to the Forbidden City. While we were walking around the square, enjoying the architecture and landscaping, we noticed that there were groups of school-aged children walking around the square. They were actually out on assignment, practicing their English skills. The children had written short paragraphs over topics ranging from the history and beauty of China, to environmental protection and restoration of the region. They would ask us if they could read their essays to us as we passed through the square. They were all very sweet and we listened to many essays that afternoon. One group even decorated one of my students, Teri, with a cute reindeer hat and a rubber chicken, that was soon to become our group's new mascot. It was a great afternoon!
chicken lady 1 chicken lady 2 victor
WOU Student, Teri Hill, listening to essays in Tiananmen Square --------- Victor, our new Kung Fu Brother! ------------------
That evening we went to the Red Theatre in Beijing and saw a Kung Fu show. The Shaolin Monks performing were amazing athletes. Unfortunately, that part of town was really heavily polluted and the air pollution was making our eyes water to sit in the theatre. I don't know how the actors manage to work in such conditions. After the show, Victor made us go up on stage and pose with the actors. It was a lot of fun! After the show, we all went to a late dinner, and a number of us went out to Karaoke for an even later night after that! It was a memorable last night in Beijing!
red theatre 1 red theatre 2
------- Aqua and Tomena posing with the Kung Fu Stars, yes, and I went up there too! -------
Day 5: This was our first travel day. We had a free morning, which many used for sleeping in and packing. Then we headed for the Beijing train station. The Beijing train station is like a mini city all in and of itself. It is a very crowded place, but we managed to find our train platform alright and get boarded on one of China's bullet trains. The bullet train was very luxurious with big seats and lots of foot room. It also had a really smooth ride, you couldn't feel the tracks at all as we whizzed along at just under 300 km/hr. Unfortunately, however, we did hit some bad weather and our train was delayed at the Anyangdong train platform for almost 4 hours. We made the best of it, though, acting silly, catching up on our beauty sleep, and practicing a little tai chi. With the delay, we arrived at the Shaolin Village, near Zhengzhou, just after 2 in the morning!
bullet train Silliness on the bullet train beauty sleep on the bullet train tai chi at the train station
------------------------------------------------ Even a slow trip on a fast train can be fun! -------------------------------------------------------------
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