My year in China was eventful. I tried very hard to keep a record of my daily activities.
Some days were more exciting than others; I'll let you be the judge.
Sadly I did not continue my written journal past the first semester. However, for the 2nd semester I have included a synopsis and reflections on some high points along with photos.
Today we visited Qian Ling – the Mausoleum of Emperor Tang Guozong and Empress Wu Zetian. The main southern approach is between two prominent small hills, surmounted with towers built in the eighth century. There is a series of statues lining the route to the mausoleum. First, there are two winged horses. These are followed by two vermillion birds (appearing like ostriches), five pairs of saddled horses (originally each with a groom), and ten pairs of tall guardians. The guardians have very large heads, wear long-sleeved robes, and hold the hilts of long swords that rest on the ground in front of them. Just beyond the twenty guardians is a group of headless statues that was thought to be an entourage of ambassadors from other nations who had come to pay their respects to Emperor Tang. During the Cultural Revolution the bodies of many of these statues were severed and the heads toppled off. In this particular statue you can see the line of mortar just below the torso where the statue was repaired.
Well today it was back to work! Our students were really eager to get back to their studies! Some classic comments in their notebooks today included:
“Every now and then I thing the problem about how I study English.” … and “I always makes mistakes when I speeks English.” Mr.. Zheng, our Academic Liaison, mentioned to me that our students had reported to him that we were so kind and patient with them! It’s really not hard. They love to learn and are a joy to teach! I think I have found “Teacher’s Paradise,” and I’m afraid I have been forever spoiled.
Today we went on an all-day outing with Class B. We visited Xiso Xian Guan Park, sight of a model Chinese classical home and gardens, built according to the description of the heroine’s home in a famous Chinese classic, “Dream of the Red Chamber” by Tsao Haueh-Chin. We stopped at Lake Dian Shan Hu for a picnic, then spent the afternoon boating.
This afternoon Miss Liang, Mr. Li, and Mr. Lin accompanied Karen and me to the famous Longhua Buddhist Temple and monastery. We arrived in time to watch the monks file in for evening prayers. The head monk led in the chanting, and the beating of the gong and drum, as approximately 20 monks did obeisance to a large Buddha. It was all so ritualistic, empty, and cold. The monks seemed quite bored and detached from their prayers. At one point, one of the monks tried to stifle a yawn, then pulled back his long, brown sleeve to check the time. He was obviously anxious to get on with dinner. I was anxious to get out of there, as well, as there was an oppressive, heavy spirit lingering over the place. We stayed for a few minutes afterward to visit with the head monk. He was in his late 60s and had been a monk ever since he was ten years old. During the Cultural Revolution he as sent to work in the fields and all Buddhist temples were closed, and many of the Buddha statues completely destroyed. However, the government is now sanctioning the restoration of these temples, and is allowing the monks to return to their life of seclusion, and is even supporting them financially. There were about ten young men who had recently been accepted into this particular order and were just beginning their training. Their heads were completely shaven.
After visiting the temple, we ate in a Buddhist restaurant which serves vegetarian foods only, as all monks are vegetarian. The food was quite tasty and there were various dishes of imitation meats. After dinner we walked down to the Huang Pu River and enjoyed the “Shanghai Breezes.” We started singing John Denver’s “Shanghai Breezes” which I had taught the students in class, and ended up drawing quite a crowd!
This evening Jiaoda treated us to free tickets to see the Classical Chinese Dance Theater, Xin Shong Yuan. The dance was based on a traditional story of a young woman going off to do battle disguised a an army officer. The costuming was magnificent, and the dancing was the best I’ve ever seen anywhere.
This evening I had dinner with Ruth and Ada at their apartment. We had real live hamburgers, with French fries and a real live tossed salad! It was topped off with a delicious pecan pie. I’m always in hog heaven when I come to this place!
Karen and I went to see the Bolshoi Ballet from Moscow this evening. The whole city was abuzz with the excitement of their coming, as this is their first Shanghai performance in over twenty years! The Chinese people have a great appreciation for classical music and the fine arts. I could tell from the reaction of the audience this evening that they had a very refined appreciation for dance. They would burst into rounds of applause after each difficult dance step or maneuver. Personally, we were disappointed with the ballet itself, since the entire performance was modern dance. We were told that they had originally scheduled a performance of “Swan Lake” for Shanghai, but rescheduled it for Beijing at the last minute! Too bad!
Karen and I took the early train to Hangzhou this morning to visit our ESEC team: Marilyn, Kathleen, and Barb who’ve earned the nickname “Hangzhou Honies.” It was cold and rainy, so we spent most of the day just resting, relaxing and catching up on old news. It was sure fun getting to spend time with some American friends. One of our students was in Hangzhou on business, and made a surprise appearance at the train station when we arrived. He proved to be a real blessing as our instructions for getting to Zhejiang University were not too clear. Later we all went out for supper at the Hangzhou Hotel and had a delicious double-decker, man-sized Western hamburger! It doesn’t take long before you’re craving good ole American food! Hangzhou is a beautiful, classic Chinese town with many tree-lined streets, lakes and pagodas. We will certainly go back again someday when the weather’s nicer.
I made the plunge while I was in Hangzhou and got my first Chinese haircut!!! Evidently it was no small task for the beautician as she took three hours! Poor girl had never cut curly, wavy hair before. I don’t think she was sure what to do with it! I ended up falling asleep in the chair. Fortunately, I woke up in time to tell her “Enough! Enough!” “Golah! Golah!”
This evening Mrs. Sun, Miss Zhang, Mr. Xu, Mr. Chuang and his ten year old daughter, and Mr. Shue all came for a visit. Many of our students are beginning to find their way across town to Tien Lin Apartments to visit the four of us. Some of them come great distances by bicycle, and some have even come in the cold and rain. They love spending the evening visiting and conversing in English in a relaxed atmosphere, and it is great practice for them. In the meantime, lesson plans, papers and long-overdue correspondence begin to stack up!
Some of the students invited Rollie, Norah, Karen and me to their dorm this evening for a “jauzi party.” Jauzi is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. It is a little stuffed, meat dumpling which is boiled in water. (Anything not cooked in grease is a welcome change!) It is quite a time-consuming process to ake the jauzi. It took us three hours to make it (as the students were teaching us how) and fifteen minutes to eat the results! However, it it well worth the time invested! A little ball of garlic was placed in one of the dumplings and It supposedly brings good luck to the surprise recipient. Miss Li was the lucky one tonight.
Mr. Shai, Mr. Huang, Mr. Hu and Miss Zhang invited us to an exhibition of potted plants and bonsai trees this afternoon at Hong Kou Park. Each province in the country submitted entries, and prizes were awarded to the most outstanding dis0lays. Some of the trees were 300-500 years old. They were small and beautifully sculpted and each depicted “a quality suggestive of poetry or painting,” as it was explained to us.
This evening we were treated to dinner at the Jing Jang Club by Steve Hazen, ESEC board member, who was passing through Shanghai.
Today we were invited to dinner by Mr. Zheng Xian Min, our Jiaoda Academic Liaison. We were invited to his family’s home, and the meal was prepared by his mother, grandmother, sister and wife. It was an amazing feast. I’m sure they must have spent days in preparation.
There were at least 15 dishes which were served to us, before I lost count. One of the dishes was a plateful of hairy-looking green beans.
I had taken a mouthful of these green beans when Mr. Zheng very politely whispered to me that I should not eat the hulls, only the seeds inside. Well, it is quite difficult to remove a mouthful of hairy green beans with your chopsticks, and still keep your dignity intact. By the time the soup was brought out, we were relieved the meal was over. We were stuffed! But, then came the most humongous pears we’d ever seen! Karen and I decided to cut one in half to share, which caused quite a disturbance at the table. There was a lot of Chinese flying back and forth amongst the family, and we could tell they were not pleased. They insisted that we could not cut the pear. We were then told that if you cut a pear in half it will bring bad luck, and separation or divorce to someone at the table. Well, not wanting to bring anyone any bad luck, we went ahead and managed to stuff down an entire pear. The Chinese, we have discovered, are extremely superstitious!
This evening we were all invited by Jiaoda to the Shanghai Acrobatic Theater Performance. I can honestly say that never in my life have I ever witnessed any more incredible stunts with the body than what I did tonight. The Chinese are incredibly agile and limber and can perform what seem to be humanly impossible feats! One of the acts involved a woman who balanced on top of three piano benches which were balanced on a man’s head. She then proceeded to pick up six bowls, which were balanced on the top of her head, with her bare feet! Another act involved three women who balanced precariously on a bicycle, and did many unbelievable stunts. This particular Acrobatic Troupe took a tour through North America in 1980 and received great acclaim!
This evening we received a visit from Mr. Shi, Mr. Xue, Mr. Chuang, Mr. Fu, Mr. Li and Miss Liang. Mr. Chuang brought his daughter again, and I helped her with some of her English homework.
This morning I attended the former Grace Baptist Church with Ruth and Ada. It has a membership of 5,000 and holds services three times each Sunday. The church has a baptismal service twice a year, during which several hundred converts are baptized! We arrived at the church at 8:30, in time to hear the congregation practicing their hymns. The hymn being memorized today included the words, “I am a sinner, I come to God, and His blood cleanses me!” Everyone sings with great heart and passion. They all have hymnbooks, but they spend a half hour each Sunday morning memorizing and disciplining themselves to learn the words by heart. (Memories of the Cultural Revolution when Bibles and hymnals were confiscated and burned are still fresh in their minds.) We sat up in the balcony where seating is reserved for foreign guests. We are never allowed to mingle with any of the congregants. There are interpreters who volunteer to sit by you and translate the service into English. After the hymn singing, a woman led the congregation in a passionate prayer to which there was much heart-felt response from the congregation. After this, a choir filed in, dressed in white robes. Although the choir was small, sixteen members, they had well-trained voices and sang beautifully! One of the four pastors then preached for an hour on Matthew 7:7…ask, seek, and knock. His message was powerful. I learned later, that he is one of the pastors who ministered in the church when it was under the authority of the Baptist mission. He encouraged his congregation not to ask God for material benefits, but rather to seek for wisdom and guidance such as Solomon did. He reminded his people that the first priority in prayer was to pray, “Thy Kingdom come… to pray for the furtherance of the Gospel in China and the rest of the world.”
The congregational singing included the hymns “Joyful, Joyful,” and “Blessed Assurance.” I was looking through their hymnbook and noticed other hymns…”All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and “Praise to the Lord the Almighty.” Many of these hymns of course were learned from Western missionaries and translated into Chinese.
After the service we went to see the Bible School. There are 41 students studying there, but we were told over 120 had applied. The school is located within the church grounds. As we were leaving, we noticed a woman leaning with her hands firmly planted against the wall of the church, passionately praying. The scene was profoundly moving. I raised my camera to snap a photo, but quickly put it down. The atmosphere was too holy to touch so casually.
This a “Three Self Church” meaning they are Self-governing, Self-supporting and Self-propagating. In actuality, these Three-Self churches are anything but self-governing. They are government sponsored public churches and the government keeps a tight rein on all the affairs of the church, even assigning two of the four pastors, whose primary function is to keep a watchful eye on everything. (There are also millions of Christians who meet secretly in underground churches.) One of my students told me recently that freedom of religion is protected by their constitution since it was restored in 1979. This change has just come about recently, but I’m not sure how far-reaching or effective it is. Old ways die hard, and Christianity has never blended well with the Communist agenda. I think the government would like the world to perceive of them as being more open-minded and progressive in this regard than they really are.
At present, there are fifty million Christians in China. With the restoration of religious freedom in recent years, at least 1,600 churches have been reopened (that were previously closed during the Cultural Revolution) or built. Protestantism was first introduced into China in the 19th century, along with Western Colonial expansion and under the protection of unequal treaties. As a result, it has been looked upon by the Chinese people largely as a Western or foreign religion, at odds with Chinese national interests.
Every Wednesday evening, each of the 20 Christian churches in Shanghai holds hymn singing, and the new canon of hymns composed in Chinese are taught. Each church devotes one afternoon or evening a week to Bible-readings for the illiterate old people and organizes catechism classes for those who have applied to join the Church but have not been baptized. In Shanghai there are 45 priests, two of which are women. They serve approximately 100,000 Catholics.
A Chinese Christian once remarked, “In the past we blew trumpets and held large evangelistic campaigns. Some believed, but not great numbers. Now we have very little equipment. The message has to be spread by quiet, prayerful sharing of the gospel by individuals with family and neighbors, and many are coming to the Lord.”
After church service, I returned with Ruth and Ada to their apartment. I was treated to stuffed chicken with dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and a MISSISSIPPI MUD CAKE! I was in hog heaven. It’s just such a treat to eat something besides rice and cabbage!
Sunday afternoon – This afternoon Karen and I attended the dedication of the new ten million-dollar Jiao Tong University library. It is replacing a very quaint, rustic looking library built in 1886. Mr. Huang, one of our Class A students took us up to the 18th floor of the library to take pictures. He works with the library staff at the circulation desk, so he is quite proud of his new building!
Here is another classic quotation that came out of Mrs. Sun’s homework assignment today…”The conclusion was proved right after the scientist died for three years.”
I assigned Class A a crossword puzzle today. They were absolutely intrigued. They had never worked one before.