USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences > Blog

July 8, 2014

Traveling to “The Margins”

Filed under: Beijing,Class,Dunhuang,Gansu — geachina @ 1:55 am

By Eri Aguilar

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Strutting through Tiananmen Square. Beijing, China. 2014/6/05–Aguilar, Eri

Our study of globalization at the margins has taken us through northern and western China. We stopped in Beijing (the national capital), Xi’an (a culturally significant ancient city that sits between China’s east and west), Lanzhou (the capital and largest city of Gansu Province in Northwest China), and lastly Dunhuang (a county-level city in northwestern Gansu Province). As we continued on a path deeper into China from the city of Beijing it became evident to me that we were entering the margins of China when the presence of skyscrapers was immensely reduced. Growing accustomed to being surprised I had high expectations for this trip.

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The Snapping Turtle of The Forbidden City in Beijing, China. 2014/6/05–Aguilar, Eri

Upon our arrival in the city of Beijing we made our way through the Tiananmen Square into the Forbidden City. The heat was tiring, but with every step I took through Tiananmen Square, I could feel my curiosity and enthusiasm overpower my feeling of exhaustion. It was incredible to contemplate that I was walking on the same land where one of China’s more controversial events occurred. I could envision the multitudes of students and common folks occupying the space to express their political opinions 25 years ago (in 1989). After walking through a metal detector, providing a fingerprint and gladly availing myself to a pat down I proceeded to enter the Forbidden City. At the gates of the Forbidden City I was stupefied at the sight of its architecture. The gates were truly magnificent with their 81 golden rivets shinning as the sunlight struck them.

Tha GrouP at D wALL

A little rain at the “Great Wall of China.” 2014/6/05–Aguilar, Eri

Though there was forecast for rain, the Trojan family nevertheless decided to fight on and continue with our plan to climb the Great Wall. Not surprisingly a light drizzle evolved into a heavy downpour with rain droplets the size of water balloons! Fortunately, the heaviest segment of that storm came about the moment we reached the top of the Great Wall. Our tour guide expressed her skepticism in our abilities to persevere, but we all climbed up and made it down safely. As I felt the rain soak into my Air Force Jordan’s I could also feel a moment of spiritual replenishment when I stared down from the top of the Great Wall to our starting point and contemplated the effort that it must have taken to construct such a structure. The thought imbued me to continue striving towards building my own legacy. After climbing The Great Wall of China we had lunch and conveniently found a hand dryer that served as clothes dryer for the group.

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The Mogao Grottoes- Home to the 3rd Biggest Buddha in the World. 2014/6/09–Aguilar, Eri

The search for globalization at the margins of China exposed us to The Mogao Grottoes. It was incredible to have read about this site earlier in the week and to actually have the opportunity to study it trough firsthand experience. The article we covered in class gave us the context to better understand and appreciate the images and statues that were being preserved at this location. I was astounded when I tried to take in the 3rd biggest Buddha in the world. I had to adjust my head all the way back to be able to get a good view of the statue. Looking at the craftsmanship on the Buddha, I began to contemplate the patience that the artists must have possessed to be able to produce such detail. The location is so humongous that we could not see all of it because we ran out of time and also only some segments are open every season.

A Gang of Raiderz

“An Oasis Along The Silk Road”. DunHuang, Echoing Sand Dunes. 2014/6/10–Aguilar, Eri.

Spending a majority of my youth living the city life, I was taken away by the sight of Echoing Sand Dunes. Its postcard-like scenery makes it easy to step outside of reality for a moment. We had arrived early so the heat was not intolerable. I recall that my feet breaking though the warm sand gave me a soothing sensation and I will also never forget being so close to camels. We all had fun climbing up the sand dunes and either running or sliding down. Looking around I could envisage merchants interacting in this oasis along the Silk Road. I will never forget these experiences.

July 1, 2014

The Last Few Days in Shanghai

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — Tags: , , — geachina @ 5:08 pm

By Jeff Levine and Ethan Levin

Wednesday was the second-to-last class, and after the presentations of the Shanghai margins project, we realized we only have one more day of lecture upon us. The end was coming up fast. Along with this end was our final project – it was a marathon of a week! The freedom afforded to us in the prompt of this last project was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because we could talk about anything within the realm of globalization; a curse, because the vague parameters caused some soul searching among the GEA participants: What was the most relevant of topics that we should discuss for this last thesis? We spent much of the rest of the day attempting to figure out what it is that we should be talking about.

On Friday morning, we had our final class. It was a bittersweet moment. On one hand, we were excited to be done with the marathon week of presentations and be finished with work; while on the other hand, it would be the last time we would be meeting to watch and root each other on. We’ve come a long way from where we started. We have a clearer understanding now of just how unclear the word “globalization” can be, and can better examine the complexities that revolve around it – especially when it comes to China.

Chip and Amanda giving their last presentation

Chip and Amanda giving their last presentation

After class, we had some afternoon free time to explore, nap, or do whatever before the banquet. We decided to take the opportunity to go visit the Shanghai Science and Tech Museum – conveniently a stop along the subway lines (a subject on which, by now, we’ve become experts). We’ve already explored the incredible shopping center underneath; however, we (embarrassingly) had yet to check out the actual museum. We were glad we did. The museum was incredible. Each floor housed a few different exhibits, each one emphasizing intimate interaction and participation. The first floor, my favorite, featured a recreation of the Yunan Rainforest. It was an elaborate array of (fake) animals and plants, complete with bamboo bridges, waterfalls, and caves – plus even more exhibits within the exhibit, devoted to insects, birds, molecular studies, and more. This was only the beginning, though it had the greatest impact. The other floors featured body and health, the universe, information technology, and robotics.

A rainy day at the Shanghai Science & Tech Museum

A rainy day at the Shanghai Science & Tech Museum

The entrance to the rainforest exhibit

The entrance to the rainforest exhibit

After the museum, we got back with just enough time to prepare for the banquet. After a 40-minute taxi ride, as well as some sleuthing for the right building, we arrived at the restaurant. The banquet was course after course of delish food, such as fish, egg rolls, cabbage, duck, tofu, and more. Our stomachs were long satiated before the waiters (or fúwùyuán) stopped coming. Just writing about it now makes me hungry again! While the food was superb, there was, yet again, a bittersweet mood to the dinner. We were all so happy to be feasting on this deliciousness together, but we all knew that this would most likely be the last time we were all together (already one of our comrades had left us, shout out to you Steven!). We concluded the night with one final tour around the neighborhood.

Everyone together at the banquet

Everyone together at the banquet

A group of us with the Professor walking around the banquet neighborhood

A group of us with the Professor walking around the banquet neighborhood

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June 30, 2014

Studying in Shanghai

Filed under: Shanghai,Suzhou — Tags: — geachina @ 11:42 pm

By Coleman Monroe and Christmas Myers

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June 11. Building and pond in the Yu Garden in Shanghai

The day after we returned from Dunhuang was a free day, and many of us used it to explore the city of Shanghai. This photograph was taken at Yu Garden, in the City God Temple area. The Yu Garden is a breathtaking oasis within the city that is filled with koi ponds, jade rock formations, and pagodas. The garden was constructed in the Ming Dynasty by a wealthy minister and had an important role in the history of Shanghai. The garden played many roles throughout its history: merchant guild, British headquarters during the Opium War, and a meeting place for the leaders of the Taiping rebellion. However, we could never truly forget about the big city around us, as the tallest building in Asia protrudes into the skyline.

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June 12. The group in front of the Pearl Tower in Pudong, Shanghai

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June 12. View from the top observation deck in the Pearl Tower in Pudong, Shanghai

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June 12. Chip and Coleman posing on the glass floor of the Pearl Tower in Pudong, Shanghai

Today we took our final group field trip to the world famous Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower. Standing at 1,535 feet, gazing at the tower from below is astounding. It is no wonder the tower has become the landmark symbol of Shanghai. Our tour guide took us to two observation decks. The first one was an enclosed orbital viewing deck that provided 360 degrees of breathtaking views of Shanghai. It was shocking to see the sea of buildings that seemed to stretch as far as an ocean’s horizon, which poignantly depicted Shanghai’s rapid urban development. The second observation deck consisted of a glass floor, which gave the impression of walking on air. For those of us who are afraid of heights it was a chilling reminder of just how high up we really were. Since we had a considerable amount of time on each observation deck, some of us indulged in snacks while absorbing the glorious views surrounding us.

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June 27, 2014

Fun in the Gansu Province–Oh My!

Filed under: Dunhuang,Gansu,Lanzhou,Travel — Tags: , , , , — geachina @ 9:20 pm

By Amanda Heston & Aissa Castillo

Exploring Lanzhou (Aissa Castillo)

After flying into Lanzhou, the group was understandably tired but determined to enjoy the mysterious wonders Lanzhou might have in store for us. Some were excited by the prospect that at last in the western area of China we might encounter the seedy margins. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the margins brought to you by a tour guide are never as seedy as you might imagine.

 

In front of Yellow River; Lanzhou, June 8

In front of Yellow River; Lanzhou, June 8

The group was able to enjoy an early outing exploring the area around the Yellow River. In this picture we are posed in front of the river, about to explore the area’s many Buddhist temples as well as the famed bird’s eye view of the city.

 

Waterfall on the way to the Buddhist Temple in Lanzhou, June 8

Waterfall on the way to the Buddhist Temple in Lanzhou, June 8

While climbing the many steps leading to the bird’s eye view of Lanzhou, the group was treated to a constructed water wall that actually offered passersby the opportunity to run behind to feel the spray of water. Most of the members of the group took advantage of this given the heat that surrounded us. (Some of us, including Professor Sheehan, resisted the impulse to run and simply walked across.)

 

Panoramic View of Lanzhou from the White Hills Pagoda, June 8

Panoramic View of Lanzhou from the White Hills Pagoda, June 8

After a 20 minute or so hike consisting mainly of stairs, the group was able to reach the top. We were treated to a panoramic view of Lanzhou and the Yellow River that made the steep hike more than worth the wait.

 

Mother River Statue in Lanzhou, June 8

Mother River Statue in Lanzhou, June 8

After returning from the bird’s eye view, the group was then taken to see the statue of the Mother River. This is a depiction of the river that was created in the 1980’s and many tourists come to take pictures with it and to absorb its cultural symbolism.

 

 Taking the scenery of the Yellow River in Lanzhou over cups of traditional tea, June 8

Taking the scenery of the Yellow River in Lanzhou over cups of traditional tea, June 8

Still feeling the effects of our early flight departure and the multitude of steps that led to the bird’s eye view, many of us opted to take in the scenery of the river and enjoy a local shop’s offering of “Muslim Tea.” This was a delightfully refreshing concoction of longan, dried dates, tea, and rock sugar. For many of us this was a lull in a busy schedule that would see us all boarding a 14 hour sleeper train to Dunhuang before the night was over!

 

Survivors of the overnight train from Lanzhou to Dunhuang, June 9

Survivors of the overnight train from Lanzhou to Dunhuang, June 9

You might not think it by looking at the photo but this is the group directly off our sleeper train to Dunhuang, a sandy city in the Gobi Desert. I think it’s fair to say that sharing enclosed bunks, a few sinks, and one very suspicious squat toilet made us all a little closer together.

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June 26, 2014

Beijing-Xi’an Cultural Excursions

By Chip Becker and Sean O’Leary

Beijing

Beijing 1High-speed rail (高铁) from Shanghai to Beijing – June 5, 2014

Today we caught the 7:30AM high-speed rail bound for China’s glorious capital, Beijing. The train’s top speed is capped at around 300 km/h, which is roughly 186 m/h. Needless to say, we zipped through China’s countryside at a mesmerizing pace. It only took five and a half hours! Ultimately, we all seemed to have found a good balance between sleep and sightseeing in preparation for all the wild adventures to come in Beijing and Xi’an.

Beijing 2 Beijing – Tiananmen Sq. (天安门) and the Forbidden City (故宫) – June 5, 2014

After lunch, we promptly made our way to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City smack dab in the heart of Beijing. It was hot out but that didn’t stop us from seeing what we came here to see. Indeed, the history of this location is rich and formidable. However, to some extent, it felt as if we helped make some more of its history just by being there today. Fight On!

Beijing 3 Beijing – Kung Fu show at 北京什刹海剧场 – June 5, 2014

Earlier this evening, we took a side-trip down to Beijing’s Bei Hai area to enjoy a rather interesting and energetic Kung Fu show. Giant, acrobatic pandas seemed to be a common theme throughout the performance and they managed to pull a few Michael Jackson moves near the end, which was truly icing on the cake. You don’t see a show like this every day!

Beijing 4 Beijing – A trip to the Great Wall of China – June 6, 2014

You simply cannot come to Beijing without making a trip out to see the mighty Great Wall. As we climbed, the rain began to fall. But much like with the heat yesterday, the downpour did little to stop us from reaching our goal! We endured the weather, bonded with some of the locals along the way, and eventually reached the top. What a spectacular and rewarding view! All in all, it was an experience Global East Asia of 2014 will not soon forget.

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June 24, 2014

Back From Our First Expedition

Filed under: Class,Hangzhou,Shanghai,Travel — Tags: , — geachina @ 4:35 pm

By Steven Luong and Olivia Chui

A few hours were spent in Hangzhou, a city a few hours west of Shanghai. The group took a boat ride around West Lake and strolled around the picturesque lake. The place was bustling with tourists and locals alike and the group witnessed many people enjoying their weekend afternoon. Afterwards, the group bused back to Shanghai.

Taken: Hangzhou, Saturday May 31, 2014 at 14:40

Some of the group before a boat tour of West Lake in Hangzhou (Taken: Hangzhou, Saturday May 31, 2014 at 14:40)

Taken: Westlake, Hangzhou. Saturday May 31 at 14:35

A picture of the boat after the tour (Taken: West Lake, Hangzhou. Saturday May 31 at 14:35)

On a rain-filled Sunday, a day of rest and fun was in order. Many students stayed around the Fudan University area, taking time to recoup from the exhausting travels of the previous few days. Others decided to brave the wet weather and venture to other parts of the city like the popular City God Temple Area, a vestigial landmark of old Shanghai.

Taken: Pudong, Sunday June 1, 2014 at 17:40

Road signs at a popular Shanghai intersection (Taken: Shanghai, Sunday June 1, 2014 at 17:40)

Taken: City God Temple, Sunday June 1, 2014 at 18:00

A view of the City God Temple area from a restaurant (Taken: City God Temple, Sunday June 1, 2014 at 18:00)

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June 23, 2014

Our First Trip: Huangshan and Hangzhou Adventures!

Filed under: Beijing,Class,Hangzhou,Travel — Tags: — geachina @ 11:58 pm

By Aleen Mankerian and Eri Aguilar

Day 1 (Aleen)

After a weekend spent settling into Fudan University and exploring the surrounding area, on Tuesday afternoon, we hopped on a bus for a 6-hour drive for our first trip to the city of Huangshan. It was a long and tiring commute but we were excited and had no idea what to expect upon our arrival. An interesting aspect about the ride was that we had the chance to see a drastic difference between urban Shanghai and the villages and small towns right outside of the city. We finally arrived in the main city of Huangshan, and it definitely wasn’t hard to miss because neon lights flooded the downtown area. They must not worry about their electricity bill! After stopping in the city for a delicious traditional Chinese meal, we drove another half hour to one of the most luxurious hotels we’ve ever seen. Our first night in Huangshan was spent at the Howard Johnson Macrolink Plaza, or what we liked to call “The Bellagio” because of its resemblance to a Las Vegas resort. Perhaps the strangest part about the hotel was the fact that it was completely empty. It was quiet and a bit creepy but we still had fun running through the huge halls and bonding with one another during our stay. We finished off the night in our comfortable, spacious hotel rooms with exciting adventures to look forward to the next day.

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The GEA China 2014 group as we entered the Howard Johnson Macrolink Plaza in Huangshan, Anhui (May 27, 2014, Aleen Mankerian)

Day 2 (Eri)

Fightin on at HJ (1)

In front of the Howard Johnson Macrolink Plaza at Huangshan, Anhui (May 28, 2014, Eri Aguilar)

The trek to the top of Huangshan Mountain, the fifth wonder of the world, began with our departure from this amazing hotel. The lobby was decorated with marble floors, the rooms were opulent, and the service men and women prided themselves in offering us a high degree of hospitality. This being my first time ever traveling abroad, my expectations did not have a standard for comparison. But I was definitely eager to be exposed to novel experiences. I can vividly recall being unable to sleep the night prior, as I imagined the immense beauty of standing on the top of the mountain. Growing up in the city, the only view of nature that I had ever experienced were the hills that are behind the skyscrapers in Los Angeles when driving down the 110 North.

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Working out our calf muscles climbing the steep steps of the Huangshan Mountain (May 28, 2014, Aleen Mankerian)

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June 5, 2014

First Days in Shanghai

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 8:22 pm

By Diane Um and Scott Hung

On Thursday night, most of our group met at LAX to board a plane to Taipei, Taiwan. Our excitement only made the 13-hour flight feel longer, but we busied ourselves with napping, watching movies, and enjoying our two provided meals. Upon arriving in Taipei, it felt surreal to be surrounded by Chinese characters and food. A few of us indulged in Taiwanese drinks and learned about currency exchange. Finally, we endured the short flight to Shanghai, where we happily met our TA Carlos.

On the way to Shanghai

On the way to Shanghai

The second that we stepped out of the airport, we experienced our first taste of Chinese humidity. Carlos and Professor Sheehan promptly assured us that it would only increase as the summer went on. Nonetheless, we eagerly drank in every sight of China as our tour bus traveled towards Shanghai. On the way, we stopped at a restaurant to share our first meal, where Professor Sheehan explained some dining etiquette, including how to use the lazy Susan. Even though we had just met, it felt like a real family meal as we sampled the same dishes and poured each other tea. We were really surprised at the hospitable servers, or “fu wu yuan,” especially after realizing that tipping is not a custom in China. They seemed to genuinely care about providing the best experience for their guests. Full and content, we ended our bus ride at our dorm in Fudan University.

Buying cell phones at a local shop

Buying cell phones at a local shop

Afterwards, we left the hotel and we encountered perhaps our greatest intercultural hurdle we have faced in China yet: buying cell phones. The army of cell phones lining the display cases and walls of the tiny store, combined with the bustling action on the streets behind us, had many of us at a loss of words. Thankfully, having skillful interpreters like Professor Sheehan and Carlos saved us from relying on body gesticulations that tend to dominate such cross-cultural exchanges. We were ultimately able to successfully purchase and activate cell phones without too much running around. It was reassuring to know that despite being in a foreign country, we will be able to stay connected to each other thanks to technology.

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June 28, 2013

Last Days in Shanghai

Filed under: Class — geachina @ 11:11 pm

By Esmeralda Del Rio and Sunny Sun

Monday, June 17th

Esmeralda decided to visit the Jewish Refugee Museum located in Shanghai. Before she entered the Museum, Esmeralda was expecting artifacts of people who had lived in Shanghai. She went into the first exhibition, which showed vivid illustrations about Auschwitz during the early years of the Second World War. Esmeralda really wanted to go visit the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum because it took place during the International Settlement in early 20th century—also connected to theme of our class, globalization.

Esmeralda decided to visit the Jewish Refugee Museum located in Shanghai. Before she had entered the Museum, Esmeralda was expecting artifacts of people who had lived in Shanghai. She went into the first exhibition, which showed vivid illustrations about Auschwitz during the early years of the Second World War.  Esmeralda really wanted to go visit the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum, because it took place during the International Settlement in early 20th century—also connected to theme of our class, globalization.

The front of the Museum

The first exhibition in the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum.

The first exhibition in the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum

Tuesday, June 18h

After class, we decided to have lunch with Jess and Aijun, students from Fudan University. The restaurant was amazing because the atmosphere was great and the food was delicious. We discussed life as college students at Fudan University and USC.

Erica and Jess

Erica and Jess

Michelle Lau and Aijun

Michelle Lau and Aijun

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June 27, 2013

Dragon Boat Festival, Pudong and More!

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 6:53 pm

By Erica Christianson and Joshua Neill

June 12-
Happy Dragon Boat Festival Day! Today is a national holiday in China, so everyone gets the day off to go eat zongzi (sticky rice inside of a leaf often with a taro or red bean filling) Why, you ask? Well, we had the same question, and after Professor Sheehan, Carlito, Michelle Lau and Lao Mao (our tour guide) put their heads together, they came up with this history (or this is as much as we can remember):

Back in the Warring States period there was a high official who can loosely be described as the first poet of China. He was part of the educated elite and liked literature. He got in a disagreement with the Chinese government and drowned himself in the river. The people really respected him, and they didn’t want the fish to eat his body, so they threw rice in the water for the fish to eat instead. Only you can’t just scatter rice, so they squished it up and wrapped it in a leaf, and thus the zongzi was born! Some stories continue with the people rowing a dragon boat out to rescue the body, which inspired the dragon boat festival.

After staying the night in probably the best hotel of this entire trip, we unfortunately had to leave, but not without saying goodbye to a large crystal Buddha worth 300 Million RMB (roughly 50 Million USD), which was quite a sight to see.

Crystal Buddha in the lobby of the hotel in Henan Province

Crystal Buddha in the lobby of the hotel in Henan Province

Then it was off to the airport, and we had to say goodbye to our local guide Joe. Zhengzhou was a city none of us had thought about before our trip, and it was enlightening to see that the Zhengzhou airport rivaled the largest and most modern airports in the USA, such as Denver International Airport. Once we got back, a group of us and Professor went around the corner for dinner, eating dumplings at a restaurant called Dong Bei Restaurant which means northeastern restaurant. Dumplings are traditional to northeast China and although we did not visit northeast China, our professor helped us find some of their authentic cuisine in Shanghai. The restaurant is by the university, and this week is finals week for the Fudan students. How do we know this? Because the first thing Professor Sheehan did was find a table full of baby freshman and introduce himself – just like a true academic.

June 13-
In class today we all picked partners for the assignment linked with our afternoon excursion.

Students mulling around during a break in lecture on Thursday afternoon

Students mulling around during a break in lecture on Thursday afternoon

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