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

June 3, 2015

Exploring Beijing!

Filed under: Beijing,Class,Culture,Exploring — Yunwen Gao @ 6:20 pm

By: Ashley Szydel, Phoebe Yin, and Megan Lee

Today is Day 4 in Beijing (A.K.A. Bae-jing…we have to entertain ourselves somehow.) for this 10/10 group!  (There are 10 of us, and each one of us is 10/10 on a scale of 1 to 10 Sheehan points.)  If we were typing this in Chinese, we would have omitted the number 4 because it sounds like the word for death and is considered bad luck. Since we’re typing this in English instead, we’ll let the 4 stay.  We cannot believe that we were just in a classroom in Los Angeles half a week ago!  It seems like it’s been an eternity since then.  However, we think it is safe to say that everyone is having an absolute blast in China!

So, although today was Day 4 and the number 4 is associated with death, our Day 4 was in no means death-like.  It was, in fact, CHOCK-FULL of life, energy, enthusiasm, and the like as we visited Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Hutong, and a few other locations.  This was quite a feat, considering that some of us had climbed to the very top of the Great Wall the previous day – mad props to these lion-hearted individuals!  If this synopsis of the day’s festivities has piqued your interest…read on for more pure entertainment from the scholars of Global East Asia China 2015.

We began the day with a visit to Tian’anmen Square, where we marveled at the People’s Hall and the enormous portrait of Mao Zedong.  As you can see, we scholars got some serious air in the photo below.  Here, we also see an impeccably dressed Professor Sheehan in his element at Tiananmen Square.  As a side note,  tomorrow, June 4 is actually the anniversary of the protests at the Square.

GEA China 2015 at Tian’anmen Square

GEA China 2015 in front of the portrait of Mao Zedong.

Professor Sheehan

We then visited the Forbidden City (but not so forbidden anymore).  It was larger than we expected, with so many nooks and crannies to explore.  Some of us wandered around the first plaza of the City for quite a while before we realized that there were a plethora of plazas (how’s that for an alliteration) beyond, waiting to be discovered.  A few places of interest in the City are the Imperial Garden, Hall of Mental Cultivation (where some green bean popsicles cultivated our taste buds), Concubines’ Quarters, and Throne Room.  In one of the photos below, we again see our wise and agile Professor Sheehan enjoying the view.  Infinite Sheehan Points were awarded to him, he is the Father of Sheehan Points, after all.

GEA China at the Forbidden City


Professor Sheehan enjoying the view

We then took a rickshaw tour of a Hutong, which was a time of great merriment for all.  Many a rickshaw was given a friendly kick by the riders in the other rickshaws as they passed by, while we rolled through the streets of the Hutong.  No innocent bystanders, riders, or rickshaws were harmed during this process, we assure you. Though, we may not be able to say the same for egos.

Rickshaw race in 3, 2, 1…

Following the rickshaw tour, we proceeded to have lunch at Heping (Peace) Restaurant, where we consumed a myriad of delectable dishes and encountered French-Canadian tourists.  The food in Beijing is absolutely exquisite, and we are sure that we do not speak for ourselves when we admit that it is tough to stop helping ourselves to more!  At the end of the meal, we struck power-poses to re-energize and re-focus our bodies and minds in preparation for conducting fieldwork at Wanfujing.  There, the Foodies looked into the contextual relationship of fast food chains, the Skins took note of the marketing strategies of skincare products, and the Grab Bags analyzed religious icons in jewelry.  On a scale of one to a lazy Susan, we were at the most productive end of the spectrum (not the lazy Susan side).

After a quick class session in which we presented our research thus far, we ended our day with a fine dinner of Peking Duck (a famous delicacy of the city for good reason)!  And that, was the finale of our lovely frolic in the capital of China. Bright and early tomorrow, we’re off to Kaifeng!

June 2, 2015

Beijing Day 2!

Filed under: Beijing,Class,Exploring — geachina @ 11:01 pm

By: Jon Peppin, Psalm Chang, & Michelle Ngan

It’s hard to believe that we have only been in China for three days! In that time, we have been able to learn so much about the culture here in Beijing.

We were warned by Professor Sheehan that today was going to be a busy day, and he definitely wasn’t lying. One of the most amazing things we did was climb the Great Wall — specifically, the Juyongguan section. It was truly an awe-inspiring and tiring experience! Most of us were able to climb past four guardposts. Ashley, Psalm, Jon, Chris, and Professor Sheehan took it to a whole new level and made it up to the farthest part of the portion by climbing past seven guardposts, thereby earning official Sheehan points! The view at the top was simply breathtaking. Just imagining the amount of effort that went into building the wall, with its uneven steps and two distinct sides to the wall (i.e. one side being taller to keep the Mongols out) made us realize what a privilege it was to be there. When we made it back down to the bottom of the mountain, we rewarded ourselves with some iced tea and ice cream. Thanks Papa Sheehan!

Depiction of the victory of 4 students who gained official Sheehans for making it to the highest point of the Great Wall (Juyuguan section) and of course, proud Papa Sheehan.

Depiction of the victorious 4 students who gained official Sheehans for making it to the highest point of the Great Wall (Juyuguan section) and of course, proud Papa Sheehan.

Before climbing the Great Wall, we went to see the Ming tombs, particularly the Changling tomb, the tomb of the third emperor, Zhu Di and his wife, Empress Xu. An interesting fact that our tour guide told us was that even though there were 16 Ming emperors, there were only 13 tombs because the other emperors were buried outside of Beijing, in Nanjing. There were several parts of the enormous tomb: Ling’enmen gate (Gate of Emminent Favor), Ling’en Hall (Hall of Emminent Favor), Minglou (soul tower), and Baoding (where the Emperor and Empress are buried).

The Sacred Way was a nice breath of fresh air after being in the sun. We strolled through the path, which the emperor would walk through on the way to the Ming Tombs, except we went the opposite direction, since we had just come from the Ming Tombs. This stop was an example of dis-embedding because we were viewing the Sacred Way as a tourist attraction by stopping to take pictures and admiring the scenery. This was contrary to what would have happened at the time it was built or what the emperor used the path for.

To get a more modern perspective on Chinese architecture, our tour group then journeyed to the heart of Beijing to view the national symbols of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It was truly awe-inspiring to look upon the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube up close; it’s crazy to imagine that it has been 6 years since Beijing hosted the Olympics––we were just 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at the time! Oh, and we can’t forget Chris’s 15 seconds of fame when a mob of ladies decided to get pictures with him in front of the Olympic buildings. Mr. Carpenter then proceeded to talk about nothing except his claim to fame, and his plans to take Kaifeng by storm.

GEA China 2015 perched in front of the nest.

GEA China 2015 perched in front of the nest.

Just a bit about our research project progress- we, the “grab bag” group, were finally able to narrow down our topic by focusing on the pervasiveness of religion through various forms of expression (e.g. restaurants, fashion, and electronics). We’ll be conducting more field work tomorrow!

June 1, 2015

First Day in Beijing

Filed under: Beijing,Culture,Travel — geachina @ 2:34 pm

By: Alice Kim and Chris Carpenter

Sheehan (n.) – a unit of measurement for how awesome and adventurous a GEA China scholar is during the trip.

To use the term in a sentence: You did a full round of taiji; major Sheehan points for you. We devised the Sheehan because the Sheehan is how we’re going to be approaching this trip. We want to make the most of every day, every encounter, every experience, and every opportunity. 

After an initial 12 hours of flight to Incheon, South Korea, a 3 hour layover, and an additional 2 hour flight to Beijing, China, we’ve finally arrived. Our entire group of 10 slept multiple hours on our flight and were ready to start our adventure. Half of us have never been to China before, so the moment we exited the airport we were met with the same sights that the 2008 Olympic athletes saw. The terminal and its art installations were built for when the world’s eyes turned to Beijing, and it was incredible. We met our tour guide, Lisa, and tour bus driver, Mr. Yung, immediately after arrival and made our way to the hotel. We are currently staying in the Tiantan Hotel near the Temple of Heaven and we love our rooms.

One thing we’ve realized is that water is liquid gold in China. Alice would like to contribute that she’s been drinking at least 3x as much water as she normally would in Southern California and her skin is feeling GREAT. Even at meals, we are provided with multiple bottles of water to drink and carry one around with us at all times. Between the hot weather and constant activity, we need to stay hydrated. The weather has been fairly decent with a high of 95 degrees F and 95% humidity.

On our second day in Beijing, we woke up and headed out at 8:30 AM to visit the Temple of Heaven just down the road. We met Liu Laoshi, our taiji teacher, and spent the next hour learning the multiple poses and exercises of a taiji master. She taught us movements to help control “qi” or energy in our bodies and we had a blast doing the exercise. We earned several Sheehans.

The class posing with Liu Laoshi, the taiji master, after our lesson.

The class posing with Liu Laoshi, the taiji master, after our lesson.

After our taiji lesson, we spent the next hour exploring the Temple of Heaven park and central area. Multiple selfies and group photos were taken. The place was packed and the weather started to warm up, but we still enjoyed going through the multiple buildings and looking at the displays to take a look at China’s history.

A group of the GEA China scholars in front of the Temple of Heaven.

A group of the GEA China scholars in front of the Temple of Heaven.

July 8, 2014

Traveling to “The Margins”

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

By Eri Aguilar


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.


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.


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.

June 26, 2014

Beijing-Xi’an Cultural Excursions

By Chip Becker and Sean O’Leary


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.


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.


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.


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


June 26, 2013

Our Trip to Beijing: June 7-8, 2013

Filed under: Beijing — geachina @ 11:15 pm

By Amy Nham and Elisa Ting

We were so excited to go to Beijing! It was most of our first times in Beijing, and even though our flight was delayed for over two hours due to bad weather, that didn’t curb our enthusiasm. After arriving safely in Beijing where the weather was slightly drizzling, we had a KFC lunch on the bus and then headed off to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was a lot bigger than we had expected, since it took us an hour to just walk through it in a straight line. There were many tourists there but most of them seemed to be from Asia; we were the only group we saw that came from the US.

This was our group picture in one of the courtyards of the palace. The background was kind of misty due to the weather making it look like a backdrop, but it was definitely real!



The buildings had really ornate and decorative designs on them.


This was one of the three thrones of the emperor.


June 8, 2012

Beijing (北京)

Filed under: Beijing,Travel — geachina @ 4:57 pm

By Brian Barkeley and Nate Fulmer

June 2
Beijing huanying ni! (北京欢迎你!) Beijing welcomes you! Global East Asia China students were on the move again this past week. This time, we traveled to Beijing to see many historical sites of ancient China, as well as modern life in the Chinese capital and globalization in yet another urban context.

After landing in Beijing and settling in at the hotel, we took some time to explore the Hutong, or back allies, where many Beijing residents live.

Exploring the Hutong

June 3
On Sunday, the first site students visited was the Ming Tombs, a series of elaborate buildings that house the remains of Ming emperors. The tombs are guarded by a path of intricate statues such as the elephant in this photo.

Posing in front of the statues at the Ming Tombs

After eating an authentic Chinese lunch prepared in a local village, we visited the Great Wall. Students learned about the wall’s construction, purpose, and eventual penetration by the Qing dynasty. Here, a group of us pose on top of the Great Wall.

Jumping for joy at the Great Wall

It wouldn’t be a complete visit to Beijing without having a chance to see the elaborate Olympic Park constructed for the 2008 Olympics. Students enjoyed a group dinner at a nearby restaurant and capped off a busy day of site-seeing with a more modern twist.

Beijing Olympic Stadium, the Bird’s Nest

June 4
On Monday, we woke up and made our way to the reinvigorated Qing shopping district. The shopping district houses all sorts of stores and shops – from the name-brand and big gift stores, to the small food and souvenir stands that fill the back alleyways. Many of us bartered our way into everything from clothes to art work to Mao’s little red book. After an afternoon of bargain shopping, we headed out to Houhai (后海) Lake for lunch, where we were treated to Beijing’s famous specialty dish: Peking Duck.

  Reinvigorated Qing shopping district
Slicing the Peking duck

After lunch we were given free time to explore Beijing on our own, and several students and myself chose to explore Tian’anmen (天安门) Square and the Forbidden City. Tian’anmen means “Gate of Heavenly Peace,” and is one of the largest city squares in the world. The area in and around Tian’anmen is home to several national landmarks, including the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, the National Museum of China, the Great Hall of the People, and the Forbidden City. Our visit to the Square was exceptionally timely as June 4th is the anniversary of the pro-democracy protest movement, which ended on June 4th, 1989 with the implementation of martial law in Beijing by the government and the death of several hundred civilians. I think this served to remind me that while I explore so much of China’s auspicious beauty, I must remember that the chronicle of the nation is not so clean and neatly packaged; triumph lives side-by-side with struggle and beauty with horror, but the plaiting of these together serves to write China’s rich history. Pushing past this momentary melancholy, I made my way with my classmates towards the ever-watchful gaze of Chairman Mao’s enormous portrait – beyond which lies the Forbidden City.

Fight On! At Tian’anmen Square in front of the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City was the Chinese Imperial Palace through both the Ming and Qing Dynasties. For almost 500 years, it was the home of some of the most powerful men and women in Asia. As we approached the entrance to the Palace, we were greeted by the giant portrait of Mao, overlooking the world he is credited with creating. Most of us spent the better part of our afternoon touring the Forbidden City and exploring layer after layer of the Imperial Palace. Behind one gigantic throne room, there would be another gigantic throne room and colossal halls built in honor of the mighty emperor. From the grandiose castles to the auspicious imperial garden, the Forbidden City offered a breathtaking presentation of ancient Chinese power and beauty. Thoroughly exhausted from a day’s worth of walking and exploring, we headed back to the hotel for some well-deserved nap time.

Within the Forbidden City

June 5
It was Tuesday, and our time in Beijing had come to a close. But our flight did not leave until 3pm, so that left plenty of time to cram in as much Beijing exploring as possible! So Steph, Joe, and myself went ahead and got up at four in the morning to go to Tian’anmen Square to watch them raise the flag. I was expecting there to be no more than a dozen people including ourselves at the Square, but we were shocked to find that when we got there at 4:30am, Tian’anmen was flooded with people. Almost all of them appeared to be domestic tourists who were visiting Beijing and wanted to watch the flag be hoisted up with the sunrise. On cue, a troop of the People’s Armed Police force emerged out of the Forbidden City and marched the flag to the flagpole under the approving gaze of Chairman Mao. And at exactly 4:46am, the flag was raised to the sound of the Chinese national anthem. All the crowds and pomp and circumstance made for a truly dramatic moment.

Gathering at Tian’anmen for the sunrise flag raising

The three of us returned to hotel where our classmates remained snuggled up in their beds enjoying the much needed opportunity to sleep in. After a solid three hour nap, I got up again, for I still had a day to seize before I left Beijing. A handful of us got up to do more touring before we said goodbye to Beijing; Fan went and visited Moa’s Mausoleum (or as I like to call it, the Mao-soleum) and the National Museum, Brian went for a jog around Tian’anmen Square, and Steph, Joe, Cynthia, and I went to Tian Tan (天坛), or “The Temple of Heaven.” It was a place filled with singing and dancing, seniors on a day out with their grandchildren, and plenty of tourists and locals alike. We visited the ancient Ming temple, wandered around the park, and watched people gather together to sing, dance, and play.

In front of the Temple of Heaven

Finally, we returned to the hotel, packed our things, and were bused back to the airport. With a heart heavy from departing but eagerly anticipating the time we still have, I took one last look and waved goodbye to Beijing.