The Apogee of Our Beijing Adventures, Fieldwork in Beijing, and Hebi

By: Kenny and Ursula

Our second full day in Beijing seemed to be very promising—Ming Tombs, Sacred Way, Great Wall of China, and Peking Duck all in one day!

Our first stop was The Ming Tomb Changling as opposed to the Great Wall which is usually scheduled first on tour itineraries. Papa Sheehan made sure our tour guide Lisa made that itinerary change so that we would visit those touristy destinations during their less busy times. Before entering one of the 13 Ming Tombs, Lisa gave us an explanation as to their geographical placement; the Ming Tombs were built according to good feng shui with mountains behind them and a river flowing in front. We had an hour to explore the Ming Tomb, so we slowly explored all the structures that were placed before the burial ground where one of the Ming emperors was buried. Unfortunately, we could not actually get close to the burial site since the Chinese government decided to place fences around it. That being said, we did get to climb a tower that gave us an unobstructed view of the entire tomb site.

The second destination was the Sacred Way. This path was decorated with statues of guards, scholars, and different animals on both sides, and it extended for approximately one kilometer (0.621371 for people in the Miles club). Walking through the Sacred Way was a good way to channel our inner chi and mentally prepare ourselves for the afternoon hike at the Great Wall. It also served as a nice spot for people to get candid shots for their Instagram accounts.

After a quick lunch break, we were finally ready to take on The Great Wall of China. Papa Sheehan likes taking his Global East Asia students every year to a very steep section of the Great Wall called Juyongguan. The good thing about having a challenging section of the wall is that fewer tourists crowd the narrow steps which makes the hike a lot more enjoyable. On the other hand, most human beings who hike to the top will wake up with sore calves the following morning. In all seriousness, hiking the Great Wall was truly an amazing and humbling experience. Don’t mean to brag, but this year’s class broke the record of student percentage that climbed to the top with a whopping 90%!

To wrap up our touristy day, Papa Sheehan took us to eat Peking duck for dinner. The dinner was extra special because we got to celebrate Michael and Ursula’s birthdays! Needless to say, after our special dinner everyone went back to the hotel and slept till the next morning.

We created our own schedule on Thursday with fieldwork and lunch with our Capital Normal students followed by a trip to Silk Street and dinner. Team Little Mermaids went to a fantastic noodles place for Ursula’s birthday (since long noodles represent a long life). After lunch, they took a bus to see the Beijing Film Academy. Instead of arriving at the school, they found themselves at an abandoned film set used during the Communist Era. Meanwhile, Team Huami met up with a new Capital Normal student to eat traditional Beijing food. Then they visited Suning, the largest retailer in China, to check out their smartphone selection. From Suning, they went to an OPPO store. Team PEBs walked around with their students taking pictures of pharmacies and successfully explained the concept of a punch buggy. The Capital Normal students took them to some really yummy Chinese fast food. Team Soybean went to another mall to visit KFC and McDonalds and then had a very authentic snack food lunch as a place with nostalgic decorations. After we finished out field work we regrouped at Silk Street to practice our bargaining skills at the infamous fake goods market.

Early the next morning we piled onto the bus to take us to the train station. The 2 ½ hour high speed train ride flew by given most of us slept at least part of the way. When we arrived in Hebi, our new tour guide, Johnson, took us to the hotel to check in and eat lunch. The hotel was quite an experience from the excessive number of plastic chandeliers to curtain-less, bathtub-less showers. After lunch, we went to the main shopping area. It soon became clear foreigners do not frequently visit Hebi, given the number of stares and photo requests we received. After completing our fieldwork which included visiting bathrooms with “personality,” waking sleeping employees, and a trip to Walmart, we reconvened at a local coffee shop for a game of cards. From there we decided to go to the arcade at the top of the mall. One of the highlights from the trip to the arcade was when a man at the arcade decided to show us how Dance Dance Revolution should be done by getting a near perfect score after dancing with arms and gestures and everything. Being tired out and hungry, we went to have dinner at the food court. The food court had tons of choices. We got noodles, soups, dumplings and flat bread. After a cheap, filling, and delicious meal we decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel for a relaxed night in.

June 3rd, C.A.R Group

By: Anbar Aizenman, Rowan McEvoy, Cindy Wang

We've reached the TOP!! After almost an hour climbing, 6 group members have reached the top of Juyongguan (the most steep part of the great wall!)

We’ve reached the top!! After almost an hour climbing, 6 group members reached the top of Juyongguan (the steepest part of the Great Wall!)

Although we were exhausted from climbing the Great Wall and visiting the Ming Tombs, we visited different electronic shopping malls in Beijing. Our plan was to focus on the main Chinese phone brands. However, during our field work, we found that the domestic Chinese phone market is shared by many different brands and each domestic brand has its own app store. This discovery might shift our future research focuses. We also discovered that high-end shopping malls in China don’t sell phones, even the high-end brands like Samsung and Apple. During our visits in Beijing Zhongguancun (Chinese Silicon Valley), we found that there are many fake or stolen phones sold in regulated shopping malls. Hence, the Chinese phone market is much more complicated than American market and is extremely dispersed among different consumption groups.

C.A.R Group with Capital Normal Student; We really appreciated help from Capital Normal Students. They are the best host ever!!!

C.A.R Group with a student from Capital Normal University. We really appreciated help from the Capital Normal University students. They are the best hosts ever!!!

After several days of touring and field working in Beijing, we are headed up to Hebi today. We took a 3-hour Gaotie (bullet train) to Hebi. This was our first time in Beijing West Station. Beijing West Station looks like a typical Chinese train station, with crowds and yelling. However, we enjoyed our time on the bullet train. We were amazed by the northern Chinese plains and agriculture industry. Around 6 o’clock in the afternoon, we finally arrived in Hebi. Unlike Beijing, the capital of China, Hebi is a relatively small city in Henan province. But to our surprise, Hebi has a well-protected landscape and huge amounts of tall buildings. Most importantly, they have amazing Chinese food, like pork belly bun, peking duck (Yes! They have it in Hebi!), chicken noodle soup and delicious desserts! We look forward to exploring this small unique city in China more in the following days!

We enjoyed our first dinner in Hebi! It was amazing!!!

We enjoyed our first dinner in Hebi! It was amazing!!!

Regarding to our group project, we found many individual retailers on the street in the downtown area on the way heading to our hotel in Hebi. Hence, we already have a generally vague plan on our works in Hebi. We hope to visit more electronic areas in Hebi and have a more comprehensive idea about the Chinese phone market!

Team Momo and Co. Take China

By: Brandon, Jonathan, and Jasper

This blog post is brought to you by Team Momo. When we last left off Team Momo and company were preparing for their flight to China… 

Luckily, the flight went off without a hitch: no spontaneous combustion, no emergency landing, and no casualties! The flight was incredible. We started in San Francisco, flew through Alaska, over Russia, and then finally arrived in China. Aboard United Flight 888, we were provided a robust selection of of in-flight entertainment. In addition, we were offered two meals: dinner and breakfast. The dinner options were either chicken and rice, or vegetarian. The breakfast options were either an omelet, or stir-fried noodles. For Papa Sheehan enthusiasts, let it be known that he selected the chicken and rice, as well as the omelet!

Upon landing, the first thing our class did was pick up our bags. We then found our Converse-loving tour guide from Super Vacation and boarded the bus to our first Chinese dinner! Though slightly underwhelming, Papa Sheehan assured the class that the best was yet to come. We re-boarded the bus, and finally made our way to the hotel. At this point, most of us were battling jet lag; however, we managed to make it to our rooms and a local convenience store before crashing.


The First Supper in China!

Since most of us had passed out before 9:00 PM China time, we were all up and about by around 5:00 AM. We had our first hotel breakfast, and were pleasantly surprised! We can’t speak for everyone’s experience with complimentary hotel breakfasts; however, ours, in the words of Zachary Kennedy, was “spectacular.” As our first planned day of research, we had plenty of work ahead of us. We left the hotel at around 9:00 AM after we were each given a brand new Chinese SIM card. Our first stop was the Forbidden City! Unfortunately, Tiananmen Square was closed for the day, but Papa Sheehan insisted we would still have fun. As always, Papa Sheehan proved himself right, and the Forbidden City was nothing less than incredible!


Global East Asia Scholar Anna Lipscomb poses for a “Bad Ass” Picture with Papa Sheehan

Afterwards, we drove to our first field site, and met our student helpers from Beijing Capital Normal University! Each group was assisted by either one or two students, all of whom were women, and left to start their research: Team Momo went on a snack food exploration, Team BingBing left to investigate celebrities, and Team C.A.R. went to investigate electronics.

After our research, the teams rendezvoused at a restaurant 5 subway transfers from the initial location. The meal was amazing! Brandon Cheung was thrilled by the pork belly and xiaolongbiao (dumplings), and insisted that he will definitely go again! After dinner, we once again split up and explored one of the Beijing malls. The architecture was stunning, and the food looked incredible!


Class Dinner with our Amazing Beijing Capital Normal Students! Photo: Jonathan Kim


Class Dinner with our Amazing Beijing Capital Normal Students! Photo: Jonathan Kim

 At around 10:00 PM, everyone was in bed and ready to sleep. We had a long a day ahead of us, with the Ming Tombs and the Great Wall of China the following day, and we were all ready to head to pass out!

Team Momo out!


Beijing, here we come!

By: Zachary Kennedy, Anna Lipscomb and Jacob Lokshin

We can’t believe that these two weeks in LA have passed by so quickly! It seems like just yesterday we walked into VKC 154, spilled a few pretzels, and debated who is the best Bing Bing (Li Bing Bing or Fan Bing Bing? Choose your side. It’s also worth noting that this debate produced our group name – Team Bing Bing).

As the name suggests, Team Bing Bing will be examining the presence of celebrity endorsements in China. We will be especially focusing on foreign celebrities. We don’t know what exactly we will find in China, but we predict that there will be a mix of both foreign and Chinese celebrities used to advertise products. We also believe that foreign and western celebrities will be more popular and visible in more westernized, metropolitan cities such as Shanghai and Beijing than in Hebi and Zhengzhou. We also anticipate foreign brands to use foreign celebrities more frequently than Chinese brands. We will examine how these stars are used to advertise products related to their areas (movie stars advertising films, sports stars advertising sports products, etc) as well as products unrelated (food, technology, luxury goods, etc.).

Although Friday was our last official class, it’s only the beginning of Global East Asia.

After reviewing our trusty toolbox of knowledge about things such as deculturization, reculturization, and acculturization (a term whose definition is still being debated by the entire class), we discussed our readings on Shanghai and Zhengzhou. We also went over general travel information such as packing and currency.


Professor Sheehan instills his knowledge and wise travel tips upon his enthusiastic pupils before they embark on their journey to a new hemisphere. He also shared a few thrilling stories of past GEA years, stimulating excitement and anticipation from the students about the adventures that lie ahead of them.

Although we come from a generation famous for being exceptionally tech-savvy, we were faced with our first challenge of many to come: installing the USC VPN on our phones and portable computers. Nevertheless, we put our minds together and overcame this obstacle.

We spent our Saturday scrambling to buy our sunscreens and bug spray (because it’s better to be safe than sorry, and Chinese insects are flying harbingers of death according to the USC Health Center), stuffing our suitcases full, emptying out our refrigerators, and contemplating the effects of globalization on our human existences.

On Sunday morning, we literally rised and shined. Between the times of 4-5 am, those of us on the group flight Uber’d to the airport (We encouraged Papa Sheehan to join the Uber bandwagon. Uber is now a Sheehan-approved mobile application).  Since we got there early, we had to entertain ourselves.


As punctual Trojans, the Global East Asia students got to the airport 3+ hours early. While waiting for their flight, they passed the time by playing Sushi card games, working on this blog post, eating banana bread (thanks Papa Sheehan for looking after our empty stomachs!), and getting pumped for China (and internally panicking of the short layover time in SFO… oh, the joys of travel).

The 45-minute layover in San Francisco was quite an experience. Although our flight was only about an hour, we spent roughly half an hour sitting in the plane at SFO because we couldn’t get off since another plane was still at our gate. When we finally got off, we dashed to the international terminal – it was extremely close, but we made it!

Since we wanted to get adjusted to China time, most of us pulled all-nighters before (or we were frantically trying to pack our bags and figuring out where we put our passports). Therefore, most of us spent the 12-hour flight sleeping and watching movies/TV shows on our mobile devices. Some of us stretched our legs and walked around the airplane looking for snacks.


A view of Beijing from the airplane window.

When we finally got to Beijing it was May 30th (thanks to the 15 hour time difference)! Although we may be a slightly jet-lagged, we can’t wait for all the adventures and stories and crazy experiences to come!

Exploring the Temples in Shanghai

By: Jon Peppin, Psalm Chang, & Michelle Ngan

It has certainly been a busy couple of days for us. We have finally made it to Shanghai, and wow what a cool city it is! Never imagined that we would get to walk on the Bund in person and see what Papa Sheehan calls the “architect’s playground” before our eyes. It’s very different than Kaifeng in that there are actually many tourists, which makes us stand out less. At Xintiandi, the Old French Concession, we explored high-end shops and enjoyed the refurbished buildings. We got to experience how bartering works (and sometimes doesn’t work) at the City God Temple area, with its numerous shops of souvenirs and different items.


A look at the architecture of Xintiandi, the Old French Concession.

In terms of our research project, we have been working very hard at figuring out a concrete thesis that would then lead to smooth transitions and present our evidence-driven argument in the most effective way. Needless to say, we’ve had to tweak and sometimes even change our theses completely. Guess that’s why it’s called a working thesis. Once we got the thesis established, the structure of our research became a lot more clear and we are now working on finalizing our thoughts into a succinct 1600-2400 word essay, as well as forming our presentation to share with our class.

Today was our last day doing deliberate fieldwork. Yunwen was kind enough to show us how to take the subway and the bus. Without her help, we would not have made it to the City God Temple and Jade Buddha Temple as smoothly as we did. The City God Temple stood out to us in the sense that the temple seemed to be willing to move along with society, specifically with the presence of Daoist-themed iPhone 6 cases. The gift shop cashier claimed that all of the objects for sale were blessed (“kai guang”), so buying the items would almost give the consumer an added sense of security, thereby giving the temple added power in terms of its marketing to its consumers. Our long morning doing fieldwork ended on a delicious note when Yunwen brought us to her favorite noodle shop, which is part of the Jade Buddha Temple site. We each had mushroom noodle soup–yummy!


The Arhats and the amazing Yunwen enjoying bowls of mushroom noodles at the vegetarian noodle shop at Jade Buddha Temple.

It’s hard to imagine that our 2-week trip to China is coming to a close soon. We will definitely remember these days even after departing… taking this course has also been such an eye-opening and significant part of the trip that only added to the wonderful experience here.

Say Shang(hi)!

By: Alice Kim and Chris Carpenter

Shanghai is an absolutely amazing place. For someone experiencing the city for the first time, it would appear to be a fusion of the old and the new, the antique and the advanced. While this is partly true (lots of developments in the city have been reconstructed to appear ages-old for the sake of tourism), the city is, as it was intended to be, an example of immense growth, expansion, and investment.

After traveling by train for over six hours, we arrived in Shanghai to the smiling face of our new tour guide, Clare. Clare took us on a preliminary tour of the city. It was nice to gain a lay of the land before being on our own for a majority of the remaining week of our time in China. One of the stops was the Yu Garden. The intricate pathways snaked through a preserved example of an exquisite Shanghai palace that included quarters for concubines and servants.


The GEA 2015 Scholars on one of the many intricate bridges in the Yu Garden

We then turned our attention to the personality of modern Shanghai. We toured the Xiantiandi area, stopping at coffee shops, international clothing stores, and even an art installation. The area was distinctly European in its makeup, with narrow streets lined with arcing trees that created an intimate and romantic experience amidst the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Shanghai.


One of the streets of the Xiantiandi area, a few feet away from clothing stores and coffee shops

The day’s tour culminated in seeing and climbing the Oriental Pearl Towel, the gargantuan centerpiece to the modern Shanghai skyline. After zooming into the air roughly 260 meters in 30 seconds we were given a view of the city unlike any other. It was dizzying to see the city from a bird’s eye view.


The Oriental Pearl Tower. We were able to see the city from the second “pearl.”


GEA 2015 Scholar Megan sitting high above the ground in the Pearl Tower.

A long and exciting day came to an end in the most unforgettable of places: aboard a private yacht circling the Bund. GEA 2015 Scholar Phoebe’s immense hospitality allowed us to cruise the beautiful waters and see the nighttime skyline of a city on the forefront of modernity and technology. Advertisements as large as the high-rises they adorned broadcast messages about cell phones, and some buildings illuminated their sides with messages like “I Love Shanghai.”


GEA 2015 in front of the private yacht that took us around the Bund.


The Bund at night.

Kaifeng Rocks!

By: Jon Peppin, Psalm Chang, & Michelle Ngan

Wow. This city of 700,000 people is so precious. We love how close to “authentic” it’s been (although “authentic” does not exist) and how it’s not tainted with tourists as much as Beijing was. It’s been a great three days- we visited many temples and theme parks that gave us more of a sense of the culture here, and are thankful for the experience thus far. These places as well as the free time have been especially beneficial to us in terms of our fieldwork, as they are so rich with religious display.

At the Digital Plaza, we were able to use our Chinese skills and talk to two young sales girls. We showed them the “Mo Shou Lin Lin” (fortune telling app), to which they remarked that they never heard of it, but rather, thought that a “Feng Shui” app was more widely used and accurate. Thanks to Professor Sheehan, we were able to get the addresses of two local temples, one Daoist and one Buddhist, that a salesperson recommended for fortune telling. Our spontaneous adventures continued from there!

At the Daoist Temple, we were presented with mixed messages about fortune telling––while the salespeople at the Digital Plaza had told us that there was fortune telling at the temple, once we were there, employees told us that there was no fortune-telling. Eventually, one woman, in a hushed tone barely audible to the foreign ear, admitted that there was a fortune-teller, but alas, that he was a scammer. We tried to go meet the fortune teller, but employees blocked our path to his room and told us that the area was reserved for employees, although from our spot, we could see temple-goers inside the mysterious room. Suspicious much?

Undeterred, we continued on our path to search for fortune-tellers and walked to the Buddhist temple. There, we found several fortune-tellers right outside the temple. Eventually, we found one woman sitting outside the temple. Papa Sheehan volunteered to have his fortune told (we’re grateful, because we definitely would not have been able to completely understand without his translation). He chose to have his wealth fortune told, and according to her, he would have the luckiest future ahead of him.


Papa Sheehan gets his fortune told by a fortune teller outside a local Buddhist temple.

In terms of our research, our escapades to the Daoist temple and fortune-tellers spoke especially to our research topic. As Professor Sheehan described after, many fortune-tellers’ prices are contingent on the fortune that is told––good fortune equals high price, bad fortune equals bad price. This practice reflects the commodification of religious practices, and speaks to the conflation between religious ideas and consumer behavior, as consumers will pay differing prices for different fortunes, as if selecting a product from a shelf of selections.

Onto today’s events! Our day started off with a visit to a “theme park”––not the theme park that we Americans would normally think about, but rather a park with an overarching theme. In this case, the gargantuan park was based entirely off a five-meter painting of Song dynasty Kaifeng. There was so much to see and to do. We saw a lot of animals, for one thing. There was a camel, a goat and a monkey, and horses (whom we could definitely smell). While one group won prize after prize at the carnival games, the others frequented the myriad of shows that the park had to offer––from a fire-spitter spewing forth a tumultuous gulf of fiery chaos (that nearly took off our hair and head) to an animated joust fought between numerous martial arts masters. Our day at the park was a truly exceptional experience that will not be forgotten anytime soon. KAIFENG ROCKS!!!!


A view of the lake at Millennium City Park.


Alice and Psalm trying out a Sheehan-powered ferris wheel.

“Say (Hi)Feng!”

By: Alice Kim and Chris Carpenter

June 4, five days since we arrived to China and our first in Kaifeng. Our morning was defined by travel. At nearly 200 mph our train zoomed inland toward the Henan Province. Upon arriving, our first stop was a rural village where we had the opportunity to explore and experience a China that was more representative of the majority of the population; Dorothy, we’re not in Beijing anymore. Professor Sheehan led the class through back alleys and conversed with locals in the hope that we would be able to enter their property for a closer glimpse at their lives. One such gentlemen was compliant (albeit with his less-than-trusting mother nearby) and we learned that it was harvesting season, and this his crops were wheat and garlic.

Our host in the village outside Kaifeng. He allowed us inside his property to see their way of life.

Our host in the village outside Kaifeng. He allowed us inside his property to see their way of life.

Another highlight from the day was of the Iron Pagoda, built during the Song Dynasty. Several members of the class joined Professor Sheehan in climbing to the top of the pagoda. Many Sheehans were earned this afternoon.


GEA China 2015 in front of the Iron Pagoda. Several us conquered the structure by climbing to the top

GEA China 2015 in front of the Iron Pagoda. Several us conquered the structure by climbing to the top

June 5, six days since we arrived to China and two days we’ve been in Kaifeng. What an amazing place Kaifeng is: nearly devoid of Western tourists, the city is a cross-section of antiquity and advancement. The morning was spent getting a lay of the land. While walking among local schoolchildren heading to class, we explored alleyways and side-streets to paint a better picture of what life is like for larger portion of Chinese. We stopped by a small dumpling shop to buy steamed breakfast dumplings; it was the first of the two occasions that Chris was asked to pose for an advertisement picture for the store’s WeChat profile.

A sample side-street in Kaifeng within one mile of our hotel.

A sample side-street in Kaifeng within one mile of our hotel.

The day contained three stops: a section of the Song Dynasty-era city walls, Guild Hall amusement park, and Wan Sui Mountain Park. The amusement park was of particular interest because it was a re-embedding of a global amusement park template. It was a hodgepodge of cultural icons, texts, and characters being employed for tourists. We saw cheesy kung fu performances, raced go-carts, played archery games for prizes, and explored a variety of installations.

GEA 2015, huddled in the shade, outside the amusement park.

GEA 2015, huddled in the shade, outside the amusement park.

A good portion of the day was spent doing field work inside Kaifeng. Zhong Shan Road became a central fixture for the group examining fast food in a globalized context, and we were able to explore international chains like McDonald’s, national chains like Dicos, and an interesting smattering of local and plagiarized brands. We had the opportunity (and perhaps the luxury) of interviewing manicurists while we had manicures. They told us that trips to restaurants like KFC and McDonald’s are viewed as special occasions, but that they preferred these brands to domestic chains due to the cleanliness, convenience, and taste. This nail salon was the second time Chris was utilized as an advertisement for a WeChat profile. We look forward to the rest of our time in the city.

Chris posing with the manicurists at a nail salon in downtown Kaifeng. Check it out on WeChat.

Chris posing with the manicurists at a nail salon in downtown Kaifeng. Check them out on WeChat.


First Day in Beijing

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.

Fun in the Gansu Province–Oh My!

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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