Zhengzhou and on to Shanghai

By: Cindy, Anbar, Rowan

Our two days in Zhengzhou provided us the opportunity to devote more time to field work, while honing in our research focuses and enjoying the city. The nearly endless traffic meant we relied on public transit, namely the Zhengzhou metro which is currently in the process of expansion. We all started field work at Erqi Square, the main monument in Zhengzhou, which a few energetic members of our group climbed. For our group (Team C.A.R), the ubiquitous nature of electronic stores around Erqi Square was certainly advantageous. While the mobile phone advertisements were very similar to Hebi, the special organization of stores, as well as brands carried differed in interesting ways. Other groups had similarly valuable experiences, with team Bingbing finding sports stores they hadn’t seen before, and team Momo locating a large street devoted entirely to street food.

Zhengzhou from hotel conference room

Zhengzhou from hotel conference room

All the groups and Professor Sheehan rallied together for a group lunch, and for simplicity’s sake (and a sense of curiosity to see if there are any differences), we all settled for McDonald’s. At this time, many of the teams started seriously inventorying evidence acquired from fieldwork, and working on developing frameworks for arguments and final projects. Team C.A.R arranged all of our advertisement photos, and created a chart that reflected different categories based on price and reputation of the smart phone producer, and price of the actual models. After meeting with Professor Sheehan, almost all teams were struck with ideas over the framework of our projects, which we recorded on impromptu paper (McDonald’s place mats).

After having the opportunity to have Professor Sheehan join us on field work to an electronics mall, the class headed for an excursion to Haagen-Dazs. While pricey, the ice cream at Haagen-Dazs was fantastic, and some even considered ordering a second ice cream dish. Dinner was a similarly elaborate affair, with the class heading to hot-pot, where we were able to cook our own meats and vegetables in boiling broth, and see the process of noodles being prepared at our table. With full stomachs, we all retreated back to the hotel, to relax, work and prepare for the next day.

Brandon Cheung, Jacob Lokshing, and Rowan McEvoy enjoy dinner.

Brandon Cheung, Jacob Lokshin, and Rowan McEvoy enjoy dinner.

Wednesday was one of the few days on our trip without planned meals and excursion, which gave us the opportunity to further explore areas of interest and conduct field work. It was also our only class meeting on the trip, where each group made a presentation that included a preliminary argument, and analysis of evidence related to our arguments. While some students took the opportunity to sleep in, others chose to explore a series of underground shopping areas in Central Zhengzhou, as well as preparing presentations. After nearly getting lost trying to find a Walmart, we returned and all gathered on the 23th floor for our presentations- with a fantastic view. Our team’s tentative framework reflected differences in advertising based on the tier of the smart phone company and prices of phones, suggesting a move from a consumer driven focus on basic functionality to a focus on lifestyle and finally aesthetics. Team Momo’s presentation focused on experiential and spatial differences in snack foods, while Bingbing focused on the use of celebrities in advertising sports clothing in both Chinese and international companies. A main aspect of the presentation was the ability to get feedback and questions from Professor Sheehan and the rest of the class, which was particularly valuable in considering the direction and focus of our projects. The journey to Shanghai will be bittersweet because while we are all excited to get to explore and experience Shanghai, it marks the last stop of our trip.

– Team C.A.R

June 5-6, 2016

June 5-6, 2016

By: Brandon, Jonathan, and Jasper

Greetings for the last time from Team MoMo! We’ve just arrived in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province. Here’s the run down on what we’ve done over the last two days:

Yesterday (Sunday, June 5) was our final day in Hebi. We spent the morning exploring the ancient city of Xunxian about an hour outside of Hebi. The city was built around a bell tower that stood at the intersection of two perpendicular, intersecting main streets. We walked the entire length of the city’s main road and took pictures under both of the city’s main gates, which were flanked on each side by ancient city walls. We were also able to get a good look at the Grand Canal, which passed right by the city’s main gate. The weather was the coolest it had been for our entire trip, hovering around the low 70’s with a light drizzle. It was a refreshing change from the heat and smog that we have become accustomed to here!


Main gate at Xunxian


The group posing in front of Xunxian’s ancient city wall

Though we only spent about an hour in this small city, this excursion was yet another valuable experience for all of us. In witnessing the startled looks on the faces of most people we passed (who were shocked at the sight of foreigners, especially those of us who are not Asian), we were reminded that this—which was incredibly far off the tourist’s beaten path—was the China that most of the outside world has never seen. This speaks to the invaluable role Global East Asia plays in exposing students to foreign peoples and places, and more importantly, in immersing them in the everyday life of those peoples and places.


Taking a stroll down Xunxian’s ancient main street (bell tower in the background)

Following our excursion to Xunxian, we drove back to Hebi and had another lovely meal in our hotel. The pork belly dish of the day (we’ve had pork belly literally every day that we’ve been in China—no complaints here!) was a variant that utilized tea leaves as the primary garnish and source of flavor; it was delicious!

The afternoon was dedicated to fieldwork, so each of the three groups split up to conduct our final field research in Hebi. Team MoMo was fortunate enough to have PaPa Sheehan first, and we were very satisfied with the observations we were able to get in during the course of roughly two hours.  Jasper and Brandon concluded our field work with a celebratory round of remote control boat racing, which was located on the children’s level of the mall (and which was incredibly exhilarating—the Professor will concur). We then met up with the other groups at Hebi’s “Big Ben” clock tower (albeit a much smaller, humbler version), and handed off PaPa Sheehan to Team CAR.


Posing in front of Chinese Big Ben

Our team met up for dinner at Pizza Hut—a highly anticipated endeavor ever since we touched down in China. Pizza Hut is a nicer, sit-down restaurant on this side of the world, and many of us were excited for the experience. PaPa Sheehan, Cindy, and Brandon had a dinner date set for three, while the rest of the group shared a few pizzas and starters family style. While the food certainly wasn’t anything phenomenal, it was a bit of a welcome respite from the same kinds of dishes we have been having for the past week—and a warm reminder of home. After a group outing to Wal-Mart for dessert, most of the group went out for karaoke. The karaoke system didn’t have songs later than 2010, so we enjoyed the many throwbacks to our middle school days.


Post-Pizza Hut ice cream!!! #walmart #globalization

The following morning, we were up bright and early to board our luxury bus to Zhengzhou. Before getting completely on our way, we stopped in the newer part of Hebi, which contained a brand new sports arena, apartment complexes, and impressive skyscrapers—almost all of which were completely unoccupied. This gave us quite  a tangible on-the-ground experience with the “build first” development policies many local governments around China have undertaken in the last decade or two.


Happy group in our luxury bus, en route to Zhengzhou from Hebi

After roughly one-and-a-half hours on the road (which included an underwhelming crossing of the Yellow River), we arrived at the Yellow River Scenic Area, where we climbed what Brandon called “Chinese Mount Rushmore”: impressive stone faces of famous Chinese historical figures carved into the mountainside near the Yellow River. Most of us made the climb up, which provided quite a beautiful view of the entire Scenic Area. After leaving the scenic area (half an hour late, because a few unnamed group members decided to take a detour and go on a mountainside toboggan run), we had a late lunch and then checked into our hotel. Following a few hours of much-needed down time, we had dinner and celebrated Jacob and Anna’s birthdays with a wonderful birthday cake, courtesy of PaPa Sheehan and our fantastic tour guide Johnson. Dinner was followed by an optional excursion to the subway station and nearby mall, and everyone was quite ready for bed by 10PM.


First evening in Zhengzhou!

Our remaining days in China are entirely fieldwork, with no set excursions planned. We are all in disbelief at how much we have gotten done during this trip—the places we’ve seen, the knowledge we’ve gained, and the lasting friendships we’ve made. Team MoMo can confidently speak on behalf on the entire group in saying how grateful we are to USC and the East Asian Studies Center for this amazing opportunity, and encourage anyone reading this blog to strongly consider enrolling in this program!!

Fight on!

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!


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.

Final Day in Kaifeng

By: Ashley Szydel, Phoebe Yin, and Megan Lee

We began our day visiting the Men’s and Women’s Muslim Mosques in Kaifeng. The followers of this religion in the Kaifeng community are referred to as a minority group called Hui Zu. Professor Sheehan expressed his excitement as even the tour guides had trouble finding the hidden locations of the mosques. Though our visit to each mosque was rather quick, we were able to see the areas in which the prayer practices occur and the remaining interior of the mosques. In the men’s mosque we were not permitted to step inside the prayer area, but were able to observe from the outside windows. At the women’s mosque, the rules were a bit more lenient and we were granted permission to remove our shoes and enter the prayer area. The experience was a very interesting one, as we had learned about the Muslim community’s presence in Kaifeng in previous readings during class back in Los Angeles. It was definitely a memory that will be taken with us as we continue on our journey through China.


The Muslim Mosque at Kaifeng

After the marvelous trip to the men and women’s Muslim Mosques which gave us a glimpse of the mysterious Muslim world, we then proceeded further on our religious quest, which led us to Jiuku Temple or Jiuku Miao. Jiuku in Chinese means salvation from bitterness. The temple itself houses iconic local gods in which people would come to worship and ask for help. There’s an interesting intertwining between the representation of folk religion and Confucianism’s filial piety that we discovered inside the temple.


Jiuku Temple, a Daoist temple at Kaifeng

Most of us got our fortune telling stick at the place and allowed a peak into the near possible future. Both the mosques and the temple are located in remote and distant places that tell the story of Kaifeng’s religious tolerance and its once glorious past as the capital of the Song Dynasty. Later during the day, we had our last lunch in Kaifeng. Here are a couple of pictures; hopefully you don’t get too hungry!


A beautifully prepared fish


Colorful and delicious!

To seize every opportunity we have to work on our final projects, three groups split up and went to their own designated places. As for us, we came to the newest, the best and the chic-est mall in Kaifeng for research on our cosmetic topic. With lack of international brands in this second/third tier city in China, we were surprised to find a store called Whilmex Cosmetic that is home to many luxury skincare brands. The store owner was really friendly, welcoming and easygoing like the rest of people we encountered in this lovely city, which made our departure seem even more saddening.


Whilmex Cosmetic Store at Kaifeng

Later in the afternoon, a group of us went to Da Xiang Guo Si (Temple), which according to the hotel’s front desk staff is the most famous temple here in Kaifeng. There, Alice, Ashley, Chris, and John got their fortune’s read by an elderly woman who has been reading people’s fortunes for 27 years. Everyone fortunately received good fortunes and very much enjoyed the experience. Afterwards, close by to the temple we took a walk down a street full of local tent shops offering various stylish clothes, shoes, and many more accessories for purchase. Relatively cheap prices make the shopping fun and entertaining, especially when trying to negotiate prices with vendors. It also serves as a way to see what kind of items are particularly popular among the vendors and buyers, as there are often certain items that are repeated in each stall. Tonight, as we wrap up our final night in Kaifeng we regret that we are leaving after such a quick stay. The past four days have been just as enriching as we’d hoped they would be and have proven to be just as much fun as anywhere else. We head off to Shanghai at eight o’clock tomorrow morning, and should arrive late in the afternoon around six o’clock. Though Shanghai is our last leg of the trip, our adventures in Beijing and Kaifeng will not be easily forgotten! We hope to return one day to this beautiful city south of the Yellow River.

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.


Exploring Beijing!

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!