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

June 27, 2013

Dragon Boat Festival, Pudong and More!

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

By Erica Christianson and Joshua Neill

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

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

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

Crystal Buddha in the lobby of the hotel in Henan Province

Crystal Buddha in the lobby of the hotel in Henan Province

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

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

Students mulling around during a break in lecture on Thursday afternoon

Students mulling around during a break in lecture on Thursday afternoon

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June 25, 2013

First Return to Shanghai: June 1-6, 2013

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 9:35 pm

By Cliff Liu and JJ Bassette

This week was mostly spent on our EASC 360: “Global China 1800 to the Present” course at our classroom in Fudan University, where we also live. The course’s content has covered a wide variety of subjects, including a general introduction to Chinese geography, history, and philosophy, not to mention more global aspects of China’s recent modernization. The bulk of the material is delivered in a series of 3-hour morning lectures by Professor Sheehan. Here Professor Sheehan is delving into the basic differences between political ideologies that have shaped China’s history.

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During 3 hour classes, breaks were necessary in order to promote an optimal learning environment. Some of the students used these breaks as time to mingle with the Fudan University students.

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After each lecture, we’re given an hour for lunch, where students disperse into the surrounding city to find street food, local restaurants, and markets to grab grub. Some of the students had a special treat when one of the Fudan University students auditing the course took them nearby Fudan for a meal at one of her favorite restaurants.

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After lunch, all the students return to the classroom for a Chinese language lesson taught by our T.A. Carlos Lin. Due to the wide variety of previous Chinese experience among the students, the more experienced students helped coach some of the less experienced students. Here’s native speaker Elisa Ting helping Joshua Neill work on his calligraphy.

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June 24, 2013

Arrival in Shanghai

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 9:02 pm

By Danielle Then and Grace Mi

The first day of our trip was very hectic but our TA, Carlos, came to the rescue, earning the nickname “Mama Bear.” 

picture 1

From that point, everything was smooth sailing (or flying, rather) as most of the students napped or watched the free films Asiana Air provided on the way to Incheon. Landing at the airport was akin to landing in a cloud, and the view was spectacular. After enjoying Korean barbecue in Korea, some students preferred the back of their own eyelids, however.

picture 2

Upon our arrival in Shanghai, we had our first Chinese family-style meal, served up on a lazy susan. Professor Sheehan taught the class the first thing about banquet etiquette by giving a toast. We were then shown our home-base for the next month, and  everyone went out with Professor Sheehan and bought cellphones. We returned to Fudan, at which point most students went to sleep. Some of the more adventurous students went out to see the city, some even venturing as far as the Bund.

picture 3

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June 18, 2012

The final week…

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 4:23 pm

By Logan Heley and Hilary Albright

Sunday, June 10:
Today we had free time to work on our fourth assignment. My (Logan’s) group consisting of Thomas, Nate and myself proudly finished in the middle of the evening, allowing us to spend the night on the town.

Monday, June 11:
Another studious day for the EASC crew. We presented our another round of assignments dealing with our trip to the Shanghai History Museum beneath the Oriental Pearl Tower. Following presentations we discussed the day’s readings about elite and worker consumer culture in China. Our evening was calm as we prepared for a fun-filled rest of the week.

Brian (right) discusses the day’s reading assignment as Nate ponders.

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June 12, 2012

Studying in Shanghai June 6-9

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 4:29 pm

By Karen Pham

June 6 - Back in Shanghai
After our exciting trips to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Beijing, it was time to go back to our home in Shanghai. I started off the day with a morning jog and then met up with my respective partner, Thomas, to work on our assignment 3 together. After a successful hour and a half of thesis production, we met up with Jim to grab a quick lunch. I decided to try out one of the yummy streets snacks on the Pedestrian Street near our classroom. I settled on a Shou Zhua Bing (手抓), or a “Hand-grabbed Pancake,” a famous street snack known to have originated in Taiwan.

Shou Zhua Bing

The snack itself reminded me of a breakfast burrito. I watched as the lady fried the onion pancake to a crispy golden brown and then slit and twisted the pancake only to fry it a little more for a crispier crunch. She laid on a combination of bacon, fried egg, pork sung, cheese, and delicious sauces, and then wrapped it up in a burrito format for easy-eating. It was delicious, and I soon became a fan. After satisfying my meal with a drink from Coco, our group headed back to finish up our assignments. We later met up with the rest of the class for our crazy adventure to the Super Brand Mall to eat a hearty dinner at a famous restaurant chain known for its voluptuous women and hot wings. To our delight, the Professor joined the group after a cordial invitation from our fellow classmate, Logan. We walked into the restaurant greeted by some lovely waitresses and Britney Spears songs blasting in the background. It was a great meal, filled with lots of laughter and fun moments. The wings were not the best, kind of bland, but the memories of the night were sweet, as it became apparent that our group had grown close enough to talk about having a reunion in Macon, Georgia, 10 years from now.

Super Brand Mall

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June 4, 2012

Studying in Shanghai (05/27 – 05/30)

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — Tags: — geachina @ 5:20 pm

By Janet Lee (李洁) and Alan Wong (黄飞仁)

Returning from Hangzhou and Suzhou, we were given the weekend to recuperate, study, and explore on our own. Many students made extensive use of Shanghai’s well-designed public transit system, taking the subway to bypass Shanghai’s street-level traffic. Growing more accustomed with our surroundings, we have thus far managed to take care of laundry, food, and drink, among other logistical issues, and have been fortunate enough to have pleasant weather thus far (for the most part, some rain!).

Dismantling Our False Historical AssumptionsDismantling Our False Historical Assumptions

In the Classroom (上海上课)
Studying abroad in Shanghai certainly entails studying – while given ample opportunity to explore Shanghai and have out-of-the-classroom experiences, EASC 360 is an intense course that is not to be taken lightly! In order to contextualize our experiences, we were given ‘Quick and Dirty’ guides to a number of topics – globalization, historical inquiry, and communism, among others.

The historical context given by class lectures has enriched our day-to-day activities in Shanghai, while also providing us with a foundation to build our papers and other assignments upon. For example, we could compare our experience in 21st century Shanghai to the advertising campaigns of the British American Tobacco company during the 19th century. Visiting various commercial centers, we see are able to more critically analyze the way familiar products to many Americans are being marketed to the Shanghai public.

One important topic in our class is the classification of “food drugs.” Why is caffeine (a stimulant), in the form of coffee, tea, or energy drinks, a socially accepted food drug while many other potent substances are not? Walking through the streets of Shanghai, we were able to see firsthand the prominence of many items, once regarded as commodities, that are now used daily by many people.

学习时间Sweat, Water, and Historical Inquiry

Our Chinese language instruction sessions have also added flavor to our time here, literally giving us new access to many otherwise inaccessible foods, drinks, and places. But more importantly, it has reminded us of our position as ambassadors of USC (and the United States).

It has been both challenging and rewarding to switch the role of “native” and “foreigner” we are accustomed to adopt at times in the United States. EASC 360 students arrived in Shanghai with a range of abilities in Mandarin Chinese, and likewise have been met with various expectations from the people here. While it is usually not difficult for people here to tell that we are not Shanghai residents, many people are not used to the concept of “American Born Chinese.” Likewise, since many Westerners make no effort to learn to speak any Mandarin Chinese, some people here have expressed surprise at the competency of our definitely-not-Chinese-looking-students’ initiative to use and practice a new language. Many residents here have been very kind and patient sorting through our linguistic and cultural differences in making both purchases and conversation.

练习中文Setting the Tone for Mandarin Practice

Shanghai Zoo (上海动物园)
A number of students visited the Shanghai Zoo to see the world-famous Chinese pandas, among other animals. We were surprised to find the well-publicized Giant Panda (大猫熊) as one of the less exciting exhibits of the zoo’s many attractions. One of my personal favorites, for example, was the “Lesser Panda” (小猫熊), or “Red Panda,” our more familiar panda’s less-known cousin.

As with many other spaces in China, the Shanghai Zoo was designed as a place for families to enjoy together. Zoo visitors were a diverse lot. There were, of course, many children, but also young couples, older people, groups of friends, photography enthusiasts, foreign students, etc.

While there were a number of signs prohibiting guests from feeding the animals, we were astonished to find a large amount of unauthorized interaction between guests and zoo animals. Guests would hand feed monkeys, toss fruit into the mouth of bears, and attempt to aggravate animals to get their attention. Information was posted about why such practices are harmful, but these did not deter many guests from breaking these relatively unenforced rules.

All in all, the Shanghai zoo had a far more “public” feel than American zoos. While efforts were made to emphasize education, conservation, and proper interaction between guests and zoo animals, these, like traffic lights here, served more as “suggestions” than as strict guidelines. Nevertheless, the zoo was an interesting, affordable, and exciting experience.

All the Single Ladies!
After a mini shopping expedition around People’s Square (人民广场), a couple of us explored our way into the People’s Park (人民公园) expecting to have a quiet stroll in the middle of the bustling city. However, to our surprise, the park was filled with people with signs and posters, all written in Chinese. Some posters even had pictures clipped on them. Because of our limited Chinese reading ability, we could only make out that there were people’s birthdates and basic information written on these signs. Initially, we thought it was some sort of somber occasion; maybe they were mourning the death of lost love ones. However, upon closer inspection, we noticed everyone, other than ourselves, was laughing and chatting jovially. After asking some middle age ladies what was going on, we discovered that it was, in fact, a Matchmaking Market! Every weekend, parents and grandparents of bachelors and bachelorettes set up their own postings in the public park as a way to find potential spouses for their children. Coming from a world of OkCupid and Match.com, we were both shocked and amused by this approach to courtship, one so heavily influenced by family, which is deeply entrenched in Chinese culture.

Dining in China
Family style is one of the best ways to dine in China. It eliminates that twinge of jealousy that we often get when our friend’s entrée is noticeably tastier looking than our own. With family style, no one feels left out because every dish is fair game. To make things even better, at the end of the meal, the bill is easy to split because there are no taxes or tips to take into account.

The prices for food at typical street-side pedestrian mall restaurants are more than reasonable. 10 yuan (~ $1.60) could buy a nice bowl of beef noodle soup, 20 yuan (~$3.20) for a Korean Kimchi Fried Rice, and a Tapioca Milk Tea might set you back 10 yuan (~$1.60). Although dining with friends around a round table in a restaurant is lots of fun, we can’t forget the deliciousness that is late night street carts. You can have anything from spicy pork skewers to fried rice. Although the policy is to eat at your own risk, sometimes food seems to taste better when it’s made on a cart. From the lack of tipping to the late night street food, our experience with Chinese eating culture has been an overwhelmingly positive one.

May 25, 2012

Arrival in Shanghai

Filed under: Class,Shanghai — geachina @ 5:29 pm

By Stephanie Guo & Fan Fan

May 19: Arrival
On Saturday, May 19th, we finally arrived in Shanghai, China! It was a long-awaited moment, and we were all very excited to step into Shanghai Pudong International Airport after nearly two months of anticipation and a fourteen hour flight. After arriving at the airport, the thirteen of us EASC China scholars and our TA Luman met Prof. Brett Sheehan and our guide, David (he told us his name is actually 文军 Wenjun meaning gentle and handsome, but that we could call him David) and then made our way on a bus (in Chinese 巴士)to our hotel near Fudan University.

May 20: Buying Phones
The next day after breakfast at the hotel (an assortment of porridge, pickles, steamed buns, red-bean sweet treats, eggs–and cake), we went on our first adventure: buying Chinese cell phones!

Looking at cell phones

Most of us paid (using our stipend money) about 120-170 RMB for a phone and then 60 for minutes and a SIM card. It was fun to be in the midst of the bustles and smells of the city, and I learned that Luman is a master bargainer.

Afterward, we had a mini-adventure in buying our own lunch for the first time!

Tianzifang
Our afternoon activity on Sunday was also our first class assignments. One of the things that appealed to me the most about EASC 360 China is that we learn so much about globalization and Chinese history, but in a highly hands-on context. On Sunday afternoon, our class ventured to part of the old French Concession, Tianzifang, where we looked for examples of globalization. Tianzifang is now a shopping and dining area, filled with all sorts of shops selling everything from traditional Chinese paper cuts to Bob Marley buttons. As we ambled through the narrow alleyways crammed with an artsy mix of traditional Chinese decorations and cafes representing numerous different cultures, we took photos of things that to us represented globalization.

Tianzifang

Playing with toys

Sitting in Tianzifang

Cafe in Tianzifang

May 21: Class
Our first two days of class consisted for three-hour lectures including extensive discussion on our readings, as well as two hours of language instruction. The first lesson involved defining historical analytical tools, as well as determining the aspects that constitute globalization. After a quick geography lesson, the class discussed the assigned readings on porcelain and tea, two commodities that have experienced the effects of globalization and commerce in Ancient China.

After a lively discussion where each of us shared particular points about what we found interesting and global in the reading, we had lunch together in the local pedestrian mall and enjoyed authentic Chinese food as a group. Afterward, we had a two-hour Chinese instruction period where we learned how to greet one another. We all had a good time, both the beginners and the advanced speakers, as we learned to help one another in learning this complex language.

Authentic Chinese food

Xin Tian Di
After completing our first day of lessons, our group decided to do a little exploring without the help of our Chinese friends (David, Prof. Sheehan, and Luman). We made our way to the subway station with little difficulty, and managed to get on the correct train. Arriving at Xin Tian Di was a success in our book and we happily wandered around the area, which was rather reminiscent of the Little Tokyo/financial district of our home in Los Angeles. After spending a day “looking for the global in Tian Zi Fang,” seeing globalization around Xin Tian Di became more of a game for us students as the effects of international exchange has become much more apparent after our first immersion experience. After practicing our Chinese and asking for directions (numerous times), we wound up in the popular bar and restaurant area, but quickly discovered that it was not only teeming with foreigners, but also definitely outside of our generous, but student, nonetheless, budget.

On the subway

Taking the advice of a couple of nice police officers, we took a couple side streets and placed our bets on a somewhat sketchy looking restaurant. It turned out to be both delicious and cheap, and we ate to our hearts content.

Delicious and cheap food

Afterward, we grabbed some drinks at Xin Tian Di as a reward for staying within budget and continuing with our diet of Chinese cuisine instead of opting out for burgers. The nightlife was beautiful and the weather, balmy, but jetlag was kicking in once again and we decided to call it a night. Our subway ride back was sleepy, and we ended up getting off on the wrong stop. This allowed us to explore a little, and get accustomed to the area by way of getting lost. Eventually making it back to Fudan University, some of the more energized guys in our group peeled off to start a 3-on-3 basketball game with the local students (the Americans were rather dominant), and the rest of us returned to our dorms for a night of reading and sleep. Thus concluded a successful night of exploring Shanghai and interacting with the locals.

May 22: Nanjing Lu and The Bund           

After our second day of class, our group decided to grab dinner at the famous shopping strip Nanjing Lu. Splitting up, we grabbed dinner on our own and enjoyed both local cuisines or comfort foods for home. Nanjing Lu is a popular place for tourists and locals alike and our group certainly enjoyed the night lights and shopping the area had to offer. We also went to the Bund (外滩), an area on the Huangpu River that was once part of the International Settlement. We had an amazing view of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. All around us lights and buildings flashed brilliantly in the night.

Eating local cuisine

Night out at Nanjing Lu and the Bund

On the subway at night