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

June 16, 2015

Last Day in China

Filed under: Class,Culture,Shanghai — Yunwen Gao @ 8:42 pm

By: Yunwen Gao

Now that all the Global East Asia (GEA) scholars are flying over the Pacific Ocean back to LA, when I am organizing the photos I took along the trip I still can’t believe our summer program has come to an end. As Professor Sheehan’s metaphor goes… “coming to China is like going through a worm hole, time is both elongated and shortened.” It feels like our GEA family has been living together for more than a year, and yet we have only been together for a month. I can’t describe how immensely this summer course has reshaped many of our assumptions about Chinese consumerism and globalization, for both the scholars and myself as well. As someone born and brought up in China, this trip to Beijing, Kaifeng, and Shanghai is a process of rediscovering China through a fresh lens.

The final day consisted of the final project delivery and farewell banquet. Despite the last minute rush, as any last day of USC courses would have, our amazing scholars delivered their final projects at a high level of professionalism and insightfulness. The Foodies (Christopher Carpenter and Alice Kim) examined fast food restaurants and food courts in shopping malls in Beijing, Shanghai, and Kaifeng with our course tools, and compared the fast food industries in first tier cities versus a third tier city like Kaifeng.


The Foodies Take on China: Christopher Carpenter (left) and Alice Kim (right) presenting their final project


The Fast Food Restaurants of China’s Malls: A Claim to Global Cosmopolitanism

The Skins (Phoebe Yin, Megan Lee, and Ashley Szydel) focused on the cosmetics industry, in particular, face masks produced internationally and domestically, and formulated their observation of the three prevailing models of marketing strategy, the luxury, mainstream, and niche models supported by extensive research and interviews.


The Face of the Chinese Cosmetics Market: Megan Lee (left), Ashley Szydel (middle), and Phoebe Yin (right) presenting their final project


The Face of the Chinese Cosmetics Market: The Faces of Globalization

The Arhats (Jonathan Peppin, Psalm Chang, and Michelle Ngan) took the issue of the commodification of religion in China and enriched the dialogue of globalization greatly. Their visits to jewelry stores, Buddhist and Daoist temples, restaurants, etc., provided us with a new picture of how religion has been commodified to convey the sense of piety, pragmatism, and playfulness. With the help of Professor Sheehan, all three teams successfully elevated their observations and analysis of Chinese consumerism and globalization to a whole new level.


Commodification of Religion in Contemporary China: Jonathan Peppin (left), Psalm Chang (middle), and Michelle Ngan (right) presenting their final project


Piety, Pragmatism, and Playfulness: The Temple Model of Consumption in Contemporary China and the World

As we were waiting to be checked in at the Pudong airport, some of us started analyzing the advertisements around us. Looking at each other, we realized that walking out of this class, none of us could view advertisements or commercials as we used to do without examining what’s behind them. As the TA of this class, I feel proud of everyone in this program just as Professor Sheehan does and look forward to seeing each of them succeed in the future.


Proud Papa Sheehan!


Farewell Banquet in Shanghai


June 12, 2015

Exploring the Temples in Shanghai

Filed under: Class,Culture,Exploring,Shanghai,Travel — Yunwen Gao @ 5:24 pm

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)!

Filed under: Culture,Exploring,Shanghai,Travel — Yunwen Gao @ 5:20 pm

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.

July 1, 2014

The Last Few Days in Shanghai

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

By Jeff Levine and Ethan Levin

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

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

Chip and Amanda giving their last presentation

Chip and Amanda giving their last presentation

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

A rainy day at the Shanghai Science & Tech Museum

A rainy day at the Shanghai Science & Tech Museum

The entrance to the rainforest exhibit

The entrance to the rainforest exhibit

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

Everyone together at the banquet

Everyone together at the banquet

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

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


June 30, 2014

Studying in Shanghai

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

By Coleman Monroe and Christmas Myers


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

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


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


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


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

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


June 24, 2014

Back From Our First Expedition

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

By Steven Luong and Olivia Chui

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


June 5, 2014

First Days in Shanghai

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

By Diane Um and Scott Hung

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

On the way to Shanghai

On the way to Shanghai

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

Buying cell phones at a local shop

Buying cell phones at a local shop

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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.



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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