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

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 8, 2012

Beijing (北京)

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

By Brian Barkeley and Nate Fulmer

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

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

Exploring the Hutong

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

Posing in front of the statues at the Ming Tombs

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

Jumping for joy at the Great Wall

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

Beijing Olympic Stadium, the Bird’s Nest

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

  Reinvigorated Qing shopping district
Slicing the Peking duck

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

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

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

Within the Forbidden City

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

Gathering at Tian’anmen for the sunrise flag raising

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

In front of the Temple of Heaven

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

June 5, 2012

Trip to Guangzhou & Shenzhen

Filed under: Guangzhou,Shenzhen,Travel — geachina @ 4:36 pm

By Jim Becker & Joseph Bailey

Brian and Cynthia at breakfast

6:45 AM – Thursday, May 31st – Hongqiao Airport, Shanghai
The wake up call rang at 4:15 AM before the sun came up and we filed down the four flights of stairs at the hotel at Fudan still half-asleep. The highways were empty at that hour and we arrived at Hongqiao airport in plenty of time for breakfast. Brian and Cynthia chose sausage and egg sandwiches at a KFC-like restaurant. Brian may have even had seconds. Hongqiao is an incredibly clean and modern airport. Checking bags and passing through security wasn’t a hassle at all. Although we were still a little groggy, we were excited to board the plane for Shenzhen at 7:30. Our two-hour flight on China Eastern Air was only about 2/3 full, so we were able to stretch out and catch a nap. The first thing we all noticed upon stepping off the plane was the humidity. Canton is a sauna!

Rams of Canton

11:00 AM – Thursday, May 31st – Guangzhou
Our first stop was Guangzhou. Here, we visited a local park. Since it was still morning, we observed groups of women exercising. A huge statue of rams stood at the center of the park.  It symbolized the 2,000-year-old legend describing how the city was saved from famine by immortals riding on rams. After lunch, we toured an Opium War museum. This was particularly exciting for our group since one of the major topics we’re studying and discussing is the historical role of opium in China and the consumer culture associated with the drug. Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the museum was how China portrayed opium’s role in its history, seemingly assigning a majority of the blame for its evils and destruction on the British. Our next stop was a cannon battery used in the First Opium War. It was cool to go through the beachhead and get a better sense of what it was like for the Chinese soldiers fighting the British invasion. After exploring for about an hour, we all got back on the bus and, tired from the long day starting at 4 AM, promptly fell asleep. After an early family-style dinner, everyone went back to the hotel and called it an early night.

Students cross the street in Shenzhen headed for the Luohu Market
Interior view of Luohu Market

10:00 AM – Friday, June 1st – Luohu Market, Shenzhen
After taking the coach to Shenzhen and getting a good night’s sleep, we set out to test an old adage through an Asian perspective: is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? The Luohu Market, adjoining the Hong Kong border is a five-story shopping mall boasting only replica goods. Beats by Dre headphones, Coach and Gucci bags, “designer” suits, and of course, Rolex watches were just a sampling of the offers we received as we wandered past hundreds of stores. Haggling was a requirement. Joe successfully got a pair of headphones for 200 yuan that were originally 400. I found a Holland national soccer team jacket and scarf for 275 yuan. The proprietor of the soccer store literally climbed on his shelves, up into the ceiling to retrieve the right size for me. We couldn’t help but laugh in amazement.

The whole group posing outside the Window of the World Theme Park
Fan, Cynthia, Jim, Stephanie and Janet in the Japanese section of Window of the World
After a long day in the sun, the group waits for dinner.

3:00 & 6:00 PM – Friday, June, 1st – Window of the World Theme Park, Shenzhen
One of the coolest parts about Shenzhen was going to the Window of the World theme park. The entrance to the park provided a great photo opportunity and, to an extent, summed up what the park seemed to be all about. The whole park was a massive clash of cultures. It showed major world icons from six continents and placed all of them in the confined space of a theme park. The exterior of the park displayed how odd this concept was, displaying statues from the classical Roman Empire next to Indian depictions of the Buddha next to the Eiffel Tower. Not only were objects from vastly different parts of the world placed next to each other, but these objects were also from vastly different time periods. Everyone in the group seemed to have mixed feelings about the concept, not sure what to make of the whole idea. After dinner, we watched a musical based on six stories from the Ancient Greeks to Soviet Russia. Actors used rollerblades and different wardrobes for each story. A rotating set design and elaborate choreography just added to the grandiose scale of the park.

Karen and Jim hiding in the lanterns.

4:15 PM – Friday, June 1st – Shenzhen
In the Asia section of the theme park, we had the opportunity to take photos in traditional Japanese kimonos. While we declined that offer, we did spend time admiring their lanterns. I think this is definitely a candidate for photo of the trip. There was also fish food for sale and for 5 yuan we could kneel by ponds and feed orange and white fish. I think the park did a decent job of differentiating the diversity of Asian cultures within the Asia section of the park. It’s easy to label something as “Chinese” by virtue of its great geographic and population size. But there are hundreds of Asian identities independent of national borders or historical narratives. While contentious regions like Tibet and Taiwan were not given equal representation, they were also not demonized. Perhaps in theme parks built in the future, as political ties and alliances change, these regions can also be glorified.

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.