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

June 30, 2014

Studying in Shanghai

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

By Coleman Monroe and Christmas Myers

IMG_0957

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.

IMG_1020

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

IMG_1039

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

IMG_1049

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.

(more…)

June 27, 2014

Fun in the Gansu Province–Oh My!

Filed under: Dunhuang,Gansu,Lanzhou,Travel — Tags: , , , , — geachina @ 9:20 pm

By Amanda Heston & Aissa Castillo

Exploring Lanzhou (Aissa Castillo)

After flying into Lanzhou, the group was understandably tired but determined to enjoy the mysterious wonders Lanzhou might have in store for us. Some were excited by the prospect that at last in the western area of China we might encounter the seedy margins. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the margins brought to you by a tour guide are never as seedy as you might imagine.

 

In front of Yellow River; Lanzhou, June 8

In front of Yellow River; Lanzhou, June 8

The group was able to enjoy an early outing exploring the area around the Yellow River. In this picture we are posed in front of the river, about to explore the area’s many Buddhist temples as well as the famed bird’s eye view of the city.

 

Waterfall on the way to the Buddhist Temple in Lanzhou, June 8

Waterfall on the way to the Buddhist Temple in Lanzhou, June 8

While climbing the many steps leading to the bird’s eye view of Lanzhou, the group was treated to a constructed water wall that actually offered passersby the opportunity to run behind to feel the spray of water. Most of the members of the group took advantage of this given the heat that surrounded us. (Some of us, including Professor Sheehan, resisted the impulse to run and simply walked across.)

 

Panoramic View of Lanzhou from the White Hills Pagoda, June 8

Panoramic View of Lanzhou from the White Hills Pagoda, June 8

After a 20 minute or so hike consisting mainly of stairs, the group was able to reach the top. We were treated to a panoramic view of Lanzhou and the Yellow River that made the steep hike more than worth the wait.

 

Mother River Statue in Lanzhou, June 8

Mother River Statue in Lanzhou, June 8

After returning from the bird’s eye view, the group was then taken to see the statue of the Mother River. This is a depiction of the river that was created in the 1980’s and many tourists come to take pictures with it and to absorb its cultural symbolism.

 

 Taking the scenery of the Yellow River in Lanzhou over cups of traditional tea, June 8

Taking the scenery of the Yellow River in Lanzhou over cups of traditional tea, June 8

Still feeling the effects of our early flight departure and the multitude of steps that led to the bird’s eye view, many of us opted to take in the scenery of the river and enjoy a local shop’s offering of “Muslim Tea.” This was a delightfully refreshing concoction of longan, dried dates, tea, and rock sugar. For many of us this was a lull in a busy schedule that would see us all boarding a 14 hour sleeper train to Dunhuang before the night was over!

 

Survivors of the overnight train from Lanzhou to Dunhuang, June 9

Survivors of the overnight train from Lanzhou to Dunhuang, June 9

You might not think it by looking at the photo but this is the group directly off our sleeper train to Dunhuang, a sandy city in the Gobi Desert. I think it’s fair to say that sharing enclosed bunks, a few sinks, and one very suspicious squat toilet made us all a little closer together.

(more…)

June 26, 2014

Beijing-Xi’an Cultural Excursions

By Chip Becker and Sean O’Leary

Beijing

Beijing 1High-speed rail (高铁) from Shanghai to Beijing – June 5, 2014

Today we caught the 7:30AM high-speed rail bound for China’s glorious capital, Beijing. The train’s top speed is capped at around 300 km/h, which is roughly 186 m/h. Needless to say, we zipped through China’s countryside at a mesmerizing pace. It only took five and a half hours! Ultimately, we all seemed to have found a good balance between sleep and sightseeing in preparation for all the wild adventures to come in Beijing and Xi’an.

Beijing 2 Beijing – Tiananmen Sq. (天安门) and the Forbidden City (故宫) – June 5, 2014

After lunch, we promptly made our way to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City smack dab in the heart of Beijing. It was hot out but that didn’t stop us from seeing what we came here to see. Indeed, the history of this location is rich and formidable. However, to some extent, it felt as if we helped make some more of its history just by being there today. Fight On!

Beijing 3 Beijing – Kung Fu show at 北京什刹海剧场 – June 5, 2014

Earlier this evening, we took a side-trip down to Beijing’s Bei Hai area to enjoy a rather interesting and energetic Kung Fu show. Giant, acrobatic pandas seemed to be a common theme throughout the performance and they managed to pull a few Michael Jackson moves near the end, which was truly icing on the cake. You don’t see a show like this every day!

Beijing 4 Beijing – A trip to the Great Wall of China – June 6, 2014

You simply cannot come to Beijing without making a trip out to see the mighty Great Wall. As we climbed, the rain began to fall. But much like with the heat yesterday, the downpour did little to stop us from reaching our goal! We endured the weather, bonded with some of the locals along the way, and eventually reached the top. What a spectacular and rewarding view! All in all, it was an experience Global East Asia of 2014 will not soon forget.

(more…)

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)

(more…)

June 23, 2014

Our First Trip: Huangshan and Hangzhou Adventures!

Filed under: Beijing,Class,Hangzhou,Travel — Tags: — geachina @ 11:58 pm

By Aleen Mankerian and Eri Aguilar

Day 1 (Aleen)

After a weekend spent settling into Fudan University and exploring the surrounding area, on Tuesday afternoon, we hopped on a bus for a 6-hour drive for our first trip to the city of Huangshan. It was a long and tiring commute but we were excited and had no idea what to expect upon our arrival. An interesting aspect about the ride was that we had the chance to see a drastic difference between urban Shanghai and the villages and small towns right outside of the city. We finally arrived in the main city of Huangshan, and it definitely wasn’t hard to miss because neon lights flooded the downtown area. They must not worry about their electricity bill! After stopping in the city for a delicious traditional Chinese meal, we drove another half hour to one of the most luxurious hotels we’ve ever seen. Our first night in Huangshan was spent at the Howard Johnson Macrolink Plaza, or what we liked to call “The Bellagio” because of its resemblance to a Las Vegas resort. Perhaps the strangest part about the hotel was the fact that it was completely empty. It was quiet and a bit creepy but we still had fun running through the huge halls and bonding with one another during our stay. We finished off the night in our comfortable, spacious hotel rooms with exciting adventures to look forward to the next day.

10348914_10204205180032449_7389726948506128167_o

The GEA China 2014 group as we entered the Howard Johnson Macrolink Plaza in Huangshan, Anhui (May 27, 2014, Aleen Mankerian)

Day 2 (Eri)

Fightin on at HJ (1)

In front of the Howard Johnson Macrolink Plaza at Huangshan, Anhui (May 28, 2014, Eri Aguilar)

The trek to the top of Huangshan Mountain, the fifth wonder of the world, began with our departure from this amazing hotel. The lobby was decorated with marble floors, the rooms were opulent, and the service men and women prided themselves in offering us a high degree of hospitality. This being my first time ever traveling abroad, my expectations did not have a standard for comparison. But I was definitely eager to be exposed to novel experiences. I can vividly recall being unable to sleep the night prior, as I imagined the immense beauty of standing on the top of the mountain. Growing up in the city, the only view of nature that I had ever experienced were the hills that are behind the skyscrapers in Los Angeles when driving down the 110 North.

IMG_6762

Working out our calf muscles climbing the steep steps of the Huangshan Mountain (May 28, 2014, Aleen Mankerian)

(more…)

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.

(more…)