June 27, 2013
By Erica Christianson and Joshua Neill
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.
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.
In class today we all picked partners for the assignment linked with our afternoon excursion.
After eating lunch in the area around Fudan, we all met in the lobby to get on the bus to head down to the Pearl Oriental Television Tower. We went up to the top – 273m above the ground, and got to see Shanghai from a bird’s-eye view. Such a breathtaking view may not exist anywhere else in the world. The Pearl Tower sits in China’s Pudong district – a Manhattan-esque financial district constructed in the 1990s. From the tower one can see spectacular views of some of modern architecture’s greatest beauties, such as the Jin Mao tower in Pudong.
One can walk around the orbital viewing deck of the Pearl Tower and also see the hub of port Shanghai and its 19th century European architecture across the Huangpu River. Once we had enough photos, we headed to the museum, the subject of our next assignment.
The museum covered the history of Shanghai up until 1949, and we were all on the hunt to find evidence of globalization. One of the things we most cherished learning from Professor Sheehan was how to rigorously analyze museums. The Pearl Tower is a major attraction for foreign tourists and the Shanghai History Museum presents an opportunity to convey a specific narrative of Chinese history to foreigners. It was fascinating to note that the museum completely left out the history of the Communist Party in Shanghai as well as the history of the Japanese occupation. Instead, the museum conveyed a capitalist, consumerist and wealthy Shanghai.
Joshua took the opportunity to ask street vendors outside the restaurant about famous name brand watches and found an impressive collection of Rolex and Breitling. On the bus ride back, Tyler was educating everyone about country music, and Professor Sheehan was only slightly interested. It’s a tough genre to sell. We had the option to stay out in the city, but we all have homework, and spend the rest of the night up late working in pairs writing our papers. It was definitely a long night.
The first hour of class was presentations, and of course everyone did a great job.
Once class was out we were free for the whole weekend, for this is the only weekend we have nothing planned and we all decided to stay in Shanghai and get to see the city more. Shanghai has many many things to do: I went to People’s Park and the Shanghai Museum, but I would recommend that future EASC students take a train to one of the other beautiful cities near Shanghai. Suzhou has beautiful gardens and Hangzhou has natural beauty. People’s Park was a fascinating part of the day as it provides a bit of culture shock. One sees hundreds upon hundreds of parents who have traveled far and wide in order to advertise their children for marriage. I dare not even comment on the cultural and socio-economic implications of this practice, but seeing it is surreal.
As the first day on the free weekend we all did our own thing, and in the morning I went on an adventure out to Pudong to go play some ultimate Frisbee. It was fun to play with the Shanghai Ultimate team, even though today was the hottest day thus far. Not only did I learn how to navigate the subway much better, I also learned that I can get sunburned- even in this polluted cloud cover. Even though I can’t see the sun, it can see me, obviously. Once I get home we go out to Anfu, and this time we are armed with a map, and an address of a restaurant. This is going to work.
I meet up with Charlene to go over the project due on Monday, and we work until a little after midnight. Although when it turns midnight it means it is Sunday, and that means it is Charlene’s birthday. Happy birthday!