Final Day in Kaifeng

By: Ashley Szydel, Phoebe Yin, and Megan Lee

We began our day visiting the Men’s and Women’s Muslim Mosques in Kaifeng. The followers of this religion in the Kaifeng community are referred to as a minority group called Hui Zu. Professor Sheehan expressed his excitement as even the tour guides had trouble finding the hidden locations of the mosques. Though our visit to each mosque was rather quick, we were able to see the areas in which the prayer practices occur and the remaining interior of the mosques. In the men’s mosque we were not permitted to step inside the prayer area, but were able to observe from the outside windows. At the women’s mosque, the rules were a bit more lenient and we were granted permission to remove our shoes and enter the prayer area. The experience was a very interesting one, as we had learned about the Muslim community’s presence in Kaifeng in previous readings during class back in Los Angeles. It was definitely a memory that will be taken with us as we continue on our journey through China.


The Muslim Mosque at Kaifeng

After the marvelous trip to the men and women’s Muslim Mosques which gave us a glimpse of the mysterious Muslim world, we then proceeded further on our religious quest, which led us to Jiuku Temple or Jiuku Miao. Jiuku in Chinese means salvation from bitterness. The temple itself houses iconic local gods in which people would come to worship and ask for help. There’s an interesting intertwining between the representation of folk religion and Confucianism’s filial piety that we discovered inside the temple.


Jiuku Temple, a Daoist temple at Kaifeng

Most of us got our fortune telling stick at the place and allowed a peak into the near possible future. Both the mosques and the temple are located in remote and distant places that tell the story of Kaifeng’s religious tolerance and its once glorious past as the capital of the Song Dynasty. Later during the day, we had our last lunch in Kaifeng. Here are a couple of pictures; hopefully you don’t get too hungry!


A beautifully prepared fish


Colorful and delicious!

To seize every opportunity we have to work on our final projects, three groups split up and went to their own designated places. As for us, we came to the newest, the best and the chic-est mall in Kaifeng for research on our cosmetic topic. With lack of international brands in this second/third tier city in China, we were surprised to find a store called Whilmex Cosmetic that is home to many luxury skincare brands. The store owner was really friendly, welcoming and easygoing like the rest of people we encountered in this lovely city, which made our departure seem even more saddening.


Whilmex Cosmetic Store at Kaifeng

Later in the afternoon, a group of us went to Da Xiang Guo Si (Temple), which according to the hotel’s front desk staff is the most famous temple here in Kaifeng. There, Alice, Ashley, Chris, and John got their fortune’s read by an elderly woman who has been reading people’s fortunes for 27 years. Everyone fortunately received good fortunes and very much enjoyed the experience. Afterwards, close by to the temple we took a walk down a street full of local tent shops offering various stylish clothes, shoes, and many more accessories for purchase. Relatively cheap prices make the shopping fun and entertaining, especially when trying to negotiate prices with vendors. It also serves as a way to see what kind of items are particularly popular among the vendors and buyers, as there are often certain items that are repeated in each stall. Tonight, as we wrap up our final night in Kaifeng we regret that we are leaving after such a quick stay. The past four days have been just as enriching as we’d hoped they would be and have proven to be just as much fun as anywhere else. We head off to Shanghai at eight o’clock tomorrow morning, and should arrive late in the afternoon around six o’clock. Though Shanghai is our last leg of the trip, our adventures in Beijing and Kaifeng will not be easily forgotten! We hope to return one day to this beautiful city south of the Yellow River.

Kaifeng Rocks!

By: Jon Peppin, Psalm Chang, & Michelle Ngan

Wow. This city of 700,000 people is so precious. We love how close to “authentic” it’s been (although “authentic” does not exist) and how it’s not tainted with tourists as much as Beijing was. It’s been a great three days- we visited many temples and theme parks that gave us more of a sense of the culture here, and are thankful for the experience thus far. These places as well as the free time have been especially beneficial to us in terms of our fieldwork, as they are so rich with religious display.

At the Digital Plaza, we were able to use our Chinese skills and talk to two young sales girls. We showed them the “Mo Shou Lin Lin” (fortune telling app), to which they remarked that they never heard of it, but rather, thought that a “Feng Shui” app was more widely used and accurate. Thanks to Professor Sheehan, we were able to get the addresses of two local temples, one Daoist and one Buddhist, that a salesperson recommended for fortune telling. Our spontaneous adventures continued from there!

At the Daoist Temple, we were presented with mixed messages about fortune telling––while the salespeople at the Digital Plaza had told us that there was fortune telling at the temple, once we were there, employees told us that there was no fortune-telling. Eventually, one woman, in a hushed tone barely audible to the foreign ear, admitted that there was a fortune-teller, but alas, that he was a scammer. We tried to go meet the fortune teller, but employees blocked our path to his room and told us that the area was reserved for employees, although from our spot, we could see temple-goers inside the mysterious room. Suspicious much?

Undeterred, we continued on our path to search for fortune-tellers and walked to the Buddhist temple. There, we found several fortune-tellers right outside the temple. Eventually, we found one woman sitting outside the temple. Papa Sheehan volunteered to have his fortune told (we’re grateful, because we definitely would not have been able to completely understand without his translation). He chose to have his wealth fortune told, and according to her, he would have the luckiest future ahead of him.


Papa Sheehan gets his fortune told by a fortune teller outside a local Buddhist temple.

In terms of our research, our escapades to the Daoist temple and fortune-tellers spoke especially to our research topic. As Professor Sheehan described after, many fortune-tellers’ prices are contingent on the fortune that is told––good fortune equals high price, bad fortune equals bad price. This practice reflects the commodification of religious practices, and speaks to the conflation between religious ideas and consumer behavior, as consumers will pay differing prices for different fortunes, as if selecting a product from a shelf of selections.

Onto today’s events! Our day started off with a visit to a “theme park”––not the theme park that we Americans would normally think about, but rather a park with an overarching theme. In this case, the gargantuan park was based entirely off a five-meter painting of Song dynasty Kaifeng. There was so much to see and to do. We saw a lot of animals, for one thing. There was a camel, a goat and a monkey, and horses (whom we could definitely smell). While one group won prize after prize at the carnival games, the others frequented the myriad of shows that the park had to offer––from a fire-spitter spewing forth a tumultuous gulf of fiery chaos (that nearly took off our hair and head) to an animated joust fought between numerous martial arts masters. Our day at the park was a truly exceptional experience that will not be forgotten anytime soon. KAIFENG ROCKS!!!!


A view of the lake at Millennium City Park.


Alice and Psalm trying out a Sheehan-powered ferris wheel.

“Say (Hi)Feng!”

By: Alice Kim and Chris Carpenter

June 4, five days since we arrived to China and our first in Kaifeng. Our morning was defined by travel. At nearly 200 mph our train zoomed inland toward the Henan Province. Upon arriving, our first stop was a rural village where we had the opportunity to explore and experience a China that was more representative of the majority of the population; Dorothy, we’re not in Beijing anymore. Professor Sheehan led the class through back alleys and conversed with locals in the hope that we would be able to enter their property for a closer glimpse at their lives. One such gentlemen was compliant (albeit with his less-than-trusting mother nearby) and we learned that it was harvesting season, and this his crops were wheat and garlic.

Our host in the village outside Kaifeng. He allowed us inside his property to see their way of life.

Our host in the village outside Kaifeng. He allowed us inside his property to see their way of life.

Another highlight from the day was of the Iron Pagoda, built during the Song Dynasty. Several members of the class joined Professor Sheehan in climbing to the top of the pagoda. Many Sheehans were earned this afternoon.


GEA China 2015 in front of the Iron Pagoda. Several us conquered the structure by climbing to the top

GEA China 2015 in front of the Iron Pagoda. Several us conquered the structure by climbing to the top

June 5, six days since we arrived to China and two days we’ve been in Kaifeng. What an amazing place Kaifeng is: nearly devoid of Western tourists, the city is a cross-section of antiquity and advancement. The morning was spent getting a lay of the land. While walking among local schoolchildren heading to class, we explored alleyways and side-streets to paint a better picture of what life is like for larger portion of Chinese. We stopped by a small dumpling shop to buy steamed breakfast dumplings; it was the first of the two occasions that Chris was asked to pose for an advertisement picture for the store’s WeChat profile.

A sample side-street in Kaifeng within one mile of our hotel.

A sample side-street in Kaifeng within one mile of our hotel.

The day contained three stops: a section of the Song Dynasty-era city walls, Guild Hall amusement park, and Wan Sui Mountain Park. The amusement park was of particular interest because it was a re-embedding of a global amusement park template. It was a hodgepodge of cultural icons, texts, and characters being employed for tourists. We saw cheesy kung fu performances, raced go-carts, played archery games for prizes, and explored a variety of installations.

GEA 2015, huddled in the shade, outside the amusement park.

GEA 2015, huddled in the shade, outside the amusement park.

A good portion of the day was spent doing field work inside Kaifeng. Zhong Shan Road became a central fixture for the group examining fast food in a globalized context, and we were able to explore international chains like McDonald’s, national chains like Dicos, and an interesting smattering of local and plagiarized brands. We had the opportunity (and perhaps the luxury) of interviewing manicurists while we had manicures. They told us that trips to restaurants like KFC and McDonald’s are viewed as special occasions, but that they preferred these brands to domestic chains due to the cleanliness, convenience, and taste. This nail salon was the second time Chris was utilized as an advertisement for a WeChat profile. We look forward to the rest of our time in the city.

Chris posing with the manicurists at a nail salon in downtown Kaifeng. Check it out on WeChat.

Chris posing with the manicurists at a nail salon in downtown Kaifeng. Check them out on WeChat.