Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday in Beijing (The Last Day)

Monday, our last full day in Beijing, has been designated the shopping day  for the students.  Those that want to go shopping will be able to finish purchasing the souvenirs.  The students are heading back down to Dashilan and Qingmen for shopping, which is south of Tiananmen Square.  The subway from the hotel (which is a two minute walk from the hotel) goes to Qingmen with only one train change needed.  The students had a successful shopping trip, returning with gifts for various people back home.

clip_image001Entrance to Dashilan.

clip_image002Sunday shoppers on Dashilan

clip_image003Sanitation equipment on Dashilan.

clip_image004Street food vendor.

clip_image005Father and daughter on Qingmen St.

Some of the students have also been joining me for tai chi in the morning.   I also to took the opportunity to call upon my tai chi teacher’s teacher in Beijing, Liu laoshi.  I had to opportunity to meet with him twice during my stay in Beijing for afternoon tai chi lessons.  At his apartment in northwest Beijing, I also met with another student of his, Jeff,  who had just arrived from Seattle where he teaches Chinese at the University of Washington.  It was an honor to have a tai chi lesson from the master in Beijing.  It was  very gracious of Liu laoshi and his wife, Jiang laoshi, to open their home to me.

clip_image006Beth Arthur and Michael Garver practicing tai chi in the morning.

clip_image007 Push Hands with Liu laoshi at his apartment.

clip_image008Jeff, Liu laoshi, and myself.

After one last tour in the morning, we leave for the airport and home.

Sunday in Beijing

The students travelled today to visit the Summer Palace, which was built by the Empress Dowager, the only ruling Empress of China.  The Summer Palace includes many buildings, a Buddhist temple, a man-made lake, and a marble boat. 

I visited a park I had not seen before since I had already been to the Summer Palace.  North of the Forbidden City, it was called Ditan Park and contained the Temple of Earth.  While not as developed or popular as the Temple of Heaven, it was a very pleasant park (relatively uncrowded) and contained various signs and displays regarding good health.

clip_image001Shrine within Ditan Park.

clip_image002Central platform of the Temple of Earth.

clip_image003Sign in Ditan Park.

We ate again at our favorite restaurant near the hotel where the students are staying.  The students  are doing well with the food, with two of the students taking a particular liking to dumplings.  While we have been trying different foods at the restaurants, they are developing some favorites that they like to have each time we go to the restaurant.  See below for some of the dishes we order at this dinner.

clip_image004Students dining at our favorite restaurant in Beijing.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Nearing the completion of our visit to China

As we near the completion of our visit to China, the students are seeing a few last sights in Beijing.  On Friday, the students visited the Beijing Zoo.  Although there were thunderstorms, they enjoyed  seeing all the animals.    On Saturday, the students visited the Beijing City Museum, where they learned about the history of Beijing.  After some shopping, they visited the Olympic Village in the evening.  A number of students from China University of Chemical Technology have been serving as  tour guides  for the students.  The students have been in good hands and are learning about Chinese society and student life through this interaction with their counterparts.

clip_image001Sunset over the Beijing Skyline and the Olympic Media Building.

clip_image002Qingmen Shopping Street.

clip_image003Church on Wangfujing Street.

clip_image004Wangfujing Shopping Street.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday in Beijing

Thursday brought the students to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  To get from the hotel to Tiananmen Square, we rode the Beijing subway for the first time.  As it was the tail end of rush hour, the term “packed in like sardines” definitely comes to mind.

After looking briefly around Tiananmen Square, I parted company with the students while they went on to explore Tiananmen Square, have lunch, and visit the Forbidden City.  That schedule should keep them busy for most of the day.

clip_image001In front of the Forbidden City.

For more on the students’ travels, please see

I looked around the south side of the Tiananmen Square, an area that I had not ventured to on previous trips to China.    Behind there I found another gate to the city called Zhengyangmen.  It is the largest of the city gates, located at the southern end of the inner city of Beijing.

Beyond the gate from Tiananmen Square, I found the shopping area called Qingmen and the famous side shopping street called Dashilan.  This whole area has recently been renovated, and I believe looks quite a bit different from what it used to several years ago.  However, I was able to find a number of items that people have asked me to bring back from China.

Wednesday in Beijing

Today the students and I went our separate ways for the day.  While they were travelling to the Great Wall of China, Dr Liu and I visited with the China University of Mining and Technology (CUMT), which has a Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department.  It was nice to have a discussion with our counterparts in a “small” Chinese university (only about 20000 students). 

Beth Arthur, the graduate student along and helping with the class, has posted pictures of their adventures on the Great Wall at Badaling.  Please refer to her blog at

After my visit at CUMT and some shopping, I walked over to the site of the 2008 Olympics.  It was impressive to walk up to the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube.  Unfortunately, the only events that seem to be going on there are tourists  coming to see the venue; there does not seem to be a lot of other events going on.  However, there does seem to be a lot of people visiting the site. 

The students and I met up for dinner after their return from the Great Wall.  The general consensus was that it was a good trip.  We had an excellent meal at a nearby restaurant.  Amazing, it is possible to feed 10 hungry students for less than $30 in China.

clip_image001The Bird’s Nest.

clip_image002 Statue on the Olympic Plaza.

clip_image003The Water Cube.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Travel to Bejing

Today, we travelled to the final city on our itinerary:  Beijing.  While our transfer from Chengdu to Xi’an took 16 hours by train, the plane trip from Xi’an to Beijing took less than 2 hours.  While the students enjoyed the train experience, I’m sure they also liked the convenience and speed of plane travel.

After arriving in Beijing in the morning, we visited with representatives of the Beijing University of Chemical Technology (BUCT), which is where we are staying.  I had the opportunity to interview several Chinese students from BUCT that may be going to SUNY-ESF to complete their senior year of studies through a dual-degree program that we have with BUCT.  Many of these students will also help our students with their touring in Beijing.

Over the next week in Beijing, the students will be visiting a number of different sites throughout the area including, the Great Wall, the  Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Olympic Village, the Beijing Zoo, and the Yong He Temple.  While the students are  visiting these sites, I will be visiting a number of other universities in the area with Dr Liu, who has made many of the arrangements for this  trip.  Hence, our students, with the help of students from BUCT, will be seeing the sights while I make these and other visits.  Beth Arthur, one of our graduate students on the trip, is also blogging at  Please also look at her site to keep up with the students.

clip_image001Beijing skyline with Olympic Media Building in the background.

clip_image002Beth Arthur presenting to students and faculty at Shaanxi University.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Touring in Xi’an

Today we learned more about the history of China by visiting the Shaanxi History Museum which contains many items collected from the area of historical note.  Xi’an is the China end of the Silk Road and so had a great deal of interaction with the West. 

clip_image001Pot with dragon handles in the Shaanxi museum.

clip_image002Bells in the Shaanxi museum.

We also visited a local park in Xi’an which has the Wild Goose Pagoda as its centerpiece. The pagoda is park of a Buddhist monastery.  The park surrounding the monastery also had many statues and also included the largest water fountain in Asia.  Three times a day, there is a fountain show that is coordinated with music.  During the show many people (including several  of  our students) run through the fountain. 

clip_image003Wild Goose Pagoda.

clip_image004 Statue near the Wild Goose Pagoda.

clip_image005 Sign in the park.

clip_image006Fountain show.

The final stop was the Muslim street near the Drum Tower in Xi’an.  This street is known for its plethora of restaurants and shops.

clip_image007Shopping street near the Drum Tower in Xi’an.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi’an

Today we visited the famous Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an.  These figures were buried to serve the first emperor of China in the afterlife.   To assure that he had an army in the afterlife, he had lifesize clay figures of his army created and buried.  Unfortunately, they were discovered and partially destroyed before being found again by a farmer digging a well.  The farmer that found them was also there.

The location is still under excavation with the archeological work being done at night while the museum and the pits are open to the public during the day.  So in China, archeology is a night job. 

clip_image001Farmer (sitting at the table) who discovered the Terra Cotta Warriors.

clip_image002Terra Cotta Warrior Puppet from the Olympics.

clip_image003Four horses in the pit.

clip_image004Original State before restoration.

clip_image005 Restored Terra Cotta Warriors.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bamboo Park in Chengdu/To Xi’an by Train

In the afternoon, Dr Liu and I had the opportunity to walk around Bamboo Park in Chengdu, which is right next to Sichuan University.  The park lives up to its name, growing many different kinds of bamboo.  In addition to growing bamboo, the park contains a significant number of pieces of artwork created out of bamboo, some of them quite large. 

clip_image001Bamboo art.

The park also contained a number of museums to an ancient poet, to paper making, and even exhibited artwork from a local school.  The park was also popular for tea and to enjoy a game of mahjongg.

clip_image002Mahjongg players.

clip_image003Stone bridge.

In the evening, we headed to the train station for the 16 hour train ride from Chengdu to Xi’an through the mountains.  As it was an overnight train trip, we booked into the “hard sleeper” car, which lets you lay down to sleep for the nighttime portion of the trip.

clip_image004Inside the sleeper car.

After boarding at 9:00 pm, it was lights out at 10:00pm until 7 am the next morning.  With the morning light, we were well into the mountains, climbing to a peak of about 4600 feet in elevation before dropping to 1400 ft in Xi’an.  The views through the mountains were incredible.

clip_image005Following the river through the mountains.

clip_image006Mountain road.

On the train, there were six people to a “compartment” with two fold down seats in the aisle next to the windows.  Each traincar slept 66 people and the train was full.

clip_image007On the train.

After arriving in Xi’an and getting to the hotel, we had an early dinner at the hotel.  Tomorrow, we will be heading to see the famous Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi’an.

clip_image008Dining at the hotel.

clip_image009Salmon for dinner.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pandas and Ancient History

Panda 1 Today (Wednesday), the students and I visited the Chengdu Research base of Giant Panda Breeding.   This is one of the primary sites in the world dedicated to breeding and maintaining the population of giant pandas, of which there are only about 1000 left living in the wild.   Walking around the research center, we saw at least a dozen giant pandas and about a half dozen of the smaller red pandas.   The giant pandas diet consists of primarily bamboo, requiring approximately 40 kg of bamboo a day.   Because of this large amount of food required, pandas spend a large amount of time eating and resting.   Several of the students paid additionally in order to pet a panda and to have their picture taken with one of them.   

After lunch, we visited the Sanxingdui Historic Site.   This is an archeological site of civilization that existed in this area about 4000 years ago but has since disappeared.   They left behind a large number of artifacts including various jade pieces, pottery, and bronze statues and masks.  The most interesting were the masks, which bear a striking resemblance to faces depicted in the ancient Incan culture.   

Tomorrow, after visiting at Sichuan University, we will board a night train for Xi’an.  

Panda 2 Panda Group 5 Panda 4 Panda 3