John in Beijing

John, a junior accounting major at the Cox School, is spending Summer 2009 in Beijing with SMU-in-China, studying third-year CHIN 3311/3312. He is most excited about exploring all of the cultural highlights the city has to offer and is ready to immerse himself in Chinese culture.

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Two weeks in China

SMU%20Group%20Picture.JPG Wow. Two weeks in, and I am absolutely thrilled to be here. In just two weeks, I have already experienced much of Beijing’s culture. First off, let’s talk classes here in China.

Every day, we have class from 9 a.m. to noon, going over one lesson per day. For comparison’s sake, we usually review one lesson a week at SMU! Thus, the workload is reasonably heavier. (In photo left: SMU students in Beijing.)

Since I am in the third-year advanced-level course, most of the concentration is on character recognition and essay composition. Dictation quizzes every day get pretty intense, but the payoff comes when we go out and I can actually recognize street signs and business names.

Conversing with taxi drivers is also pretty interesting. Most of the drivers have a really strong Beijing accent, where the words’ endings are slurred. Nevertheless, somehow we always arrive at the intended destination. So much is lost in translation, but that’s the beauty of living in a different country. You live to learn every day!

Acrobats and opera

Chinese%20Opera%201.JPG Moving on to adventures, every Wednesday evening, we have a cultural experience arranged for us. The first Wednesday here, we watched a Chinese acrobatic show. Similar to what you expect at a Las Vegas show, the Chinese acrobats performed acts through body contortions and various objects: A group of female acrobats performing synchronized bicycle routines. Male acrobats jumping through hula hoops. An umbrella sequence. The entire show was mind-boggling. The amount of training that goes in such a performance must be intense.

Last Wednesday, we attended a traditional Chinese opera at a theater (in photo, right). The painted faces, Chinese-style music, and plotlines all contribute to a vivid look into the cultural history of China. There was drama, tragedy, love, suspense, and comedy, all components of a wonderful story in any language.

Your Chinese word for the day

So I decided to include some Chinese vocabulary into my blog, so the word for this blog is chuan tong, meaning tradition. And on Saturdays, we embark on cultural excursions to the many Beijing destinations and landmarks that highlight this country’s traditions.

Summer%20Palace%202.JPG Last Saturday, we woke up early to begin the trek to the Summer Palace (Yi He Yuan; in photo, left). To be honest, words simply cannot begin to describe its beauty. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the entire area is a testament to the landscaping ingenuity of the Chinese.

A tremendous palace sits facing the large Kunming Lake filled with blooming lotus flowers. Miles and miles of landscaping surround the water, the palace, and the many temples inside. Walking through the outdoor Long Corridor that encompasses the palace, I could grasp a feeling of what it was like to live during the dynastic periods of China.

Summer%20Palace%203.JPG Once inside, we also trekked up to one of the ancient temples, the Temple of Buddhist Virtue. Built on top of a rocky hill facing the lake, the temple offered views of the grand palace in its entirety. Inside, a grand Buddhist statue sits squarely in
the center of the room. Coupled with the mountainous air, the temple offered a sense of serenity away from the rest of the palace, and definitely away from the hustle and bustle of the city life.

After spending four hours at the Summer Palace, we had to depart with about half of the palace still unexplored, which goes to show the grandiose scope of this place. All in all, another memorable cultural experience.

Next weekend, we will embark on a trip to the Ethnic Minority Park, a visual replica near the Olympic stadiums that showcases the many regional cultures and tribal groups from different parts of China.

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