With Diary entries provided by Pastor Lucy Brady …
On Monday, December 30, 2013, our youth and adult delegation took off for China:
Happy New Year from China!
We left Westminster at 6:30 am on December 30th and arrived in Shanghai at 3:30 pm on the 31st. After a ride on the Maglev, a magnetic levitation train that traveled 180 miles per hour we traveled two hours to Suzhou, the 10th largest city in the world over 2500 years old. After a traditional Chinese meal of rice cooked in bamboo, meat cooked in lotus leaves and a variety of noodle soups, we checked into our hotel at 10 pm. At midnight Suzhou celebrated the arrival of 2014 with fireworks.
We spent the morning in the beautiful Suzhou Gardens, toured a silk factory and took a boat ride on the canal. After another great meal, we went to Suzhou University for an evening of cultural exchange. We were warmly welcomed by faculty and students who had provided fruit and treats for us. We enjoyed martial arts demonstrations and learned the art of paper cutting. Peter and Qin explained the McDaniel January term in English and Chinese, Luoluo sang and played the ukelele, Karleigh played a clarinet solo and I told a story. It was a great evening if sharing and laughter!
We left the Most Honorable Administrator’s Gardens and the home of silk behind in Suzhou and traveled three hours south to Nanjing. Nanjing is another huge city of 7 million people it was the Capital of six dynasty’s from the fourth to the six centuries. We are enjoying mild weather which was perfect for touring the Imperial Ming tombs. We walked on ancient stone paths through the grounds and were amazed by the Divine Pathway flanked by stone sculptures of both real and mystical animals (including a unicorn!) portraying the emperor’s power and authority.
From there we went into the city to the Nanjing Wall. Traffic here makes the DC Capital beltway look like a drive in the country. Cars, bikes and pedestrians weave in and out a of lanes as if they are the only ones on the street. It is quite amazing and sometimes terrifying for us, but to local people, it is just the way it is here.
After climbing up to the top of the wall we had another delicious traditional meal followed by shopping in an open arcade by the River. We were glad to get to our hotel for an early sleep.
We were on the road again today traveling to Dr. Qin Fang’s home town, Wuhu, the seventh largest city in the Annhui Province. We were glad to arrive at our hotel where we will stay for the next five days.
We checked in and boarded another bus to the Wuhu Number 12 Middle School, actually a high school of 3000 students and 200 faculty. It is one of the best in the country. There we received a warm welcome from faculty and college student volunteers, McDaniel students led an English class for 50 students who were thrilled and eagerly entered into the interactive lesson. Chinese children begin to learn English in the third grade and love the opportunity to practice the language.
We finished the afternoon with a cultural exchange in an arts class. It was a joy to see the young people sharing songs, music, and games with one another. Our evening ended with ANOTHER amazing meal and shopping in downtown Wuhu.
We are no longer jet lagged and I am becoming accustomed to public smoking, many flights of stairs instead of elevators and ramps, and l have almost adjusted to a different way to use public bathrooms, which our guide refers to as “The Happy Place.”
We began our day at the Anhui Normal University, another large University in the center of Wuhu Peter and Qin are alums of the school and even though it was a Saturday and a holiday for teachers they were delighted to come because of their high regard for Dr. Fang. After a welcome and presentation about the University we took a course in traditional Chinese Ink painting. We learned to paint bamboo and Pandas with this technique.
After lunch we traveled to the Wuhu Arts Center which was filled with people of all ages. Everywhere we go people are curious to see us. They take our pictures and often parents have their children speak to us in English. We took a drama workshop at the Arts Center led by the actors who are committed to preserving Anhui traditional drama using opera style. We were then dressed in costumes portrayed in the historic story of Mulan. We had a great time being fitted to the costumes and learning the appropriate movements associated with our characters. Professional photographers took our pictures in different poses. I think you will see how much fun we had from the pictures.
We have been welcomed like royalty at every stop. People here are thrilled that we want to,learn about and appreciate their culture. It continues to be a great honor to be welcomed with such extravagance.
“How happy we are to meet friends from afar.” -Confucius
Since there was no church close to our hotel, Eddie and I had Morning Prayer in our room. We prayed for you and gave thanks for this incredible opportunity.
Mornings are cold in China and generally buildings are not heated, so by now we are accustomed to wearing coats and hats and gloves when we start out. Today we left at 8:30 a.m. To see a demonstration of the Dragon Dance and Lion Dance. The performers are a local group of about thirty women all over sixty, including Qin’s mother who arranged for the performance. The dragon dance is beautiful and a great work out! After the women performed, we danced and Thankfully the women were generous and helpful teachers. I CANNOT BELIEVE I GOT TO BE IN A DRAGON! After the dance, a group of drummers, also all over sixty, tied a drum on me and taught me to drum the accompanying beat. Next they performed the Lion Dance followed by Karleigh and Luoluo dancing in the heads of the lions.
After the dancing, we joined a crowd of people at the English Corner of the square who gather every Sunday at 10:00 to practice speaking English and today they were excited to meet with a group from America. People of all ages and walks of life gather and not only practice English but also create community. We had deep discussions about everything from education to culture to aging.
We ate lunch at a Muslim Chinese restaurant in an area of the city where common people live and spent the afternoon learning about the art of iron painting. Because off Qin’s connections, we were allowed into a museum of iron painting that is no longer open. An artist demonstrated how to pound hot iron to make the paintings and several of us were able to try our hand at it. Then we went to another workshop and learned about a new form of iron painting. I was thrilled to purchase two iron paintings!
My words seem inadequate to capture such a day, so I hope the pictures will help.
Today we had a day off from studies. We arrived at Fantawild Adventure Park known as the “Chinese Disney World” at 9:30. It was another cold and windy day and none of the buildings were heated, but we were prepared and surprised to see the park open on a January Monday. College students we met earlier in the week joined us for the day and everyone had a great time. There were movies, plays, and rides just like in the States. We ended the day with a water ride which we probably should have left when they made us put on rain ponchos and boots because we got COMPLETELY drenched!
After getting into dry clothes and dinner we walked to the Happy Party for an evening of Karaoke with college students who have become our friends. We were assigned a private room for our group and everyone took turns choosing songs in English and Chinese.
Tomorrow we are back to work preparing for an evening performance at the Cultural Arts Center.
We were grateful to have a slower morning at our hotel to take care of personal matters like laundry, currency and phone cards. We also practiced our song, “I’ll Make a Man out if You” from Mulan for our our performance at the Cultural Center this evening. Since there are speakers in our bathrooms, we connected outer music there for the rehearsal.
After lunch we took our bus to the Cultural Center for a class on the Chinese zither, a stringed instrument which uses the pentatonic scale and was developed in 5 BCE. Our teacher played some Chinese folk songs demonstrating the beauty of the Zither. In the next hour, she taught us how to play “Auld Lang Syne” as a group. Again the Cultural Center was full of people playing cards, doing dance aerobics, playing instruments and taking classes. Several people engaged me in discussions and one little girl handed out nut treats to our group after talking with us.
After yet another scrumptious meal which included snails, goose, and duck as well as dumplings, rice, and meat buns we headed back to the Cultural Center for a wonderful evening of entertainment. We shared stories poems songs and Martial Arts and Chinese youth shared singing, dancing, Kung Fu, and street dancing. We were impressed with the performance of the zither by our teacher from the afternoon. Also a young man played a small horn called a suona. When he performed “A Hundred Birds Salute the Phoenix” it sounded as if there were a hundred birds in the room!
Tomorrow we leave Wuhu and head for the Yellow Mountain.
Today was cold and rainy for our three hour bus trip to Taiping at the northern foot of Huangshan Mountain. Taiping means “peace” and is famous for growing the three best teas in China which I hope to purchase tomorrow. Since it was too rainy and foggy to take pictures today, I am sending some I took earlier.
The first group are some of the stairs I had to use several times a day to get to meals at our hotel. As I mentioned earlier, there are stairs everywhere and although it has been challenging, with Eddie’s help it has not been impossible.
The other group of pictures is of food. Eating together and trying a variety of food has been an important part of our trip. Every meal is a work of art -the table, the place settings, the serving dishes, and the food are just lovely.
I hope to have pictures from the top of the mountain tomorrow. There are lots of steps a cable car, and more steps both up and down, so I plan to be carried up to the cable car which will take us to the other side of the mountain to our hotel. Pray for me!
First let me thank several of you who sent me your prayers and blessings. They truly got me through the mountain challenge today! We left our hotel at 8:30 and headed up to Yellow Mountain. It was foggy and snowy but we received word from the top of the mountain that the sun was shining there. Because there was ice, we purchased metal spikes that fit over our shoes so we would not slip.
We rode a cable car up,up, up, up and got out to begin our hike. Eddie and I hiked about an hour and a half to the hotel where we had lunch. There were amazing scenic views and LOTS of steps, many without hand rails. The others hiked almost three hours to the top and back down to the hotel. After lunch together we had to hike about an hour to the cable car which took us to our bus. The guide urged me to hire a sedan chair and be carried by two men who make their living this way. It was hard to accept, but I am so glad I did, because I would still be there. These men were astonishing- they carried me up and down hundreds of steps. I hope you get a feel for the beauty of this Mountain from the pictures I sent.
Today began at 8:30 a.m. We visited an ink stick factory where we were invited to “Drink some ink” which means “Learn something.” Hand crafted I nk sticks are a convenient alternative to liquid ink. The traditional way of making Ink sticks begins with a mixture of pine tree soot, tang oil soot, animal bone glue, and camphor musk. It is mixed until it is the right consistency and then it is pressed into a mold with a special carving for about one hour. There is only one woman who carves the molds and she has done it for over twenty years.
Trays of dried ink sticks are put in the drying room to dry for months or even a year. When they are ready they are polished and then go to the decorating room for gold embellishments. The decorating is done by hand and only by women. There was an attempt in Taiwan to automate this process but it did not work, so this process is all done by hand.
In addition to ink sticks, ink stones made from mountain slate are produced at the
factory. Each stone has a beautiful carving, a small depression for the ink, and is highly polished. The artist grinds their ink stick in the depression adds water and they have ink for painting! They have been unable to automate this process. We spent the rest of the morning shopping in Old Street in Tung Xi.
We drove 40 minutes to Ming Village—Chengkan to enjoy the typical Hui architecture and an authentic rural mountain village, We saw an ancestral hall built in 1539 where people worshiped ancestors, held court to punish a member if the clan who disobeyed the family rules, and meetings were held. We also saw residential houses where 80 % of the residents are descendants of the original clan. The people here raise animals, grow vegetables, make furniture and grow tea. There is renovation going on now since there was a flood last year.
We then made a three hour bus ride to Hangzhou where we had dinner and enjoyed the show “Impression over West Lake.” We arrived at our hotel around 9:30 p.m. for the night. Tomorrow we will see the West Lake and head for Shanghai for our last three days.
We set out in the rain at 9:00 a.m. to visit the Linying Buddhist Temple. Imagine our surprise to see hundreds of other visitors despite the cold and rain. The Linying Temple is 1600 years old built by a monk from India. He chose a most beautiful and peaceful area to build and now there are several temples with over 380 statues of the Buddha in many different representations. People were buying incense to burn and offering prayers in the temples.
After lunch we went to West Lake to see the Leifing Pagoda. It is seven stories high and contained carvings of a famous story about an immortal being who fell in love with a mortal and a treacherous monk who killed and buried her under the Pagoda. The view from the is spectacular especially on a clear day. From the Pagoda we took a boat across the lake imagining what it must be like when the lotus is in bloom.
We traveled three and a half hours to Shanghai and were happy to reach our hotel in the Nanjing district which is similar to Fifth Avenue in New York City. It will be nice yo stay in the same hotel for our last few days!
We are in Shanghai, a city of 25 million people. Our day began with a visit to the 88th floor of the Jin Mao Tower. After an exciting elevator ride to the observation deck, we had a full view of Shanghai. You will notice the pollution in many of the pictures which made it hard to see clearly.
Peter accompanied Eddie and I to an 11:30 service at Trinity Church which worships in the chapel of the Abundant Grace International Fellowship. Rev. Elyn MacInnis, an Episcopal priest leads this congregation with her husband, Rev. Peter MacInnis and Rev. Timothy Merrill both UCC pastors, so Eddie and I fit right in!
We caught up with our group in time to visit Yuyuan Garden a beautiful traditional garden surrounded by a huge shopping district where vendors are passionate about selling their wares. Eddie was thrilled to get coffee at Starbucks in the shopping district. We have occasionally had coffee in China, but tea is always served.
After our shopping time we went to an area by the Huangpu River called the Bund and as we walked, we could see examples of older architecture on one side and newer buildings on the other. Our bus then took us to a port where we boarded a yacht for dinner and an evening cruise. We arrived back at our hotel by 8:00 pm and all the young people and Eddie immediately went out together for some evening shopping and I am pretty sure, pizza- something else we have not had in China.
Our last full day in China began at the Shanghai Museum, one of the most famous museums in this area. There were four floors of exhibits, so Eddie and I worked our way down from the top beginning with minority hand crafts. In China 95% of the people are Han and the other 5% represent 55 minority groups. On the other floors we saw beautiful furniture, ink paintings and calligraphy, bronze sculpture, and ceramics. There were hundreds of school children at the museum many of who wanted their pictures taken with us.
After the museum we went to Xin tiandi, an area of old buildings which have been renovated to make it an upscale area full of shops, clubs, spas and restaurants. It cost seventy five million dollars to move the twenty thousand people into new homes. Most of the residents had lived there, their whole lives.
We ended the day shopping on the Nanjing Road which is near our hotel. It is a shopping area where only pedestrians can walk- no vehicles. Nanjing Road looks like Times Square in New York City with lots and lots of lights.
We enjoyed our last dinner at our hotel and are preparing for our departure tomorrow.
We have loved every moment of this trip. Qin Fang and Peter Chen have made it spectacular, but today we are coming home. PRAISEALLUIAH!l
Pastor for Children and Youth Ministry
St. Paul’s United Church of Christ
17 Bond Street
Westminster, MD. 21157