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25 November 2007 @ 11:19 am
Oh crap, I have just been getting worse and worse about this blog.

Last week, from Wednesday until Sunday, was another big trip, this time to Luoyang and Xian, both cities that have at one point served as the capital of imperial China, Xian being the capital for 13 dynasties, as well as the first capital, where the emperor Qin Shi Huang first over a united China.

This trip took us around to a lot of neat historical sites, but it was hampered by the fact that the weather for the whole time we were in both cities was cloudy, rainy, cold, and generally icky, and right on the night we left Beijing my health started to turn for the worse. As irony decided to firmly sink its teeth into my ass after all of my amazement at how I did get any serious illnesses since coming to China despite everyone else getting sick at some point, I was feeling rather fatigued, had a headache, and my back was sore. I had actually been feeling it a teeny tiny bit the day before, but Thursday was when it really got noticeable. The next day when we arrived in Luoyang, my head started hurting incredibly, and I barely felt like moving, although I could with no problem.

We only spent one day in Luoyang and saw the city wall, which is one of the only remaining complete original imperial city walls in China (Beijing has some that are either not entirely intact or rebuilt), the Long Men gorges home to a startling array of Buddhist reliefs and sculpture carved into the side of a mountain, culminating in these humongous statues of the seated Buddha and his disciples. I really have not been for want of large-scale Buddhist iconography in the last 5 months, it's really quite amazing. How many statues of other religious figures are there on the same scale as the Buddhas in Nara, Kamakura, Putuoshan, and Luoyang? I can only think of the Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro.

We also saw the White Horse temple, a really beautiful Buddhist temple that I kind of wish I wasn't so distracted from my headache to absorb and admire. Basically the whole day I was really trying to enjoy everything while not letting my head implode. Fei laoshi did give me some of this fizzy Bayer asprin that dissolves in water that really did the trick for the short-term, it was awesome. However, pretty much as soon as we got to the hotel that night, I went to bed, skipping dinner. I just felt so tired I could not wait to go to bed.

I was feeling pretty much the same the next day, especially since we had to get up early to leave for Xian on the bus. I couldn't really sleep that much on the bus, but I managed.

We sent two days in Xian and got to see the famous tomb of Qin Shi Huang, with the pits filled with thousands of terra cotta warriors. It really is an impressive site to see, just to see in front of you how many of them there are, it really is a whole army, and you see that every single statue is different (it's kind of funny because there are a few with messed-up proportions you can tell they must have done quickly and haphazardly). It's really a marvel of what man is capable of crafting with the patience and will to do so. It's one of those things that when you see it, it's not so much looking at it that's the attraction, but trying to process that such a thing in all its awesomeness exists.

The first night in Xian we had this "dumpling banquet" at this pretty large restaurant. We got all these assorted steaming bamboo baskets with dumplings of all sort of filling and wrapping, sweet and savory.

Some of the other sites we saw was the "Stele Forest," which was a Confucian temple filled with this upright stone tablets with different calligraphers carving entire books of the Confucian classics like the Analects and the Book of Rites and Book of Songs on them. The other really cool site was the Muslim quarter! In Xian there are a bunch of Muslims, and there's this whole market street around this mosque that's covered with shops and vendors of all sorts. What's interesting is that they were all Chinese, I didn't see any arab-looking Muslims. It was an interesting site to see Chinese women wearing hijab (I don't know if there's a more universal term for that, but it's a female headdress meant only for covering the hair, not the face) all over the place.

I was getting this fried egg-and-scallion pancake type thing from a street vendor (that ended up being quite tasty) and you kind of have to wait for it while it's being made, and often multiple people are ordering one. So when mine was done, the person cooking them was like "Who do I give this to?" and the guy behind the register just said "Him, the waiguoren (foreigner)." Looking back, he didn't mean it maliciously, really, Chinese people don't throw around the term "waiguoren" like it's an insult. It's just what I am. A foreigner. I guess I just can never get over the idea of my looks automatically being the signal of being a foreigner or not, despite living with that for 5 months. It's just amazing growing up in America where everyone looks different, and you're taught that everyone can be American if they want to, and suddenly being in a situation where to be Chinese means to be CHINESE, i.e. of the Han race (or at least pretending to be of the Han race, but that's a whole other can of worms), and there will always be that certain, ever-present visual distinction between "Chinese" and "Non-Chinese."

It's an interesting conflict for lots of people in this group, people like me who don't look Asian so are automatically excluded and labeled as "the other" when he or she might want to assimilate and interact on a deeper level, and people like some of the Chinese-Americans on the trip, who people look at and automatically assume they are connected on a deeper level with China/being Chinese than they might really be or even want to be, just because of their face.

But yeah, back to Muslims in Xian, we got to see this mosque that was done completely in Chinese style, but there were a lot of carvings in Arabic right above the Chinese writing, which I thought was a really interesting juxtaposition.

We returned to Beijing Monday morning and luckily got off from class, which was good because I got to spend the last whole day I could with Denise before she left back to the US on Wednesday. It's kind of funny how I really started to feel all the way recovered from whatever sickness I had when I got to see Denise again.

We had dinner together Tuesday night, and Wednesday I had to continue working on my group project, so I couldn't see her off to the airport, which made me feel kind of bad since I won't be able to see her again until after Christmas. Oh well, I'll manage.

This past weekend we got to go to the 798 art district, which was this big abandoned factory complex that got turned into a bunch of art galleries, that is now the center of Beijing's contemporary art scheme. It was really neat to see, definitely reminded me of places like Lincoln Road and Wynwood in Miami with all the galleries, and had a bit more of a museum-like quality to it since some of the galleries were really large and rather well-organized and presented.

The piece that really caught my attention was this one that was this giant scroll and several books laid out underneath it, and the artist had written on it entirely in Chinese characters...that he made up. There were thousands of characters, but none of them were ones that actually existed, but ones he assembled using the existing radicals and strokes. It was just such a neat examination of the system of thought surrounding Chinese characters and all of the infinite permutations of lines that can covey any possible meaning.

The shitty thing was Fei laoshi decided to have us do this "scavenger hunt" going through all the different galleries looking for things and writing them down, which prevented me from enjoying too many things at just my own pace. I hate feeling rushed when going through galleries or museums. It didn't help that I got paired with some guys who didn't have the most positive attitude about being in an art gallery in the first place. The night ended well when we had dinner at this restaurant near the galleries that had a t-bone steak as the main course. Fantastic. I later went out with some friends to a few bars and that helped me blow off steam from the last week.

Today I'm rather proud because I did spend a good deal, several hours, in fact, working on my group project, looking through our video footage and helping to write our report. Tomorrow we're gonna tie up the multimedia part of our presentation, and then we should be totally set for presenting on Thursday. Man I think this coming Friday will be the Friday I will have looked forward to the most of any Friday. This week is packed. I have to do Fei laoshi's presentation, and then also a presentation on a newspaper article for my language class, on top of my usual character studying and cramming. It's time for the final home stretch! Whoop!
(Anonymous) on November 25th, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC)
See you soon

Even a thousand-mile journey ends with a single step.