Monthly Archives: November 2012

Cross-Cultural: Celebrating Thanksgiving in Harbin

For Thanksgiving, CET organized a trip to go to Harbin’s top buffet. They said that the year before they had turkey! Unfortunately, there was no turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberries this year, but I still ate to my heart’s content. They had foods from all of China’s regions (Taiwan, Guangdong, Sichuan, Northeast, etc.) , as well as international cuisine (Japanese, Korean, Western). I joked around with classmates and chatted with teachers. It was nice to take a break, and get to know my teachers out of the classroom.

High-class Buffet–Japanese Section

Western Section–Pierogis?

The Western section had fruit pizza (pineapple, mango) and sausage pizza, meatballs, pasta, and something that looked like pierogis. From the Western section, I mostly ate pizza. Most of my plate’s contents included Guangdong dimsum, fried shrimp, and all-you-can-eat Haagen Dazs icecream!

Mengnan Eating her First “Thanksgiving” Meal

All of our roommate’s tagged along to participate in our Thanksgiving dinner. They were curious to know what we did on this holiday. They thought we were joking that we just eat a TON of food, chat with family, and then go to sleep. At some point in the middle, we give thanks. Since we didn’t eat any traditional Thanksgiving cuisine, many of my classmates plan to make their own mashed potatoes…I’m going to make a pumpkin pie!

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring Harbin: Second Visit to Old Harbin

I tagged along with a classmate to Old Harbin. I brought my tote bag along  in preparation for all the cheap, delicious snacks and treats that I would buy. We set off by bus and meandered through the stampede of vehicles on Dazhi street (5 lanes) and city center until we finally hit the old part of town. We actually had no idea which stop to get off at…which isn’t that out-of-the-ordinary. We spoke with locals who helped us figure out our way. When I saw the deteriorating Baroque style buildings peak through the alleyways that we passed, I knew we were close.

Rotting Baroque Downtown

This neighborhood was influence by the Russian population of Harbin in the early 1900s, but this style of architecture fits more wit late 19th century Russia. Besides the renovated parts of town (Zhongyang Street), most of these old buildings are peeling away their once vibrant exterior. While walking through Old Harbin, I felt like I wasn’t in China. But, I didn’t feel like I was in Europe either. It more felt like an eerie combination of post-apocalyptic film and steam punk.

We walked to Harbin’s best bun shop (张包铺-Zhangbaopu) to grab some lunch and then went to the market to buy 小吃 (snacks) and treats. It was a bit early for the night rush. The most interesting think I saw at the market were in-midst cocooning caterpillars. They were brown/green and looked fat and juicy. I did not buy one, but maybe next time.

Early for the Night Rush

Pigeons for Sale

Alleyway in Old Harbin

After buying Taiwanese pastries, we walked to the Bird, Flower, Fish market. I entered a little shops that were smaller than my freshman dorm room, but were crammed from floor to ceiling with cages filled with colorful birds. Outside had a row of vendors that sold fighting fish, gold fish, prawn, crab, and fish food. After the sun set, it became incredibly cold, which is a prevailing pattern these days. So, we headed back by bus to prepare for class the next day.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Exploring Harbin: 731 Museum and Understanding Japan and China’s Relationship

It was a frigid afternoon with a gray haze of car exhaust clouding the distance when we arrived at 731, a museum that unearths an old Japanese germ weapon research base. I walked through the old military gate, and observed the yellow building contrast against the thin layer of snow. The wind blew right through me and my thin jacket then. I realized the weather and the museum were both frigid….I regretted not wearing enough layers.

Visiting 731 with CET program

I believe visiting a national museum is a good method in understanding a government’s values and how they simultaneously promote patriotism at the same time. This is especially visible in Chinese museums. A museum utilizes many mediums to display their content’s history and meaning: I find reading signs as the most effective way to understand the motive of the museum–what is the museum trying to make me feel? What am I supposed to think about this country (and other’s) after attending the exhibition? Specific language is chosen to describe the past events in Unit 731, and its chosen for a reason. Let’s see if I figure it out at the end of this post.

First off, this was the introduction sign before entering the museum:

“Manchu Unit 731” was a special troop set up in China under the [Japanese] imperial edict. In 1935, the unit set up the biological weapon research and test base in Pingfang and a biologicial warfare command of the Japanese Army in the Southeast Asia…In the base, which was referred to as ‘the den of cannibals’, Uniy 731 engaged in germ weapon research by conducting cruel vivisection. According to historical documentation, just between 1939 and August to 1945 alone at least 3,000 anti-Japanese and anti-Manchukuo fighters from home and abroad and innocent civilians were maimed and killed as vivisection subjects. In August 1945, Japan lost the war and surrendered. In order to cover up its heinous atrocities, Unit 731 carried out large-scale destruction and sabotage to the facilities in this area. Today 23 sites are listed as the key sites for protection to testify to the crimes.

I highlighted the words that constructed the frame the writer of these signs wanted us to view this place and, most importantly, the Japanese. This kind of language could be found throughout the museum.

Entrance Sign–“Crime Evidence”

One motive for the creation of this museum was to emphasize the fact that the Japanese conducted research that went against international anti-biochemical warfare and research laws–what they did was wrong and it was a crime against China and humanity. This museum is evidence for this fact. This motive’s goal is to evoke anger into the museum visitors toward Japan. From what I observed, it was successful. My classmate shared with me what he overheard from a father and his son:

After leaving the museum, a father asked his son, “Do you now dislike Japan (你讨厌日本吗)?” The young boy, maybe 9 years old or so, replied, “Yes, I do. (讨厌).”

Before entering the main exhibit, one last sign sparked my interested. It read: “Forgetting about the history means betrayal.” It gave me a heebie-jeebies. That phrase was found throughout the entire museum.

A wall of Unity 731 history and its atrocities– no idea where they got this information.

Japanese Soldiers with their “Comfort Women” in front of Togo Shrine

A memorial for those who died in the base

From the memorial hall, I stepped outside to find a silent lawn in the midst of a light snowfall. I walked to the now destroyed germ weapon research building. There only stands one row of concrete with two smoke stacks. In front are the remains of what looks like was a basement.

Old Germ Warfare Research Lab Building

Beneath the remains

I walked around the remains, sinking everything that I read and watched. It’s a lot to take in. War brings out the worst in a country. However, through diplomacy we can rekindle relationships and make the world a (little) more stable once again. When I visited this museum, I felt like its display stoked the contentious fire between China and Japan, instead of treating the issue with a clear-minded judgement.

This museum reminded me of my visit to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. and the Holocaust memorial in Miami, Florida. Both places made me aware of the atrocities that happened during WWII. I felt the same way leaving them–sad and contemplative. But, I didn’t leave either of those places disliking Germany or any other country. I didn’t grow up being told over and over again to hate a country and their government (and even their people). To me, this is unhealthy and doesn’t help the problem. The Chinese government is using this tactic to build up nationalism among its people–and they are doing it really well–but its also gradually deteriorating the potential for reestablishing a healthy relationship between the two countries. There are faults on both sides, of course, but I only see one side of this relationship.

I have met too many children and teenagers that blindly hate Japan. This just doesn’t seem right to me. Everyone has their own right to have opinions, but if these opinions were being propagated by the media and government…are those really your own opinions or is it something else entirely?

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Weekend Excursion: Yagou Ravine

This weekend, CET organized a trip to Yagou Ravine, a park an hour away from the city. We took a bus from Harbin and made a stop at what looked like a quarry. We walked along a sandy path that passed people cutting into the rocky hills with large machinery, jumped over a ditch by a deserted house, and hiked up a path to a hidden pavilion. In this isolated spot was a etching in a side of a rock wall dating back to the Jin Era (1115-1234 A.D). This era was constructed by the Nuzhen people, who are now referred as the Machurian minority. The stone had two etchings: 1) one of a women sitting, and 2) a man striking downward with a sword..

Rock Etching of a Man Striking the Ground with a Short Sword

After observing the ancient artwork, we walked back to the bus to begin our 3-4 hour hike. We were dropped off at the beginning of the trail, that was lined with a large lake. The scenery was covered with mist–or pollution, I couldn’t tell.

Island of Bare Trees

The trail curved into a forested area. We crossed over an icy part of the lake by bridge and entered a historical site. We were in a section of the pine forest that was dotted with old Japanese bunkers from one of the 20th century wars. I inspected one of them and found its floor covered with trash.

Looking into one of the Bunkers

We continued on our hike. The smell of pine was refreshing. We climbed up one of the hills and looked out to scenery of rolling tree-covered hills and plains of yellow grass. In the distance was a tower which was our last rest stop. We hiked for another hour…talking, singing, whistling, enjoying nature, telling stories and then finally arrived at the fire watch tower.

Final Rest Stop

The tower was frail and old. It drifted back and forth with the wind. Because of its lack of integrity, only three people were allowed to go up at a time. I joined two guys and climbed up to the top. While I was climbing up the stairs, the Chinese roommate among the two, kept on worrying about my safety–telling me to slow down, to be careful, make sure that I’m not scared. It got on my nerves, since he wasn’t worrying about my male classmate and assumed, since I’m a girl, I must be easily frightened. I understood that his concerns were well-intentioned, but the feminist in me began to swell.

I let his concerns slide and reassured him that I was perfectly fine, and that I was not afraid of heights. He was surprised. At the top, the scenery was spectacular.

Red, Greens, and Yellows

The two guys were getting ready to head back down, while I was still taking pictures. The Chinese roommate told me, “Colleen, how about you get in the middle so that I can protect you.” That was the last straw. With all of my strength, I tried to sound as polite as possible: “I don’t want your protection, I can take care of myself, you go down first, I’ll follow behind.” He understood and from then on, he was surprised at how courageous I and the rest of my American females classmates were. For instance, I joined my male classmates as they hiked along the rocks that lined the top of the hill (the picture above shows the line of rocks). The Chinese roommate was impressed. His way of thinking is arguably influenced by the Chinese traditional way of treating the opposite sex: girls are weak and need a man to protect them, etc. I’m not insinuating that I can do ANYTHING myself, but climbing stairs is not situation in which I need someone to protect me.

That small moment really opened my eyes to male-female relations in China. In America, the word “protection” is not used often in that context. If a man in America told me, “I want to protect you.” I would feel awkward and perplexed. Protect me from what? Dragons? In China, that’s not the case. I apologize for the rant…now back to my day!

At the Edge of the Rock Ledge with Tower Behind me

I sat at the edge of the rocky trail until I heard my resident teacher call out to everybody that we were leaving. I teeter-tottered and climbed along the rocks to get back to the group. We then descended back to ground-level and walked along harvested farmland till we reached the bus. Somehow a classmate and I squeezed in a medley of Bohemian Rhapsody before getting on the bus and setting off back to Harbin.

Blown over Corn

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring Harbin: Confucian Temple and Ethnic Minority Museum

View from the Main Temple

A group of my classmates and I woke up early on Sunday morning to visit Harbin’s Confucian Temple. It is the largest Confucian temple in North Eastern China and pretty to boot! The temples are primarily made out of wood, which have been painted with a combination of reds, blues, greens, and yellows. The roof tiles range from a golden glaze (which are placed atop the most significant buildings) and brown-black normal coloring. The area was dotted with tall bristled trees, short bushy trees, and lawns of flat grass. It was a silent morning. A haze of pollution clouded the temple like mist.

Tree of Wishes and Ambitions

Doorway to Main Garden

I only have a fundamental understanding of Confucianism, so my explanation will be a mix of my knowledge and Wikipedia. Confucianism derives from the teachings of Confucius (551-479 B.C.). His teachings have a number of principles, but the three fundamental bases are: ren (仁-humanism),yi (义-righteous/justice), and li (礼-propriety/etiquette). Humanism is at the core of his teachings. His principles’ goal is to build a common person into a respectable, moral human being , or junzi- nobleman. His other teachings include filial piety to one’s family and to society. During the Mao Era, Confucius’ teachings were looked down upon because it advocated an “unequal” stratified society. After the Mao Era, his teachings have become popular once again and are now a part of every Chinese student’s curriculum.

As far as I know, the temples are no longer used for study, but as a remembrance of Confucius’ teachings and admiration for the temple’s architecture. While we visited, traditional Chinese music was playing from mysterious loud speakers, making the environment “soothing” and “Confucian-esque.” This is a common strategy for tourism sites–setting the mood by music. Does the music hurt or add to the atmosphere?

Intricate Paintings Painted on Gate’s Walls (looking up at a bird)

Glazed Gate

The temple also had a Heilongjiang Ethnic Minority Museum within one of its temples. I thought the combination of the two (Confucian Temple and Minority Museum) was unexpected, but they do share the same purpose: cultural preservation. They just harness two aspects of culture–religion and local customs & identity. I will most likely go back to the museum to analyze the display’s design and language. I was not expecting to find research here! What a beautiful place…

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

CET Fieldtrip: Bowling

Bowling with CET Classmates and Chinese Roommates

CET organized a bowling event this weekend. We drank soda and bowled for two hours. I did not go over 100. I’ve gotten rusty! Besides everything being in Chinese, doesn’t it look just like a bowling alley in America?

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

Exploring Harbin: Dinner Outing with Friends

Spicy Dinner at Sichuan Restaurant

I joined my classmates for some spicy food at Harbin’s “spiciest” Sichuanese restaurant. We ate fried chicken chunks that were covered with a hundred+ red peppers, frogs, crab soup (the yellow part), hot and sour fish stew, spicy green beans, and cabbage. There were beef and other chicken dishes too. I went with about 12 classmates. It was a fun night filled with animal noises, whistling, and other immature banter. Somehow we evolved from making elephant noises to golf clapping to our classmate’s splendid whistling skills.

My classmates are great.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.