Posts Tagged With: Happiness

Chinese Culture: Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day

Zhongyang Street Shop Nationalistic Poster

While my friends and I were walking down Zhongyang Street to a restaurant to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, we noticed the street was draped with hundreds of Chinese flags. They hung above the thousands of pedestrians who were also celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival. We walked by this clothing store that had this sign. It reads: “China’s heart, China’s trade…Fishing Island  is our country’s! I love China.” The National Holiday (the day after the Mid-Autumn festival) has come during a tumultuous time this year. Recently, there has been controversy over the ownership of small, uninhabited islands northeast of Taiwan and Southwest of the Ryuku Islands. The Japanese call the islands Senkaku and the Chinese call it diaoyu (fishing). They supposedly hold natural resources (oil) that both countries desire.

From what I have read, Japan has official ownership of the islands through the Okinawa Reversion Treaty between the United States and Japan (after WWII surrender). However, Taiwan and China claimed the islands centuries before. Recently, the Japanese government announced that they bought the islands from a private Japanese owner, which has sparked protests all around China, including Harbin. Harbin Institute of Technology has even been affected. There were pamphlets around campus saying not to buy Japanese items and red banners that mocked Japan and idealized China.

What a time to celebrate the CCP’s birthday! Anger and nationalism put into one cake.

Emily and Me at Bingfengtang

We finally made it to the restaurant Bingfengtang, a southern-style Chinese restaurant. It was delicious! We ate peanuts, chicken buns, fried fish, tofu in brown sauce, and caixin (vegetable hearts). After the meal, I looked out the window and saw a stream of red lights floating toward the stars. I realized that they were setting off red lanterns from the river. We quickly walked over to find hundreds of locals writing their wishes on the lanterns and then preparing them to take off. I had never seen something so beautiful in Harbin. There are not many stars here, but the lanterns looked like a brilliant red Milky Way in the sky.

Eating a Yuebeing with the Full Moon and Lanterns

Emily and I decided to send off our own wishes. We purchased a lantern for 10kuai ($2~) and wrote our wishes onto the red paper. We then lit a white cube (made of flammable material) and waited as the lantern filled with air. We then set it off. It joined the rest of the lanterns into the sky. I wonder where they go? Sending off red lanterns is a tradition for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Many families wish for good health and peace, others may wish for their deceased to be happy.

Lantern Lifting Off with Full Moon in the Background

I felt so alive participating with the other hundreds of people in the tradition. Though I may have seen 100+ lanterns take off, each one was mesmerizing. When the lantern slowly lifted into the sky, it made me smile. And seeing it turn into a red star with the hundreds of others in the distance was awe-inspiring. I had a lot of fun hanging with my friends along the river. We set off lanterns, played with sparklers, laughed about almost anything, and strolled along the river. It was a great night. I am not going to forget it…I was so happy. I am so fortunate to be in China and to be given this opportunity to study and do research.

Celebrating with Friends: Elise, Bryan, Brian, Emily, and Su-Yee

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Weekend Excursion: Tiger Head Mountain Great Wall of China

We has breakfast at the hotel and then took a bus to Tiger Head Mountain, an area that has the most northern Great Wall. We hiked up the Great Wall at different speeds. I was near the end. I walked slowly and enjoyed the scenery of the North Korean scenery.

Looking at the Peak–A Long Way to Go

This view is still of the Chinese side of the river. Along the wall had small farms growing corn and cabbage.

The Great Wall is Great, But Nature Always Wins

This was about half-way to the top. This Great Wall was constructed during the Ming Dynasty, so in the last 400 years of so. The part of the Great Wall that we walked up had been repaired, but this part of the wall has been left to crumble. What a sight and what a view.

Tiger Head Mountain’s Peak

At the top of Tiger Head peak was a watchtower where we could climb stairs to the top. From there, we could see an endless landscape of flat North Korean farmland and distant mountains. While I was at the top, I was extremely happy. Not only had I succeeded in climbing up the Great Wall, but I was with close friends whom I could share this experience with. This entire weekend was filled with fun and laughter. I haven’t been this content with life in a long time.

North Korean Countryside

There was a village in the distance. A village that hosted the farmers that toiled the land next to the Yalu River. The thin river split the two countries. A few thoughts went through my mind while I looked out at the scenery and the village…boundaries seem so arbitrary when you see them firsthand. This river splits China and North Korea, but the land is exactly the same. There are no thick black lines that line the borders, only a thin, wire fence. The farmers that toil the borderlands view the earth as a means to live…I wonder how do they view the border?

Trailing the North Korean and Chinese Border

We hiked down the Great Wall and trailed along the edge of the mountain back to the entrance. The trail put on right next to the Chinese border fence. So close.

We took a bus back to Dandong and hopped on an afternoon train back to Harbin. We arrive at 2:00am in the morning, looking forward for no classes the next day.

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Weekend Excursion: Night on the Town in Dandong

Sunset over Dandong Cityscape

We arrived in Dandong, put our luggage in the hotel, and then had the night to ourselves. Me and a group of classmates ate at a North Korean barbeque restaurant. There was a large metal pan in the middle of the table where we cooked our own meats and vegetables. I don’t know what they put in that food, but it was delicious! I apologize for not taking any pictures, I did not bring my camera.

We then took a long walk along the river that borders North Korea. At this point, it was night. The buildings bordering the Yalu River on Dandong’s side were lit up with neon lights. However, the opposite side of the river was pitch black. We once in a while saw a dim light in the distance and stopped to look at it. We would guess what it could be: “a fire?” “a public restroom light?” “a home?” Strange how two cities so close to each other can have such disparities in development. The dichotomy was really quite bizarre.

Here is a photo that shows this difference in development: The Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge

(http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/photo-day-bridge-nowhere)

“A Bridge to Nowhere”

The asiasociety.org blog calls this photo “A Bridge to Nowhere.” But, of course, it goes somewhere…it’s just at night that place disappears into the darkness. I do want to make the point that just down the river, both sides of the river look the same–same darkness, same development.

I had a great night. I walked along the river for 2-3 hours with friends. We laughed, danced, and talked with locals. We went back to the hotel and prepared for our next day’s adventure: The Tiger Head Mountain Great Wall.

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