New Sights, New Perspectives - Summer in Beijing, China
If you have experienced summer in Beijing, you know how hot and humid it can be, much like weather in the midwestern United States. This, however, has not stopped the CIEE students in Beijing from getting out there and enjoying all that Beijing (and China) have to offer!
Up to now, we've had a myriad of different activities and events for students to engage China, including two excursions: to Dalian and the countryside in Shanxi and Hebei provinces, theme meals, our Expert Lecture series, trips to the blind school, and more. We hope this newsletter will give you an idea of what we do here in Beijing!
As featured in other blogs, we continued our tradition of taking a group photo on Peking University's Alumni Bridge (校友桥). After visiting Tiananmen Square and eating a welcome lunch of Peking Duck, we took this shot to start the semester!
Students enjoy the idyllic northern portion of campus.
Excursions outside of Beijing
During the final days of June, CIEE led two separate excursions each with distinct themes that expose students to different parts of China, and Chinese society. One was to the port city of Dalian, and the other was to the countryside in the nearby by Shanxi and Hebei provinces.
Dalian - "Urbanization and the Dream of Modernity"
This trip, led by Summer Resident Director Dr. KuoRay Mao, took students to the northeastern port city of Dalian.
Dalian was a small coastal outpost in late Qing dynasty before the area was colonized by Russia in 1897 and later Japan in 1905. The confluence of the Chinese, Russian, and Japanese cultures and the history of colonization have made Dalian a unique example of modernization in China. Since the late 1990s, as the fourth largest sea port in China, Dalian has transformed the base of its economic development and has become a hotspot for foreign direct investment, especially from Japanese and Korean companies. To understand Dalian’s colonial history and its recent cosmopolitan development, students explored modern city spaces, walked through plazas built by the Russians, observed the battlegrounds of the Russo-Japanese war, rode the first railroad in China and saw Dalian's large port, among other activities!
Shanxi and Hebei - "Environment and Rural Governance in China"
While Dr. Mao was leading students through the ultra-modern Dalian, CIEE Beijing's Center Director, Dr. Patrick Lucas, led students off the beaten path to rural parts of China's Shanxi and Hebei provinces. The focus of this trip were those places outside the large cities—the rural countryside, its people, culture, governance, and the natural environment there. Of course, in China ‘countryside’ is a relative term, since the majority of the population live outside the big cities, and rural population can actually be surprisingly dense, with villages often very close together. In China there are intense pressures on the natural environment, as well as various social consequences and competitions for resources, which are issues of critical importance to China and to our understanding of China as students and seekers of understanding.Though less than 150 miles away from Beijing, the differences in terms of material wealth are staggering. After spending the night in a village and helping weed the potato fields, the students realized, however, that this lack of "stuff" did not mean that the villagers did not live with dignity. In addition to living in the village, over three plus days we visited a tiny garrison town, and saw an interesting, unrepaired section of the Great Wall crossing flat farm fields. We also hiked sheep trails through the mountains, visited a tiny broken down Buddhist temple, and visited a local Catholic church.
Students climb to get a soaring view of the unrepaired Great Wall seen below right.
CIEE's Expert Lecture Series in Beijing
Every semester, CIEE arranges for lecturers to lecture on their topics of expertise. This summer, we had four lectures, highlighted below, given by CIEE staff and other experts.
"Chinese Film: Projecting and Protecting the Nation" by Wesley Jacks
On July 17, CIEE Beijing welcomed Wesley Jacks, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara in Film and Media, gave a lecture our students. Jacks completed his M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Communication Arts (Film) in 2008 and in spring 2012, he was an adjunct professor teaching Chinese film history at the CIEE Beijing Study Center. Thus, having him back for a lecture was just like old times, even if it was only for a few hours!
In his lecture, titled "Chinese Film: Projecting and Protecting the Nation" Jacks gave a brief synopsis of the history of Chinese film, all the way from the first projected film in China in 1896 to the controversy over the recently released Chinese film, titled "Tiny Times". He also discussed how the Chinese government has toed the line of allowing American and other foreign films to be displayed in China while protecting and building up the local industry. And indeed, as film is a powerful tool for disemmination of messages and ideas, he talked about the use of film by the government to promote or project certain ideals.
Though this was the final lecture in our "Expert Lecture Series" like all of the lectures, it was well-attended, and students asked a lot of questions.
Jacks used the 2002 wuxia film "Hero" starring Jet Li, to illustrate some his arguments of Chinese films projecting certain ideologies.
"Cross-cultural Communication" and "Ecological Change in Modern China" by Dr. Patrick Lucas
Previous lectures this semester were given by CIEE Beijing Center Director, Patrick Lucas, Ph.D. He gave two lectures this semester titled, "Cross-cultural Communication and Understanding in China" and "Ecological Change in Modern China: Human Impacts and Human Survival". A trained anthropologist with nearly 20 years of professional experience in China, we offer these two lectures every semester. These two lectures give students tools to examine their surroundings, with in terms of communicating with individuals from another culture, and dealing with new ideas and the pressures of being an outsider.
The second lecture "Ecological Change in Modern China: Human Impacts and Human Survival" gave students an introduction to the perilous environmental Chinese situation faces amidst rapid development. This lecture was required to participate on the excurstion, titled "Environment and Rural Governance in China", as it was a preview of some phenomenon that we would experience firsthand when visiting the countryside. In his role as CIEE Beijing Center Director, Dr. Lucas oversees the study centers at both Minzu University and Peking University, teaching an area studies course every semester at Minzu University.
Aside from engaging students in experiential learning in the trip to the countryside, he also leads a ten day field study to southern China every semester for students participating in the Environmental, Cultural, and Economic Sustainability program at Minzu University.
Dr. Lucas gives students some tools they can use to engage a new culture.
"Neoliberal Sunshine: The Development of Underdevelopment in Northwestern China" by Dr. KuoRay Mao
Earlier in July, our Summer Resident Director KuoRay Mao, Ph.D., gave a lecture on neoliberal development in Northwestern China. Having worked as a farmer in Gansu province for 18 months conducting research as a Fulbright scholar, Dr. Mao was able to pepper his lecture, titled "Neoliberal Sunshine: The Development of Underdevelopment in Northwest China" with interesting analyses on the political economy in China. Dr. Mao's speech gave students a good understanding of some of the most pressing environmental issues - which are existential issues - facing China today.
Given the abrreviated summer schedule, our Expert Lecture Series has concluded. However, we are excited for next semester's lectures, available for students attending all of our Beijing-based programs.
This newsletter was compiled by CIEE Beijing Center staff. Stay tuned for Issue II at the end of the semester, as well as some other blog posts by some of our summer students about different experiences and activities from our 2013 summer term!