The conference was titled "Shanghai Story," implying an attempt to illuminate how Shanghai came into being the epicenter of modern China's genesis, politically, economically, and culturally. But, as Professor Yeh Wen Hsin pointed out in the round table discussion that ended the conference, even the title "Shanghai Story" is problematic. She claimed that stories, in essence, have a beginning, middle and end. But when and where does this story start? That is a historical question that is difficult to determine.
The purpose of this conference was to look at Shanghai's story from the perspective of visual culture. One of the main topics was photography. Three great presentations that stuck out in my mind were by Professor Gu Zheng and Professor Sarah Fraser. Professor Gu's presentation outlined a photography project, commissioned by the Japanese government in 1937-1938, that was meant to show wartime China directly after the invasion. The photographs, which showed Shanghai people in a sympathetic state, was meant to be wartime propaganda, demonstrating to both Japanese and Chinese that the Japanese invasion should be welcome. However, through these photographs, Shanghai was essentially "visually reproduced" during the war, for both Japanese and Chinese, and many of the pictures emphasized China's colonization by the West and the necessity of an Asian rescuer. Professor Fraser's presentation explored photographs of Chinese people taken by Europeans in the late 19th century, and then compared them to later photographs taken by Chinese photographers of ethnic minorities in Western China. Fraser's argument is that the style, subject matter, and purpose behind both of these types of photographs were strikingly similar. While Western people took photographs of Chinese people to show their backwardness, primitiveness, and static and unmodern status. Similarly, the Chinese Republican government reused these similar types of photographs in their anthropological studies of the Tibetans, Yi, and Miao races in Western China. She claims that through these photographs, a clear understanding of the "modern citizen" was born through representation of the "other." The third presentation by professor Jin Tao was about photographs of women . She looked at photos of sing and dance girls from the 1920s and 1930s and attempted to argue their main purpose: to fulfill men's desires or to promote a healthy body image for women? She argues that there are two elements that a woman should strive for in her physical appearance: health and beauty, and sex and desire. At the same time, many of these photographs also gave a visual perception of the modern, which embraced visual examples of health and sex.
A lot of important theoretical ideas can come from these presentations. First, in a larger sense, the importance of photography as a medium should be explored (which it was at this conference). At the round table discussion, Professor Thomas Bender explained how photography can have many purposes: the can allow us to recognize what we already know, allow us to discover things missing in texts, and most importantly, they can be performative, in the sense that they make things happy. Professor Gu's presentation represented this, in that the publishing of the Shanghai wartime photos recreated Shanghai in the minds of Japanese and Chinese, giving new justifcations for war and a new self image. I also thought that professor Fraser's argument was quite compelling because I see similarities in the way that minorites are photographed today. Advertisements in China do not show them as backwards and primitive, but do maintain a certain amount of "tradition" and at the same time, appeal through the exotic and the sexual. Just like Geisha and female hostesses were photographed and advertised in the West as an exotic and beautiful reason to visit Asia, now beautiful minority women are photographed in their traditional clothes and put on display for Chinese tourists. Even the pictures advertising the Olympics and (more visible to me) the Shanghai Expo show minorities greeting the world and the Expo with traditional gifts in traditional clothes, while the Han people greet them with a modern background in expensive Western clothing. I find this somewhat echoes Dr. Fraser's argument, although I admit, I have not done enough research on ethnic tourism to completely substantiate my argument.
Another medium that was explored was film. Dr. Pickowicz did a presentation on 1920's Chinese films (which he claims have been largely neglected, which is a mistake) and Professor Jin Jiang presented on the play/movie Stage Sisters. Professor Pickowicz argued that the 1920's films, while not being particularly political, were important because of their statements about modern marriages. The three films he looked at, Oceans of Passion, Orphan in the Snow, and A String of Pearls, show that modern marriages, while being a much better alternative to traditional marriages, did not have one particular model to follow. Instead, the movies showed that the modern marriage still had a lot of problems, and that it was largely dependent on both emotional and material needs of both the women and the men. Professor Jiang's presentation explored the 1965 movie Stage Sisters and its 1998 adaptation. She argues that while the former was largely political and worked with a revolutionary discourse, the latter works backwards, eliminating the political elements and looking more closely at female and sisterly love.
Dr. Pickowicz's presentation explored some extremely important theoretical and methodological ideas. First of all, as both he and professor Bender explored, the medium of film itself is unique among many visual mediums. It is with film that an audience can more actively participate in the action, and vicariously play out their own fantasies. He called this "fantastical participation," and for a film to be popular, it had to reach people, and especially women, on this level of allowing them to actively participate in the character's struggles and positions. The ability to reach people on this level makes films unique, and it is unique to the modern world. Another concept that Professor Pickowicz explored is the importance of the national and international. He showed that in all of his films, this place called "China" was essentially absent; also, all three of these films were extremely popular throughout Southeast Asia. Therefore, these themes and ideas, as well as the possibility for audience fantastical participation, spanned across national lines. As Dr. Bender noted, oftentimes city culture can travel in a way that national culture does not. Dr. Pickowicz argued that perhaps, instead of only looking to the past 30 years for examples of globalization, we can see it much earlier than that in the ability of cultural models to transfer on an international stage. Thus, when we explore things like magazines, movies, and photographs, we should look beyond pointing to the beginnings of nationalism and look at both the global and the local levels.
Many other presentations looked at other interesting historical sources. Professor Christian Henriot presented on the creation of space through novels, an idea that I had never thought about but was incredibly revealing. He argues that in novels, time and space are created in order to both facilitate a story and to make a point about geography itself. In essence, by carefully choosing which events occur where and when, an author can make a powerful statement about his own understanding of geographic space. Professor Henriot explored 3 novels written about Shanghai, all three of which made statements about the author's understanding of the city geography and cultural construction. As another historical medium, Professor Andrew Field explored dance halls and caberets in modern Shanghai as a creation of urban modernity. Field traced the beginnings and subsequent popularization of dance halls in China from the 1910s into the 1930s. While making a series of really interesting arguments about the reformation of jazz for the Chinese setting and the politicization of dance halls, I found most interesting his thesis concerning the orientalizing transfer of dance halls from the West. Originally, dance halls in the West were meant to be sources of lewd behavior made acceptable by the presence of "oriental" women. The first dance halls in Europe were filled with Turkish harems and other women from the east, making the more sexualized behavior appropriate because of the inclusion of the "other." However, when caberets and jazz bars were imported to the east, they were packaged as the epitome of class and society in the West. In essence, the East comes to the West and then circles back to the East as a Western import. I believe this happens a lot, if not through popular cute toys and even cheesy souvenirs now sold in the East only to Western tourists.
Another interesting topic was the creation and architecture of public parks, as presented by Dr. Dorothee Rihal. She explained that parks are "purely Western and modern." They have a variety of purposes: recreation, relaxation, aesthetic beauty, and a recreation of natural landscape. But, as Professor Rihal pointed out, in China they inhabited a unique space. They became a symbol not only of Western modernity but also of racial and colonial tensions, as their purpose of "public" space brought them to the forefront as far as racial tensions. Similarly, they became a method for Western colonial powers to absorb space which were not included in the original concession; many of the parks lay outside the international concession boundaries. To that effect, they also were important to budding artists at the time, as while they had recreational purposes, they were also aesthetic, offering an ideal natural landscape in the modern city.
These are only some of the "精彩" (a word used by almost every Chinese professor or student who asked a question) presentations, and of course there were more. These presentations stuck out in my head because of some of the issues they raised: the performative role of photography, the tension between the local, national, and global, important non literary sources, new ways of looking at literary sources, etc. I also think that these presentations stuck out in my mind because I found them as related to both my past and present research. It also opened my mind to sources yet to be fully explored. I wish I could have understood more of the discussion, and I wish I had had more time to talk to all of the professors. But I guess I will have time for a lot of this in grad school.
I found Karl Gerth's presentation really interesting because of the more theoretical issues it raises. He argues that the attack on capitalists and consumers by the Communist party cannot be understood simply in the context of early Communist policy; in fact, much of the justifcation for the anticonsumer/anticapitalist policies and the main reason it was so accepted was because of earlier practices and situations of market capitalism in the 1930s and earlier. That is to say, much of the justification the Nationalists gave for high spending and buying national goods was recycled to justify state ownership of all market activity in the 1950s. This is important I think because much too often we make a clear break from before 1949 to after 1949, refusing to acknowledge the fact that much of Communist policy was borrowed from earlier political and cultural models.
A few presentations taught me events and ideas that I had never even known about. Sen Pingchong's 森平崇's presentation talked about the cultural figure Ah Fei, a symbol of rowdy and disobedient children (from what I understood of the presentation). He shows how the figure Ah Fei and his stories, which cropped up in movies and books, represents a cultural model based upon American culture, a wanton unfilial lifestyle that should be avoided. In pictures, he reminds me of Elvis, with high hair that looks like an airplane, holding a cigarrette and mainly being immoral. The Ah Fei campaigns became most popular in 1950 and 1957. He argues that Ah Fei was important in 1950 because of the early communist campaign to wipe out American and Guomindang influence, especially through movies. There was a resurgence of Ah Fei's story again in 1957 because, while American movies and other media influences had mostly been elimintated, there still existed many of the institutions associated with Ah Fei's American deviant behavior, such as coffee shops; also, rock and roll had become popular, and it was immediately associated with Ah Fei. One of the professors during the free discussion time pointed out that the "Anti Ah Fei culture" was not exclusive to China, and in fact this cultural stereotype was equally attacked in the United States at the same time.
Another interesting fact I learned through these presentations was that in 1969, the Communist party, fearing a Soviet nuclear attack, evacuated a large portion of Tianjin's population and dispersed them throughout the countryside. In this process, they lost their urban residence cards, thus making them ineligible for higher living stipends and other benefits. Jeremy Brown's presentation explores this dynamic, showing that the Communist's reasons for this campaign was not only national defense but also domestic.
There were a few great presentations on Soviet-Chinese relations and comparisons. You Ji's presentation explains how the alliance deteriorated over the 1950s, explaining this deterioration over a battle for control and the Chinese desire to maintain autonomy in decision making. Izabella Goikhman's presentation explains the academic interactions among Chinese and Soviets. I found it interesting that, as Goikhman explained, there were limits on both sides as to how much they would share or use, but many of the limits were determined not by the government, but instead by the scientists themselves. The Soviet scientists were not given clear instructions on how much to share with the Chinese, and it was up to their judgment. Martin Dimitrov, the non historian of the group, compared Soviet and Chinese models in dealing with ethnic minorities. He showed that because of certain factors, it is not surprising at all that racial tensions led to the downfall of the USSR while China has maintained its sovereignty over its minority populations. These factors include: the percentage of minorities (Russia is only 51 percent Russian while China is 92 percent Han); the right of minorities to secede in the constitution (the USSR constitution gave that right to minorities, China's constitution does not); levels of urbanization (in China, the level of urbanization is much lower in provinces with many minorities whereas in the USSR it was much higher in high minority regions); and levels of education and social programs (in the USSR many minority groups had education levels above the national average while in China the level of education for minorities is below the national average. Interestingly, health care and welfare benefits is much higher for minority provinces than the national average).
There were also a few presentations which I found interesting and unique. Li Peide 李培德 from Hong Kong University gave a presentation on Hong Kong movies during the Cold War. In the 1950s, when the Hong Kong film industry was really taking off, Hong Kong was stuck at a crossroads between Taiwan and the PRC. While the Hong Kong film industry was influenced by a certain competitve atmosphere, the largest struggle it had to contend with was political pressure from Taiwan and China, both of which wanted to influence the movie industry in this critical location. Another interesting presentation, simply because of my past research, was Chen Yan's 陈雁 presentation on the New Chinese woman. She compared magazine pictures from the 1930s and from today, showing how in both these times, femininity and fashion were admired, and the ideal woman was one who presented her femininity through her clothes, makeup, and decorum. In contrast to that, in the women's magazine "New Chinese Woman" (新中国妇女）the ideal woman was quite difference. Femininity was not emphasized. Instead, women were shown as leaders in the new China, they drove trains, they worked in fields, they defended their countries, and the reared good revolutionary children. One problem I found with Professor Chen's argument, however, is that I found a lot of crossover from the 1930s woman and the New China woman. She used the magazine Ling Long for her comparison (a magazine with which I am quite familiar), and she claimed that Ling Long only emphasized this feminity like today's women's magazines. However, while they were few in number, there were still a substantial number of articles in Ling Long that emphasized female patriotism, female soldiers, and most importantly, female education; in fact, the emphasis on education was not slight, but a prevalent theme throughout the magazine. Thus, as Karl Gerth pointed out, making a clear break at 1949 doesn't work, as there is always a lot of cultural overlap between the two periods.
The conference was fascinating, and I learned a lot from these professors. I am now looking forward to another conference, beginning Friday, where I hope to absorb even more information.
One of the themes that is prevalent throughout textbooks, especially the hygiene and everyday knowledge textbooks, is the emphasis on a controlled sense of time and space. Culp mentions this briefly in Articulating Citizenship, in which he claims that the Nationalist government instituted strict control over the school day in terms of schedules, classroom arrangement, free time, etc. He claims that this strict control over time and space contributes to creating an environment that mirrors a transition to industrialization. He claims "such organization an control of time as a valued resource, and the coordination of simultaneous collective activities, reflected the shifting conceptions of time that have accompanied industrialization, with its commodification and synchronization of labor." Similarly, Culp claims that a control of space allows an individual to understand his "generic self as an individual citizen in relation to the composite whole of a wider community."
I believe it goes beyond this, as it not only represents a shifting perception of time and space, but a control over the body. By controlling the body, the government can create and mold a certain sense of citizenship that is very real and tangible. Being a citizen was not only imagined, it involved a bodily participation in ritualistic behavior, and the body existed within a certain space and time with others; this new perception of space and time in essence changed the body, conforming it to the "Chinese citizen," which was defined by the government.
This is evident in textbooks. Hygiene and everyday knowledge textbooks both give children a certain sense of controlled time and behavior. They often begin with chapters that tell children to get up early. The first few chapters of each book then bring a child throughout his or her day: get up at a set time, brush teeth and wash face, go to school on time, return home on time, eat dinner at a set time, and go to bed early. Also included in some hygiene textbooks are that children should defecate at the same time every day, that children should learn how to tell time (in later textbooks, when clocks were more common) and how to keep a schedule, and what children should do during set time periods, such as "this is what we do during recess time." This sense of controlled time is also expanded to include holidays; most everyday knowledge textbooks include an explanation of certain rituals and activities on important holidays, including October 10th (GMD National day) Children's Day in April, and Sun Yat Sen's birthday. All of these contribute to this controlled sense of time, where children are forced into a certain understanding of time wherein their experience is limited to that of the ideal Chinese citizen, thus compelling them to assume that role.
There is a similar attempt for control of space. Everyday knowledge textbooks include many chapters that describe "the place that I live" "my home" "our classroom" "where we eat" "how to decorate our rooms" etc. Similarly, hygiene textbooks emphasize the environment and cleanliness of the classroom, and chapters on "public hygiene" (公共卫生） talk about the importance of classroom organization. Similarly, teachers’ manuals demonstrate the importance of designing the classroom in a specific way so as to ensure a controlled sense of uniform space.
However, that which is most evident was the government attempt to control the way that children use and handle their own bodies. This concept has been discussed by scholars before; Wang Zheng and Susan Brownell (to name a few) have talked about the importance of the body in creating the ideal citizen. In fact, Mark Elliot discussed the connection of body, time, space, and identity in early China. However, while “hygiene” to us implies cleanliness, to these textbooks it implies much more. Of course there is a heavy emphasis on keeping one’s body clean and free of disease, but there are also chapters on posture, on how to walk in a straight line, on how to exercise, which clothes to wear in the winter, how to greet guests, etc. This echoes a few ideas. First, it echoes Henrietta Harrison’s idea of public ritual in creating the modern citizen through dress and behavior. Similarly, it is reminiscent of a current Chinese public campaign that was put into full swing around the time of the Olympics. The purpose behind this particular campaign was to teach people to be very “文明” or civilized in order to show the world how “first world” China was. This included a smoking ban, harsh penalties for spitting areas where one shouldn’t spit, and to get on and off the subway in a 文明 sort of way. All of these ideas (the subway, obviously, excluded) are included in these textbooks as a way to control behavior through the body. In some ways, this process almost echoes the process explained in Elias’ Civilizing process, with one large difference: all of these changes are not compelled by society, but are compelled by a government desparately wanting to create a modern Chinese citizenry.
There are a few more important points to consider. One of these points is that the control of time, space, and behavior is not limited to the school day; many of the chapters attempt to control behavior and time at home. A teacher’s manual claimed that children spent nearly 2/3 of their time at home, and thus, that time needed to be controlled within the house. This shows the government’s attempt to create this sense of controlled space both at school and at home. Another important point to consider is that much of this control of the body was not only to control personal behavior, but to place one’s body into a group dynamic. Even chapters such as “大家的东西” and “大家的事”imply an attempt to create a collective identity among children. This collective identity would change depending upon where the book was published and when; the Guomindang books emphasized the importance of Chinese collective, while those published for overseas Chinese, especially after 1949, emphasized a more multiracial and international collective.
A final point to consider is that almost all of these examples come from early textbooks, for children ages 7 to 9. In the upper volumes of the elementary school textbooks and in the middle school textbooks, there is less blatant instruction on how to behave. For instance, instead of telling children to brush their teeth and use the bathroom at certain times in the day, the chapters explain the scientific reasons behind maintaining oral hygiene. This shows us that this sense of space and time was to be established very early on, and once the parameters of a citizen’s existence were created at a young age, hygiene became much more of a physical science class rather than a behavioral class.
There are, of course, other examples I did not list here, but this shows an overall attempt to create a certain kind of citizen by limiting the space within which a child can create his own sense of time, space, behavior, and bodily action. By manifesting citizenry in this very physical way, a child’s entire outlook on life is determined by the parameters set. This is not foreign to us today. Americans are still shocked when they go to China and hear others spitting; in fact, the sound itself creates a Pavlovian response of nausea or discomfort. Similarly, we take for granted how on time we are expected to be. For us, classes start at a certain time, buses come at a certain time (as opposed to many places where buses leave when they are full). Desks in a classroom are consciously organized in a certain way; a circle implies discussion, rows facing towards the front imply lecture. This is not just for practical reasons, it is meant to create a certain type of behavior. And even in college, if desks are in disarray, the first students who arrive often spend time managing the desks into an “orderly” fashion. This understanding affects our identity; we are the product of a “modern” nation, and we are prepared to be as such because our schedule determines it that way. However, in China, it was not maintaining a system, but creating it, which is why these rules and ideas had to be a part of the curriculum. It was through this curriculum that all children could be on the same page, prepared to accept an identity as a modern citizen.
 Robert Culp. Articulating Citizenship. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2007: 167-169.
南洋书局编。南洋初小常识教学法 (第三册). 新加坡：南洋书局有限公司，1948。
 All of this information comes from the following textbooks, unless specifically indicated: 最新南洋华侨小学常识课本教学法。新加坡：中华书局， 1939；徐允昭。小学卫生课本。 中华， 1933。上海图书馆；杨？如。 卫生课本 （高等）。世界书局印行。1933；文堇. 卫生课本 （初等）。世界书局印行。 1933。
赵楚为。小学教育参考书 （上）。上海商务， 1925。上海图书馆
The building is in a small courtyard near West Nanjing Road, which is much closer to where I live than the Shanghai Library. It shares this courtyard with the Mansion; I haven't figured out what the Mansion is yet, but it is built in colonial architecture and dates back nearly a century. The archive itself is a small dusty building made of cement (which makes it quite uncomfortable to look through the card catalog located near the door in a hallway where small heaters cannot reach). I asked for Wang Jihong, and a woman in a white coat paged her. Wang Jihong was a bustling and very sweet middle aged woman who asked me a lot of questions and was quite complimentary of me in a very sincere way. She and I chatted about education here and in America, about Fulbrights (a program with which she was quite familiar) and how she knew my advisor. Another man then came in and asked what I was doing my research on, and I told him in a vague way. He pressed me further， attempting to understand exactly what kind of material I wanted to look through. Finally, I understood that he was not making polite conversation and actually wanted to get me my materials, so I asked for elementary and middle school changshi and weisheng textbooks; he swiftly left the room and came back within 15 minutes with a stack of books, which I then proceeded to look through.
I didn't realize how lucky I was to be able to use these archives, however, until I went to the archives with a fellow history student from California who I had met through a mutual friend. She and I had both read Culp's article about the Cishu, and thus both assumed that a letter of introduction would suffice for being able to use the archives. When we went together, however, she and I were tossed around to a few people until they finally told her that, even though this was not open to the public, they would allow her to look at only a few materials as long as they were in good condition and were easy to find. Ms. Wang then explained to us that normally, it was necessary for her to have Chinese connections to be able to use this private archives, and part of the reason they allowed it is because she knew me, who knew Dr. Jiang, who new Ms. Wang. Such is the importance of 关系 (connections) in China.
All that being said, the staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. They are also quite proud of their library, and are often engaging in conversations about how many foreign people come to their library. The staff and other researchers also love to engage me in conversations; one older man who often gets my materials had a long conversation with me about Japanese electronics (since my camera is a Nikon); he also found it funny that I wrote everything in traditional characters. The rules are not strict at all, like some other archives; they will fetch materials at any times of the day, they don't force us to leave during lunch, and while we cannot photocopy, we can take pictures for a small fee (half the price of the Shanghai library). Finding materials is slightly more difficult because the card catalog is only by title, although for earlier materials it is possible for them to do a subject search on the computer (this is not, however, possible for later materials, as they are only cataloged on the cards).
It is very clear that the library has a lot of material, and (as Culp's article suggests) anyone interested in education should definitely make use of their collection. It seems that having the support or letter from a Chinese professor, especially one that they know, is helpful in facilitating the process. Similarly, knowing exactly what kind of material you need to use seems to make them more likely to let you in. It is a great place, and I am excited to do more research there, as I know I will continue to find things that I could probably not find elsewhere.
An introduction to this archive can be found in:
Culp, Robert. "Research Note: Shanghai Lexicograhpical Publishing House Library's Holdings on Republican Period Popular Culture and Education." Modern China (2), 1997: 103-109.
In the huaqiao changshi textbook, many of the chapters remained the same as the similar version from the 1930s. The importance of waking up early, studying, being respectful to teachers, and staying clean and hygienic remain. There are still chapters on the various systems of the body, on the importance of vaccinations, and the history and geography of China.
The differences, however, reveal much about the kind of identity these textbooks wanted to create. The new curriculum textbooks of the 1930s were meant to give the huaqiao in Southeast Asia the impression that they are also part of China. Thus, there were many chapters on the flags of the GMD, Sun Yat Sen's biography and contribution to the building of a new China, the dangers of imperialism, and the importance of making China strong (one of my favorite chapters in the old textbook included a hierarchy of the world's strongest countries, simply to show what China had to strive for, seen on the right. I was disappointed that America was number 5). In the new textbook, all of these chapters are absent. In the history section, there is mention of Sun Yat Sen, but it is brief. The chapters about the various races of China remained, although edited with Communist information (instead of 5 races, there are now 56, seen below). However, the modern battle for China is largely ignored, and instead is replaced with ancient Chinese history, Chinese geography, chapters on Southeast Asia, and more and more chapters on bugs.
What I think we can take from this is that these textbooks wanted these huaqiao to feel Chinese, but perhaps Chinese in a Hong Kong sense. At this point, Hong Kong had no loyalties to either government, and instead prided itself on being an international section of greater China, committed to the greatness and richness of Chinese culture that developed over 3000 years, but entirely divorced from the battles of the present. This is also made evident through the pictures. One picture that immediately stuck out to me (probably because it seemed so American) was a picture in a chapter about children's day that showed 3 white children, 1 Chinese child, and a black child all holding hands and being happy (seen to the right). The only time in any other textbooks non Chinese people get photos is when there are chapters about the races of the world. This, however, showed a clear commitment to international harmony. Also, the clothes had changed drastically. The skirts were much shorter for women, and qipaos were rare (see morning exercise below). Instead, they almost looked like small American or British children. In a sense, the huaqiao's identity was now in the hands of Hong Kong; aware of China's vast geography and natural resources, aware of it's long history and Confucian culture, but not necessarily a nationalist or communist.
The Shanghai published textbook, however, took a very clear political stance; this shouldn't really surprise anyone since by 1961, when this textbook was published, everything was controlled and created by the Communist party. There are major themes we see in this volume of this textbook. The beginning few chapters are all history of China. The next few chapters are about basic science and elements, such as water, air, metal and steel. After that, the chapters are on physiology and health. Finally, the last few chapters are on astronomy and science, including the rotations of the earth, seasons, and the lunar calendar.
The history section was largely rewritten. The first man ever was actually found outside of Beijing. We then had the Shang dynasty which led to 10,000 years of feudalism, and apparently history was stagnant up until the 1840s when China had a threat from imperialist nations. The communist narrative for history shouldn't surprise us. But all of the information about science was equally politically revealing. There is a chart included in the book of Chinese steel production, seen on the lower right; since this textbook was published right around the time of the Great Leap Forward, steel was currently an important subject. However, there was also important historical ties that were created to steel; not only was it considered most important to our "socialist revolution" but bronze (which was the next chapter) was important culturally and historically in the bronze age. Although the textbook was important to point out that bronze was important for different things today (such as creating electrical wires), I believe this connection to the "bronze age" of Chinese history was meant to show the importance of these materials to Chinese people all throughout history. While the communists eschewed much of what came before them, they still took pride in the long history of their country. Similarly, all of the sections about astrology and science were crucial to a country trying to leap forward in modernity; before the Cultural Revolution, science was considered the most important of all subjects. Health was also important, because as Mao said: "a health body allows us to study and work well."
While it is possible that more ties to the Communist party and nationalism are made in other textbooks, or perhaps other volumes of this textbook, it seems that those ties have already been made quite clear. Instead, changshi has become "everyday knowledge we need to be productive members of the nation." The difference between cows and horses, and fun activities on children's day are no longer important. All of our knowledge comes back to making people working cogs of the communist nation.
These two textbooks create two very interesting discourses of what it means to be Chinese at this point. One is very clearly tied to the communist narrative, while one is very cultural and historical, but completely divorced from politics and more immersed in an international kind of environment. I believe, however, that as I find other textbooks, other narratives will begin to come forth.
First, the idea of "race" is quite often broached in civics textbooks （社会课本）and everyday knowledge textbooks （常识课本）. Culp talks a lot in his book about racial minorities and Western China, and the treatment of these places in geography and history textbooks. He claims that, especially in history textbooks, there is tension between one narrative that promotes racial and cultural plurality, and another that promotes Sinicization. However, Peter Zarrow claims in his chapter from The Politics of Historical Production in Late Qing and Republican China that a conception of China in late Qing textbooks has always been multiracial. Obviously, the late Qing textbooks authors had reason to promote racial plurality, as the Qing rulers were not Han but Manchu, but this concept seems to have somewhat remained. One line in the textbook entitled "Elementary Civics Textbooks" （小学社会课本） claimed "the place that they live is in China, therefore they are also Chinese people."
However, their are implications that question their true status as citizens. First of all, pictures of them imply that they are not as developed as the Han people. I found this picture actually quite illuminating, where other races are made to look almost inhuman (such as the pictures of the Uighers on the right). Similarly, they place pictures of these ethnic minorities that mirror similar pictures in the "development" (进步）sections; these development sections show how the places we live, the food we eat, and the clothes we wear all have gone through development, and the height of that development in clothing, for example, is a picture of a woman in a Qipao. This is furthered by the fact that while the Han people are often very well groomed and look "modernized," minorities are always depicted in their traditional garb, thus further emphasizing their "otherness," as seen in the picture on below. This depiction of minorities, actually has survived until today; in a way, the stereotypical "traditional" way that minorities in the 1930s and today are depicted in China mirrors the way that Asian women were depicted in the early 1900s, thus creating an Orientalism within the country as opposed to the Orientalism that occurred in the West before that.
Similarly, many of the chapters are not flattering at all. In the chapter in Elementary Civics about Uigher people, the only other information (other than that they are Chinese because they live in China) is that they are poor, their parents are also poor, and they are very uneducated. However, as Culp suggested, there are also narratives of racial equality, as other textbooks emphasize equality among all the racial minorities.
In a similar vein, while ethnic minorities, since they live in China, are considered Chinese people, 华侨 or overseas Chinese are also considered Chinese people. We see this in a simple sentence in a lower level elementary school everyday knowledge textbook "Us Chinese people who live in other countries are called huaqiao." (我们中国人住在外国的都叫做华侨）. The important line here to note is "us Chinese people," thus further emphasizing the connection that huaqiao have to their home country. Furthermore, the way that the textbook praises these huaqiao who are in America doing business makes them sound not only like citizens, but great citizens.
In a similar vein, the textbooks seem to equally praise people who live in cities and in rural areas. Historically, people who live in rural areas often feel quite removed from the rest of a country, and sometimes have more difficulty attaching themselves to a national imagined community. These textbooks clearly want to establish that everyone in China, from those who work on farms to those who work in factories, are integral parts of the national unit. Many chapters in the Everyday knowledge textbooks are devoted to teaching children about life on rice paddies, how vegetables are produced, what happens when rural people sell their goods at the market, etc. The message from these chapters is quite clear: rural people are an integral part of the Chinese state. Similarly there are separate chapters about China's major cities, thus showing their significance in the Chinese nation as well.
The inclusion of huaqiao in the Chinese nation is also made evident by textbooks specifically created for huaqiao. At this point, most huaqiao were in southeast Asia, and because of that, the Shanghai Zhonghua publishing house created changshi textbooks specifically for their use. The content is almost entirely the same; the only differences is that the huaqiao textbooks include a few chapters in the advanced books about the various Southeast Asian countries; there is a chapter on Malaysia and one on Indonesia. Also, the chapters about bugs and infectious diseases include bugs more commonly found in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, by sending these textbooks for use for overseas Chinese, the Chinese government was making a very clear statement that these huaqiao are an important part of the Chinese nation.
Finally, there is the question of gender. This is a bit more of a tricky subject since it is not directly addressed in textbooks. However, as I've implied in my other posts, women were considered not as a regular citizen who should be politically active, but still an integral part of the national unit. Women are often treated in textbooks as mothers, or children who are often overshadowed by male counterparts. When it comes to works of civil service, such as contributing to public hygiene or helping parents around the house, men and women are shown equally. When it comes to studying or taking a particularly civic role, however, the pictures are predominately of male children. Also, the calls for action are normally for 哥哥 and 弟弟 （older brother and younger brother) rather than for sisters. Take for example, the picture to the right, where the boy is the leader of all of the nighttime activities, and in the bottom right frame, teaches his younger sister something. The only chapter I found with only girls in the pictures was a chapter on hygiene in the kitchen. The predominance of gender equality varies from book to book (for instance, there is one book where the xiaopengyou (child) is always male, and the only female present is the mother) but it still sends a strong message about the role of females in the modern nation. This is furthered by the depiction of the mother who is often fulfilling her gender roles of cooking, cleaning, and parenting, whereas the father is often depicted as a scholar. For example in the picture below, as the children show their filial piety to their parents, the father holds a book and the mother is washing clothes.
What does all this mean? I would like to fathom at a few possible larger implications for these assessments. First of all, while Culp will debate this, it seems to me in elementary school textbooks, the argument for Sinicization is the dominant one even though others are still present. It seems that, while the text will argue that racial minorities are Chinese people as well, this seems more to be politically motivated than anything else (in order to emphasize the fact that the Western regions should be under Chinese control), and these statements belie what I believe to be the true beliefs among the government, which is shown through pictures. This is further emphasized by the treatment of huaqiao (which are in these textbooks all of the Han race) who are still strongly considered Chinese citizens. This strong emphasis on race and the Han people survives today, as huaqiao and huayi (Chinese who are born in America) are still considered a part of the nation. This to me symbolizes the importance of race over geographic location, an emphasis that is opposite in American textbooks today. Gender is a different subject altogether, where women are important parts of the nation but only if they fulfill their specific designated role as "mothers of good citizens." All of these come together to create a very fuzzy picture of citizen, but a very obviously controlled one.
Let's begin with 卫生 (hygiene). Scholars have grappled with this term before. One of the most important works on this subject is Ruth Rogawski's book, who translates 卫生 as "hygienic modernity," as one cannot separate 卫生 from the modern concept and the desire to follow public health and bodily practices of the West. I want to expand this concept even further. It includes not only bodily cleanliness, but this process of changing all practices related to the body into "modern" ones. Defining "modern" practices is also problematic, but we will save that for another paper (or post).
In order to further show this definition, I would like to list some of the subjects or lessons included in 卫生 textbooks. There are many chapters on brushing teeth, washing hands before eating, changing clothes often, washing face, cleaning out ears and nose, washing and cutting hair, all things we would include in the definition of "hygiene" in English. There are also chapters on getting vaccinated, taking care of yourself when you are sick, exercising properly, getting enough sleep, wearing a lot of clothes in the winter, how to stay healthy in summer, etc. And the topics that seem to broaden the scope of hygiene even more are chapters on correctly organizing the classroom on national day (including how to properly hang the national flag), sitting up straight, helping parents at home, dressing properly, buying food at the nearby market, and nearly half of the upper level textbooks are devoted to life science, including not only human physiology but also bugs, animals, and plants. In some ways, this is almost an etiquette manual, a life science textbook, and a "staying healthy" brochure from the doctor's office all rolled into one.
Now let's move into 常识 textbooks. This is not only a title for textbooks; there are often 常识sections in magazines and journals (such as the journal I used for my last research project Ling Long). And through looking at Ling Long and these textbooks, I've realized that 常识 can mean just about anything. I read a teacher's manual today that was meant to teach teachers how to teach 常识 classes. They defined 常识 as combining 2 major ideas: human and natural interaction, and service society. I realize these may sound quite awkward, but at this point, that is the best I can do with translation, and to be honest, even in Chinese it doesn't make a whole lot of sense (to me). They then listed nearly 30 things that should be included in a 常识 textbook, including (but certainly not exclusively) Chinese modern history (including the Opium wars, colonialism, the first world wars, and others) Chinese geography (the main cities, rivers, and mountains) the main Chinese-produced products (food and others) Chinese natural resources, main occupations, contagious diseases, major modes of transportation, major plants and animals, etc. What was not listed in this teachers' manual but still included in many 常识 textbooks is information about sitting up straight, staying healthy, being on time for class, why not to put things in your mouth that you cannot eat, and other odd subjects as such.
Personally, I think the best way to define 常识 is any information that an informed public needs to know to be a part of a modern society. Obviously, this definition is hugely problematic, since "modern society" is by no means definable. But, just as how I defined 卫生 before, I define modern not by our current conception of it, but how Chinese people at the time understood it. It was defined differently by different people and groups, but in essence it was a goal, a way of life emulated by the West and Japan that China wanted to achieve, but without sacrificing their "Chinese soul" so to speak.
Still, however, these terms are hugely vague, and there is a lot of overlap. For instance, both textbooks talk about the importance of proper behavior and cleanliness practices. Both talk about filial piety and helping others. Both include lessons on an organized space and an organized daily routine. And both include lessons about basic life science, including animals, plants, food, human physiology, and of course, the importance of vaccinations. But ultimately, neither textbook group tries to hide the desire to "modernize" the Chinese population by emulating Western habits and Western categories of knowledge. Furthermore, the ultimate goal of creating a patriotic nation is quite obvious. But what we must remember is that we can't point and scream "propaganda"; this was a time period when using education to foster patriotism was commonplace, not dangerous. It is how this patriotism is fostered that is important, and the major trend I can take from these textbooks topics is that they focus on controlling behavior, time, space and the body, which is what connects these topics together.
But in general, I have found a few trends that I believe I want to further explore. Some of these I have touched on in other posts, but now I would like to clarify these ideas into a clear list. This is a short post, and I will expound further on these ideas in posts to come.
One idea that I have come across both in Culp's book and among others is the concept of a control of space and time in creating the nation. I know that Culp is not the first to posit this, nor is this concept particular to the modern period (most famously Mark Edward Lewis wrote on this theme in The Construction of Space in Early China). But Culp mainly mentioned the creation of a regimented schedule and uniform classroom setup in creating a modern citizenry; I would like to focus on how textbooks create this idea as well. This is especially created in weisheng (hygiene) textbooks and changshi (everyday knowledge) textbooks, where the proper decorum, dress, and behavior is explicitly outlined. Furthermore, Culp talks about how this construction of uniform space and time helps to create a sense of industrialization and an integrated societal unit of which these young citizens are part of; I think this idea can be taken further and in different directions, which I will talk about in other posts.
Another concept I would like to look at is: who is a citizen? Again, this idea has been nearly exhausted by other scholars, especially by looking at history and geography textbooks, but I think that there are some areas that have yet to be looked at. The idea of race has been mentioned and analyzed, but not yet in full. Some scholars argue the idea of a dominant racial theory, others emphasize the plurality of races in the Chinese nation. But this idea has yet to be resolved. Also, the use of pictures in textbooks to emphasize the rightful place of citizens has yet to be examined. Beyond race, the tensions between rural and urban citizens has not yet been examined. We know that the GMD had more power and hold in cities, whereas the Communists glorified the rural landscape; but in these nationally produced textbooks, it almost seems as though the rural lifestyle is more respected and rural citizens are more important than other citizens. I'm not sure why this is.
Also, I feel that the question of women as citizens is still ambiguous. Paul Bailey has talked about women's education, but no one has asked how women are portrayed in textbooks, and how that effects the subsequent status of females as citizens. If women are using textbooks where all of the pictures of people studying are men, and those who are participating in civic rituals are all men, what message does that send to them? Are women full citizens? Furthermore, while these textbooks explicitly state that Mongolians and Tibetans are Chinese people, the question as to whether women are Chinese citizens is left ambiguous. It would be interesting to see why that is.
Look for further posts that delve deeper into these ideas.
We arrived in Chengdu late on Friday, October 31st. After a bumpy plane ride, we took a cab to Chengdu International Dream Hostel (which both of us will highly recommend). There, for 35 RMB a night we shared a room with four beds, and fortunately since it was low travel season, we were able to keep the room to ourselves.
The next morning, we set out on the streets of Chengdu to explore. We wanted to see a few of the big temples, such as the 清羊宫 (the Green Ram temple), a large Daoist temple filled with beautiful gardens (see both pictures to the left). Right behind the Green Ram temple was a street full of shops, which had been recommended to us by the man I sat next to on the plane to Chengdu. There, we bought some stuffed animal pandas since we assumed they would be cheaper there than if we waited for the Great Panda reserve.
We then stopped at the Chengdu board of tourism to see if there was anything else we could see that day. She recommended that we go to a street called Jinli to shop, so that was where we went. It turns out that it was similar to the Old Town of Shanghai, filled with tourist shops with both generic and strange knick knacks (see picture to right) and of course, the ubiquitous Starbucks. After we went shopping there, we went to another area nearby in the Tibetan quarter of Chengdu. That street was also filled with fantastic shops of Tibetan clothes, prayer flags, scrolls, embroidered wall hangings, and just about anything else colorful that could be stuffed into a Tibetan temple. The only downside of this street was the Tibetan "monks" that begged for money on the street. The reason I put the quotations around the word "monks" is I am pretty sure they were not actually monks, but instead just bought the clothing. They were rude, pushy, and sometimes even physical as they demanded money from unsuspecting shoppers. One child shoved books in our face to the point where we fell backwards while he yelled "money money money"; we assume these books talked about their "monasteries" but I am not entirely sure since we never took the time to read anything. Another older man hit us on the shoulder when we denied him money. I found this to be a real shame, since these few people were giving Tibetans, and especially Tibetan monks, a bad name.
Our night ended with some wonderful hotpot, a Sichuan speciality. This dish is somewhat similar to fondue; the table is occupied with a bowl of boiling soup, and you order raw vegetables, meat, seafood, noodles, etc. to cook in the soup. Traditionally in Sichuan, the soup is actually a pot of (I believe) chili oil, or perhaps chili soup; we wouldn't completely know since we got the 白味 hotpot, or hotpot for wimps (with no chili, oil or otherwise). Perhaps we didn't get the "full flavor" of Sichuanese cuisine, but it was still quite good. We just didn't think we could handle the real Sichuanese hotpot.
The next day we took a trip to the Great Panda reserve, about 18 kilometers outside of Chengdu. I won't fill this blog space with gushings about how cute the pandas were, although I will say they moved much like Winnie the Pooh, only cuter. Also, while watching some of the most active pandas (we were quite lucky to see them play together since pandas are mostly nocturnal and love to sleep all day), a very sweet British woman stood next to me and narrated with overly cute phrases that would seemingly be from a British farce, which actually made the pandas cuter.
Other than being a fantastic opportunity to both see great pandas and hold red pandas, the reserve I think is a fantastic example of what the CCP can do. The panda reserve is clearly very well funded and controlled (I'm pretty sure these pandas are fed more expensive and better quality food than most of China eats); it uses the best available equipment and employs the best personnel. The effort to save pandas is left to these kinds of reserves, and the CCP takes that very seriously. For example, a peasant may be offered up to 2 years annual salary if it saves a starving panda, and life imprisonment or even execution is the fate of anyone who kills a great panda. Just like we saw with earthquake relief and population control, when the CCP deems something important, it often very effectively gets done.
After a morning of cooing over pandas, we went back to Chengdu where we spent the afternoon exploring some new temples. We went to a Buddhist temple called the Wenshou temple, where we feasted on a wonderful vegetarian lunch, perhaps only surpassed by the vegetarian banquets I was so fortunate to receive at Fo Guang Shan. We had delicious mushroom dumplings and a vegetarian version of huiguorou, which was actually better than the real version, a dish of fried meat, green onions, and soy beans, though the meat is often 90% fat. The temple was also quite lovely, I think mostly distinguished by the buildings' over exaggerated cloud bracketing, seen in the picture on the right.
After walking around wenshou temple, we once again walked around some side streets selling cute Sichuanese souvenirs, including bamboo wrapped porcelain jars (see to right), candy blown like glass, embroidered silk scrolls, and of course, stuffed pandas.
That evening we thought it would be fun to go back to Jinli and try some street food, much of which we had never seen before. We soon discovered, however, that almost all of it was covered in the Sichuan spices "ma" and "la." "La" refers to chili pepper, as it means "hot" or "spicy." "Ma" is a spice that causes your mouth to go numb, and I'm still not entirely sure what it actually is. Nevertheless, Yiyi and I are not big fans of either spice, and we were thrilled, after spending a lot of money on food we couldn't eat, to find some chicken shaomai. Nevertheless, it was an experience.
The next morning we left for Hailuogou glacier park. It was difficult to give up the chance to go to Jiuzhaigou, a beautiful nature reserve in the north of Sichuan known by all Chinese, but we thought a glacier would be more interesting; also, there is a very real possibility that while Jiuzhaigou will probably be perfectly preserved for a long time, Hailuogou may not be here in the near future. The glacier is a few hundred kilometers to the West, near the Sichuan-Tibet highway, and is surrounded by the astounding snow capped jagged peaks that define the Tibetan and Himalayan landscape. It was about a 6-8 hour bus ride, some of which was quite comfortable on the highway, and some of which was typical miserable Chinese bus rides on poorly repaired windy mountain roads. However, in some ways, the bus ride was the best part because we were able to see the variety in landscape as we made our way west. Small villages with tropical green terraced rice paddies and palm trees became taller mountains with colorful fall foliage within a few hours, and soon after became towering peaks with weaker vegetation. And once we reached Moxi village, which held the entrance to the park, we were able to just make out the jagged mountains covered with snow as the sun went down.
Unfortunately, the bus ride was a bit soured by our tour guide. I have been on Chinese tours before, and since we only paid 280 for the entire trip (which is very little since it included meals 2 nights accommodation, and the 75 RMB entrance fee), we didn't expect a fantastic guide or 5 star hotels. However, it all began when he tried to convince us to attend a performance of Tibetan dancers, as for every 100 RMB ticket he sold, he got a kickback. We told him we were tired and did not want to go, and he continued to pester us. The afternoon was nice, as we stopped for awhile in Luding to see a famous communist monument: the Luding bridge (the town you can see on the right). According to Communist lore, during Mao's long march as the communists were being chased by the Guomindang, the communists were headed for the Luding bridge only to find that the Guomindang had removed the planks and were waiting to head them off on the other side. Being the brave communists that they were, they climbed across the bridge like monkeys with grenades in their mouths and blew the few Guomindang soldiers away, and were able to run further into the mountains before the other Guomindang troops could arrive. The bridge is now a large tourist attraction where the nationalistic Chinese come to see the great victory of the CCP (and see the great picture of me on the right, being a good communist, on the Luding bridge).
The tour once again took a turn for the worst once we reached Moxi town and were forced to listen to a woman at a "Buddhist temple" try and convince us to drop 400-800 RMB (approximately 55-120 USD) to have our fortune told. In the meantime, our tour guide tried to figure out where we (as in just Yiyi and I) were staying as apparently he didn't know. After frightening us ("oh my goodness, are we staying in a complete dump?") it turned out we were staying with everyone else. We aren't sure why our tour guide didn't know that.
The other thing that soured the tour a bit was the food. I knew that tour food was bad, but never had I imagined that they would feed us such unhealthy food, and then not give us enough. 12 people, including sometimes one or all of the 5 men from the People's Liberation Army, were expected to share 8 small dishes which often never included meat and only occasionally included tofu. Once, 4 of the 8 dishes were steamed veggies. We often left the table hungry, grumbling about the lack of food. And in the morning, breakfast was rice and steamed buns, and to get any type of protein we had to pay extra. Furthermore, the food must have been really bad, because I am still (6 days later) getting over the food poisoning.
That evening, after we went to our rooms (which was actually pretty nice), Yiyi and I chatted with some of the girls on our tour. There were three girls about our age whose rooms were right near ours. Two of them were working, and another was a graduate student in chemistry. It was wonderful to talk with them, sharing our opinions and experiences in America while complaining about our tour guide.
The next morning, we woke up quite early to have an unsatisfying breakfast, and then we hopped on a tour bus to go to a base camp at the base of the glacier. The Lonely Planet claimed that Hailuogou glacier park had become largely touristy, so I never imagined that the roads up to the base camp would be so poorly constructed. I would have been unbelievably sick on the muddy bumpy roads ridden with piles of rock and bulldozers had it not been for my anti emetic and the gripping fear that our rushed and wild bus driver might drive us off a cliff. However, after about an hour and a half of sickening hairpin turns on muddy roads, we made it to the base camps. It is also unfortunate that we couldn't see very much because of the thick clouds that surrounded the landscapes, barely allowing us to see 10 feet in front of us. We originally wanted to walk, which our tour guide suggested since the clouds were so thick, but unfortunately, we were chased up the trail and actually run off the trail by men carrying sudan chairs trying to convince us to pay them to carry us up the hill. We then realized our tour guide pressured us to hike because he received a kick back from those sedan carrying men; we saw them talking right before he gave us his suggestion.
Because those sedan carriers actually made the hike somewhat unsafe since they took up the whole trail and surrounded us while yelling at us how we couldn't make it up the mountain. Therefore, we decided instead to take a cable car, and I am really glad we did because on our way up, the clouds parted (literally) for about 10 minutes and we got a spectacular view of the jagged peaks (seen in the picture on the right). We stuck our cameras out the window and snapped as many photos as we could, which was a great idea because by the time we reached the end of the cable car, the clouds had descended once again. We waited for about an hour for the clouds to blow away again, which fortunately they did, but in the picture on the right you can see all of the tourists waiting for it amongst an intimidating sea of clouds. We were able to see the glacier (in the picture above), which had significantly retreated since the posters nearby had been taken, but it was breathtaking. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
We then took the cable car back down and met everyone else for lunch. Many of the other friends we had made had decided to hike (and inevitably gave in and allowed those sedan chair guys to carry them up) and while they saw some beautiful forests, but missed the overall landscape. While it was sad to have missed the short hike, I'm glad we saw the landscape. We then had another unsatisfying lunch and an even more unsatisfying bus ride down, we made it back to the town of Moxi. This was a really beautiful town with really friendly people. Small children walked up to me to practice their English (it seems that children are more friendly in rural towns). People were building bonfires and roasting lambs under thatched roofs (we were jealous since they got more meat than we did) and people were herding goats and picking lettuce in fields. I almost feel guilty taking so much joy in this bucolic atmosphere since I don't have to live there, but it is really beautiful. We then went to a French catholic church where Mao and the communists had camped out during the long march. There we met an elderly man watching over the church who let us into the church for free (though expecting a small donation). He was actually quite knowledgeable about Catholicism, and sang us some hymns in Italian and some communist revolutionary hymns. He was very excited about me, though I think a bit disappointed that I didn't know much about Catholicism. After that, we went back to our room for a (moderately) hot shower, and then we had another small dinner. Everyone was exhausted, so we all then went to sleep.
The next day we were dragged to a bunch of places where they wanted us to buy things (especially the tour guide, who got a kickback from the sales). We were angry at our tour guide, so we silently protested by staying on the bus until we stopped at a place that makes its own dried meat, and since they gave away free samples, everyone on the tour (the people we liked) encouraged us to come in and have a taste.
The bus ride was even more beautiful, partly because the skies were blue but more because we received text messages from Fulbrighters in Shanghai about Obama's victory. :) We were able to catch part of the news coverage on a television in a restaurant, and when we found out the results, many of the people on the tour congratulated us. Then, the tour guide took one last jab at us (perhaps because we refused to go to those sales pitches) by leaving us on the entrance to a highway, including the older woman who had broken her ankle, telling us to find our own transportation back. It took us nearly half an hour to find a cab, which made us so irritated that we unintentionally took it out on the girls who worked at our hostel, who of course didn't know that our tour would be that bad. We were just scared that the tour we booked for the next day to Leshan and Emei Shan would be just as bad, but they reassured us and we ended up going (which was a wise choice).
We decided to go and see a temple across the street called Wuhouci, a temple built in 6th century for Zhu Geliang, a hero of the 3 kingdoms period known for his great wisdom (he was also made famous through the numerous novelizations of the period, most famously the Romance of the Three Kingdoms). I won't pretend to know anything at all about this period; what I do know is that there were three states vying for power, and two teamed up to battle the third, and I'm pretty sure that the team of 2 lost. Zhu Geliang was one of the generals and leaders of one of the states. (Please don't make fun of my absolute lack of knowledge on this subject).
Then we went to dinner at a place recommended by our friends at the hostel. It ended up being our favorite place to eat in Sichuan, and we ordered a dish that was stir fried pork over deep fried rice cakes in a sweet and tangy sauce, which was delicious (seen on the left). There was a sweet girl who helped to wait on us, and she wanted to practice her English. She was clearly very nervous, but she continued to ask us questions and was just fascinated with us. Her name was Liqing, and she was from Leshan, a full 2 hours away from Chengdu. She was only 16, and she worked every day which was making her grades suffer in school. My heart felt for her, because it was clear she looked at us as a part of this world she could never be a part of. She made us promise that we would come back again, and then she wanted to take pictures with us, which we promised we would send to her.
The next morning, we woke up VERY early for our tour of Leshan and Emei Shan. We could tell almost immediately that the tour would be better than the Hailuogou tour because we stopped at a small street stall for breakfast where the busdriver himself had some noodles, and he clearly did not get a kickback for it. He dropped us off at Leshan, only 2 hours from Chengdu, the home of the large Buddha which was carved into the side of the mountain nearly 1000 years ago. It stands as the largest Buddha in the world (ever since the Taliban blew up the one in Afghanistan in the 1990's). It was carved out of a mountain face in the 8-9th centuries by a monk named Haitong, and so much rock was carved out of the cliff that it actually changed the water currents of the nearby river, making it possible for boats to travel on it. After spending some time walking from one side of the Buddha to the other (which actually took nearly an hour), we climbed around the area to look at some other temples. Unfortunately, I missed much of the narrative because our guide did not give us long to take pictures.
After Leshan, we had some lunch before we headed to Emei Shan, one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China (the others being Wutai Shan, Jiuhua Shan, and Putuo Shan). Not only is Emei Shan famous for its place in Buddhist history and its spectacular sea of clouds (which we, unfortunately, did not see) but also because of the monkeys that roam freely on the mountain. While they are not tied up or kept in cages, they are still incredibly influenced by their surroundings. They are quite aggressive with people, and are very used to opening plastic bags full of nuts which are either given to them by tourists or which they have stolen (we also saw one monkey emptying out a wallet...) However, the mountain has employed many people to make sure that the monkeys to do not attack tourists; they do this by carrying large sticks which they snap at the monkeys if they come too close. I also wonder just how animal friendly the staff workers are since many of the older monkeys were missing one or both hands. We still got a lot of pictures with the monkeys at very close proximity, though they were somewhat frightening (as they are known to have stolen things from tourists).
After taking pictures of the monkeys, we went to the the wanniansi, or the 10,000 year temple. By this point in my China travels, I have to admit that most of these temples were starting to look alike, which I think even the most dedicated of architecture experts begin to feel after awhile (much like those who spend a lot of time sightseeing in Europe; all the churches begin to look alike). However, this temple had a very unique building, one which combined architectural elements in a way I have never seen before. Instead of the formulaic structure of most temples, a square building with cloud bracketing, the temple has a sqaure base with a rounded top. It was painted bright yellow with a few simplistic decorations around the base. It actually echoes original Buddhist temples from India, who simply build large mounds of dirt that were covered and decorated on the outside; the proper way to worship at these temples was to simply circumambulate around the outside. Also like these temples, there was no image of the Buddha in this temple, but instead a large elephant around which pilgrims circumambulated; the theme of circumambulation was even further emphasized by the importance of going to the back of the temple, as rubbing the back of the elephant's knees brought good health.
From that temple, we moved onto other areas of Emei Shan, stopping a few times to get small snacks or try teas. We tried some very bitter tea, some pretty strong alcohol (the older men on our tour very much enjoyed that our young female tour guide could hold her alcohol quite well) and deep fried pheasant and duck, a specialty of the region. The ducks and pheasants were quite small, and there was not much meat (and the meat that was there was quite gamey) but it was nice to try the regions' specialties. We were not going to buy any, but the men on our tour bought some for us. (seen on the right)
We then moved on to hike through some really spectacular landscape. One of my favorite scenes was a pagoda framed by two symmetrical bridges, which was surrounded by lush greenery (seen below). We were somewhat rushed for time, so I had to quickly take photos and run to catch up. I am still disappointed we couldn't spend more time exploring the mountain, and even more disappointed that we didn't catch the sunrise at the summit; we only made it halfway up the mountain because we were on a half day tour. But I suppose that is an adventure for another trip.
Overall, I think what this trip did for me more than anything is give me a fierce travel bug. I am very sad I missed Jiuzhaigou, and equally sad that I have yet to go to Tibet. I guess this just means I will probably be in Sichuan again someday.