Getting stuff done in the archives

One of the reasons I chose my particular project was that the archives were relatively accessible. And as far as archives go, the archives at the Shanghai Library are well organized, easy to maneuver, and (so I've heard) relatively cheap to copy. That being said, I am not at all looking forward to working with other archives, because I've run into a series of problems. In the scope of things, these problems are probably pretty minor, especially since I've managed to overcome all of them. However, as a break from my research notes, and for the amusement of those who have never used archives before (or perhaps for the amusement of those who have...remember what it is like to be in my position?) these are my experiences at the archives so far.

First of all, trying to figure out how to even check out regular books at the Shanghai library was a hassle. Instead of looking up a number, finding the book, and checking it out, for books published after 1949 but before 2003 (with some exceptions), you have to look up the book on a computer, request it (which is a bit of a Byzantine process...it is not as simple as pressing "request,") wait 20 minutes for your name to come up on a large screen near the counter where a dumbwaiter brings the books, then you can check them out. I am very glad to have encountered another China scholar at the library that day who explained the whole process to me. Then there are other strange rules; for the English books published after 2003, you can check them out, but only from 1:30-5. Why the time limit? I have no idea.

Then there are the archives. The archives are not catalogued online, but instead are still organized by card catalogue. There are three catagorizations, by subject, by title, and by author. You then fill out a yuelandan form (in which you write the book number, the title, and the publisher) and exchange your library card for a number metal board. You then take the small metal board thing, give it to the woman in the archive reading room, and once she has put your metal board into the correct slot, you sit and wait for them to call your number, and they give you the books. This process may be simple enough, but it was confusing to figure out for the first time with no written instructions, with Chinese abilities that have limited vocabulary (such as, what the names of the rooms are, the word for "request" or "catalogue" or even the yuelandan), and with a staff that does not particularly want to explain the whole process. Then, even after all of this, at least in my case, they didn't even have many of the books I needed. It took a lot of prodding and asking questions until someone finally explained to me that they were not giving me 3/4 of the books I needed because they were being digitized. There was one worker who took pity on me and explained that many of the documents I needed were being digitized, but if I explained to other members of the library staff my situation, they would be able to get the books for me. So that is exactly what I did; I went to a small room on a different floor of the library and asked one of the professors there to help me get these books. He wrote a small note on my yuelandan, and after that I was able to get the books.

On top of all of this, I never realized how quickly copying fees could add up. Even if I am quite frugal with my requests for copying, I usually end up spending nearly 20 USD every time I go. The price is 20 cents a page, which adds up really quickly. And for materials which you cannot copy, you can take pictures of them, but they charge 2 kuai a picture (about 30 cents), which I learned only after I had taken nearly 100 photos.

At this point, I feel like I have the system down, at least in the modern archive room. There are still areas of the library I have yet to explore, and once I need documents from those areas, I am sure I can tackle them. I just thought I would share my experiences, and after 4-5 years of graduate school I will look back on this and laugh...


Research notes: Women in textbooks

One of the textbooks that I have found most entertaining is called 好公民。It is the story of a family of four: 华民, 黄裔, 华淑, and 华强。 Loosely translated, these names correspond to:Huamin (the Chinese people or Chinese race); Huangyi (the yellow race); Huashu (Chinese virtue); and huaqiang (Chinese strength). The oldest, and the main character of the story, is Huamin. He is the ultimate paragon of great citizenship, and often not only teaches his siblings lessons, but also teaches his parents as well. He is always the one to point out the behavior that all good citizens should follow.

We'll give some examples of Huamin's behavioral excellence. After a meal, he explains to his family the importance of eating fruit for his health. He designs a landscaping design for his backyard, and instead of relying on others' labor, he creates a beautiful garden with his own hands. He helps older people to walk when they have trouble. When the family goes shopping for New Year's gifts, he is the first to thank his parents for being such good parents, and asks the shopkeeper which toys are made IN the country rather than OUT of the country; when the toys he wants are imported, he decides to make his own toy boat instead.

But instead of talking about Huamin's many virtues, I think that Huashu's role is vastly more interesting. The only female character in the story (other than the mother, who has an even smaller role and is hardly given a role at all), she is often faded into the background. But the few appearances she does make speaks to the image of women in 1930's China.

First, lets look at her name and her placement in the family. As the oldest and wisest, Huamin, or the Chinese race, is meant to be superior, even superior to the other Asians and to women, the keepers of Chinese virtue. Huaqiang, or Chinese strength, is not often mentioned, but as the youngest sibling, I believe that he represents Chinese potential (though I could be wrong). However, Huashu is inferior to Huamin. In a way, I believe that this also is symbolic of the placement of women in citizenship. The woman is a person outside of citizenship, she is a different entity. Therefore, she is not only inferior to the Chinese people, more importantly, she is considered outside of the Chinese people.

Furthermore, her name, Chinese virtue, explains that as a woman, that is her most important job: to maintain and protect virtue. This stems back from the long, long, long debate of what to do with women in the new modern society. However, as Paul Baily showed, the ultimate purpose of female education was to train good wives and mothers. While there were certainly other roles for women in the "universe of discourse," the main narrative among men was that the main role for women in a modern society was to raise good and modern sons. Of course, education was necessary, but her goal in life was not be a leader, but to be the rearer of good leaders. Thus, in this textbook, the name of "Chinese virtue" is quite appropriate and quite telling in the author's belief of the role of women. To emphasize the further, the character 淑, while meaning "virtue," refers specifically to female virtues. Combined with other characters, this particular character's essence is to describe the ideal woman, her behavior, and her ethical standards.

Now let's look at the few appearances that Huashu makes in this story. One of the first appearances she makes is doing homework with her brothers. The story explains specifically that Huashu does not understand math at all, but with the help of her brothers, she understands it a bit more. This symbolically shows us Huashu's inferiority; she is hopeless intellectually without a man to help her. More obviously, women can't do math (a certain Harvard professor's comments a few years ago rings some bells...). And if we look at the average curriculum of female schools at this time in Bailey's book, it is shown indeed that math and science are not emphasized. This is understandable; how does knowing math or science help women raise good sons? This kind of symbolism is furthered in the next chapter, where Huamin is creating his own garden, and his sister sits by to watch and help. She doesn't really understand what is happening, but she helps anyway, attempting to support her older brother. This can also be read as the role of women: women should support the true Chinese citizens. Finally, we see her as not understanding the nuances of foreign relations when she, and her older brother Huangyi, pick out toys at the giftshop. Only Huamin has the knowledge and understanding to ask "is this made here? Or is it imported from outside?" While both Huangyi and Huashu's toys are made in China, the toy that Huamin desires is made outside of China. Because of this and his incredible virtue, Huamin makes the toys himself. That Huangyi and Huashu are so crudely unaware of the current situation that they don't even think to ask where the toys are made speaks to their level of political awareness; it is Huamin who must guide them. Here, however, Huashu and Huangyi are on the same page, showing that the Chinese people must guide everyone, others in Asia and the women of China, in the correct path to strength and modernity.

This type of portrayal of women in textbooks is not exclusive to this particular one. In other textbooks, especially 常识 textbooks, oftentimes the text will read "小哥哥does this and this while 小弟弟 should do this." Those characters translate as "older brother" and "younger brother" respectively, but there is no mention to what women should do to help around the house, help organize the classroom, be filial, or help to contribute to the public hygiene of the neighborhood. Similarly, in all pictures of children helping out a teacher or parent, or especially studying, the children are all boys. Sometimes, in scenes of playing, there are both men and women. There are also times when classrooms are shown with men and women. But in particular lessons in hygiene textbooks about "using a light when you read or write," the children are both boys. Oftentimes, the most common occurrence of a female in a picture is the mother, thus further emphasizing the true role of a woman.

A question I would like to know is: was this book used in both women's and men's schools? My guess is that they were used in both, as both Culp and Bailey point out that often times, both types of schools used the same books. But I don't know for sure. It is important though, because we need to know who is getting this message; was it women being taught how to be women, or was it men being taught what women should do?

It also speaks to the importance today of teaching children about important figures in women and minority history. As a girl reads 好公民, she is taught that her only role in life is to be a virtuous symbol under a man's shadow, never with real thoughts and ideas of her own, and when she reads other textbooks, there are no pictures or mentions of women studying or doing well in school, therefore giving her nothing to emulate. While I never thought about it as a child, learning about women like Susan B. Anthony and other women's rights advocates teaches in America that women can do anything. And if we didn't talk about Martin Luther King Jr. or W. B. Debois, the only way African Americans would see themselves in textbooks is as slaves. This kind of self-creation is important, and the way that we portray genders and races in our books plays a large part in the self identity creation of our citizens.


Research Notes: What is wrong with teaching Plato?

I want to preface this post by talking about an article in the New York Times I read a few weeks ago. The article (provided at the end of this post) talks about a new push on college campuses to teach a more conservative platform because of the conservative loss on college campuses after the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s. Specifically, they want to include "the teaching of Western culture and a triumphal interpretation of American history." In essence, there are these privately funded conservative programs attempting to include Freshmen readers or other courses that "retake education" from the crazy liberal left (this hit home a bit because one of these pilot programs is happening in Colorado Springs...not really shocking, actually). These readers include some of the Western greats: Descartes, Plato, Dr. King. But in essence, the idea is to teach the foundations of American democracy in a positive, rather than negative, light.

The article included interviews from professors who were, at first, quite hesitant about this. The article quotes: "At first some faculty members were suspicious of where the idea and financing had come from, said Robert Sackett, a history professor who publicly voiced his concern. Yet he added, whatever the back story, who could object to teaching Dr. King or Plato?"

Indeed, what is wrong with teaching Plato? In fact, it is staggering how many people my age think that Plato is a children's toy, have never heard of Dante's Inferno, or believe that Germany won WWI (even if you don't know anything about history, you would THINK it would be common knowledge that it is a safe assumption to say that Germany didn't win). But this is not about my frustration with the lack of knowledge among American college students. What is more important here is, why is teaching Plato a conservative backlash? Is there anything fundamentally wrong with this?

This is where my research comes into play. I read all these textbooks about "being a good citizen." This includes lessons on everything from washing your hands after you go to the bathroom, being respectful to parents, standing in line quietly at school, eating a lot of fruit. One even included a 90 minute lesson on posture (I'm still unclear how a teacher could have spent 90 minutes teaching children the importance of sitting up straight). Perhaps this is my Western mindset, but when I read the textbook title 新公民,I immediately thought of propaganda. And some of the textbook included more obvious propaganda, such as the importance of bowing to the party flag. But is there really anything about teaching posture or hygiene that screams propaganda? What are the deeper meanings behind this?

If we look at some of the other Chinese historians, we can see that much of creating the "modern citizen" was based around behavioral control. Robert Culp talks about the Nationalist's control of time, space and behavior; he even includes examples of student organizations meant to control behavior and hygiene (imagine a student organization today that made sure children showered every day). Even earlier, we have reformers claiming that the best way to reform China is to reform people and behavior. This included everything from clothing and greetings (see Harrison's Making of the Republican Citizen) to male/female relationships (le'ts kiss in public for the good of the country!). Ruth Rogawski's book delves deeply into this, claiming that the use of Western hygiene determined how "modern" a person was. I could go on and on with these examples. At the same time, individuals were often considered microcosms of the nation. If individuals were modern in their hygiene, clothing, and behavior, then the country was modern. This is one of the reasons Japan was higher up on the scale, and one of the ways the Japanese legitimized their colonization (see Ming-Cheng Lo Doctors Within Borders , which talks about how understanding of Western medicine gave the Japanese legitimacy to colonize Taiwan and Manchuria).

So ultimately, this kind of behavioral control was a way for society, and in this case government, to create the ideal citizen. If we act and dress like Westerners, we will be a modern nation. We no longer want to be feudal and backwards. So perhaps there is nothing wrong with teaching posture or hygiene, but it is important to realize the more subtle meanings and implications behind them.

Perhaps it is a stretch to compare this to the New York Times article; I just found the similarities striking. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with teaching Plato or Dr. King; in fact, I find it imperative that people my age know the fundamentals of Western thought. But before we jump on this bandwagon, the more subtle implications should be realized. Rather than teaching Kipling's book about the horrors of capitalism, we teach these writers who, in a broad sense, glorify the American system. Plato doesn't necessarily HAVE to be a celebration of American democracy, but from the article, it seems that is the ultimate goal: to teach college students that America is the ultimate realization of this fantastic system. I'm not sure how I feel about a more pro-America or anti-America agenda in college classes (although I don't particularly like those terms, they are pretty loaded). I think both are important. We can't hide what capitalism has done to many countries around the world, and we can't hide our hypocrisy abroad. But I have read papers at the Writing Center where professors forced students to write about how capitalism is the ultimate evil that has spawned all the world's woes. Certainly, high school student get enough of the glorification of America, and college is where students begin to discover "hey, America has done some not so admirable things..."

But does this mean we shouldn't teach Plato? Or good posture and hygiene for that matter? I'm not sure.

I guess this post is a combination of my research ideas and my own political opinions. But shouldn't academic exploration include this stuff? Indeed, isn't this why we study history? To connect ideas and concepts to what we see today?


Research notes: Textbooks found so far

I've spent the last few weeks both figuring out the archive system at the Shanghai library (which is supposed to be the easiest one...I'm not looking forward to using other archives) and sorting through different kinds of materials. I've found a wealth of history and geography textbooks, which I had originally wanted to use as my material basis. I've also found some neat ethics, civics, and 常识 textbooks. From the material I have looked at so far, I have extracted some interesting themes that I would like to further explore.

Many people have already looked at history geography textbooks to examine the creation of citizenship and identity. However, one of the themes I have come across that could be neat to explore is the idea of race relations, specifically in Asia. Frank Dikotter's The Discourse of Race in Modern China explores how, from the late 1800's through WWII ideas about race, citizenship, and nationhood were shaped and brought together. While I've read a fair amount about the eugenics movement in China, Social Darwinism, and the comparison of China to the West, and while there has been plenty about Chinese/Japanese relations at this time, I found the way that Japan was talked about in these textbooks quite fascinating. Last year in a class about the history of the body, I wrote a paper about Japanese colonialism, and how the Japanese used different kinds of racial discourse to justify their colonization of Taiwan and Korea. What I found in this paper is that the racial narrative was not always consistent. There were some times when a different race, such as the Koreans, could never reach the level of the Japanese because they were biologically and fundamentally different. However, the people of Taiwan were not as developed as the Japanese, but had the potential to become so if they let go of their Chinese language, culture, and values. The Chinese were also hopeless, and could never quite reach the level of the Japanese; it would be interesting to explore why Taiwan got a status with more mobility.

We see a similar racial hierarchy in school textbooks. The Japanese are talked about as being more developed as a country, but their ability as a race was more limited than the Chinese. Even the most flattering terms used to describe the Japanese race are still somewhat condescending, such as 可爱 (cute). Much of the other descriptions include their arrogance and ignorance. In history textbooks that talk about Japan, the Japanese cultural dependence on China is heavily emphasized. A few textbooks have entire chapters that show how all of Japanese culture ultimately stemmed from Japan. Similarly, the origin of the Japanese people assumed that they came from the mainland. Finally, Japanese colonialism is heavily emphasized, showing how they have developed like the West, but also emphasizing them as a threat. Ironically, this textbook is prefaced with a forward that talks about mutual cultural understanding.

I find it quite illuminating that the rest of Asia is not talked about in such almost defensive terms. The textbook talks about the spread of Buddhism throughout China, even the development of Southeast Asia, without constantly defending the importance of Chinese culture on the rest of Asia. My assumption is that this is because Japan at the time was viewed as a threat to China, (the few textbooks I read were published between 1935 and 1937), and therefore proving China's dominance was much more important. It was already assumed that Southeast Asia was inferior to China, whereas Japan was currently in the process of invading China. These textbooks needed to assert that, while Japan was currently threatening China, historically China has always been superior to Japan.

Another type of textbook I have come across I've loosely put into the category of civics textbooks, although this name may not be quite accurate. These include textbooks such as 常识 (which translates loosely as "everyday knowledge") and other textbooks about being a 好公民or a 新公民( a good or a new citizen). The themes in a lot of these textbooks are strikingly similar. Almost all of them talk about basic hygiene practices (I found more than one textbook, published by different companies, whose first chapter is "why we don't put things in our mouths that we can't eat"). Others are more ripe with symbolism, such as the 好公民 textbook which includes the story of 3 children whose names loosely translate to Chinese people, Yellow race, and Chinese virtue (Chinese virtue is a girl). This textbook includes very obvious lessons, such as how important it is to eat healthy and work hard, but it is also ripe with symbolism. For example, Chinese people is the oldest of the children, and he often explains and teaches things to both his siblings and his parents. The role of Chinese virtue is also interesting, but I discuss that in another post.

I feel like this will be a great direction to take my research, perhaps more so than the discourse of Japanese history education. There have been a few writers to talk about ethics textbooks and female schools, but none have been explored thoroughly. I've created a few other posts that are more specific about my thoughts of the textbooks I have found.


Exercise culture in China

In Shanghai, stumbling across a group of people doing Taiji at 7 in the morning, or couples attempting to ballroom dance to 1970's Chinese music in small little enclaves near the road is pretty common. I've always enjoyed watching people do their exercise routines in China, even in the small exercise park in my apartment complex. However, I never really gave it much thought. While in Hangzhou, I was able to see some really great examples of the physical activity culture in China, and talking with other Fulbrighters allowed me to think about this exercise culture much more thoroughly.

My first encounter with this in Hangzhou, which I have seen previously in China (specifically in Zengcheng), was a sort of line dancing or jazzercise group in park. It is usually a group of people from ages 35-60 who get together, play older cheesy Chinese music, and dance simple steps in a group. We stumbled across this our first night in Hangzhou walking around the lake and decided to join in. All four of us danced one dance that we assume was from a movie or something because everyone seemed to know it; we enjoyed it a lot because it involved a little bit of hip shaking. :) (you can see the couples dancing together

The next morning, Melissa and I climbed Wushan where we got to see much more of this physical activity culture. We saw groups of people doing Taiji and sword dances. There were people playing badminton, and others were ballroom dancing (the cheers and music overlapped in a kind of funny way). And there were individuals exercising too; I saw many people walking up the mountain backwards, some of them carrying birds (such as the man on the right), which Melissa explained to me was a "bird culture," where people with birds hang their cages up in one location so they can chirp and spend time outdoors together. Others were stretching, like one man who looked over 60 years old and was doing the splits, or a woman who was repeatedly touching her toes. And we saw all of this, hundreds of people participating in these activities, before 6:30 AM on a Wednesday. Most of them were in their 40s or 50s, but I would estimate the age bracket to be 35-70.

This caused Melissa and I to talk about the exercise culture in China and how it compares to our exercise culture in America, especially among older Americans. We certainly have a very active gym culture in America, and even among older (from 35-70) Americans there are a variety of physical activities in which one can participate. Some of these include aerobics classes (my mom really likes Jazzercise), synchronized swimming, or more unusual ones like my 85 year old grandmother's cheer leading squad (not kidding...) Of course, many Americans also participate in outdoor activities; in Colorado, many people have mountain bikes worth more than their cars, people come from all over the world to teach snowboarding in the Colorado Rockies, and I know many others who complete their daily workout routine at Red Rocks.

But this is not true of the average American. There is not a huge culture surrounding our exercise routine. Melissa, I think, hit upon the main difference between the exercise culture in American and in China. In America, almost all of our physical activity culture for older Americans is based around membership, thus bringing an issue of class into our exercise culture. Most group activities involved paid memberships; the main fads now are yoga, kickboxing, gym membership. Many retirement communities offer such activities, but again, there is the issue of membership. Most Americans of lower classes can't afford to be a part of this physical activity culture; in fact, oftentimes obesity is a mark of a lower class rather than a higher class.

This is not the case in China. One does not need to go to smaller cities like Hangzhou (with its population of 7 million...) to see this kind of exercise culture; older Chinese people do Taiji in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong every morning (there are Hangzhou people doing Taiji on the right). Furthermore, much of their physical activity includes people of all classes (however, those who frequent Western gyms are often of a higher class and education level). There is a very strong group dynamic, be it Taiji in the morning or dancing at night. Another distinction is age; while many people my age in America are found at the gym, most people participating in these activities are of an older generation. A final interesting point to make is the more traditional nature of these activities; while some play badminton or just go jogging, plenty others prefer Taiji, sword dancing, fan dancing (which another Fulbrighter has taken up) and other activities with a base in Chinese medicine (see the sword dancing to the left).

It would be interesting to find out why this is. The concept of health for the wealthy in America is a common topic (whether you look at the current presidential election or Law and Order SVU). I admit, I know too little about the concept to make a good argument for why that is (but if I get a stroke of brilliance, I will post it; in the meantime, I welcome ideas from others). Could it be that in America we don't have the same traditions that the Chinese have when it comes to physical activity? The American upper classes certainly love Taiji, yoga, and kickboxing, none of which are American, or even Western, in origin. But I feel like that is not a legitimate answer.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to look at the differences between our physical activity culture and China's. Another interesting topic to bring up is the younger generation. Very rarely do we see people our age up at 6 in the morning doing Taiji or jogging (like the man to the right). There are gyms on college campuses, but they are not as built up or as busy as our American gyms are. All Chinese children are trained, however, in physical activities from the communist era. Over the loudspeakers on college campuses, and in elementary and secondary schools, we can hear the "yi, er, san, si..." (1,2,3,4...) set to the inspirational revolutionary music. All children learn these exercises in school, and are given the option to continue them in college. However, while I have often heard these exercises between 9 and 10 AM, I have never actually seen anyone DO them. Perhaps this is because it is reminiscent of a very structured education; perhaps it is because no college student wants to get up at 9 AM to do high school exercises.

But it makes one wonder what will happen to this generation. Will they, as they grow older, inherit their parent's exercise habits? Has the fact that children are now exclusively taught in school this communist exercise regime forced them to abandon physical activity altogether? And even when we look at this older generation, where did they learn these traditional activities, which were mostly crushed during the Mao era and are now making a return? Certainly the communists, and the nationalists before them emphasized the importance of physical fitness. In fact, some of Mao's earliest writings are about the importance of physical education, and how a nation of physically strong bodies creates a strong nation (this was in the 1920s). In fact, in the 1920s, physical education teachers were in high demand simply because there was such an emphasis on strong bodies = strong nation. Many authors, such as Wang Zheng and Susan Brownell, demonstrate the government's strong emphasis on physical fitness; this seemed to be exacerbated by the recent Beijing Olympics. Therefore, all of these people now getting up early to exercise were taught with this patriotic mindset. Could this be why they all focus on it now? Maybe these people too, as 20 year olds, did not start to worry about physical fitness until they grew older.

There is still a lot unanswered, and a lot assumed. I would love to hear what more people have to say, since these are just my observations. As for those who know just as much as I do, I hope this gives a bit of insight into the differences between our physical activity culture and China's.

Crazy Fulbrighters in Hangzhou

Last week, Yiyi (a fellow Fulbrighter) invited me to spend some time with two other Fulbrighters, Sam and Melissa, currently doing a critical language program in Harbin. The next day, they invited me to go to Hangzhou with them for a few days, and completely on a whim (which is very unlike me, who normally plans things months ahead of time) happily agreed to go. It seemed even more attractive since they had arranged to stay with another Fulbrighter, Jacob, who was living in Hangzhou. I knew very little about Hangzhou, other than its famous West Lake which, according to the Lonely Planet, is one of the few places in China that deserves the reputation given to it by exaggerated Chinese travel brochures. But it turned out to be a wonderful few days of relaxing and exploring parts of China far (well relatively far) removed from Shanghai. So that afternoon

It is shockingly easy to get to Hangzhou; it only takes about an hour or so by train. I guess this is shocking to me because Shanghai is about as lively, bustling and 热闹 as Hangzhou is calming and tranquil. Right after we arrived (and stood in line at the train station for a half an hour waiting for a cab) we went to eat some Hangzhou food, which included 东坡肉 (really fatty pork cooked in wine and soy sauce) fried potato cakes, pumpkin, eggplant, and fish. Everything was really delicious. After this meal, we went and walked around the West Lake. The tranquil environment of the lake is exquisitely preserved, and everything from the subtle lighting, the weeping willows draped across the landscape, and even the walkways which were immaculately and included small carvings of flowers and birds, contributed to a feeling of stereotypical "traditional China."

The next morning, I was determined to wake up early and see the sunrise, and (lucky for me) Melissa agreed to go with me. We woke up at 5:15 and, on Jacob's recommendation, went to climb to the top of Wushan (a mountain very close to Jacob's apartment; it had a temple near the top which overlooked the lake) to watch the sunrise. We made it to the temple only to find it locked, so we continued to climb. Eventually, although after the sun had already risen, we made it to another pagoda which went above the tree line and offered a beautiful view, but it was difficult to see the lake due to the thick mist that covered the landscape (see picture to right). Nevertheless, the hike was worth getting up at 5:15 if only to see the town come alive with all of the locals doing their own exercise routines (see next post).

Melissa and I then trudged back to Jacob's apartment just about the time Jacob had to get up for class. I fell back asleep for a couple of hours. By around 9, we were all ready to explore the West Lake area for the day using conveniently located bike rental centers which allow people to rent bikes for about 1 RMB/hour (which, in USD, is about 15 cents an hour). After a bit of confusion as to where to rent the bikes (you have to get a card before you can rent bikes), we set off towards the hills behind West Lake.

Before we set off, however, we took a few moments to get some donuts at Big Apple Donuts, a great place Jacob introduced us to which has handmade donuts and a lot of different flavors. My favorites were the strawberry jam one, the Alien (which was a dark chocolate filled donut that was topped with more dark chocolate and chocolate shavings), and the White Nut (white chocolate on the outside, peanut butter on the inside). We ended up getting these donuts every day we were there, and with no regrets; they were delicious.

Our bike ride around the West Lake was really beautiful. The landscape seemed never ending, and despite some of the more congested roads around parts of the lake, the roads were always lined with green trees, grasses, and smaller bodies of water. Eventually, we made it about halfway around the lake where we came upon the botanical gardens. Sam really wanted to see the Osmanthus flower, which was apparently in bloom, and we had heard that the gardens were supposed to be beautiful, so we decided to take a look around. While the gardens are not as well kept as many of the American botanic gardens are, they are still full of well trimmed natural wildlife. As we looked for the Osmanthus gardens, we stumbled upon a few odd places in the garden. One of our humorous finds near the golf course was a statue of a few people playing golf completely naked; the girl was particularly suggestive as she was bent over waiting to swing her club, although her rear quarters were in a somewhat awkward position in relation to the (also nude) gentleman behind her. Another area of the garden which we stumbled upon had the English name "Watching fish at Yuquan" (one of those funny English translations that has yet to be corrected). When we first arrived, all we saw was a dirty looking lake with itty bitty fish that looked like bugs (see the picture to right, captioned "where are the fish at Yuquan?"). However, as we moved through an arch into the area nearby, we saw the fish we were supposed to be watching; the largest black fish I have ever seen before. After we watched the fish at Yuquan, we found the Osmanthus gardens. Unfortunately, the flowers were no longer in bloom (we had just missed it) but the trees still smelled lovely.

After the botanic gardens, we hopped on our bikes again and headed into the hills. We soon approached the Lingyin temple, but we thought it would be more interesting to go around the scenic areas near the temple and explore the hills nearby. We went through a small town-like area (I'm still not sure what it was, I assume it was built up for tourism surrounding the temple) and then came upon another smaller temple (see picture to left). We went inside and looked around, and were fortunate enough to see people on a retreat chanting, which brought me back to my Foguangshan days. I was quite nostalgic for the beautiful harmonies created by the Chinese Buddhists as they sing their chants, and I really enjoyed listening to that once again.

After exploring the temple, it was nearly 2 in the afternoon and we were quite hungry, so we went to a nearby teahouse for lunch. There was no menu, so the people who owned the restaurant gave us some recommendations, and we ordered some chicken soup, fish, and greenbeans. The fish was my favorite, cooked whole in a lot of soy sauce and other seasonings. The greenbeans were also delicious, they were flavored with some sort of brown vegetable, but I'm not sure what it was. And while I'm not a big fan of whole chicken on the bone cooked in broth, the mushrooms, bamboo, and broth of the chicken soup were very flavorful (see picture to left). And of course, the Longjing tea was quite nice, although I learned a lot more about tea the next day when we went to a tea shop. The bill we accrued was much higher than expected (especially the 20 RMB/person tea which we didn't order), but still delicious and much more reasonable than what we would buy in the states (or Shanghai, for that matter).

The bike ride home was much faster, mainly because it was almost all downhill. We returned back to the entrance to the West Lake where we returned our bikes and went back to Jacob's apartment. Jacob had offered to make us Indian food for dinner, so we all went together to a vegetable market to buy veggies for our dinner, but not before we caught the sunset over the lake. We caught a red sun just as it was setting behind the distant mountains, and it reflected beautifully over the lake. We tossed a frisbee as we headed down towards the edge of the lake, and sat quietly enjoying the scenery for awhile (see above picture and picture to left).

After we bought some vegetables, we all worked together to chop up vegetables, and then Sam and Jacob created some of the most flavorful and delicious veggie dishes I had ever had (and this is from a girl who really doesn't like her vegetables). Sam made a wonderful stir fry with eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, and tofu, and Jacob made a dish with potatoes, cauliflower, and tomatoes based on an Indian dish called gobi alu (see picture to right).We also made a spinach and mushroom dish (I at least tried the mushrooms, which is quite the accomplishment for me). After we were stuffed full of fantastic food, Jacob taught us all how to make chapati bread. We rolled the dough into thin disks, and then fried them in a wok and then over the fire from the gas stove. We also made chocolate sauce to accompany the bread along with peanut butter and bananas (see picture to left).

However, our wonderful night continued. Jacob had bought a small inflatable raft/boat which he often took down the canal that went through Hangzhou. So full of food, we walked down to the canal, bought some wine and beer, and floated down the river. While the wine was the worst wine I had ever tasted, the evening was calm and peaceful. Only private residences and parks lined the canal, and the trees draped over the water. It was probably one of the few times I was in a public area in China where there were no (or very few) people around. At one point, we attracted some attention as we burst into song. We also floated past a young boy who had seen Jacob before, and he and his mother followed us down the river waving and smiling. We invited him to come, but he had to go to bed. :)

The four of us chatted about a variety of topics, and I felt very fortunate to be surrounded by such amazing people. I was the youngest person there, and also clearly the one with the least life experience. Listening to Melissa's stories about traveling in Europe, Jacob's cooking lessons in India, and Sam's knowledge about growing tea made me want to do more and learn more. I guess that means I should try and travel as much as possible while I am here. It also made me look at how I have always approached my life. I have always been very goal oriented, or to quote Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, "single minded to the point of recklessness." While there are benefits to being extremely goal oriented (I'm pretty happy that I had many grad schools to choose from rather than one, or none) but I may be missing out on other things. At first, this made me feel somewhat inadequate; then another friend pointed out that actually, being the youngest person in a group like this almost puts me at an advantage because of how much I can learn from others. I think this year will be good for me to explore more things about China beyond history, like cooking, religion, art, and minority culture (which, after talking with Melissa, I realize I still have so much to learn). I also hope I will take this into graduate school with me, and perhaps have the opportunity to expand a bit (although I may be a bit too hopeful). Still, life is a long time, as my dad always says. I have my life to explore new things as well. My life doesn't end with graduate school (I hope).

Thus ended our first day in Hangzhou. The next day, we were all so tired that (aside from Jacob, who had to get up for class) we slept in until 10:30. I needed to buy my train ticket back to Shanghai, so Sam and I trekked down to the train station to buy tickets while Melissa went to buy fruit for breakfast. We were pleasantly surprised when we returned to find that Melissa had bought us donuts (see picture to right), so the four of us (Jacob had a break from class) and Jacob's roommate devoured a dozen donuts . After a long breakfast that spilled into lunch, Melissa, Sam and I decided to walk around Qinghefang old street where we wandered into tourist shops, laughed at a giant statue of the laughing Buddha covered in little children (which I thought was not Chinese at all, although my mom has a smaller version of a statue with a similar theme). We also stopped to buy some tea, but before we bought any, we asked to try some. We tried some of the cheaper tea they had for sale and some of the much more expensive kind. While I have never known a lot about tea, I could very clearly taste the difference between the cheaper and more expensive kinds. The cheaper one was what I was used to; much more bitter, almost sour, green tea. The more expensive one was smooth, nutty, and comforting, a kind of tea I could see myself drinking quite often. Apparently, the difference is in the age of the tree, how old the tea leaves are, and where from the tree they are picked (the top leaves are best). I knew very little about tea (I had never even heard of Longjing tea), but I'm glad I got this very small lesson (see tea gardens to left).

We then stumbled across a food market with a lot of very strange, yet delicious food options. We saw things as strange as boiled rabbit heads (we didn't buy any, don't worry) and whole chickens cooked in lotus leaves (which we DID try, it's a Hangzhou specialty called "beggar's chicken”. There is a picture of it on the right). We also tried shrimp cakes (called xiarenbing. We know that "xia" means shrimp, and “bing"means cake, but we don't know what the "ren" is. We assume it doesn't mean people) and rice with pork wrapped in lotus leaves. It was a very lucky find, and I'm sad we didn't try even more.

After our culinary adventure, I had to go to the train station. I know I will be back in Hangzhou at another time, where I hope I can explore more, such as the temples and bamboo forest. I am very glad it is so close to Shanghai, and I think that a few more trips may be necessary to maintain my health (the air made me feel so much better).


Research notes: gender relations

First of all, happy national day to all those in China. I've come across another interesting question in secondary reading I want to write about a bit. There have been a few books I have come across in the last year or so that talk about a conservative ideological backlash in the 1930s in China (see for instance, Haiyan Lee's Revolution of the Heart; Leo Lee's Shanghai Modern; Susan Glosser's Chinese Vision of Family and State). Robert Culp puts it quite succinctly when he talks about a "universe of discourse" in the early 20th century. This begins, as Benjamin Elman points to, around 1900, or 1904 to be exact, when the government is completely stripped of any intellectual legitimacy and reform of the nation is passed onto citizens, reformers, intellectuals, and others outside of government. They created infinite ways to reform the nation, and (as the topic of this particular post) the ways that women fit into this new nation. Many reformers pushed women's rights and women's equality. Some reformers were as bold as to say that marriage should be erased altogether, as it is these kinds of romantic relationships that are holding China back.

What is interesting, then, is a backlash that occurs in the 1930s, which emphasizes the importance of family in an almost Confucian sense. Glosser points out that this is much more of an emphasis on nuclear family than on the "older" and "feudal" extended family that was once the basis of Chinese society. But Culp talks about the return of the Confucian rhetoric. He also cites lectures by Pan Guangdang, who claims that men and women could never be equal (147), and that for a truly great society, Western sense of family and Chinese sense of family should be compromised.

Culp mirrors this conservative backlash with another trend of this time, which is the Guomindang narrowing of the "universe of discourse" created in the early 20th century, thus creating a national order out of the chaotic universe that reformers had created. So my question is: why this return to Confucian values? Why can men and women never be equal? Why was it this particular discourse that fit best with GMD values?

Many nationalist writers (Partha Chatterjee comes to mind immediately) have talked about how, in the creation of a national identity, often times those who are taking over the governmental post (he talks specifically about post-colonial India) will use familiar models from the exact regime which they are fighting against. In the case of India, moderate reformers who took over the government after the British relinquished control used governmental models very similar to that of the colonial government. Can the same be said for the GMD? That they used models and metaphors from the exact society they were fighting against to create their own legitimacy? Furthermore, Chatterjee talks about the use of traditional core values of society to legitimize a modern state; this is similar to the GMD claims that that which makes China unique and great is its tradition of filial piety, an important emotional bond which the West lacks, thus making them soulless and empty, and China rich and fulfilled.

I feel like it is more complex than this. I am wondering what specifically about gender inequality worked so well in the GMD party line. Or is it simply an attempt to legitimize themselves in the more rural sectors of society, because if they make the family-state analogy, those less educated will understand them and give the GMD their loyalty (and with this recurrence of Confucian values necessarily comes gender inequality). It would be very interesting to examine the "official party line" if you will on gender relations under the GMD. Certainly a lot of work has been done on the women's rights movements; my thesis was about this transition of the revolutionary woman of the 1910s and 1920s to the modern consumer girl of the 1930s. But how did this benefit the GMD? Was Culp being too simplistic? Is there more the GMD beliefs about family structure? This is another question I hope to examine in the months to come.