Monday, June 13, 2011

Dr. forest's update on the trip so far

I wanted to give a brief synopsis of the trip so far. We are about 18 days into our trip. We have completed most of the academic course. We meet in the afternoons at 3 pm and hold class for about 2 ½ hours before we have dinner. We have one more class session to go [on the Confucian philosopher Xunzi] so that students have enough material to write the second paper when we return to the States. In between these we have meals – roughly breakfast at 8, lunch at noon, and dinner at 6. Breakfast is always in the campus hotel buffet and it is the same buffet offerings every morning. Lunch is nearly always on the 3rd floor of one of the big student cafeterias. For dinner we try to have a Chinese student take us to a local restaurant and order for us. This has been quite successful and the favorite is definitely the spicy Sichuan Restaurant off campus that a former student, Wang Jing [or ‘Crystal’] has taken us to twice. We have about 4 more days in Xiamen before we head to Beijing for the final portion of the trip.

We have just returned from a Saturday bus trip to Quanzhou, a city that is about 60 miles from Xiamen. It is one of the three cities with Xiamen in Minnan, the area of the “South Min” and they all speak the same local language. Quanzhou is bigger than Xiamen and is much older. We visited a Buddhist temple that was founded about the year 690, and even pre-dates the city, which was founded early in the 700s. We also visited a Daoist sacred mountain that has a 1000 year old statue of Laozi carved into the rocky hillside. We were able to visit an Islamic mosque that was built in 1009. Prayers are held in the newer structures, but the old foundations, pillars and much of the walls were still intact.

We visited the local Confucian Temple as well. These are more like museums since there are no religious practices associated with Confucianism any more. But students were able to recognize the disciples of Kongzi [Confucius to us] who had statues around the man himself. Having read Kongzi’s Analects, we are able to get a sense of the personalities of his followers. The most talked about are Yan Hui, who has a statue at all the temples and is the “perfect” disciple, but students like to joke about Zai Wo, who is the classic screw-up disciple and sarcastically asked why he didn’t have a statue at the temple. We also visited the temple of a local goddess, Mazu, who is revered only in this part of Fujian Province and in Taiwan [which has the same culture as Fujian Province]. Unfortunately, the main temple was under construction.
For the remainder of our Xiamen stay, we have one more class, a Sunday meeting at a friend’s house to sample and buy some tea, a few trips to Daoist temples, and hopefully a lecture by one of the professors at Xiamen University on 20th Century Chinese history

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