Sunday, December 14, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
- Why do Americans give each other colored eggs at Thanksgiving?
- Who do you give thanks to on Thanksgiving Day?
- How much do turkey eggs cost and how do you cook them?
- What kind of ID card do you need in order to go inside a church?
- In the Nativity scene, which one of the men is Santa Claus?
- If you can afford to buy new decorations every year, why do you still use the old ones?
- The animals pulling the sleigh: are they elk? (They remembered Rose Mary Harty's wonderful pictures of the elk at Horseshoe Loop)
- They were thrilled to learn that 85% of artificial trees are manufactured in China.
- Very few knew that the Western calendar numbered years from the supposed date of the birth of Jesus. They knew ther abbreviations "B.C." and "A.D." but were not aware of what they stood for.
- Asked to identify the people in the Nativity picture, about half knew the baby was Jesus and a few knew that the woman was named Maria. Asked who the white-haired man standing beside Maria was, they replied in unison: "STEVE!"
- They love to sing in English, so I taught them the words to "Silent Night." Then I was asked to explain the "Virgin and Child" concept. Not as easy as you might think...
The questions were earnest attempts to understand Westerners and I repeat them here not to make fun of my students, but to give an idea of how eager they are to penetrate the mysteries of beliefs and traditions that we take for granted. These kids are wonderful, always surprising and a pure joy to teach.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
One could easily spend several days exploring every corner of the Forbidden City, which is often said to have 9,999 rooms. Impressive doesn't begin to describe its magnitude or its splendor. Still, we were more impressed by the quiet beauty of the Inner Court, the residential palaces and gardens reserved for the imperial family and their most intimate circle.
Monday, October 27, 2008
On one of my walks, I came across a small group of older amateur musicians playing traditional Chinese music to celebrate the grand opening of a restaurant. I joined a small appreciative crowd to listen to the music -- a single piece that lasted about 20 minutes. On a barely related topic, this also seems to be National Dry Your Winter Vegetables Week. I'll ask my students to explain what's going on and report back to you.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
The PRC recognizes five main religions: Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, Catholics, and Protestants. There are also small communities of Hindus and indigenous folk religions, as well as religious movements that are not officially sanctioned. Estimates by Chinese scholars say that about 300 million people (31%) consider themeselves to be "religious" in some sense. A recent article in China Daily notes, for example, that official records show that there are about 16 million Protestants in China. (That sounds like a lot, but it's less than 1.5% of the population.) The number of Protestant seminaries has increased from 1 to 18 in the past ten years. There are more than 10,000 officially recognized Protestant churches. China also has more than 20 million Muslims worshipping in more than 40,000 mosques.
Our earlier blog entries had pictures of the Buddhist temple here in Dalian as well as various temples, monasteries, and mosques in Xi'an and Tibet. Today, I walked to a Roman Catholic Church, a Lutheran Church, an Anglican Church, a former Russian Orthodox Church, and a mosque. I know of a few more places of worship in various office buildings and hotels, and there is said to be a Hindu Shrine somewhere near the Buddhist Temple in Zhongshan Park. I have also heard that there is a new Protestant mega-church with about 4000 members near the airport, too far for me to walk today.
The uninitiated among you might well ask: "What the heck is a sea cucumber anyway?" So here is a helpful quiz to test your Sea Cucumber IQ. Is it (a) California slang for a guy who wears a surfer's wet suit at the beach but never goes near the waves, (b) an elliptoid vegetable growing in the warm salt water of the North Pacific, prized by gourmets when served in a salad with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a touch of triple cold-pressed Tuscan olive oil, (c) Florida slang for those purplish welts that amateur body-surfers get on their foreheads and elbows when the waves plow them into the beach, or (d) an expensive and quasi-edible aquatic bottom-feeding echinoderm with leathery skin and yellow vanadium-bearing blood that is beloved in Dalian as a medicinal panacea, an aphrodisiac, and [when properly distilled] an intoxicant?
If you answered (d), sharpen up your chopsticks and dig right in! You have earned the right to relish your very own sea-slug.
As for me, I certainly hope that there will be a parade with music, floats, and costumed sea-critters to mark the occasion. I wonder who will be named Ms. Sea Cucumber 2008?
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The Jokhang Temple dates from the year 639 CE. It was built by a Tibetan king to house a statue of the Buddha as a child that was brought from Nepal by one of his two brides. His other bride, the Chinese princess Wencheng, selected the site for the new temple to be built. According to legend, she threw her ring into a lake and declared that was the spot where the Buddha should reside. A white goat, now much honored in Lhasa, carried loads of dirt to fill in the lake. The interior of the incense-filled temple features numerous small chapels dedicated to different manifestations of the Buddha and a large inner sanctum where hundreds of monks can assemble for daily prayers and special ceremonies. Every day, hundreds of pilgrims prostrate themselves outside the temple and walk clockwise kora routes around the temple complex.
The Potala Palace is without doubt the most famous place in Tibet. Just open your wallet, take out a 20 yuan note, and you will find a picture of it right on the back of the bill. (Mao Zedong is on the front, of course, since his picture graces all the currency.) The Potala Palace was established in 631 CE by the same king who built the Jokhang Temple. The small cave chosen by King Songsten Gampo as his favored place of meditation can now be seen within the palace. The Palace was vastly expanded in the 17th century. It now includes more than 1000 rooms and was the residence and burial place of every Dalai Lama from the 5th to 14th, an imporant place of worship, a monastery, and the seat of Tibet's government. Vistors can see the stupa covered with more than 6000 pounds of gold that contains the body of the 5th Dalai Lama, huge three-dimensional mandalas covered with gold and jewels, numerous chapels for meditation and prayer, and the living quarters, meditation room, and throne room of the Dalai Lama.
Norbulingka is the pleasant summer palace of the Dalai Lama at the western edge of Lhasa, the last residence occupied by the current Dalai Lama before his flight to India in 1959. It features beautiful parks and gardens, open-air study rooms situated in a small pond, and grassy lawns where families can picnic. The rooms of the small residence are preserved exactly as they were when the Dalai Lama went into exile.
The album has pictures of all three locations.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Our first destination was Sera monastery just north of Lhasa. It was founded in 1419 and once housed more than 5000 monks in its three colleges. Today, about 700 monks reside there. It is a popular pilgrimage site, especially for parents who line up for many hours in order to present their children to a Buddha whose blessing brings special protections to the very young. We were not permitted to photograph the interior of this sacred spot, so you will see only pictures taken outdoors.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
The second holiday is the Zhong Qiutian -- the Mid-Autumn Festival -- that occurs on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month (September 14) when the full moon is thought to be at its brightest and most beautiful. The tradition dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), when Chinese emperors offered sacrifices to the Moon God. Today, the festival is celebrated with family reunions (or groups of classmates going to a restaurant or a karaoke bar). Family and friends gaze at the full moon, drink tea or wine, and eat delicious round "moon cakes" filled with candy, fruit, nuts, eggs, or meat. As "foreign experts," the city government of Dalian treated us to a free concert of traditional Chinese music. The program included symphonic arrangements of well-known folk songs, arias from the Beijing opera, virtuoso soloists on tradtional instruments like the erhu and flute, and even an arrangement of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" scored for a Chinese instruments: http://picasaweb.google.com/SteveDC505/MoonFestival#
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Because eating street food is so popular, it is important for sidewalk food vendors to display the freshness of their wares. Diners select their own ingredients and the chef prepares each dish to order while you watch. Here are some things you might find on the menu du jour: