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Useful resources for learning about contemporary China:

 English language Sinica Podcast

James Fallows - not always China-related, but always interesting

What's going on in Beijing:

TimeOut Beijing

The Beijinger

China Daily's Beijing Weekend 

Beijing Weather - Weather Underground

 

Useful language learning tools

Chinesepod podcast - free beginners' podcasts

Popup Chinese podcast - another very good podcast series

Hacking Chinese - interesting ideas on learning Chinese efficiently

Skritter character-learning tool for iPad/iPhone - really fun app

Sinosplice - John Pasden's site on many interesting aspects of China and the Chinese language

 

 

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Tuesday
May122015

The Summer Palace

Monday morning at 9 - the usual time - the group set out for the Summer Palace, a destination that was a mere bit of walking and two subway lines away from the BNU campus. The weather warmed up a little bit from Sunday which had been rather chilly and very rainy. Lead by our tenacious professor Kevin Miller, we entered the former summer resort of Empress Dowager Cixi, who controlled the Chinese government from 1861 to 1908 (go ahead and check Wikipedia) and who was, according to Kevin, not the wisest strategist in military matters (see “Marble Boat”). 

Three quarters of the grounds of the Summer Palace are covered by Kunming Lake, which is artificial but picturesque nonetheless. The group seized the opportunity to take another couple pictures with the Michigan flag while we walked around the manmade body of water. As far as I know, the U of M Instagram page has not tapped any of us to ask if they may repost one of our group pictures. Don’t you worry, though, we still have two weeks to go in China.

After crossing over numerous bridges, walking the perimeter of South Lake Isle, stopping for steamed buns and more photo opps by the lakeside, we eventually made our way to Longevity Hill, where a series of buildings dot the landscape. A handful of moans and groans were exerted as we climbed the stairs on the hill, but they were nothing in comparison to the Great Wall on Saturday. It took maybe 10 minutes to get to the top. There we stumbled upon an artist that specializes in painting customers’ names all fancy-like. He incorporates dragons, butterflies, fish, pine trees, bamboo, pandas, and a selection of birds and flowers into the names, each of which represents something. The pine tree, for example, symbolizes long life, and the dragon is a symbol of power. Nearly everybody in the group had one or two names painted for themselves. Kevin, with his formidable bargaining skills, bartered the price down to 40 yuan a piece for the paintings (30 by themselves) and their lamination (worth 10). 

It took the artist a hot second, but he managed to finish all of our 20+ paintings, including an emphatic “Go Blue.” While waiting for him to finish all of those, the group either watched in awe as he spit them out systematically or lounged about on the series of rocks nearby. In the meantime, other visitors to the palace paid to have their pictures taken in traditional Chinese garb. Some of us found ourselves inadvertently in the background of these photos. I guess it’s hard for U of M students to escape the spotlight (ha-ha).

We ended up leaving the Summer Palace around 3:30 PM, which meant we had effectively skipped lunch. That was okay, though, because the scenic views provided by Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill had been more than enough to satisfy our aesthetic appetites. 

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