Monday, April 21, 2008

Shanghai, Suzhou, Zhouz Huang, and Beijing-Apr.'06

Our trip to China started at Shanghai after a 14 hour flight from O’Hare. We cross the date line and arrive in the middle of the afternoon the next day. The time difference is 13 hours, so we arrive about one hour after we take off only it’s the next day.

We find our way to our Hotel, the Shanghai Regal, which is close to Fudan University where Judith’s workshop will be held. It is raining. It will rain 3 of the 4 days we are in Shanghai, off and on. The hotel has a huge tennis facility which hosts some of the tour satellite events, but even if I brought my racket, the rain took away the opportunity to get on a court for some exercise. We were on the 19th floor, and the view was of misty, foggy images adding to my vague idea of China being a land of mystery and obscurity. You could see both the new and old China juxtaposed. The hotel area is in the diplomatic district and it is noted that ladies of the evening can be readily seen at various night establishments. I don’t know if there is a connection. But the main thing was that the neighborhood had character and was interesting to walk through.

China has plenty of Pepsi and Coke, but finding diet or Coke Lite is not always easy. But I did prevail, finding large 12 oz bottles at about $.45 each, produced in China of course.

Having already visited the Bund and the elegant Yuyuan Garden, the last time we were in Shanghai, I turned to the tour books to find something of interest. They touted visits to Suzhou and Zhouz Huang which can be done in one day, so I decided to go. There were two other spouses of workshop presenters along, so the 3 of us hired a private van with a guide and driver to spend the day while our spouses gave their presentations. These two towns are noted for their canals and gardens dating from the Qing and Ming dynasties. Suzhou was founded about 600 BC and is one of the oldest towns in the Yangtze basin. It is often referred to as the “Venice of the East”. Suzhou is also one of the few towns to escape the Cultural Revolution with its beautiful gardens left intact. The first stop was the Net Master Garden touted as the best model of the Ming Dynasty Gardens. We then ventured on to see the Ancient City Wall, the Grand Canal, and a silk spinning factory. Silk was been produced here since the 14th century.

The Net Master Garden was first designed during the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) as part of a residence that was used until the Taiping Rebellion in the 1860's. It was later restored and became the residence of a government official from whom the garden got its name. It is said that in a moment of frustration with bureaucracy he declared that he would rather be a fisherman than a bureaucrat.

The various buildings are constructed so that you can always access the main garden from any room. The rooms themselves are quite impressive in design and ornamentation and well represent the style of the Song Dynasty.

The inner garden which is only about 660 square feet, has the distinction of being used as the model for the Ming Hall Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Scenes along the Grand Canal, Suzhou
The photo below of the old city wall was taken from the bridge in the photo after. We stopped at a silk factory after having a good lunch across the street. The silk factory had an automatic silk spooling machine as well as two spooling by hand lines. Most of the “factory” was several commercial sales rooms where one could buy anything made of silk.
The worker below is putting a cocoon unto a machine that unravels the cocoon and spools it on a spindle.
The ancient city of Zhouz Huang was very picturesque with its gondola rides, bridges, and shops.

I really like this photo.This is a bridge that is suppose to be good luck to cross.

So overall, the trip was very tiring and too long, but the pictures above will remain far longer than the ordeal involved. I’m glad I went.

I accompanied Judith to hear her workshop presentation. Her presentation was one I had not heard before and I find her research results to be very interesting. This one was about AIDS and Injecting Drug Users. Condensation of facts: 1) Drug use permanently changes the brain, according to brain imaging scans. 2) Addicts can’t just say no. Methadone substitution treatment is one of most effective way to help addicts stay off other, more injurious drugs. 3) Clean needle programs are effective. 4) Condoms use is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. 5) Partner notification programs are very effective in identifying people at risk. 6) Ex-drug users (or drug users that have learned the importance of prevention techniques) are the most valuable asset in community outreach and education programs.

For several years, China denied there was a problem in their country with AIDS. The national government now supports some prevention and education programs. However, one of the most glaring problems in China is that local government officials tend to do what they want and suppress all forms of embarrassment to them and dealing with AIDS is not a favorite topic. There is a constitution in China which defines human rights. However, there is no system that citizens can use to bring violations of their rights to courts for redress. As a result there are a lot of demonstrations by farmers and small villagers protesting the abuses of local officials over many issues. These demonstrations get suppressed by police, many times causing deaths and injuries. The rapid expansion in the country has left many people behind. What is needed is a huge commitment to clean up the environment and improve education and better spread the benefits of economic expansion.

The Rolling Stones held a concert in Shanghai the night we arrived. They were not allowed to perform 5 of their more famous numbers, including one of my favorites “Brown Sugar”. The national leadership does not have the confidence to allow free speech and transparency. I usually save up cross-word puzzles from the Tribune’s Book Section and bring them with me to work on during the flights over and back and during down time while touring, etc. These puzzles are difficult because they ask for more obscure information and I frequently use Google to find the answers. Many, many times I am denied access to certain web sites, Wikipedia for instance. The message here is the Communist Party is alive and well in China.

This is Judith presenting at here workshop, waiting for her translator to complete a thought. She had her Power Point slides augmented with Chinese by Chinese students at UIC. She was told that they did a pretty poor job. How does that happen? The translator here was a co-sponsor of the work shop and did a good job of correcting things. He received his higher education in the US through a program similar to Judith’s Forgery Program. He is extremely bright and dedicated. At lunch, I asked him about some ramifications to China’s one child program and he had some interesting things to say. Judith hosts a dinner for all the Chinese principles that night.

When we came back from lunch we walked past several basketball courts and they were filled with semi-organized games. It's the Yao Ming influence. He is from Shanghai and he is on several billboards around the city.
Our Chinese hosts took us “downtown” so we could visit the Shanghai Museum. Luckily Judith and I were on our own. We skipped a couple of exhibitions entirely and spent a lot of time at the others. We especially liked the exhibit of the traditional ethnic costumes. Certain sections did not allow photographs, but some did. The gem collection was quite impressive. Afterwards we ate a huge meal then some of us walked around in the glitter of one of the main shopping centers in the city.

This is fountain in front of the museum. Notice the smog and the architecture.
A bunch of camera friendly Chinese students.
A photo of the staircase.
The great white way of China. The shopping center photo in no way captures the endless and somewhat amazing displays of neon lights. Day four is a travel day to Beijing. Our hotel is one the best in China in my opinion, the Peninsula Place, just off of another great shopping area, Wangfujing Street, and six blocks away from Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. Judith and I have stayed there a couple of times before. We are on the 13th floor Club Floor which allows us to enjoy breakfast, afternoon tea, and open bar cocktails with hors’ d’oeuvres at no extra cost. It is possible skip dinner; get mildly intoxicated and sounder down the hall to watch HBO, so we did. But not before we got foot massages. Of all the joys of foreign travel and new sights to see, there is nothing that compares to be able to get a foot massage for about $20/hour. If I could afford it at home, it would become a weekly ritual.

Judith is done with her workshop in Beijing so we sign up for the Hutong tour. This tour consists of a pedicab ride through a typical residential district, a visit to one of the residents, and then a visit to the former home of the wife of Sun Yatsen founder of the first Chinese Republic, Soong Ching Ling. Her sister was the wife of General Chaing Kai-Shek Commander in Chief of the Chinese military during WWII, Soong Ming Ling. Her home was the birthplace of the last emperor (Pu Yi). The home was Soong Ching Ling’s residence for her last 18 years which was arranged by Premier Zhou Enlai. On her death bed, Soong Ching Ling was named honorary President.

We ran across the local daily Communist meeting in the neighborhood. We were told this primary is the assignment of neighborhood watch jobs. (Or is this another way of making sure your neighbors are being watched?)

We visited the home of a Chinese artist who was making a little money allowing strangers to come into his home. I asked how he survived as an artist during the Cultural Revolution. He said he had to paint things that supported the revolution.

This is a small lake that fronts the home of Soong Ching Ling.

The photos below were taken at the home of Soong Ching Ling, now a museum showing how she lived and many photos of her Dr. Sun Yatsen. We ended out tour at the bell tower.

The bell and drum were originally used as musical instruments in China. Afterward, however, they were used for telling time. As early as in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220), there was 'a morning bell and a dusk drum'. Telling the time by bell and drum played an important role in helping people live and work regularly when there was no other means to keep track of the time. As a result, bell and drum towers became public architectures, and were widely constructed in almost every city throughout the country since the Han Dynasty. In the history of their construction, the bell and drum towers of Beijing are the largest and highest.

So here is the bell visible after a walk up of 67 steps. From the Bell Tower the Drum Tower is in front and if you could see beyond the Drum Tower, you could the Forbidden city and Tienanmen Square, all lined up.

We have dinner with some Chinese colleagues.

The man in the middle is Professor Xu, a pioneer in HIV/AIDS research in China. On his right are his son-in-law and his daughter. The man on the right is Charlie Wood a researcher out of the University of Nebraska, at Lincoln. He and his wife Kathy wee born in Shanghai and proved to be a very valuable helping us to communicate. He is a real good guy also. This couple, Professor Lin and Professor Zhou took us to this Russian restaurant located next to the Beijing zoo. Both speak reasonable English. They grew up as childhood sweethearts in Shanghai. I think Professor Lin is a couple years older than I, plays the piano every day, plays tennis 3 times a week, and is an avid photographer. He confided to me that his wife, Professor Zhou is a couple of years older than he. She is one of the movers and shakers in AIDS research and she and Judith have collaborated on several projects. They have children in the US and visit frequently. They have visited Chicago several times. When all of us were in Bangkok, Lin and I went to a crocodile farm together and he took me to a restaurant with his sister and brother-in-law one evening when our wives were off working together. I am sure we will meet in the future again.

1 comment:

GETkristiLOVE said...

Coca-Cola Light just doesn't taste the same as Diet Coke, no matter what country.