Before leaving for this trip, I had a previous understanding of imperial China- whether it be through a history course at school or my own study of traditional Chinese dancing. When walking through the Summer Palace today, I was amazed by the structure and detail to each part of the buildings and walkways. When walking through one corridor, I immediately was inspired and had the urge to just dance in it. Site specific is something I have done before with my modern dancing, where you use the place, people, and nature around you to inspire movement. Walking through this beautifully designed and detailed corridor, I had to dance. It was an amazing feeling to be able to just move and flow with the wind and architecture behind me. I sacrificed the jacket and hat so I would have more flexibility in my movement- despite it being 14 degrees outside. Later, as we hiked up to the top of the Buddhist temple, I was again inspired by the imperial beauty and the view. The sun was shining in just a way that it felt natural to move with nature and the architecture. When dancing, I tried not to think about what would look good for the videos or to try and impress the crowds that had formed. I did what my body wanted to do, using the sunlight and architecture to inspire my movements. Thanks to Sofie, we were able to capture the truly magical moment.
In the days leading up to today, the only glimpses of Beijing we had seen were about the city’s modern society. Our visit to the Summer Palace and the Capitol Museum, however, provided a new understanding of Beijing that encompasses all its history. The Summer Palace revealed to us the persisting Chinese principles of beauty and harmony, while the Capitol Museum outlined important aspects of the old lifestyles in China. A highlight of the day for me was climbing the steep steps to the top of the Buddhist temple in the Summer Palace, where I was able to experience a breathtaking view of Beijing that included reminders of new and the old: tall contemporary buildings in the distance and the centuries-old Chinese architecture of the Palace.
– Marisol Carty
Today we learned how to make traditional Chinese seals. Although the process was frustrating at times, we didn’t give up and in the end the results were very rewarding.
I have been drawing in museums with my mom since I was a toddler. Being outside at the Summer Palace in the bright, clear winter sun is another feeling. We were in the location where the artifacts had significance. I could feel the history all around me as I drew the statue at the top of the Summer Palace. My fingers froze and I could barely hold my pen as I drew but it was worth it.
Today felt like we were so truly immersed in the incredible culture and history of China. We started the day with a traditional seal cutting lesson on campus. The process of creating our own stamps involved many steps including writing our Chinese name, tracing and carving it into stone and then dipping it into red ink before stamping it into a beautiful book of other students’ work. The whole process produced many good laughs and memories. This experience, in addition to all the other cultural lessons we had yesterday, gave us very meaningful insight and respect for the beautiful intricacies of Chinese art. We connected with so many new people and I felt that I was able to know them better as they taught me about their art, no matter if we spoke the same language or not. After the lesson, we visited the Summer Palace. As we stood near the shore with the wind blowing across the vast frozen lake, we all quickly realized why the nobility had chosen summer as the best season to spend time at this palace. Oh well. Despite the cold weather, it was by far my favorite experience so far. It was a place so full of unique history and breathtaking beauty. We hiked a hundreds of stairs up the mountain side to the highest part of the palace and were immediately taken aback by the view from the top. From this vantage point we could not only look out across the the lake and sprawling historic palace grounds in front of us but also to the towering, modern skyscrapers of the city to our left and the rolling green mountains to our right. In this moment I really began to gain perspective and feel that I was starting to understand the complexity of China. This feeling was further enforced after we ate at two restaurants and visited the Capital Museum. It was an incredibly educational and exciting day and I can’t wait for more sightseeing in the days to come! -Katie Guyer