Yuan fen – 缘分－ A Chinese concept that represents the fate or chance that brings people together; predestined relationships
I can honestly say that I am slowly falling more and more in love with Beijing. Before today, I believed my affection for the city was caused by the different foods. architecture, and activities. This thought still holds truth, but something far greater is responsible for my infatuation. Yes, the foods I have tasted have been uniquely wonderful and an explosion of flavor. The ancient buildings have shared with me the years of labor and acquired skill needed to craft such intricate beauty, and one cannot forget the numerous new smells I’ve experienced. But after Lynn, our guide, told us about the prominent presence of “yuan fen” in the culture, I finally understood. It’s the people. Every single person I’ve met has greeted me with a smile and open arms. The children from the museum calling us their family, squeezing our cheeks, and giving us high-fives, the RDFZ students sharing their school and classes with us, Wang Li Hua welcoming us into her home and offering to teach us Chinese over WeChat, the Lamas hugging us and wanting to take pictures with, the RickShaw driver patiently communicating with us as he showed us his home, the lunch lady teaching me how to say various foods for future preference, the students wanting to take us to the mall, the art class drawing our silhouettes, all of this and more has helped me to see the true reason behind my growing love for this city, and furthermore, this country. I know my experience is limited and I recognize that this does not apply to everyone, but all of my encounters have been amazingly wonderful. These people have found they way into my heart and as my affection for this city grows so does my love for them. I believe that I was meant to meet all of these people. Call it fate or karma or yuan fen. I’m just glad it happened. -Gabby Lowe
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
HUMP DAY! Today we had a sleep in which was beautiful. At 8:45 we met Grace downstairs and went to our first class, Traditional Chinese painting. There, we learned how to paint in the traditional Chinese way, producing pictures of fruits. They were very beautiful and peaceful paintings. After, we went to a class where we learned how to speak basic Chinese. The teacher handled multiple plastic fruits and told us how to say them in Mandarin. Following our lesson, we had lunch and interviewed 3 students about their life experiences at RDFZ and in Beijing. Then we went to a dough modeling class. We were handed different colored doughs and taught how to sculpt roses. They were gorgeous! Then we went to a calligraphy class and Gabby and Vera’s calligraphy were elected best! After we had free time and played some basketball with some students. Then we ate dinner and headed back to the dorms to prepare for tomorrow’s adventures. -Sonali Butensky
Haiku for the day:
Walking in the halls
Learning how to speak chinese
Ah, Tuesday. We gathered this morning at 7:20 for breakfast with Grace and enjoyed our steamed soy milk. We discovered that the cafeteria sells interesting Chinese snacks such as pizza flavored pretz, green tea and blueberry pocky, and a variety of fruit flavored juices. We then attended IB level classes such as Environmental Systems and Societies, Economics, and Business. After a short break, all ten of us gathered on the soccer field and participated in a match with the RDFZ boys. Don’t worry, thanks to our goal from Gabby in the final minutes, we managed to grab the win #girlswinhere? more like #girlswineverywhere. Then we went back to classes- Art, Music, Biology and Computer Science were offered. The period lasted an hour and a half. Next, we fueled up in the cafeteria and headed out to the Beijing Olympic Park. We had to layer up because the wind made it quite chilly. The blue skys made for a picturesque afternoon (as shown above). The Birds Nest and the Water Cubic were architecturally stunning and a must see despite the cold weather. After exploring for a few of hours we went to dinner at Beijing Duck and ate a smorgasbord of traditional Chinese food. All settled into the dorms now, can’t wait for another day of fun. – Alyssa Landry
All photographs by Sofie Brandt.
At the flag raising ceremony, Mr. Alan Weathers, addresses the entire school body (6000 students) as well as faculty and staff in this video. Our students were welcomed warmly by the RDFZ community.
After the flag raising ceremony, one of our hosts Ruby explained the Chinese educational system and the differences there are with our educational system. After lunch, we went to the ICC, where students had the opportunity to sit in on various classes. The ICC program follows the IB system. Classes included Art, English, math, and languages. We then gathered for a traditional tea ceremony, where we learned how loose leaf tea is made. The tea was very delicious and satisfying. Porters students then mingled with RDFZ students, choosing either to try calligraphy, paper cutting, or rolling paper, and spent time learning the traditional Chinese art making while fostering friendships with our foreign friends. Later this evening, some of the group heading over to the Supermarket for some snacks. Getting ready for bed- jet lag is hitting us hard but we are ready for tomorrow’s adventures! -Anna
After a restful night in the dormitories at RDFZ we met downstairs in the lobby to walk to the cafeteria with our wonderful host, Grace. We enjoyed some Chinese classics such as: flour bread, scallion rolls, pork bread dumplings, cinnamon cake and more. We then went on a tour to the exhibition gallery and learned about the history of RDFZ and various student accomplishments. We walked over to the track and field where the 6,000 students gathered for the flag rising ceremony. Our group leader Mr. Weathers gave an introductory speech to the students and teachers of RDFZ. Off to some classes talk soon…
The group arrived at school and were served dinner in the cafeteria before moving into their dorm rooms. The students are tired from the long flight but looking forward to hitting the ground running in the morning. All are happily sound asleep!