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East to West-Past to Present

Travel Blog

Immerse yourself in the cultures of China through intense study and extensive travel experiences. This course will begin on campus orienting the participants to China past and present through a concentrated exploration of China’s history, current social and political structure, language, arts and culture. The theme of this year’s course is food. We will look at both the history of food in China as well as explore how the Chinese have changed our own cultural landscape and the role that the Chinese diaspora has played in American food culture. After exploring these topic on campus, we will then head to China to taste all that Chinese culture has to offer eating at a range of local restaurants, visiting markets, and taking a crash course in Chinese spices and sauces at a Beijing culinary school. While we are eating our way from Beijing to Chengdu and then from Chengdu to Shanghai, we will explore a variety of historic and scenic locations. The travel program will begin in Beijing, the modern political capital of China and the final seat of traditional imperial power. In Beijing we will examine new and old China, from the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square to the vibrant modern art scene. From there we will travel south to the historic western regional capital Chengdu in Sichuan where we will visit the amazing archaeological site at Sanxingdui that has changed how we understand the founding of Chinese civilization, the great Buddhist monasteries in the scenic mountains that ring Chengdu, and of course explore the depth of Sichuan style food. From Chengdu we will head east taking a river cruise that brings us from the base of the Great Gorges (the Grand Canyon of China) through the lower gorges. During this drifting there will be several on-shore excursions and on boat activities. Then we will explore the beautiful cities of Suzhou, known as the Florence of the East with its classic Chinese gardens and canals, and Hangzhou known for its tea gardens and plantations. Finally, we will arrive at Shanghai, the commercial and artistic capital of China. All along the way we will experience the depth and variety of Chinese culture tasting the local specialty foods, visiting markets, and exploring the rich history of numerous regions. This course will give students an opportunity to meet the complex of things that we often call China and the amazingly welcoming diversity of folk that we often term “the Chinese” in person.