Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving in Chengdu

Thanksgiving is not celebrated in China.  Here's what I did on Thanksgiving Day.

Room #314, No. 2 Teaching Building, UESTC
Just a few of my 300 total students.

My largest class has 65 students.

On Thanksgiving Day, I taught a power point lesson about the history of Thanksgiving and the customs of celebration.  It made my mouth water to show the delicious stuffed turkey, and especially the pecan pies.  The only foods the Chinese could recognize were corn and sweet potatoes/yams, and they know potatoes, but they don't eat them mashed.  And never with gravy.  Do you realize how much we eat in America that has white flour involved?  They don't know what this is!!

Between classes at mid-day, Kirk and I were able to keep one Thanksgiving tradition.  We went to the movies!

This is a GREAT movie!!!  I loved the book, and the movie is true to the wonderful book.  It was in 3D and we also enjoyed a bucket of the caramel corn popcorn that is sold here in China.  The movie was in English with Chinese subtitles.

We then went to the second campus across town and taught our evening classes until 9:00p.m.  Not exactly the typical Thanksgiving Day.  No parade!   :(

Fortunately, our Chengdu 2nd Branch had a Thanksgiving pot luck dinner after Church last Sunday I went over to Pres. Weaver's home on Friday and made a pumpkin pie.  I wanted to make pecan, but the nuts are scarce here in China, and I'd have to spend $30 for the nuts.  Plus, I couldn't get corn syrup!  But our meal was complete since the ward members have nicer kitchens and access to all the correct ingredients.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 23, 2012


Chengdu is famous for the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding, or as our less-than-perfect-English-speaking Waiban (foreign liaison) calls it, the "Panda Basement".  They are up to an almost 100% success rate in keeping the little newborns alive.  They are born at 1/1000th of the weight of their mothers, with a varying gestational period from 3 months to over a year.  Not sure how that happens!!  They can't really tell when the panda is pregnant for sure, because the babies are so small and the pandas so plump that they don't "show".  They test the urine and can tell within 48 hours when they're going to deliver.  There is an interesting documentary to watch about the process and their success.  They're so tiny and ugly when they're born--like rats!  But the most fun is watching these adorable creatures as they eat, play and sleep.
Recognize this poem?  The last line is conspicuously absent.  "The Lord God made them all."

Cute little statue, but where are the live ones? 

Beautiful koi pond in the lovely park gardens.   


Panda Women

They lay on their backs to eat, stuffing it in and chewing it up.

 Meet Fatty

These are the two-year-olds.  

Two Year Olds

BABIES!  This little male and female were born in Aug. and Sept.

Reminds me of my grandsons!  These bears are 15 months old.
 Playful Pandas

This is my favorite picture.  The lower bear was sleeping, and the other one wanted to play, so he was trying to wake the napping bear up!
The black and white bears are the most familiar, but this "preserve" also has the beautiful red pandas.

Cute little critters.
 We enjoyed a lovely day here at the center with our BYU Directors and our neighbors.  The weather was nice and the company just as pleasant.  We finally saw the famous pandas!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sichuan Opera

I have a student, Alfred, who wants to practice his English.  I told him we'd love to see the Sichuan Opera and needed help getting tickets.  He got to work, went on the internet and got us a cheaper-than-the-tourists price.
Outside the theater is this large "billboard".  Looks like opera, doesn't it?  Well, actually, there were about three "acts" that involved music, costumes and dancing.  We were on the front row, although our hard, metal seats were less comfortable than the cushioned seats behind us which were less expensive--go figure!
The Three Warriors

Dances with Fans
Dances with Sleeves 

Chinese singing or American Screeching 

There were several other "acts" which reminded us more of a circus.  We didn't photograph it all, but there was a hand-shadow routine (she made birds, dogs, owls and other animals on a shadow screen), a woman who could juggle things with her feet, including a table!, and this woman with a large pole-controlled hand puppet.

This comedy act had a man who balanced a lit oil lamp on his head while walking, climbing and crawling around the stage.  His wife was cajoling him into all these tricks, and if he tried to blow out the flame, she was right there to relight it.

Another very talented man played the Erhu (say "Are-huh") and was extremely good at it!

The climax of the show was the famous face-changing masks and fire-spitting routine.  The actors would change the masks on their faces (through the use of strings) in a split second and the puppet spit flames from her mouth.  It was pretty exciting!

In the lobby was a display of other hand-made opera costumes which were beautiful and elaborate.
Not exactly Mozart or Wagner, but such was our night at the Sichuan Opera in Chengdu!

Saturday, November 17, 2012


We decided to take an overnight adventure to a beautiful mountain south of Chengdu called Emei (say "Uh May").  I was too terrified to get lost up there, so we asked my students, Vivian and Wendy, if they could possibly go with us.  Vivan and her boyfriend, John, were able to go, and they made all the arrangements for us.  We would have preferred more hiking, less bus riding, and a sighting of the famous monkeys that inhabit the area, but we enjoyed what we did see, and were glad to have some guidance.

Emei is the highest of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China.  We were short of time, so we took the bus ride (1-1/2 hours of hairpin turns!) to the cable car staging area near the top of the mountain.  We drove through a beautiful valley with cascading waterfalls, streams, bamboo forests, and jutting mountain peaks.  Later, it was getting foggy, and as we hiked up to the cable car, we could see very little of the view because of the fog.  We kept looking for the monkeys, but there were none to be seen.  :(  Maybe it's a good thing because Vivian screamed and jumped back when we saw a chipmunk later on!

Along the trail (actually a stone staircase), there were stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs and foods, many of which we couldn't recognize!
Would you eat ANY of these items?
And if you didn't want to hike, there was another method for getting up and down.
Modern-day rickshaw without the wheels.
The first Buddhist Temple in China was built on this mountain in the First Century AD.  Now there are more than 76 monasteries here.  We took a cable car to the top of Jinding, where there are two temples with accompanying sculpture and statues.
Rising above the "sea of clouds", a famous phenomenon on Mt Emei.

Vivian wanted us to buy some incense and showed us how to go about Buddhist prayer.  Light the incense, bow three times to the statue, place the incense in the stand, close your eyes, and think of good things  There is a massive statue of Samantabhadra at the summit of Mount Emei, and a grand staircase leading up to it with 6-tusked elephant statues along the way.  This elephant was seen in a sacred vision.

A monk in his robes.

The temples have some beautiful art pieces on display.  If I could read Chinese, I could tell you what they were and what they were made of!

The top of the peak has a Grand Canyon-like edge to it which goes straight down below the "sea of clouds" farther than the eye can see.  Worshipers used to see another phenomenon, a rainbow-like halo around their shadow on the clouds, and they leapt from the peak to their deaths thinking it was a 'call' of some kind.  That is discouraged with these signs.
"Loving Life - Don't turn round the hand rail."
Jinding Peak

Looking down on the "sea of clouds"

Unfortunately, people have thrown things over the edge, and it almost looks like a landfill in places, with papers, bottles, bamboo canes and other debris.
No monkeys, but we saw this familiar-looking fellow!
We rode the cable car back down and the long bus ride back to the village at the base where our hotel was.  Rain was in the forecast or we would have stayed at the hotel on the peak to see the fabulous sunrise.  Maybe next trip.

We went to eat at the "food court", a collection of restaurants with their selections displayed in beautiful arrays on tables, and with 'hawkers' walking up to you and telling you to go to sit at a table in their restaurant.
Looks good enough to eat!  If it were only refrigerated.....

Yes, that's a "fresh" chicken he's preparing--good thing it's blurry!

Chicken, pheasant, quail, dove.......

.... rabbit...


...and crawdads.  (I actually ate crawdads last summer!  Not bad!)

After dinner, we went to look at the big bronze bell in the lights, and the hotel was also lit up like Vegas. 

But the most fun was the hot springs, where we enjoyed the warm water, hot water, sulfur water, sauna and steam bath.  Ahhhhhhhh.........

Next morning, we had a full buffet breakfast with such luxuries as cold cereal, fried eggs, bacon, toast and juice.  

I decided to try the easy way up the mountain.  At least for a little ways.  Unfortunately, I think my team didn't understand we were taking a "moving" picture, so they wanted to hold still!!

 Karen with the Koolies

We went to the base of the mountain where there are some sculptures carved in the face of the cliff of different images from Buddhism.

There was an exhibit with a display representing the origination of martial arts in China and about Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.  There were some beautiful gardens we walked through on our way to the Baoguo Temple.
Statues of Chinese Boxing (Martial arts)

We finally saw some pandas!

Another temple, the Baoguo, with the ever-familiar smell of incense and sculpted Buddhas.  This one had a different collection of Buddhas in a landscape scene that we hadn't seen before.
Baoguo Temple

This happy, fat Buddha was on the top of the roof.
Several statues in one display--different!

This monk is pretty modern with his cell phone at his ear!
  We enjoyed another lunch at the food court, then rested at the hotel before boarding our bus back to Chengdu.  Goodbye, beautiful EmeiShan!
Man-made falls at the base of the mountain.

A beautiful spot in town.