TaiQi Chopping Books with Dinosaurs​

June 26, 2015

in Asia, China, Heather Brevard, Summer 2015

上海 Blog #29


Thursday June 18th, 2015

Local Time: 19:30 Shanghai Time

I woke up this morning at about 7am to someone in the hallway screaming “FuYuan!” which I only know as the word for waiter/waitress. It would appear the word also doubles to mean housekeeping. Although I feel that is good to know, I wish I could have learned it at a more reasonable hour.

In China, universities are divided by subject field. East China Normal University where I’ve been staying during my trip is targeted mostly at teaching and business. Today, we visited a school that solely focuses on physical education. Everywhere we wandered around campus were people running on tracks, playing soccer, dunking hoops, etc…. Our main purpose for visiting this particular campus which is located in the so called “Chinese concession” (the place all the local people centralized during the French, British/U.S. concession era), was to visit the famous Martial Arts Museum.

This particular gallery housed some pretty cool stuff, from ancient weapons to videos portraying traditional fighting styles. Traditional Chinese martial arts is heavily related to Daoism in that in focus greatly on the concept of Qi. In this way, masters were meant to be balanced, in control and go with the flow as they made their moves. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the museum was the interactive exhibits. Each station was designed to test participant awareness, agility, balance, strength, poise, alertness and reflexes. Activities ranged from boxing simulators to light up balance pegs.

Since we arrived back at ECNU relatively early, a few of us bookworms decided to go hunting for a book store. Rumor had it there was a really big one near Cloud Nine Mall at Zhongshan Park and we figured it wouldn’t be too hard to spot, especially since I know the characters for book store. Unfortunately, we were very, very wrong and after walking the perimeter of Cloud Nine, it was time to ask. I’m fairly certain I must have asked at least fifteen people, “请问,书店在哪里?” (Excuse me, where is the book store). I discovered early on that my tone on “店” (dian) was wrong, which was creating some issues (I was using third tone when I should have been using fourth). Some people straight up told me they couldn’t understand and couldn’t help. Others just pointed, which only got us walking so far in the right direction before we had to pull over and ask again. Some people came back at me in Mandarin with really long instructions I couldn’t understand.

In short, it took us about half an hour of walking in circles to find it. In my defense, nowhere on the outside of the store anywhere was the character for book, 书. There was nothing quite so satisfying as the four of us walking in to be greeted by shelf upon shelf of books none of us could read. Achievements, no matter how small, really are only worth the time and effort you put in.

We found the English books section on the third floor amidst the “外国书” (foreign book) section. They had a fair selection, much larger than the foreign book selections I’ve seen in the U.S.

I ended up buying two books in simplified Chinese. The first was the one I had planned to purchase, 孫子兵法 (Sūnzĭ bīngfǎ), also known as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. I must have read it three times in English and the goal is one day I’ll be able to read it in simplified Chinese. It’s probably going to take a while. I was informed later by one of my Chinese friends that he struggles to read it because the translation from ancient to simplified is weird, but I’m going to try not to let that be a discouragement.

My second purchase was an impulse by of the Chinese translation of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones. I already own copies in both English and Spanish, so I couldn’t resist adding to the collection. The goal: be able to read it at a decent pace with a dictionary before I graduate from Madison.

I was treated by 许悦 to an upscale meal at Global Harbor this evening. Included was some of the most delicious chicken and noodles I’ve tried yet in a delectable garlic sauce. There was a girl in the booth next to me with her significant other who stared me down the whole time. Finally, I turned to her and smiled and said 你好 she gave me a small smile back and quickly looked away. It’s good to break the ice, I think.

After dinner was a movie. Chinese movie theatre popcorn is interesting because it’s quite different from your stereotypical American variety that’s smothered in butter. This was more like American kettle corn and had a sweet flavor to it. Strange, but appreciable. The movie in question ended up being Jurassic World (sorry family for seeing it early without you, but I couldn’t pass up seeing it in China!). The film was in 3D and English with Chinese subtitles because nobody dubs movies in Chinese for some unknown reason. More interesting still was the reality of assigned seating in the theatre. There were some aspects of the movie I could tell were lost on my fellow Chinese audience members since they didn’t laugh at some of the jokes or react to some of the American cultural subtleties. I think I’ve been inspired to look into some foreign films now.

Physical education school campus

Physical education school campus

Martial Arts Museum

Martial Arts Museum

Martial Arts Museum character

Martial Arts Museum character

Martial arts weapons

Martial arts weapons

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