More than a Dot on the Map
COB Study Abroad Program China
Nanjing was the smallest city we have visited on this trip, with its area approximately the same as New York City and a population of 5 million people. Within this city, there are many parks, temples, universities, businesses, corporations, and hidden nooks and crannies that make cities so exciting to visit. We had the opportunity to visit several of the gems of Nanjing and explore the Southern Capital.
Our first stop of the day was at a local park. We left early in the morning and arrived to find tons of people, both tourists and natives milling about. As we continued to wander around, we found large groups of people doing their morning exercise, or as we referred to it, Chinese Zumba. Several of the COB students joined one of these groups, and learned one of the dances. Our tour guide, Cindy, explained this is often a form of tai chi, and many people come to parks or other locations every morning to practice and exercise.
The park was built around a large lake, which will be one of the main locations for the 2014 Youth Olympics in August. There were fields of lotus flowers around the edges, and several overlooks. The entire park is surrounded by the former city wall, which was built when Nanjing served as the capital. Further back, there was a small temple that overlooked the park. Several women were praying and there were multitudes of red ribbons tied in the trees. These ribbons signify good luck and families place them there after praying to Buddha.
The park reminded me of Central Park in NYC; it was a haven inside the busy city, where no cars were allowed and the pace of life slowed. Many grandmothers would bring their grandchildren there to play with other children and make friends. The elderly population doing their morning exercises or writing poems on the sidewalks with water. Tourists with cameras strapped around their necks, aiming their lenses at every new and captivating site.
Our next destination was the Mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. The mausoleum was perched high atop a mountain, and we had to climb 392 steps to see the memorial. Every single one of those steps was well worth the climb, as the view of the surrounding area below was absolutely breath taking. Our group decided to take a seat on the steps at the top to take a group photo…2 minutes later we were surrounded by Chinese people who were also taking photos of us. Fast-forward 10 minutes, and the crowd was even bigger. While it has taken some getting used to, we are slowly getting acclimated to having our photo snapped everywhere we go.
Our climb down the steps took a little longer, with more stopping for pictures. We then traveled by tram to another part of the park to visit the Ming Tomb. The pathway was lined by 24 stone animals; 4 animals of 6 different species. The first set of animals was “on guard” while the second set was “at rest”. There were lions, elephants, camels, unicorns, horses, and wolves. It was a scenic pathway, with trees, bushes, and flowers lining the way to the tomb.
We then had free time to find dinner and explore the area surrounding the hotel. A group of us found a pizza place about two blocks away from the hotel and we managed to order what we wanted despite the language barrier. After finishing our dinner, we headed to a local shopping market that was near a river. There were lights up and down the river, and the area seemed to thrive at night. It was absolutely beautiful and people were exploring the surrounding shops. There was a strip mall located near the river, but on the opposite side, there were booths and stalls. Several members of our group took a tour of the area via a boat ride on the river, while others shopped or visited the local temple.
Our visit to the Southern Capital was relaxed and entertaining. Every day we learn more about the Chinese culture and way of life. We are even getting more acclimated to traveling in such a large group and how to use the few phrases of Mandarin that we know. Xie xie, which means thank you and is pronounced shi shi, is the most well mastered phrase. Our travels thus far have shown us that you don’t need to visit the biggest cities to gain the most understanding of the nation and culture.