Editor’s pick- Top 3 travel cities in China

  1. Beijing- A city where history and modern living coexist.

Beijing has been the capital of China for thousands of years. As one of the four ancient capitals, Beijing offers visitors rich culture as well as a modern city life. You can go to the Forbidden City to see how ancient Chinese emperors lived there for centuries. And you can climb the Great Wall to experience the strength that protected Beijing for thousands of years. If you want to experience modern technology, you can visit the fancy architectures build for 2008 Olympic Game, including Bird’s Nest Stadium and Water Cube. You can also find plenty of modern city life, including dazzling shopping malls in Wangfujing that are waiting for you. After a long day, you might want to go to Houhai Bar Street to have a relaxing and entertaining night.

Travel Tips: It is normal to get lost in hutongs, which are traditional Beijing style streets similar to small alleys; however, don’t worry, it is a typical characteristic of Beijing. Just slow down and enjoy!

If you ever have a chance to travel in Beijing, don’t forget to try Beijing roast duck.

  1. Xi’an- The starting point of the Silk Road.

Xi’an is another ancient capital in China. Many dynasties created their capitals here. And many royal or wealthy families buried their deceased in tombs in Xi’an. Because the ground in this area is filled with tombs and buried treasures, construction can often take very long in this area.

Xi’an is the best city for learning about and experiencing Chinese history and religions. The first attraction of Xi’an that visitors must see is the Terracotta Army. It is the largest scale of funerary art in China: a collection of terracotta sculptures based on armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. If you want to see more about ancient Chinese history, Shaanxi History Museum is a good choice.

To experience more fun with history, you can bike along the fortifications of City Wall. Buddhism is one of the main religions in China. Because Xi’an has been a center of culture for centuries, the Buddhist religion has had a huge impact on the area. Big Wild Goose Pagoda is a well-protected Buddhist building that stores many precious Buddhist scriptures.

Travel Tips: Xi’an is famous for its various noodles and wheaten food. Roujiamo (meat sandwich) and Guan Tang Bao (Juicy Bun) are must-try dishes in Xi’an. To experience exotic Muslim food, the Muslim Quarter is a good place for all kinds of food and souvenirs.

  1. Chengdu- Hometown of Giant Panda.

In many foreigners’ opinions, the panda represents China. These rare animals primarily come from the Chengdu, Sichuan. In Chengdu, you can have a close view of pandas at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center. If you are really interest ed in pandas, you can apply to be a volunteer at Dujiangyan Panda Valley.

Chinese opera is another famous symbol of China. Chinese opera is divided into different styles based on regions. You can watch everything from authentic Sichuan opera to impressive face changing in Chengdu. Another must-see attraction in Chengdu is the Leshan Giant Buddha. You will wonder how ancient people were able to build such a spectacular sculpture. Sichuan food is also a must-try attraction in your travel. There are countless classic Sichuan foods you can taste in Chengdu, including hot pot, mapo tofu, cold noodles, and so on. To taste as many as you can, Jinli Ancient Street is a great location.

Travel Tips: Chengdu is a city . The city speed is much slower here. In the afternoon many people stop their work and enjoy their leisure time in the teahouse while playing Chinese Mahjong, a multi-player card game. Sichuan Mahjong is the most difficult kind in China, but it is very interesting to learn. When you need a rest in your trip, find a teahouse and experience the quintessence of Chinese culture.

Want to learn more about traveling in China? Check out CNN’s 40 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in China.


Grave Robbing: A Look into the Strange Chinese Phenomenon

In the 17th century, grave robbing was a common occurrence. People wanted to find spouses for their dead relatives’ afterlives, believing that even in death they should have company. In order to make their dead happy, they robbed graves to find women’s bodies to place in graves alongside their dead male relatives. It is now rare to see grave robbing in that form in today’s Chinese society. Today, when grave robbing occurs it is often more likely that these thieves are trying to steal relics to sell for money.

Grave burials are the main funeral style in ancient China. The Chinese people believe that after they die their souls will live in another world and protect their descendants. It is therefore the family’s responsibility to grieve the dead in order to make sure the soul of the dead rests in peace. People also bury funerary objects for the dead, regardless of whether they are wealthy. They give what they can. Rich families might bury gold, bronze, or pottery, whereas poor families may bury clay products or copper. People think the higher quality the objects buried with the deceased are, the better the lives these deceased will have in the other world.
After robbers steal from the grave, they typically smuggle the funeral objects through Guangzhou or Shenzhen to generous buyers. Other times they simply stock them at their distribution centers and eventually transfer the goods to Hong Kong, or abroad.

In recent years, people have begun to pay more attention to the act of grave robbing. This added scrutiny is mainly because the Chinese have begun to increase their desire to preserve ancient artifacts. However, grave robbing remains a fixture in modern culture. In the summer of 2015, the famous novel called The Lost Tomb was made into a TV series. It was a hit with public audiences and pushed the topic of grave robbing to the forefront of modern conversation. The movie franchise grew from there, expanding into products such as grave robbing themed escape games, video games, and so on.


Chinese Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is often a holiday of mixed emotions. If you’re in a relationship, it can be full of roses, chocolates, and sweet surprises. However, if you’re single, the day becomes quite a bit less fun. You may be led to believe, as many are, that Valentine’s Day is a specifically Western culture holiday. But we are not the only ones who celebrate a day of love.

The Chinese have their own version of Valentine’s Day called the Double Seventh Festival or Qi Xi festival.  According to legend, the day originates from two lovers of the past. A young cowherd named Niulang fell in love with the Weaving-Girl named Zhinü, but their love was forbidden because he was only a mortal. So they hid it and eventually had two children. But one day Zhinü’s goddess mother found out and took her away.  Niulang’s trusted ox told the boy to kill him and take his hide which had powers that would allow him to go up into heaven.  Sadly, Niulang did and went after his wife. The goddess created the Milky Way to keep them apart and the lovers were devastated. The magpies on Earth saw them and pitied them, so they flew up into the heavens and created a bridge for the two to meet on. The goddess now allows them to meet there once a year, every year, on the day of the Double Seventh Festival.

This day is named the Double Seventh Festival because it falls on day 7 of month 7 of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. This means that the date can vary every year.  In 2016 the holiday will fall on August 9th. The holiday was originally celebrated in very traditional ways, such as women demonstrating domestic skills ranging from sewing to carving fruit.

Present day Double Seventh festival is much more similar to the western Valentine’s Day.  This means that they also spend the day with roses, chocolates, and exorbitantly large teddy bears.  So perhaps at the end of the day, Chinese culture and Western culture have more in common than we may originally think.


A further look into Chinese and American educational systems

A Chinese proverb states, “Teachers open the door, but you must walk through it yourself.”  This viewpoint may seem in stark contrast to the American perspective on education. School life in China can be very different from the experiences we have here.  From extreme pressure at all levels to lack of imagination in the curriculum, Chinese education is very different from ours.

While many American students stress about the SAT’s or ACT’s, that seems to be only the tip of the iceberg for Chinese students. In China students must not only test to get into university but also take exams to enter high schools. For each test, the grades are separated into tiers so that if you reach a certain grade you are placed in a certain school. Only once reaching this tier, though, will you be accepted.  Parents place extreme stress on students to do well, often paying for private tutors or even nutritionists to maximize their child’s chances.  Those who do not do well must wait an entire year to test again, making the odds very high.

However, the high press of exams create the special benefits for students. To get through the exams, students gain solid foundational knowledge through instructor’s detailed teaching and the student’s own frequent practice. No matter how technology develops, foundational knowledge is still necessary for every person to succeed in the future. You might wonder where the high pressure comes from. It’s because the students are required to learn over a wide range of fields. From classical literature to modern science, students get acquainted with all different subjects relatively earlier than U.S. students.

Students are also given a very strict curriculum. Many believe this is why they often test the best, because students are taught the exact answers. The US and China differ in this way.  In the US, students are often given the opportunity to choose what they want to study, making their education more personalized.

It’s clear that both types of studies have their strengths and weaknesses.  And the best way to understand new cultures is to experience them.  Check out the winter study abroad programs to China this year and experience all that the Chinese education system has to offer!


Things you need to know about learning Chinese

Language learning is always a process full of frustration. This is especially true  when you are trying to learn a language that is totally different from your mother language. Chinese is considered one of the most difficult languages in the world. Want to know how to learn it well? Here is some advice.

The starting point of learning any language is the same- learning to speak. It is a good idea to start with basic vocabulary and phrases. These phrases could be anything easy that occur in everyday conversation,such as “Hello” or “How are you?” While you are learning to speak Chinese, pay attention to the tones taken. Chinese is a tonal language, which means that the same words or phrases can have different meanings based on the tone. After you get a little more familiar with the language you should feel confident for the next step,  which is pronunciation and sentence structure. This is the most important part of oral Chinese. The best way to learn is to listen to native speakers as much as possible. When your ears have grown accustomed to listening to this speech, your mind will naturally instruct you to speak in the native way.

Another part of language learning is reading and writing. Pinyin is the writing system that uses letters from the Latin alphabet to “spell words out.” Pinyin is the foundation of reading Chinese characters.  After you understand Pinyin, reading and writing will be much easier to learn. Learning a language is a process of accumulation, meaning that no one can fully understand a foreign language in a short time. The best way to learn is practice a little every day. Set yourself a goal: how much you want to read every day, how many characters you want to learn every day, etc. And then follow your goals step by step.

The fastest way to learn any language is to immerse yourself in it. You can practice with native speakers, listen to Chinese songs, or watch Chinese films. These are all good methods for improving your language intuition. It is also good for language learners to get in touch with culture. To understand more about Chinese culture, you can practice traditional calligraphy, visit exhibitions, or even arrange a trip in China.