Seeing the roots of Chinese history

Seeing the roots of Chinese history

Sarah Halter Today (June 9) we left SDUT early so we could spend the day in Qufu, a town rooted in ancient Chinese history.

Qufu is home to the temples and tombs of the famous philosopher, Confucius, and past Chinese emperors. The drive into Qufu was memorable in of itself. All I had seen so far were the urban areas of Zibo and Jinan, but the route to Qufu was a rural contrast.

While on the road, the tall and jagged mountains in the distance were a sight to behold. They were possibly even more impressive than the Adirondacks in New York. They were nothing like the mountains in Central Pennsylvania, which are all grouped closely in a range while the Chinese mountains are somewhat isolated throughout the countryside.

Mountainous scenery always makes me feel at home, because the mountains at home are part of my past childhood memories. But the mountains that contain the Chinese tombs, including Mount Tai-Shan shelter, have that familiar effect of drawing me in like an infatuated child, but their vast differences in structure and height manage distract me from comparing them to home.

Like Chinese culture, the mountains and the surrounding landscapes cannot be directly compared to those in my home country. It’s almost hard to find words to provide such comparisons, at least for right now.

Confucius’ tomb was much smaller than I anticipated. Its large stone tablet and worship space was located within the cemetery that was a short walk from the traditional Chinese temples that housed past emperors and other royalties.

The cemetery was full of shade and a number of unique Chinese plants. Many of the trees’ bark here look like they’re peeling. There was one tree further back in the temple area named the Dragon Tree.

According to legend, if one were to touch the Dragon Tree, they would be young forever. The tour guide also told us there were many rules between men and women during the times of the ancient dynasties.

Men stepped over the entrance to the temples with their left leg first, while women entered with their right. Our tour guide encouraged us to keep this custom all throughout the day in the Qufu temples.

Another custom I found interesting was that women and men could not hold hands with each other until they were of eighteen years of age; which reminds me, I’ve seen many couples holding hands on campus. I initially thought such displays of affection would be hidden even in modern times.

After exploring the temple, we quickly checked into a hotel in the city of Tai-An, and we eventually ate dinner at a local restaurant. Since we had ample time before nightfall, we had a class discussion during dinner, because we’re already behind on class lectures due to a full schedule.

I was the presenter this time, and luckily, I was able to present my articles after eating a satisfying meal and quaffing a Tsingtao. I was happy to have talked about my articles about modern Chinese issues in such a relaxed atmosphere.

I enjoy having classes in locations other than an assigned classroom. The class discussion and conversation related to the issues were stimulating, but the professors made sure the conversation did not stray far from the articles, because it had been a long day.

We all wanted to go out to explore the city before bed. We shopped at the supermarket, and I bought a new pair of shoes! They were only 55 yuan, which equals about $9.

We also stopped at a Chinese KFC restaurant. I had previously watched a documentary about the KFC menu in China. However, at the KFC in Tai-an, they served mostly American-style chicken sandwiches. I wasn’t that hungry, but I wanted to try their ice cream. It tasted about the same as American soft-serve.

Tomorrow we are to climb Mount Tai-Shan! I am most excited to see the vast views from the mountain’s peak. It’s about 25,000 in elevation, and with us starting in the middle, it will take about two hours to reach the top.

    — Sarah Halter, a senior English major