When I initially imagined writing this blog about my trip to China, I thought about calling it “Land of the Rising Sun”, until I came to the realisation that that’s Japan. Shows how little I know. I went through several title suggestions, the most boring: “Nanki’s Travel Blog” and “Nanki’s Travels to China”, to the slightly more creative: “Indo-Chinese Relations” (dodgy?), to my favourites: “An Eastern Easter” and “Captain (L) Mao” (if you don’t get the pun, you clearly don’t spend enough time on the internet…) However, I eventually settled on my own somewhat quirky title of “Pagodas and Peking Duck”. I hope you appreciate the eccentricity rather than agree with the kind words of a friend of mine: “that is awful.” There is however a good reason for the title, which should become clear as you read on.
I am going to spend three weeks of my Easter break in China in Hangzhou, about four hours coach from Shanghai. It’s famous for its West Lake, which is surrounded by Pagodas (there’s the first half of my title) and other temples. Hangzhou is also famously known to have attracted poets and artists through the ages due to its beautiful, natural scenery.
The remaining six days or so are going to be my very first, somewhat tame, attempt at backpacking. Those of us still standing at the end of the three weeks are going to work our way up to Beijing to see the Great Wall of China (which cannot, despite popular belief, be seen from the moon), go to a Beijing Opera and (it should all make sense now) eat Peking Duck. Whilst I don’t want to reduce China down to “Pagodas” and “Peking Duck”, they represent the two cities I intend to explore.
Exactly three days from today, I will be heading out of dusty and already 40ºC New Delhi to the stunning city of Hangzhou for the Study China Programme. I applied about six months ago, never really expecting to get into a programme with a 1 in 4/5 acceptance rate (…yes, that is completely self-congratulatory). The purpose of the programme is to learn about the Chinese culture or cultures (depending on how you look at it), its people and particularly to learn some Mandarin, which is spoken over a vast expanse of China. I’ll also be taught some Tai chi (potentially embarrassing), Chinese Calligraphy and visit Mogan Mountain, amongst other things. (If you look at the itinerary there, you could even tell me what you’re interested in hearing about…!)
If this doesn’t draw you in, this programme is a chance to visit China, all expenses paid other than the flights to get you there (hence the one in five chance of getting in). There are two programmes running in the summer, which you can apply for until the 19th of April, and in my somewhat biased opinion, would definitely be worth going for.
If this blog can convey half of what I glean from my experiences in China or even remotely interest or amuse you, it’ll be worth it. I hope it raises awareness of the Programme at the University of York, where unfortunately it hasn’t been very well publicised. If it doesn’t push you to apply for the Study China Programme or even the Study India Programme, with any luck it will at least provide you with a few moments of interesting reading.