College China Trip
A group of forty students and four members of staff from the college travelled to China during half term to experience for the first time an amazing culture at a very special time in the Chinese calendar – the Spring Festival and the Chinese New Year.
The students were overwhelmed by the richness of traditions that they experienced and the wealth and variety of historical sites that they visited during the trip.
The first stop of our journey was the Chinese capital Beijing. On a bitterly cold day we visited the Olympic complex purposefully built for the 2008 Olympic Games, an impressive site through its modernity and daring architecture. Following this first visit, we ventured into the famous Beijing hutong which are the back alleys of historic Beijing, a place strikingly different from the modern feel of the rest of the metropolis. Our journey of discovery continued in the next few days with a trip to the Great Wall of China. This was a highlight of the trip for most of our students who challenged themselves to complete a very difficult hike to the top of the mountain whilst trying to imagine the fearsome Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan approaching the Chinese border. We were all equally mesmerised by the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, stunning remembrances of the Chinese imperial past, again in striking contrast with the modernity of the Tiananmen Square and the Communist mausoleum holding the remains of Mao Zedong, the Founder of the People’s Republic of China.
Our next stop was the very ancient city of Xi’an where we travelled on the high-speed bullet train and joined the biggest people migration on Earth at a time where everybody in China seems to try to get home to their family, in time for the New Year celebrations. One thousand kilometres south from Beijing, Xi’an delighted our senses with wonderful traditional Chinese architecture, a warmer climate and a wealth of historical sites which are world renowned. The highlight of our visit to Xi’an was without any doubt the Terracotta Warriors museum, one of the most amazing archaeological finds of the 20th century. We had a wonderful guide who gave us a comprehensive lesson in Chinese dynasties, the spiritual and symbolical meaning of the Warriors and the way of life of people more than 2000 years ago. On Chinese New Year Eve, we all joined the celebrations by going on a night walk on the Ancient Walls of Xi’an and by taking part in the traditional Lantern festival. What an experience! The next day, on the Chinese New Year Day, we visited the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a renowned Buddhist temple, and once again joined in with the locals to burn incense and pray for our families and loved ones. A true moment of spirituality that our students very much appreciated. Later in the day, we watched the Chinese New Year Parade, a delightfully exotic procession of music, local costumes, of dragon and lion dances and other colourful characters.
Our visit to China was truly marvellous and we also got to experience one of the richest cuisines in the world. There was something for everyone – from meat skewers and scorpions in the wonderful food markets to more familiar foods like sweet and sour chicken and fish, although the taste was very different from what we are used to in the UK. We also went to a Kung Fu performance and we caught a performance of the Beijing Opera, definitely something to remember!
The students were incredibly appreciative, open-minded and inquisitive, which was a real pleasure to witness! We are looking forward to new adventures in the future hoping that this trip has given them the appetite for travelling and getting to know the diversity and cultural richness of our world.