Friday, June 9, 2017

跳到荆州和武汉 Jumping over to Jingzhou and Wuhan

Jingzhou was believed to have been built by Guan Yu at the same time he made the earth.
Wall outside of Jingzhou
And while this may not be strictly true, it has been a transportation hub and commodity distribution center for more than 5,000 years. Because of its location, Jingzhou served as the capital for 20 kings from around 1046 BCE until 256 BCE. This rich history has provided archeologists with numerous sites to explore. Within Jiangling County are ruins of five Chu cities, 73 sites containing Chu Culture items and more than 800 ancient tombs, including those of 18 Chu kings; there is also a well-preserved 2,000-year-old male corpse. The city walls, city gates, watchtowers, and battlements have been well maintained.

Within this city is a rather special place. Viking River Cruises sponsors three elementary schools in China and one of them, Cenhe, is located in Jingzhou. When we arrived we were greeted at the school gates by children playing drums. Inside the school yard was a place to play soccer, a track and an outdoor stage. The classrooms are on four levels in two
Top L to R: School yard, MC and dancers
Bottom L to R: Martial arts demonstration, Folk dance
buildings as well as smaller buildings. The children participate in several different activities along with their scholarly studies. We were treated to drumming, dances, and a kung fu demonstration. The master of ceremonies was one of the older children with a good grasp of English. After our entertainment, we were taken to see the classrooms. At the door to the clasp we each were grabbed by a child and taken to a seat. Then began the fun of trying to communicate; these kids are taught English beginning in third grade but that doesn’t mean that they can really carry on a conversation. We had a great time thumb wrestling (Dave), playing with jewelry (Cynthia), and getting our guide to do some translating for us. While most of us on the trip expect to see a classroom for 20 children with space for them to do some sort of learning activities, these classrooms hold around 50 students each. The children are expected to sit quietly at their desks and do as the teacher says; there are no hands-on science classes or much else that requires anything beyond recitation or pencil/paper lessons. We left with good feelings about these children and a better insight into education in China. Unless you live in a rural area, you pay a nominal fee for education; rural folks don’t pay anything because the government wants to stamp out illiteracy. Once the kids get into middle school they begin taking tests that will place them in high schools and universities. If they are not tracked into the university, they go into some sort of technical training program in about eighth grade. The government no longer assigns jobs/careers, but they do oversee what jobs are available and channel students in the direction to fill those vacancies. Currently there is a focus on entrepreneurship and starting small businesses. There is still some begging and homelessness, but nothing like what we see in the United States. The one couple – one child rule has been lifted, but the young marrieds have not embraced this yet. This rule only applied to the Han ethnic group in the first place; the other 55 groups make up the 8.41% of the population of the country. Also, if the first child was born with a disease, deformity, or other issue, the family was allowed to have a second child. In one generation this eliminated most sibling relationships and most relationships with cousins. The tradition of the extended family was at least partially erased within two generations. The other issue is that only children were not used to sharing space thus having multiple children is not attractive to them, especially since both parents have to work to support the family. Another tradition that suffered was the care for the elderly. Males were expected to take care of their parents; if the only child is a female, her parents cannot expect any elder care. Retired parents are expected to help take care of the grandchildren until they go to school; this may or may not happen depending on whether they have more than one child and whether they are affluent enough to travel during their retirement. Our guide seemed to think that these changes have gone a long way break down traditions and to encourage Western attitudes.

Our next port of call was Wuhan. This is one of the most ancient and civilized metropolitan
Dragon fruit at Wal-mart in China
cities in China. It was a fairly busy port during the Han dynasty and was near the site of the famous Battle of Red Cliffs. By 223 AD the foundation of Wuhan walls were built as was the Yellow Crane Tower, a structure that has been celebrated in art and poetry. And by the 1700s it had become a trade center with railroads entering commerce by the 1800s. AT this same time foreign powers obtained mercantile franchises, dividing the riverfront into foreign-controlled merchant districts complete with trading business offices, warehouses, and dock facilities. Beginning in the 1900s Wuhan was hit with wars that led to the establishment of the Republic of China, the opposition to Chiang Kai-shek during the 1920s and a major Japanese logistics center for operations in southern China in 1938. The city was nearly destroyed by bombers during World War II and again by civil unrest during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. And of course Mother Nature tried to wipe it off the map each time the Yangtze flooded. The three districts, Hankou, Wuchang, and Hanyang, were once only connected by ferries across the river. Now the Yangtze River Bridge, a 3,600 foot span, links them all.

Good things came to Wuhan in the form of the Hubei Provincial Museum, one of the best-known historic and cultural archives in China. Launched in 1953, the museum was moved to its present location in 1960 and given its current name in 1963. This lovely museum houses
Top L to R: Bells, Hinged jade necklace
Bottom: Bronze base of drum
over 200,000 objects, including the Sword of Goujian, an ancient set of bronze bells (Bianzhong) and extensive artifacts from the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng and the tombs at Baoshan that have never been exhibited outside of China. Most of the artifacts were discovered in the late 1970s in a single tomb that dated to 433 BC. There is a wonderful collection of bronzes and lacquerware as well as musical instruments. The piste du resistance is the set of bells. There are 65 chimes hung on three frames and divided into eight groups. The largest weighs about 449 pounds, while the smallest bell weighs about 5 pounds. Each bell can play two tones with three degrees' interval between them; the range of Zeng Houyi Bells is from C2 to D7 with all twelve half tones available. Various sized of wooden hammers are used to strike the bells. These were also found in the Zeng-hou-yi Tomb. Although we visited on a Sunday (the powers that be had the museum opened just for us), the musicians did come in to play for us. It was amazing!

Our last stop on our tour was Shanghai, and then it’s time to review the food, places to stay and cultural programs both on and off the ship. 所有船上!
One of the third grade students
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