Perri Rae Davis
Business and Culture Along the Silk Roads 2013
I took a journey half way across the world in hopes of building my awareness and to discover all of the possibilities in changing our world. With my classmates, teachers, and new friends, I explored a new culture and gained a different view on the opportunities that are presented in front of me. Through exploring new foods, religions, and cultural customs, I have been exposed to new ways of thinking and views of the way our world works, and why and how our relationships are built. I did my best to explain my experiences in words that mirror the amount of change that has happened inside of me. My paper is a summery of events that has happened over the last month and a half. I have felt so much gratitude having experienced this trip to China, and I can only hope that others may be inspired to take the leap across the world to experience this beautiful and humbling cou
China, A New Light Insid
Before I enrolled into the Business and Culture Along the Silk Roads program, I had sensed an adventure was coming. I had no idea this adventure would take place in another country. Once I read the program description, I fathomed the idea of going to China, despite doubting my capabilities to make it happen. I imagined myself taking that leap, and set my mind to the ambitious journey that would await me in spring quarter. Through hard work inside and outside the classroom, I bought my ticket and committed to traveling half way around the world; in the name of adventure, education, and truth.
Xi’an, located in Shaanxi province, was once the pinnacle of the Silk Road. With a long and defining history, Xi’an (previous known as Chang’an) was the home to many dynasties including the Han, Sui, and Tang. This was our first stop in China. I was exhausted by the long and gruesome airplane ride, but my adrenaline was pumping through my veins as we arrived at the airport at 12:30 in the morning. It was a rush being in such an unfamiliar place, with the unreadable street signs and odd looking cars. We took rough side roads, as we were not allowed to drive on the highway due to high traffic accidents that happened late at night. Students from the Shaanxi Normal University were kind enough to meet us at the airport even though it was a school night, and were helpful to answer all of our immediate crazy and absurd questions about their life and culture. Once we had arrived at the dorm on campus, we split up into our rooms to attempt to rest for the full day we had ahead of us.
After a day of rest and testing our diets, our first stop was the Shaanxi History Museum. Our tour guide whisked us around three different exhibits displaying the pre history and dynastic period of China and Shaanxi, along with relics and artifacts from different dynasties such as Qin and Han. I found the simplistic Chinese symbols, icons, and “cultural ways” to be most fascinating. The placement for the city was created by the layout of the environment. With the river, symbolizing life, and the mountains surrounding the river to be the protectors, Chang’an was created with an intention for prosperity. With the river to provide water for the growth of farms, and the mountains to stand way of their enemies, the design and choice of the city created a sustainable atmosphere for many dynasties to flourish. Even though I was still jet lagged and feeling woozy, my mind was running with ideas a million miles per hour. I was so astonished by the simpleness of intention, just as easy as thinking before doing, and I couldn’t stop contemplating of the possibilities and potential our world had if everything was done with such careful intention. There was no small doubt why Xi’an later became such a huge contributor to the Silk Road, it is as if they had planned it before it was even built! Realizing the uncomplicated and simple theory of a precise and intentional idea, it will support and sustain a business to where it is intended to be. When I realized this, I knew it was a familiar idea that I have learned many times before, but as I stared at the map of Xi’an on the wall, something clicked. As my first day exposed to Chinese culture and history came to an end, I was humbled by the opportunity I was having to open my mind to old and new ideas that I knew would change my life.
East of Xi’an, the Terra Cotta Warriors are considered to be “one of the most famous archaeological finds in the world.” After visiting the dug up and restored warriors outside of Qin Shi Huang tomb, I can sincerely vouch to that. Entering the first pit, you easily become astonished and blown away by the thousands of life size warriors standing before you. Not one face is alike, and when looking carefully, you notice each warrior is unique in its size, shape, height, hair, and facial features. As I rounded the first corner, I noticed a sign that mentioned the site was discovered on accident, by peasant well diggers, in 1974! I instantly felt like a pioneer, feeling an overwhelming sense of purity. Although it was foolish to think I was one of the first few (millions) to see this amazing discovery, something that has only been known for 39 years in a country that has been around for thousands was enthralling. I had numerous questions on who, when, why, what, where, and how this all came about. Imaging myself as Qin Shi Huang, and the amount of power and determination he must have had to pull this off, I questioned his purpose and true vision of this stone cold army.
The next day we took a bus to the new campus. Considered the first museum in Xi’an dedicated to woman’s history and culture in china, the Woman’s History Museum located at the Shaanxi Normal University was full of artifacts, jewelry, fashion, myths and stories. We were accompanied by our usual student volunteers, Vanessa, Ricardo, and Novak, along with over fifteen other students. Before our tour started, my teacher Hirsh and the dean of Shaanxi Normal University exchanged gifts in gratitude and appreciation of each others relationship and culture. Hirsh was presented with a beautiful hair piece and he in return presented medicinal herbs that were given to him by the Quileute tribe of La Push, WA. Vanessa was kind enough to translate between the two, so each could understand the words being exchanged. The traditional act of giving gifts dates back many centuries ago in China’s culture. It represents hospitality, respect, and appreciation. I also noticed that the act of giving a gift helps break the ice between two people that are meeting each other for the first time.
Although there were many aspects to the exhibits, the idea of fashion corresponding to a woman’s status grabbed the majority of my attention. The size of a woman’s foot determined societies judgment on her place on the social ladder. The larger and flatter the foot, meant that she had worked long hours in the field and she had no social status. Woman of wealth and fortune, had their feet bounded, usually to about a mere few inches. This image portrayed luxury, and typically these woman would be pampered and marry a man of wealth and fortune. Their feet were bound not by choice, but in the name of cultural practices and status. The shoes on display were so tiny, it looked as though they would fit a three year old. This practice has fizzled out, but from time to time you will come across a woman with bound feet. The process looks to be excruciating, but in tradition Chinese culture it is viewed as beautiful and grand. Looking at the shoes on display, I couldn’t help but think of today's image and how one’s dress and attire can determine societies judgment on her capabilities to function in modern society.
Later that afternoon, we took a bus into town. Entering the Wanshou Eight Immortals Palace, we were directed to a room in the back courtyard to have the opportunity to talk with a monk.. We were poured tea and Vanessa translated our questions for us. I instantly became shy and timid in the presence of a person with such wisdom and knowledge of the flow of life. I decided to sit back and just observe, and let the other students with more knowledge of The Tao do the questioning. One student was curious about the monks ability or desire to have a family. From what I have learned monks roam the world solo. With no families to call their own, they are welcomed to stay at temples around the world. He personally does not have a family, or have the capability to have one, Tao is his life. He did express his feelings on the importance of a family as three variables. One being the man, and two being the woman, and together they form three, baby. This tripod insures teachings, morals and values are continued onto the next generation. Before visiting the Eight Immortals Palace I had little knowledge of the The Dao, and after visiting with the monk, I felt I had a broader prospective on the flow of Tao and how it can be incorporated into one’s life. “The philosophy is not to do good things; but become a good person” (BBC). Stabilizing your life, emotions and desires will insure the success of your external environment. You can not expect to change the world until you have focused on centering your own life internally. Only then can you begin to change the world.
April fifteenth marked one of the most insightful days I have encountered in my twenty-three years of living. We took a long bus ride to Louzi’s temple and grave. As we arrived, the heat slowed us down as we walked up the hill to the temple. Story goes that this was where Louzi interrupted the writings for the Dao De Jing. You could not ignore the amount of Chi and Flow encompassing us along our tour of the temple. I had previously visited a handful of Pagodas and Temples, but for some reason, this one felt special. I wondered around by myself taking pictures of the vivid blue and red trimming around the temple, and taking note of the precise details around every inch and corner. I found a quiet place to rest in the shade and drew pictures of my emotions in my notebook. After lunch we were on a mission to find Louzi’s grave site; a site not well known to the public.
As we drove up to the side of the mountain, I felt a sense of calming in my heart. We did not know if we were in the right place, but we were determined to find out. We came across an old temple set up against the mountain side as a monk came out and greeted us. We listened to him talk, and he taught us how to pray to the shrine. He said if we prayed with him, he would tell us how to find Louzi’s grave site. I found this odd considering that anyone “forced” to pray, is not even really praying, so what is the point? I let that idea go as I bent down to pray in the motions he was showing us. Afterward, he pointed us down the road we needed to take to get to the grave site.
Coming up to the road, we were stopped by a “government” official with a cheap and fake looking badge. He told us we could not go up the road because their was a “fire hazard” and no one was allowed up there. We told him no one would smoke or light any matches. He still refused. We waited patiently around him, trying to figure out how we could get around this guy. One of our students from Shaanxi was talking with him, trying to persuade him, and then Hirsh showed him a magical picture! Just then an Asian guy walked by the guard with a cigarette and the guard tried to stick with his story and told the man he could not smoke. The man looked confused and in Chinese told him, “Why? You are crazy!” Right then the guard knew his cover was blown and said, “Fine, you can go up.”
On the way up, my curiosity was about to eat me alive . I was so exhausted from the long hot day but none of that mattered anymore. We hiked up a trail until we came to a newly paved road. Red prayer ribbons covered the trees and bushes along the road, and we knew we were headed in the right direction. Coming up to the top of the mountain, we were greeted by three old monks who offered us water, tea, and snacks. We rested under the shade, catching our breath, before entering into the temple. That particular scent of incense is still engraved into my memory. I felt relieved, and excited to be there. After exploring the grounds, and peaking into the cave that was Louzi’s memorial site, I learned that Louzi never “died”. He was considered an immortal, and one day he traveled off into the mountains to never be seen again. I felt him there, his energy, wisdom, and secrets to the universe. As the rest of the group ventured up to one of the monks quarters, I saw a side path that looked to wrap around the side of the mountain. I felt an urge to go off by myself, and that is what I did.
Rounding the side of the mountain, I came across a red brick house that was half built, with stairs that lead up to a locked gate. I walked to the top of the stairs, and I had a perfect view of Xi’an and the country side surrounding it. I sat, viewing the city below, and my mind started wondering. Why was I in China? I knew I was searching for answers, and perhaps a new environment to learn and grow in, but what was I really doing there? As I starred into the skyline, it is as if the universe slapped me in the face. Describing my moment of pure clarity is hard to express in words that accurately mirror my experience on top of that mountain. I had a deep connection to myself and I knew I was right were I needed to be in the world. At that exact moment I felt so much gratitude, tears flowed from my eyes, and I could not stop laughing. I realized life was so simple, and my awareness to the world around me continues to grow with each experience I come across, good and bad. Leaving the comfort and routine of my life back in Olympia was difficult, but “changing them should help us to change ourselves.” (Gallagher, p. 142). As I reflected deep inside myself, I understood why I was trying to “change the world” and I knew the hard work ahead of me to get there.
Leaving Xi’an was bittersweet, but I was excited to venture to the next city. WuYiShan is known for the beauty of the mountains and rivers, along with the famous Red Robe Tea, Dahongpao. Located in the Fujian Province, WuYi was lush with vegetation and tea farms. We were greeted by students of WuYi University at the train station, along with more students with welcoming signs at our hotel. The hospitality was amazing, and the students were so helpful. We were accompanied by students almost everywhere we went, dinner, field trips, activities on the campus, it was wonderful. Having them around to answer questions or help translate signs or menus was extremely convenient. The exchanges of conversation in both Chinese and English was beneficial to both us and the students, to work on our pronunciation and learning new vocabulary.
My other professor Thuy Vu had the opportunity to give a lecture to a group of students at WuYi University. His topic of discussion was International Trade and Economic Growth. There were around forty students to our eight students. I formed a group of eight students to discuss the trade deficit between United States and China. My group of students could barely understand English, so I broke down the terms to simple words they could relate to and understand. As a group we decided on reasons why we are experiencing a trade deficit. One reason could be that China provides better quality products for less cost, causing companies in America to outsource their production of goods. It is more effective to import goods made in China then to produce it in the States. We also decided that the exchange rate encourages companies to outsource to China because you get more for your dollar. Next we discussed ways to change the imbalance in the system. We thought that if we created a more sustainable model that supported quality services and products in the United States, that would help eliminate the desire to outsource. We would have to improve the quality for a less price without sacrificing wages, safety, and the environment.
The discussion reminded me of the “The Triple Bottom Line” and the importance of taking more social responsibility in any business or corporation. Most corruption is driven by greed. What if we could alter the way businesses and corporations thought about profit and advancement within the business? What if success was measured by the amount of resources that was saved, or by the percentage of happy and satisfied employees the company had. I truly believe that by focusing sustainable efforts inward, it will naturally protrude sustainable efforts outward, like a rippling effect. It is as simple as making yourself happy before you can make someone you care about happy. A company or business will need to have a solid foundation supporting the people and the planet, to truly make a profit, that benefits everyone and everything involved.
The next day, we were lucky to have a lecture on self cultivation lead by one of the philosophy teachers at WuYi. He was commenting on the book Huang Diyin Fujin. We had not previously read the book, but it was still interesting hearing what he had to say about it. I will comment on what I have written in my notes: Symbols reflect in your mind. Every word is an image, which forms into a whole image. It is important to be aware of Nature's Law (way). The five elements are: water, fire, metal, earth, and wood. The five motions mirroring those elements are: destiny, power, timing, fortune telling, and praise. It is important to stay aware, even if it is not clear, but the clarity is inside you, and when it is time, you should take action. There is a flow with Nature’s Law (way), that balances the yin and yang. It is important to keep your mind at peace. The simple act of watching your breath will bring you back into the moment, which is important for balancing your day to day life.
The next day our class went to a Tea History Class. Our translator was Mona, a student majoring in Tea Culture and Cultivation. They spoke of advancing the Wuyi tea and what the school is doing to bring back the tea culture. They also talked about the importance of refining the spirit and implications of the Wuyi tea ceremony. Wuyishan is the original center of Oolong and black tea, dahongpao, shuixian, and rougui. Wuyi University is pushing the collection, settling, and protection of Wuyi rock tea. The Wuyishan government is carrying out a "low carbon tea industry" and "environmental protection, high quality, and low carbon" laws. The government is also encouraging farmers to be organic and yield a pollution free cultivation. Wuyi has achieved a cleaner production of tea with yield up to 95%. I have always enjoyed tea and now I am more curious to know about health benefits and the process of tea cultivation.
The following day, my class and I went rafting on traditional bamboo rafts down the Nine Twists River! It was an overcast day, and although we had rain ponchos, luckily it did not pour on us! The ride was beautiful and relaxing. It was about an hour and a half long with scenery of gorges and lush vegetation. There were cavities in some of the cliffs with coffins that date back to 4000 years ago! Scientist still do not know how the coffins were placed in these caves. I had my theory that they were lowered and swung into from the top, which still seemed somewhat impossible. I guess the truth will always remain a mystery.
After the raft ride we walked along side the river and up a mountain to a Taoist temple. They were very welcoming and cooked us an amazing (all vegetarian) lunch of mushrooms, bamboo and plants from the river. After lunch the monk invited us to have tea to talk about Daoism, to ask questions and learn about the history of the area. There are many temples along the river, some that date back to thousands of years ago. Most of the land surrounding the river were tea farms cultivating the famous Oolong Rock Tea. Depending on where the tea is cultivated (on the mountain, by the river, or in a field) determined the quality and authenticity of the tea.
Before we left to Hangzhou, we were lucky to have a class on Chinese calligraphy and bamboo drawing. I was glad to have a teacher showing us the techniques, the right way to hold the brush, and the proper steps in drawing the characters. You must hold your brush straight up and down, with a light but firm grip. You draw from left to right, with very slow and precise lines. The bamboo drawing was different then drawing the characters in the way that the bamboo was drawn much faster, and it had a freer flow, with more creative control. With the characters, you were trying to mimic the exact character that was presented in front of you. You had to pay much attention to the amount of ink and water that was on your brush. If you had too much water, it would bleed thick on your paper and distort your lines. If you did not have enough ink, you would run out mid stroke. Your goal was to make the lines without “double dipping”. I found the practice to be very calming and meditative. I later bought a set to take home so I can practice.
After a short overnight train ride, we arrived in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, very early in the morning. Hangzhou is considered to be one of the most romantic cities in all of China, mostly because of the famous West Lake. Many poets and scholars have written famous stories and poems about West Lake. The city is situated around the lake, with a handful of pagodas and temples. There are countless willow trees surrounding the lake, with traditional water taxis waiting to take you across the water. The West Lake has been the home to many dynasty over the last 2000 years, such as the Qin, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing, and now the Peoples Republic of China. We were staying at the Zhejiang University, in the international dorms.
On our first day in Hangzhou, we visited the Leifeng Pagoda, situated on the south banks of the lake. The new pagoda had seven levels, full of beautiful detailed wood work telling the famous story of The White Snake. It was built on the old relics of the original pagoda, which you could see on the bottom level. From the top level you had an amazing view of Hangzhou; the city, mountains and the lake. Although it was a slightly wet and overcast day, it gave the city an essence of mystery and beauty.
The Future Entrepreneurs Club is a student formed group focused on exchanging ideas and practices related to business in modern China. They recruit students among their class who inspire to have their own business one day. They gain funding for their club through local corporations, and get little money from the school. With that money they pay successful business owners and entrepreneurs to give speeches and workshops relating to their experiences with running and owning a business.
My class and I met with the FEC late Thursday night. We expressed our goals and hopes relating to our trip to China and what we want to do with our experiences. I told them about my studies back home, what projects I have been working on, and what I inspire do to in the future. Most of the group members were boys, and one girl, Vivian. I got her contact information to get in touch with her later on during the month.
I met again with the FEC this last week. They were conducting a meeting on how to do a successful interviews and for the ladies, how to do their make up. Afterward, I gave a presentation on “The Triple Bottom Line” explaining the importance of incorporating the three P's (people, planet, and profit) into new and existing businesses. The students had some great questions and were very interested in how to imply these changes into their lives. I gave examples of current businesses who are implementing these ideas, and how you can go about making these changes. Most of the students concluded that their government would have to implement these changes first, in order to create change within their established cultural ways. They were fascinated with the idea of being “change agents” but most seemed timid to the idea of changing what their government has already set out for them.
The next day, we traveled across the lake and into the mountains. The Hangzhou Buddhist Academy is one of the largest Buddhist schools in all of China. It was a beautiful building, newly renovated with high ceilings and bright yellow walls. We were invited to play basketball and badminton with the students, and then have a tea party. We started the afternoon meeting one of the English teachers names Frank. He showed us the room where the monks meditate each evening for two hours. He had a senior student show us how to properly sit and meditate, and we meditated as a group for 15 minutes. It was difficult calming my mind at first. I would count from one to ten, trying to distract my mind from thinking of other things. After a few minutes my mind fell silently into bliss. It only lasted a few minutes, until I almost fell asleep in my seat! I found it very relaxing and restorative.
Next we went outside to play sports with the monks. They were excited to have us play with them. They did kick our butt in basketball! After losing a good game, we headed to the dinner hall for supper. Monks eat in complete silence. It was awkward at first, but I shortly got used to it. You hold your bowl close to your face, bending over to your bowl can cause bad digestion. You are to finish your whole bowl, and wait silently until everyone is finished.
After dinner we headed to the tea party. We had a class of monks waiting for us with treats and fruit. They poured us tea as we began to ask them questions to break the ice. The monks were extremely shy at first, timid to ask us questions, but soon they realized our Chinese is worse then their English, and began to open up. My classmate Joohee and I gave some of them English names and we exchanged contact information to keep in touch. We have gone back twice since then so help each other with learning the language.
The cooperation between China's natural setting and my personal past experiences surfaced emotions I have never felt before. My willingness to accept and explore a new culture so intimidating yet intriguing opened up my eyes and mind to new ways I can live my life. Being exposed to a new environment has lifted me out of my habitual perception on how life can be lived. The challenges I have been presented with has pushed me to a different kind of “survival mode”. I have been challenged physically and emotionally, which has caused my previous petty concerns to vanish. My ability to adapt and strive in a new environment has proven my inner strength and determination buried deep inside myself. I have found new weapons against stress, such as using laughter and reflecting on my accomplishments. I am leaning to harvest this new power of being in a new environment. The days past me so fast, yet I am captivated by the motions slowly each day.
I feel my world coming together. There is a dynamic relationship between that is happening around me and what is changing inside of me. I am slowly understanding how this correlates into what what I am doing, and how my experiences today are building my future for tomorrow. Taking a step back, I try monitoring and really understand my true relationship with my environment. Am I creating this reality around me, or is my environment controlling me? Can I harness this balance to better understand myself? Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, and the constant stimulation around me can cause my eyes to go blind. I feel my awareness growing, as I continue to recognize my struggles and then determine how to overcome them. It is almost like I am building internal symbols in my mind, that I can relate to and use in times of defeat. These “symbols” grow stronger each day; I am building a powerhouse! I have worked hard to secure stability in my life, yet the uncertainty of what tomorrow brings keeps my feet moving. I have my eye on the “dream”, and there are many stepping stones to get there. I am eager, but patience is a virtue if you are trying to become a master.
I identify with China's culture the more I learn about the history and famous figures and events. I get a since of familiarity. Perhaps being in an “old” country has evoked “old” wisdom that is stored inside of me. Being in China has brought out a special dimension within myself, one that is indescribable, but I can feel it shifting and changing who I am. It is difficult to grasp these changes, but like I said, it is a feeling.
My perception has gained a deeper meaning, it has moved past the color, shape, and sizes of objects. I am beginning to see the possible true intentions of these objects, and one thing or object can have so many! I move in and out of this “state” of clarity. The flow humbles me and I can not help but smile. I am breaking past what I used to know, to what I can know. Observing myself, I feel proud, and grateful for each person, place, and thing that has brought me here. I take full responsibility for who I am and what I am set out to do. I am constantly inspired by my surroundings and I feel refreshed.
I am learning to balance my yin and yang. I know my imperfections, and it drives me to keep searching for more answers. Leaving the comfort of home has been difficult, and sometimes physically hurts. But the growth always makes the pain go away, and what I know and love will never really be gone. Experiencing China has brought out a new light, a new meaning and purpose to the intentions of my dreams. Leaving the comfort of home has made room for new experiences, and creating that change will indefinitely improve my surroundings. Discovering China has pushed me to get in tune with who I am and what matters to me. My spirituality has grown along with my self-esteem. China has been my “vision quest”, allowing me to differentiate between what I want and what I need to do to make those changes. Finding this true meaning has allowed me to express myself and my true identity.
I am determined to improve my quality of life, and for others around me, especially vulnerable children. My passion for teaching and sharing ideas becomes apparent with any interaction I have with a child. I am fascinated by their curiosity and potential. With the world at their fingertips, like sponges they absorb knowledge with creativity with no fear. Working with children is where my true passion lies. They are the ultimate risk takers, and a true inspiration of what the world is capable of. My studies here in China has refined my goals of bringing education to children with inadequate resources; clean water, proper nutrition, and hopes for a bright and flourishing future. Once their basic necessities are met, then they can truly start to advance to the next level. I want to restore creativity where it has been lost, through workshops and projects that build up their community and add value to their life. I want to learn what they are passionate about, and provide tools and resources to bring them to life. The more I fathom this dream, the sooner it is becoming my reality. I see what I want to do, so I set forth each day with the determination to make it my reality.
So what does this all mean? I have traveled half way across the world, now what is my next step? My experiences here in China has lead me to one direction: Education. As I live here day to day, I constantly think to myself, what do these people really need? Education is a gateway to expression, inspiration, and growth. My personal journey through school has opened up so many possibilities and doors that would have never been exposed without the tools and resources laid before me in my classrooms and teachers. With a world struggling to advance to the next level, it is my generation and the generation after me that needs to take responsibility for a better future. I want to be apart of that change and better yet, become that change. Education is an investment that we all need to take seriously. Many children and young adults around the world are born into a situation where they need help, they need exposure to new ideas and resources that will sustain their families and communities. Food, shelter, and water are a necessity, but education will sustain not only what they need but also potential commodities that will allow the individuals and communities to advance to the next level. This trip to China has allowed me to understand the true importance of not only advancing myself, but the social responsibility of sharing my knowledge with others.
Xi’an History Museum
Terra Cotta Warriors Museum
China Lonely Planet 2013
The Power of Place by Winifred Gallagher