Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Shanghai Report #6 - "Everyday Life"

I woke up this morning and looked out our window, down into Zhabei Park, right below our apartment. At 7:00 a.m. there was already lots going on. People were talking, laughing, jogging, many were walking—some slow, some fast, some forward and some backward, some pushing babies in strollers. Folks were doing exercises of all types—stretching, hanging from a tree branch, one man was hitting a tree with both arms—outside of left arm, outside of right, then inside of left, then inside of right, while across the park a group were doing Tai Chi, moving slowly in various positions. Occasionally, someone does martial arts with a sword glistening in the sun. I could see badminton birdies flying through the air, as people hit back and forth to each other—not using a net. Every day, one man does at least 30-40 min. of vigorous exercises at a fence along the stream right below our apartment, rain or shine. Someone was playing a flute, with the music echoing around the park. Often we hear music which sounds Middle Eastern, and we have seen people dancing in colorful clothing.
This will be my last report, as we are heading back to Boise on December 16. We have had a very interesting time here in China, have seen amazing things, and learned much about China and its people, but it has not always been easy. It will be good to get home for Christmas. Some of you have commented that my reports seemed like we were on a terrific vacation, so I wanted to comment on that before we return. While we have had a great experience, never to be forgotten, everyday life here has not been a “vacation.”
Probably the most difficult thing is the language. We live in a regular, not upscale part of Shanghai, and on the street and in every shop the language spoken is Chinese. Sharon has been going to Chinese class and learned much but it still is difficult to have clear conversations. Nearly every time we go to eat in a little noodle or dumpling place or small restaurant we end up with something unexpected. We are trying to eat local and “get into” the level of the community, which means that many of the menus are only in Chinese characters, not even “pinyin” which is Chinese words spelled out. Some menus have pictures but it’s still difficult to tell exactly “what is that in the picture?” Going to the grocery store, you look at shelves of packages, but the writing is all Chinese characters—what is soap and what is shampoo, or conditioner, or lotion?
Even when the menu is partly in English (sometimes the items are listed in Chinese characters, with an English translation below) it is not always clear what you might be ordering. The other night we went to a Chinese restaurant we like a lot, and I wrote down some of the English translations of menu items. Here are some of the choices: (1) Sichuan fragrant little yellow croaker; (2) The Season Slightly Fries; (3) Steams the Young Lad Chicken; (4) Road Vegetable; (5) Does the Pot Goose Intestines; (6) BlackPepper Cowboy Bone; (7) Gold mushroom curry fat cow; and (8) Fragrant Spicy Bullfrog. Which one do you want? We heard that there is a municipal project to standardize translations of signs and menus. A big job.
Our small 600 sq. ft. apartment here is functional, the rent is reasonable, and is very close to Shanghai University. We must cross a busy street with no light so we negotiate traffic, often motorcycles and buses careening down the street, some “motos” going the wrong way. Things don’t always work smoothly. During our 3 months here: first the shower water was way too hot, then too cold; the bathroom door knob fell off; the light in one bedroom went out and since it was somehow built in to the wall, we needed a repair person to fix it; our broadband internet hookup required several people to come here and work on it twice; the heating system did not work and a repair person needed to work on it; the TV set would not turn on at all and the landlord came to work on it. All repair people speak only Chinese. In most cases, You Sha, the program director was our translator, and came over and helped or arranged for repair people to come—we would have been lost without her.
Sharon has done a great job of keeping me going. We have a washer in the apartment, but no dryer, so every few days she does laundry and then hangs it out to dry on the balcony of our apartment. Our kitchen is tiny—about 5 ft. by 3 ft. with almost no usable counter space—only one person can be in there at a time. We have no oven and only a 2 burner stove to cook on (only one burner works, neither does the fan), no dishwasher of course (except me) and the refrigerator is about the size that a student might have in a dorm room. We eat out in restaurants most nights rather than try to cook here.
We do have a TV, and a month ago we got cable with 60 channels, but 59 of them are in Chinese. The one English channel is government controlled, but does have some news (from the Chinese perspective). We do have a western style toilet in our bathroom—unlike most public bathrooms in China, where you use the “squat” method. We have a shower, but in order to get enough hot water, we must first turn on the sink water, which gets the water heater going, then we go turn on the shower. There is no central heat, and it is getting darn cold now—we are feeling chilled. We are wearing our sweaters and fleeces, mittens and even a stocking cap sometimes. There is an air conditioner/heater unit on the wall in the bedroom and another in the living room, and we are running them pretty much full time now—we’ll see what the power bill is pretty soon.
But we are having a great time overall—we’re not living in luxury but are experiencing life in a “real” Chinese neighborhood. The people have been quite friendly to us—workers in the shops we frequent often say “hello” or “ni hou” to us as we pass, and folks who can often try to speak some English to us in restaurants and on the subway. Some of the street food people recognize us now, smile, wave and say hello. After 5 or 6 nights of eating dumpings, noodles or other Asian food in our neighborhood restaurants, we take the Metro to a more upscale area for some pasta or burgers or pizza.
Last week we went to Hai Di Lao, a famous hot pot restaurant with You Sha, her husband and another couple. It was a huge place with sunken pots in the middle of each table, divided for two kinds of broth, one spicy and one more mild. You order various meats and vegetables, mushrooms, seaweed, tofu, bamboo, lotus and cook it in the pot at your table. Also, you make delicious sauces from about 50 different ingredients. It was a fun evening. In our neighborhood, you can buy almost anything on the street—freshly cooked stir fried dishes, shish kabob, dried fruit, kettlecorn and popcorn, pancakes, fish of all kinds and turtles as well as many kinds of milk tea, dumplings and delicious soup available in little stalls. Sharon saw someone selling live pigeons from a cage on the front of a bicycle.
Shanghai University was created about 10 years ago by combining 4 different universities and colleges. We are located at the “urban” campus in the city of Shanghai. Yesterday, Sharon and I visited the largest and newest branch, in an area called Baoshan, in a northern suburb. We took a bus from our campus, along with Prof. Zhan, a Chinese professor of Business and Economics, who teaches at the Baoshan campus. He also teaches a class on our campus, in English, to our USAC students. Prof. Zhan showed us around, and when he needed to go to class, he handed us off to two sweet female students, who continued the tour, then took us to their favorite restaurant—McDonalds—for lunch. The buildings are all fairly new and modern, and the library is 8 stories tall and very impressive. Prof. Zhan invited me to give a lecture to the International Business and Management students, and I agreed to do so next Monday—our last day before we fly home. It will be an interesting way to spend my last day. Last weekend, we also attended an erhu concert with highly skilled performers from a music university. Erhu is a two string violin like instrument--the body of the instrument is a small cylinder covered in donkey skin, and they hold the erhu upright. China has put emphasis on building architecturally interesting theaters and museums. It has been great to visit them. This concert was in the fantastic new Oriental Art Center in the Pudong district. Viewed from above, the Center is just like five blossoming petals, which constitute respectively the entrance hall, Oriental Performance Hall, Oriental Concert Hall, Exhibition Hall and Oriental Opera Hall, forming a beautiful butterfly orchid in full bloom. Glass and tiles are featured throughout.
Well, it is time to sign off, and go work on my final exams, which I will be giving, then grading, later this week. I hope you have enjoyed these reports, and I look forward to catching up with friends and family when we return to Boise next week.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Report #5 from Shanghai

Nov. 15, 2008
Hello Friends and Family,
Another month has gone by and we have had many new adventures here in China, so here I go with another report. Our classes continue to go along well—only about one month left now. We have read many essays about ethics in China in my “Cross Cultural Ethics in Business” class (mostly by Chinese scholars), and we have had many lively classroom discussions analyzing business cases involving China and Asia. This past week 2 American businessman attended our class and discussed their experiences doing in business in China—each has been here more than 3 years—and the students had some good questions for them. When asked what is different about doing business here, each one answered “everything,” and then gave examples of different cultural behavior and experiences, “guanxi” and more.
My other class “Legal Issues in International Business” is also going along well. We are using the textbook that I revised last year, so it is good to actually teach from it and get the feel of the whole book (I revised half of it). I have 10 students in each of my classes. Sharon is busy with classes, trying to learn Chinese characters, and volunteering at a school.
The most memorable event of the last month was our biggest trip of the semester—11 days covering thousands of miles around China. Most of the students (25 or so) and the program director, You Sha, and Sharon and I flew to Beijing on October 31 where we spent 4 days, seeing amazing sights such as the Forbidden City, Tian’amen Square, Temple of Heaven, The Summer Palace, the Great Wall, Ming Tombs, the Olympic venues and much more. Our group also included about 15 American students from the USAC site in Chengdu, and Wentao, the director there. This time the activities, the transportation and hotels and many dinners and lunches were all arranged by Wentao and You Sha, so we just had to show up on time (wait for a few straggling students) and go along—much easier than our trip on our own to Yellow Mountain (last report).
We started out by walking across Tian’amen Square (the largest downtown square in the world) to the entrance to the Forbidden City. This huge array of impressive buildings was built in the early 1400s in the Ming Dynasty and housed emperors through the Qing (“ching”) dynasty until the Republic of China was formed in 1911. It consists of a series of impressive halls, palaces and temples with yellow roofs and vermillion walls spreading out over hundreds of acres. There were also hundreds of tour groups there that day—mostly older Chinese, often wearing red caps to identify their group, pushing their way into the buildings and temples—I’ll bet there were one million people touring the Forbidden City—I’ve never seen crowds like that. I now believe that there really are 1.3 billion people in China!
The next day we boarded our bus and went about 30 miles out of Beijing to the Great Wall, at Juyongguan, a high pass flanked by higher mountains. The Great Wall stretches some 12,700 kilometers (7620 miles) from near Beijing to the Gobi desert, twisting and turning along mountain ridges, through 5 provinces of China. Construction of the Wall started as far back as 656 B.C. when various early Chinese states tried to stop intrusion by nomadic people from the north. Later in 221 B.C. when the Qin dynasty conquered and unified China for the first time, emperor Qinshihuang ordered that the Wall be connected and expanded to form the basis of the present Great Wall. Much expansion was done during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when 18 sections were renovated with bricks and rocks, and that is the part we see today. We spent 2 or 3 hours climbing around different sections (it is very steep and the steps are high—I fortunately still had my walking stick from Huangshan and used it a lot!). The views were incredible and we enjoyed it much, especially when we went across a road to a section with less crowds.
We saw many other sites in and around Beijing in the next few days, including the Summer Palace (beautiful grounds, temples and lake), huge silk and pearl markets (which have stalls selling anything you might want), spent most of a day wandering around the hutong area with our Chinese leaders (You Sha’s husband has a room there), and we also attended a neat Chinese acrobatic show and dumpling banquet. One evening Sharon and I took a taxi up to the Beijing 2008 Olympic venue area. We were hoping to catch a musical and light show in the Water Cube, but there was no show the night we were there. We did go into and explore the Water Cube where all the Olympic swimming and diving events were held—it is a pretty neat building. We also walked around the outside of the “Birdsnest” Olympic stadium, which we all saw on TV, and enjoyed watching the sunset and then the lights turning on in both the Water Cube (lit up a bright blue) and the Birdsnest.
On Tuesday night we all took an overnight train to the ancient city of Xi’an. While the students enjoyed the trip and got a good night’s sleep, we older folks didn’t sleep much and were tired upon arrival. However, You Sha and Wentao had a full day planned, and after checking in to our hotel and a quick shower, we were off at 9:00 a.m. on our tour. Xi’an has existed for 3100 years and has been the capital of 13 dynasties in Chinese history, so there is much to see. We visited museums containing relics from the Zhou Dynasty (10th and 11th century B.C.), the 3000-year old Banpo Village, and the Shanxi History Museum containing treasures of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) when Xi’an was the beginning of the Silk Road (to the Middle East and Europe), and perhaps the largest city in the world, with 2 million people. Particularly interesting for students studying Chinese was the Stele Forest Museum filled with huge stone steles carved with calligraphy. Each museum does a good job of showing visitors how the historical study takes place.
The highlight of Xi’an however, are the Terra Cotta Warriors—the most significant archeological find of the 20th century. A group of peasants digging a well in 1974 uncovered some pottery including parts of human statues. Over the next several years of careful excavation archeologists gradually unearthed an incredible group of life-size warriors and horses buried underground. Apparently the first Qin emperor (the same guy who started the Great Wall) wanted a large army to protect his tomb in the afterlife and ordered the construction around 211-206 B.C. To date, more than 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses and chariots have been uncovered, with more than 3,000 repaired and restored—they are now again standing guard. The Chinese have built a huge building over site #1 (the size of Michigan Stadium, the “Big House”) and are also finding more warriors in other sites nearby—who knows how many will eventually be found—and they still have not found the emperor’s actual tomb, only the soldiers guarding it. We toured site #1 and also #2 and #3 nearby and saw a 360 degree movie depicting the building of the warriors and the Qin conquest of China. Also that day, we visited the Huaqing Pool hot springs where an emperor in the Tang dynasty created what Sharon calls the first spa, in the year 747. She enjoyed a footbath at an outside pool with tea served.
It was certainly unusual to be in an ancient city in the middle of China on the day of the U.S. presidential election. We were eager to hear the results, but were on the bus touring all day, with no access to any news. Finally some of the students in the back of the bus shouted out “Obama wins” after talking by cell phone to family members in the States. Later we went to an internet cafĂ© and got further details. The significance of the news really hit home when at lunch one of our students, a very sharp African-American young lady, began to cry when she told us about her great grandmother being tortured and killed by the KKK, and saying “my 90-year old grandmother never believed she would see this day in her lifetime.” In the next few days when we had one English channel on our TV in our hotel in Chengdu, the Chinese commentators mostly focused on what effect Mr. Obama’s election would have on Chinese-U.S. relations--TV in China is controlled by the government.
On Friday, the student group and You Sha headed back to Shanghai, but Sharon and I flew on to Chengdu, the largest city in western China, located in Sichuan Province. I had been battling real nasty stomach and intestinal problems while in Xi’an but felt a bit better Friday so off we went to Chengdu. Wentao, the USAC director in Chengdu (and another American visiting professor, Marianne Cooley) were flying to Chengdu, so we went along. Wentao arranged a hotel for us, and after checking in, Sharon and I went to a Sichuan opera performance that evening, featuring great costumes and acting and singing (in high voices)—that is Chinese theater.
The next morning we went to the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center, the highlight of any visit to Chengdu! The Giant Panda is one of the treasures of China, but the numbers in the wild have been declining steadily for many years. So about 15 years ago the Chinese established this center, a few miles outside of Chengdu. It is an amazing place—they have a few hundred pandas there, in a park like setting, with different age pandas in different sections of the site. You walk around, up and down pathways in a bamboo forest, and just a few feet away, behind a moat, you see pandas frolicking, eating bamboo, and relaxing. We took many photos—they are awfully cute—and spent several hours there watching the pandas play. The staff is especially concerned with breeding pandas, and this year they had the largest birthing year ever. Perhaps the most fun part of the site is the nursery, where through a glass you see two “playpens” with 5 or 6 little pandas lying in each one. These pandas were born in the last 2 or 3 months, and every now and then a staff member comes over, picks up one and holds and feeds it with a bottle, just like you would a human baby—they even burp them!
We enjoyed our next day in Chengdu, a huge bustling city of 12 million that appeared to be doing well economically—went to the beautiful new JinSha museum showcasing hundreds of relics found just in the last few years (again when digging a well) from the Zhou period (10th century B.C.) including a gold “sunbird” piece which has now become the symbol of Chengdu (along with the pandas). We spent Sunday walking in a bamboo park near the hotel and spent the afternoon with Wentao and her husband and daughter “Helen” visiting the very old “Yellow Dragon Village” some 20 miles outside of Chengdu, and then had dinner with them at a nice Sichuan restaurant specializing in tofu (we even made some by grinding the soy beans). The next morning we flew back to Shanghai. It was good to get “home” after 11 days on the road. As we were walking up the stairs to our apartment, (the elevator only goes to 7, and we live on 8) the couple who lives below us said “Welcome Home” in English as we walked by, carrying our suitcases, so that felt pretty good.
We continue to explore new places in Shanghai. This weekend we went to the Shanghai Art Museum and battled the crowds to see some sort of modern art show (which didn’t do much for me), and also had fun going to a jazz concert way over in Pudong (the new area) by a lively group. Later we went to the 54th floor bar in the Hyatt, in the JinMao Tower and had a drink looking down on Shanghai—very nice. Other days we have visited the Shanghai Museum and looked at ancient jade works of art, as well as calligraphy, ceramics and Chinese art. We have sampled quite a bit of “street food” for sale right on our street, including snacks such as jianbing, baozi, and ba-yumi-wha (popcorn, made while you wait) and more. At least once a week we eat dinner at the “Muslim Noodle” place (where you can watch the guys make the noodles and have a plate of noodles and meat and spices for about $1.50) and the local dumpling shop (plate of 12 pork/vegetable dumplings (jiaozi) for 5 yuan=$0.75) and then we also eat at a “western” restaurant maybe once a week. Cooking in our 3 ft. by 3 ft. kitchen is a hassle, (as is clean up) and there is much good inexpensive food nearby so we usually eat dinner out.
As I am putting the finishing touches on this Report, Sharon and I have just returned from the huge “Fabric market,” in the older section of Shanghai. The market is indoors and contains perhaps 300 “stalls” with each vendor selling a wide variety of clothing items and fabric. Hundreds of shoppers—both Chinese and western—are walking around, as the vendors shout out in English (to us) “Look here, want a suit?” “How about a coat?” “Need a scarf?” “High Quality.” After considerable negotiation, I ordered a custom-made suit, to be ready in one week, and Sharon ordered a custom-made jacket both made of cashmere, supposedly. The prices we agreed to pay were less than half of the original price quoted to us. The fabric did look and feel quite nice, and hopefully the garments will turn out well.
We continue to have new experiences every day, but enough for now.
Bye (zai jian) for now, Michael Bixby

Friday, October 24, 2008

Report from Shanghai #4

Hello from Shanghai,
Time for our October report from China. October 1 is a big National Holiday here—kind of like our 4th of July. Sharon had long planned to go to the famous HuangShan (Yellow Mountain) with good friends Barbara King and Jeanette Gorman (former Boiseans) during this week, while I was teaching. Barbara and Jeanette were completing a 17-day cycling trip through western China. However, this year the government decided to make it a week-long holiday, and since my classes were cancelled, I accepted their invitation to go along.
Many books on China have described HuangShan as a magical, mystical place. A mountain with 75 peaks and steep valleys, often shrouded in clouds. One book said “if you only climb one mountain in China, it should be this one.” So off we went—3 American ladies and one old guy—no guides, no tour bus, traveling on our own across China, without much Chinese language—and it was quite an adventure. We headed to the huge Bus Station way across Shanghai, found the right gate, along with thousands of other Chinese travelers—this was a big holiday. We took the public bus to Tunxi, a city about 5 ½ hours from Shanghai, with a driver who thought he was driving in a Formula 1 race—passing everyone on the road (often using the “parking” lane on the right side), cutting people off, and honking his horn constantly. He actually was stopped at one toll gate and held there, we think, because another motorist reported him for reckless driving. After talking to the police he started driving again, in the same manner as before. We were glad to reach Tunxi safely.
Checking in at our hotel was interesting. We had a reservation, but the staff at the desk seemed all confused by something, so the 4 or us sat there for about 45 minutes while they talked (in Chinese only), shuffled papers and made phone calls. We didn’t know what was happening. Finally another guest translated that they couldn’t give us the rate we had been quoted—but would we pay the regular rate? We said fine and Presto—we got our rooms, after we paid a 2000 yuan deposit (about $300). Tunxi has preserved Ming dynasty homes downtown for a market area so the ladies enjoyed some shopping. I found a bar and enjoyed a pi jiu, (beer).
The next day before we headed for Tangkou, the town near the mountain, we wanted to buy our bus tickets back to Shanghai, for several days later. In China, there are surprises every step of the way. A college student who was kindly helping us in English, stood in line with us to buy tickets. Just as we got to the front of the line, she insisted that it was Saturday, not Friday, (we have a different calendar, she said, which they do) and therefore was suggesting we buy tickets on a day different than what we had planned. It was very confusing but in the end, we got the correct tickets and it turned out later that her cell phone was registering the wrong day. Who could have predicted that?
In Tangkou, Sharon and I met a very nice Chinese family at our hotel (with a 16 yr. old daughter, Yao Yao, who spoke great English) and went with them on a tour of an ancient restored village a few miles away (HongCun, where they filmed “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) and a beautiful mountain river valley on the other side of town, where the water was as clear as the Payette in Idaho.
The next morning (Saturday), we headed up Huangshan (“Huang” means Yellow and “Shan” means mountain) and unfortunately it was raining pretty hard. We decided to take the cable car up, rather than hike 6 miles up the mountain in the rain. We rode up and when we got off, we couldn’t see much—just clouds and rain. We started walking, following signs in Chinese and English. There were a 3 or 4 hotels in different places up on the mountain, scattered maybe a mile or two apart, and we had reservations at one. There were many trails going in different directions. We thought we would be let off “at the top” but there wasn’t really a “top.” HuangShan is a big mountain with some 75 rocky peaks sticking up here and there, with deep drop offs and valleys in between, so none of the trails are flat—they go up and down constantly. The trails are paved and everywhere they go up or down, steps have been built, no gradual slopes. There are thousands of steps—not the best thing for my bad knees.
We eventually did find our hotel—there are no roads up on the mountain, only walking paths. Everything has to be carried up the mountain by hand—we constantly passed porters on the trails who carried huge loads of food, linens, bedding, and other supplies on two bamboo sticks across their backs. We were glad to find the hotel, they did have rooms ready for us, and we spent the afternoon trying to dry out all our soaked clothes—even the backpacks we were carrying and many of the clothes inside were wet.
We listened to the rain during the night and wondered about our next two days, but when we awoke it was quite cloudy, but not raining so Sharon and I headed out. We climbed the first 232 steps from the hotel up to the main trail. We were right in the clouds, and as they moved, all of a sudden it cleared, and we could see way down in a deep valley with mountain peaks appearing on all sides! Wow! We followed the trail along the edge of the cliff passing many other people as we went. The clouds kept moving, and every few minutes a great view would open up, but then the clouds would come back soon. You could hear people shouting with excitement in the distance when a great view opened up. You had to have your camera ready when things opened up and we did!
Anyway, we hiked with Barbara and Jeanette that whole day, back and forth, exploring HuangShan and its many peaks, valleys, unusual pine trees growing out of rocks on the edge of a precipice. I bought a walking stick for 10 Yuan (about $1.50) and it saved me—I used it to push down every time I planted my right leg on a step up or down—and there were thousands. We took in the views from gorgeous spots like “Beginning to Believe” peak, “Monkey Watching the North Sea” (of clouds) and many more, for the next day and a half, without any rain.
On Monday we walked to the cable car along a trail with spectacular views, took the gondola down, caught a taxi to Tangkou, had banana pancakes at “Mr. Cheng’s” little restaurant we had visited earlier and bought several of his uncle’s paintings, and headed back to Shanghai. On one leg of the journey, the bus stopped and a man put a huge bucket of water on our bus right next to Sharon’s backpack. What? After a few miles, they stopped the bus and dropped off the water to a car which had apparently broken down. What a trip! During the whole five days, we saw no (zero) Americans, and only a very few French and German travelers—the rest of the thousands of people we saw were Chinese (and some Koreans). Sharon has been studying Chinese and she used it—and it helped.
During the next week, I taught my classes on Cross Cultural Ethics in Business and International Business law, and Sharon went to Chinese class and did some touring and shopping trips around town with Barbara and Jeanette. We both go to Tai Chi class once a week, too. I came down with a bad cold and You Sha (USAC program director) took me to a hospital where the doctor said my blood count was a bit high and prescribed some antibiotics and other medicine—and I started to feel better. I prepared and gave my mid-term exam in the Ethics class, and then had to grade all those essays! The students did pretty well—it is a good class and we have had some very good discussions of ethical and cultural issues.
We have a good broadband connection for our computer in the apartment, which has enabled us to keep up with friends and family and check out the news regularly—it seems like the U.S. is having quite a severe financial crisis, which is spreading worldwide—and you are also having an election there I hear. We care who wins and have sent in our ballots, but we don’t mind missing all the negative ads and commercials. We also have a Yahoo messenger account, so can make telephone calls from our computer, which had enabled us to talk directly to our sons, sisters and Sharon’s mom on occasion.
Last weekend we went on another interesting program trip with the students organized by You Sha—an overnight to the city of Hangzhou. This city is about 2 ½ hours from Shanghai and sits on the large and lovely West Lake. We rode on several boats around the lake, stopped at and walked around on several islands in the lake and visited one of the largest Buddhist temples in China, featuring 5 levels and a 70 ft. tall sitting Buddha. Opposite the temple, some 345 sculptures of various Buddhist figures were carved into the limestone hillside about 1,000 years ago. We also visited a beautiful restored pagoda more than 185 feet tall, and had several great meals, with You Sha choosing all the items for us to share. The family we met at HuangShan lives in Hangzhou, and in our only free time, after dinner on Saturday, they picked us up at our hotel and took us to West Lake for a lovely walk across the causeway under the moon. It was great to see them again. We returned to Shanghai on Sunday evening.
There is more to tell, but this report is too long already, so I will stop here. We are having a most interesting time, and are learning much about China every day.
Best wishes, Michael