Our last full day in China was packed with sightseeing during the daylight hours. We began by arriving at Tian’anmen Square at about 8:30 am. It is a vast expanse with Chairman Mao’s tomb at one end and the entrance to The Forbidden City and the Imperial Palace at the other. In the tomb you can view Mao’s embalmed body. We did not go in. In the photo below you can get some feel for the scope of the square. The building in the distance is the entrance to The Forbidden City. The person to the right hand side of the photo is “Frank,” our English-speaking guide, who was both knowledgeable and charming. He and his wife are expected a child in May, their first. Under China’s one-child policy, should they decide to have a second it would cost them 200,000 yuan (about $30,000) to get a national ID card for the second one. The second photo is of one the light poles on the square. It bristles with video cameras, as do them all.
The Imperial Palace covers many acres and has what Frank told us tongue-in-cheekly 9,999.5 rooms. The .5 is apparently a small room that they hesitate to count as a full room. Even in the snow, the splendor of the place was impressive. Frank reminded us that before the Vatican City was built The Imperial Palace had already seen many years. One of many buildings was the Hall of Central Harmony.
En route to Prince Gong’s Mansion we passed some Beijing residents of all ages enjoying a form of seated “ice skating” on a sizable lake, frozen over by the city’s coldest weather in 50 years. We also saw what could only be described as “pedicab central.” At the Prince’s Mansion we saw some low-tech but effective snow removal in action.
That evening we were the guests of EKU graduate Allen Yang at Beijing’s famous Roast Duck Restaurant where Peking Duck was the featured (and delicious) dish. I will write more on this delightful evening in my closing comments. But, in the photo below, are (from left): Dean Bob Rogow, Jackie Chen, Vice President of Taishan Invest; Doug Whitlock; Jason Wu, Vice President of Bangkok Bank; Dr. Chang-Yang Lin; Allen Yang, President of VipStore.Com; and Nina Liu, Quality Control Specialist with Zheziang Medicine Company. The other photo is of two representatives of our partner institution, Liaoning University of Technology at Zinzhou, with Joanne and me. They are Darren Wang, Director of International Relations, and MA, Xin, Dean. The duck is not really standing on Joanne’s head.
The next day (our last) we went to the Summer Palace and stopped briefly at the Bird’s Next Olympic stadium. En route we witnessed the Monday morning Beijing Traffic, pictured below. At the entrance to the Summer Palace were a pair of lion sculptures, of which I picture one. Lions similar to these were at the entrance to every Imperial Chinese facility we visited, most public buildings and some hotels, office buildings, etc. None were more impressive than those at the Summer Palace. Likewise, we saw many Buddhist Pagoda’s in our travels, but none any more beautiful than the one on the grounds of the Summer Palace. One of the more interesting features at the Summer Palace is the marble yacht. It wouldn’t be able to cruise the lake even if it were not frozen in. The Bird’s Nest was the signature facility of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
The twelve hour flight from Beijing to Chicago gave me plenty of time to reflect on our nine days in China — even with a couple of extended naps. I decided I was glad — for reasons on several levels — that we made the trip. One of those reasons, I must admit, is that Joanne and I (our entire delegation, for that matter) truly enjoyed the trip and each others’ company. More importantly, though, was my conviction that the trip was truly beneficial to Eastern Kentucky University.
We renewed our agreement with Zheziang Medicine Company, an arrangement that has been valuable to both parties. We visited with Zheziang University of Technolgy and confirmed their interest in developing a relationship with EKU. We had contact with our valued long-time friends from Liaoning University of Technology and heard from them once again how proud they are that we are their only partner in the USA. And, we engaged with successful friends and graduates of the University in their home country. The appreciation for the latter was obvious.
We got to know better one of the leaders of the first generation of Chinese entrepreneurs, LI Chun Bo, an impressive man who, as already noted, truly values developing human capital. We saw EKU graduate Jason Wu, a senior executive in a major Asian financial institution. And, we saw the face and enthusiasm of the second generation Chinese entrepreneurs in our alums JIN, Xiao Yong, Allen Yang, and Jackie Chen. We listened as they told us there were other EKU graduates in China in whom we could take equal pride. They volunteered to help bring more together if we visit in the future.
Joanne and I have traveled internationally to a number of countries. Our trip to China confirmed what we have found in our other trips. People are more alike than they are different everywhere we go. Once you get past the trappings of culture and the barrier of language, you find that people everywhere enjoy a funny story, value companionship, want peace, and love their children and grandchildren.
For me, speaking with our Chinese EKU alumni I learned again that the Essential Eastern transcends borders. These folks from halfway around the world speak of the place with the same appreciation and affection as those of us right here in Richmond, or as EKU grads anywhere in the states. The conversation about favorite professors sound the same, despite the accent. The descriptions of the life transforming power of an EKU education — The Power of Maroon — are, I have decided, a universal theme for Easten women and men. We sat around that table in Beijing, 8,000 miles from home — Chinese citizens, Americans both native born and naturalized– as family.