Lovis Yang, 瑞士籍学生
Spring Festival had arrived and families were gathering. The day before boarding a plane to China, my family and I gathered at my parents’ home to celebrate the Spring Festival together. Food and laughter were exchanged over the table.
The next day, I flew to Beijing and from there to Fuzhou. Together with my fellow students from the MAS in European and Chinese Business Management Program under the co-supervision of the University of Zurich and the New Huadu Business School, I had the great pleasure to be invited to the New Huadu Campus in Fuzhou. Arriving rather late at night, Professor He Zhiyi and fellow members of New Huadu had the courtesy to show us around campus. The vast, elegant and modern campus was more than impressive. Following the brief tour was a very delicious and generous dinner, where glasses were raised and new acquaintances made.
With the Spring Festival not yet over, I got to have the opportunity to see some of southern China. A three day trip was organised for me, thanks to the kindness of Professor He, and as an added joyous surprise, my fellow Chinese classmate Wu Shuibao (吴水宝) got to join me!
First we went to see the Sanfang Qixiang (三坊七巷) in Fuzhou. A fascinating area, with lots of tradition and lots of people! The buildings and alleys with their fascinating history were enticing and combined with the very interesting and thorough explanations by our lovely tour guide Qin Qin (沁沁), we could have easily spent many more hours there.
I have been to China before, in various places and cities, but never during Chinese New Year. Driving from the Fuzhou Airport to the NBS campus, It was interesting to see the city streets almost completely empty, most lights were dark. In a country with over one billion people, it is very unlikely – at least in the cities – to not see anybody on the street, regardless of the time.
The ‘ghostly’ atmosphere however soon vanished when we made our way on to the next destination. Shuibao and I took a train to Nanjing (南靖) and from there, got picked up by a driver who drove us to the Nanjing Tulou (土楼) scenic spot. The other side of Spring Festival, in a sense, could be noticed by the huge amount of traffic. People wanted to take the chance after the initial holiday days to visit some nice places with their families. We edged our way through the traffic jams and eventually arrived at the Nanjing Tulou scenic spot.
At the destination, the scenery was amazing, with rustic buildings, a beautiful river with historic bridges leading over it. Another sight that could not be ignored was the vast amount of people visiting and taking pictures. We walked around, took pictures and tried different things. The area was not that big, but funny enough, it took us about half an hour just to get over a tiny bridge, because of all the people. I didn’t mind, but Shuibao just shook his head and said to me in Chinese “too many people during Spring Festival”. One of the highlights of the trip was certainly getting to see the Tulou and being able to go inside. An incredible achievement of human ingenuity and architecture, the large round building was even more fascinating from inside. Shuibao told me that there were still people living there and I felt sort of bad for barging into their ‘house’, together with an estimated five hundred plus people nonetheless. But when we got to talk to one of the residents, who served us various kinds of delicious local tea, she said that it was only this bad during the spring festival and usually much less busy.
The last destination before it was time to heat back to Beijing was Xiamen. We drove their by car and arrived there at night. Driving into the city at night, we could see all the big buildings and some of them were illuminated with animated, presumably LED-lights all over. It was fascinating.
Having been to Beijing during winter time before, it was really interesting to see the different ‘climate’ of southern Xiamen. We went to the beach and visited another scenic site with the biggest armory canon of its time. Xiamen seemed like a beautiful place to live and spent time, but I don’t think I got to experience the ‘normal’ atmosphere, because of the Spring Festival. The contrast was quite big between empty streets and closed restaurants and scenic spots bustling with tourists at the same time. I had nevertheless an amazing time and ate lots of delicious food.
I have never visited all of these places before and it has always been, and still is, my dream to see as many places of China as I can. China is a very big country, so the choices are plentiful! Seeing the different cities, cuisines and climates is a wonderful experience and shows once more, the depths, variety and complexity of Chinese culture.
I am truly grateful to Professor He Zhiyi and everybody involved inviting me and the others to Fuzhou, and for organizing this whole trip, during the most sacred time of the Spring Festival.
Mustafa Ali Arslan，瑞士-土耳其双国籍学生
During the Spring Festival we were invited to Prof. He’s house and met his family and friends in Fuzhou. Their hospitality overwhelmed us and we had some deep insights in Chinese culture, friendship and ganbei as well. We also visited the Xihu Park, the Fujian Wushan Mountain and were in the Panda World. Furthermore, we had the opportunity to taste different Chinese food in different places and realized that some things might look strange but can taste very delicious and other things taste just they look like ^^ My recommendation is to try these kind of things, maybe just a bite or at least to smell it and if you don’t like it you don’t, it’s fine because nobody would blame you for that. Also thanks to Huang Keke’s hospitality at this point.
After a day in Fuzhou we were driven by Prof. He’s driver to visit the Fujian Tulou, where we had some great impressions from the living community there, drank tea together, tasted different stuff and of course didn’t forget to bargain ^^
We didn’t have a lot of time in Xiamen and were in hurry but we had time enough to visit the Huli Mountain Fort and shortly to breathe in the fresh sea air.
The time was running so fast and our trip was almost over. So, the last step was to join into the Alumni event, where we had an exchange about our programs, businesses and also just about our personal stories. Of course we got again a lot of presents and were invited to dine together: This is the Chinese friendship, this is the Chinese hospitality. Thank you for everything, 谢谢 ^^
Per Fredrik Gunnar Warfvinge，瑞典籍学生
After we arrived and met up with my classmates in Fuzhou, we went to the beautiful West Lake Park where we enjoyed the weather and sights. We walked up to the small zoo and saw some Pandas, however I felt sad at the small cages where the pandas were confined and I wish they could’ve gotten larger enclosures. We also saw a man with a rabbit, and he was trying to find someone else who wanted to take care of the rabbit because he didn’t have time for it anymore.
After this short visit, we drove towards Professor He’s home, where we spent the evening, enjoying the company of his family and neighbors. One culinary thing that I found strange compared to Sweden and other western cultures was how we drank alcohol. In my culture, we tend to start drinking sometime before the food is being served, and we continue to drink until it’s time to go home. What I found during the New Year celebrations, and consequently the rest of the dinners we had in Fuzhou, were that Chinese culture seems to concentrate the drinking into about two hours, where we might spend six or seven hours drinking.
The day after the New Year’s Celebrations we went to the Old Town in Fuzhou, Three Lanes and Seven Alleys (or something like that). Here we saw and experienced Fuzhou’s history and it was a very interesting visit. We also had the fortune of trying 28 year old tea together with the owner of one of the buildings. It was quite an honor. I had no idea tea could taste that good, and it made me realize how bad the tea we get here in the west tends to be.
Later that day we walked up one of the mountains and saw even more sights in the city, and we finished the day with another large and nice dinner together with Rocky and Keke, who were gracious enough to guide us.
The next day we went on a long roadtrip down past Xiamen to Tian Luo Keng scenic area. On the way, we bought red bananas and ended up in traffic jams. I realized then that it’s not only westerners who are bad at driving cars, I saw a few Chinese who also had trouble driving efficiently.
Unfortunately we had really bad luck with the weather during our visit, but it was a very enjoyable trip nonetheless. It was much touristier than I thought as I didn’t expect people to live in these historical buildings. After our long and tiring trip we finally ate and slept at midnight in Xiamen city, and the day after we went to Hulishan Fortress before driving all the way back to Fuzhou for the ceremony and dinner.
I thoroughly enjoyed the entire trip, but I must say that it felt strange with all the giving of gifts, because as a Swede we tend to not give gifts as such. For us, it tends to be enough to enjoy the experience together, so here were another cultural clash between China and Sweden. But it was a small one and easy to overcome.
If someone had said to me that I would be spending a Chinese New Year in China this year I would have been very surprised. I knew that one day I would be in China (I have studied Chinese for many years and worked with Chinese delegations in international forums in Moscow), but I did not know how close this moment would be to me.
I had just started my internship in Guangzhou when I was invited to Fuzhou by Professor He and the representatives of NBS for a couple of days to see the city and also to travel to Xiamen.
Plane tickets, 1 hour of flight, one piece of luggage, friendly Chinese colleagues at the entrance of the airport… and it started. During four days we had time to look at pandas in Fuzhou, at pagodas and beaches in Xiamen, to visit the NBS Alumni party and to spend Spring Festival at Professor He’s home with his family.
Our trip was unforgettable for many reasons: the historical sites of ancient cities, the hospitality of Chinese friends, the shocking and fast-growing power of buildings on an equal footing with the remaining cultural aspects - China contains many unusual and interesting features.
I think what also makes our trip memorable has been the dilemmas about what we ordered for dinner and why it looks so unfamiliar compared to all that we have seen this far (and we were afraid to try it), how beat time and be in three places simultaneously, what Chinese traffic jams mean and how long it will take people to give up trying and to turn back.
I would like to say thanks to Professor He and his family, 董勇, 黄可可, all the students and graduates of NBS for their warm welcome, spending their time, giving us their attention and taking care of us. I look forward to seeing you again!