April 15th . . . to most, this means tax day. But to us, it means, the JE group will be on their way home in twelve days!

We have some great photos and a couple of reports today. The collaborative work has begun and pictures of the kids will dominate the photos today! Yea!

Here we go with a report from Gordon:

April 11, 2004

Who would've known ten years ago that a total of 74 students from little old Leland and Gray would be standing on the Great Wall or gazing at the terra-cotta warriors, learning a new and very different culture by being completely immersed in it. I thought about this on the 50-minute bus ride from our hotel in Xi'an to the terra-cotta warriors. We're gaining so much just by being here-at a site, performing or on the street. The books and movies: They're great for preparation but they only take you so far. We're in it. We're learning so much so fast just by looking around-soaking it all up. My train of thought derailed as the bus jerked forward---it stopped--- we were there.

We strolled down the neatly paved stone path headed towards the terra-cotta warriors complex. The whole place was under construction. Tom said that UNESCO threatened to take the warriors off their list of world wide important attractions if they didn't clean up the outside. They're planting trees, paving, building and they're doing it well: The place looks nice.

Before our visit our tour guide, Sally, gave us a brief history of the warriors. They were part of the tomb of Qin, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty's. She said Qin began building his tomb at the age of 13 in 246 B.C. The once-buried warriors, though part of the tomb, are 1.5 kilometers away from Qin's actual burial site. Once a 120 meter high manmade hill, it is now a 46-meter-high mound. The warriors' purpose was to guard Qin in the after-life and scare off enemies. During an uprising, most of the warriors were destroyed and then forgotten over the years due to lack of records. In 1974, however, four farmers were digging a well and six meters down they dug up a piece of a terra-cotta warrior. It had taken 720,000 workers 36 years to complete the army of warriors and all China had to show for it before 1974 was a hill. Now Xi'an, the ancient capitol of China, is home to one of the eight wonders of the world and a major tourist attraction, the terra-cotta warriors.

We approached the large building housing the first pit of the 8000 warriors. We were all excited. I looked out on to vast arrangement of statues. Each one different, together they gave off a sense of vitality that was indescribable. Every soldier was a familiar character-one to relate to. We walked on to find more and more eye-catchers: Rows of horses, again, each one a different character, different rank soldiers: generals and archers. However, it wasn't until I saw a warrior that was facing me with a slight grin on his face that I realized the true masterpiece in these figures. The workers who made these had captured such life in the warriors and I doubt they even knew it. The detail was phenomenal; every strand of hair was depicted with such artistry making each piece a work of art. But I'd bet they'd say they were just making clay statues for their emperor's tomb. I think everybody was blown away.

One can gain so much from a masterpiece like the collection of terra-cotta warriors. It offers us a key to understanding Chinese culture. Being here and visiting these sites that teach us so much is such an effective way to learn.

-- Gordon Landenberger

If you haven’t visited the Terra Cotta links yet, maybe Gordon’s report will inspire you to do so. Now, let’s catch some photos . . .

Pics from our collaborative work this morning. Art College teachers are superbly organized, energetic, expert and accommodating. It is truly amazing to see the progress in cross-cultural communication that three years of work has yielded. We have come so far in understanding one another since we first began. This is an exceptional experience, one to be treasured and built upon.

The photos [below] show Leland and Gray students and Arts College students working together on dance and on singing Mongolian songs. Tom

These photos simply speak for themselves . . .

Now, let’s read what Emily has to say about her recent shopping experience:

April 12, 2004

Today we first went to the ‘Forest of Stone Tablets’ museum. These tablets were mostly the teachings of Confucius, which were written down by his students. To make these, characters were written on large stone tablets, which were then carved. The calligraphy was amazing and I can only imagine how much time and energy must have been put into it.

From there we went to a Chinese Muslim mosque. It’s amazing to think that ten percent of the population of Xi’an is Muslim. When one thinks of a Chinese religion, one is most likely to think of Buddhism or Daoism, but there are many Muslims, especially in the Xi’an area. This mosque is the largest in all of China but is only used for ceremonial purposes. Another smaller one is for normal use and is closed to non-Muslims.

After that visit, we were set loose in the Muslim marketplace. Although haggling is probably one of the most fun things on earth to do, I don’t see how shopkeepers allow it. Wouldn’t it just be easier to have a set price? With a set price, buying and selling would be simpler and there would be more profit.

My Muslim marketplace experience:

    I walk up to a small store and enter. Immediately, a small painting of a tiger catches my eye. The shopkeeper recognizes my interest and picks it up. “Sixty yuan,” he says in a heavy Chinese accent. “Sixty? Surely not. Thirty and not a yuan more.” He laughs, probably thinking ‘cheap American,’ and then replies “Forty-five. Good quality. It’s very cheap!” I shake my head. “Thirty.” I write it on a pad of paper and circle it. After a few more rounds, I get it down to thirty – half the original price. He puts the painting in a box, then a plastic bag. “Xie xie (thank you)!” I call, and walk away satisfied.

-- Emily Liss

Good job Emily. Sounds like she has mastered the art of haggling. Cool!

Emily mentions the Chinese currency “yuan” in her report. It takes 8.27 Chinese yuan (pronounced “you-wawn.”) to equal one American dollar. So, one yuan is about 12 cents. Here is a neat currency calculator to check it out for yourself.

Let’s finish today with three more photos . . . see you all tomorrow!