Vera Gervais (Chaperone), Qufu, China 4/7/08
When I stepped out of the hotel this morning on my way to breakfast I noticed a change in the campus. We’d been here since Friday but the campus was rather quiet due to the three day holiday (The Festival of the Dead) paying respect to the deceased relatives. Now the streets were busy with lots of students walking and riding bikes. The number of people on the streets and the chatter of voices was amazing.
We began our day at the Affiliated Middle School, which is within the grounds of the University. The teachers from the University send their children there. There are also students from the city and from much further away who must live in dorms. The student population is 3,800 for grades 1 through and about 200 students graduate each year.
The school seems to be the most academically inclined of the three schools we have seen thus far. They have a good reputation for students passing the college entrance exam. They also encourage academic exchange. [They have had an exchange program with schools in the Rutland, VT. area for the past few years and many students from this school have visited Vermont. Tom]
They are so keyed into their academic achievements that they display their academic awards like we display our sports awards. The Chinese seem to be much more focused on their education than we are in the U.S.
When we got to go to the computer room where our kids all got to use a computer and get on the internet for about 15 minutes. They loved that. Perhaps they sent an e-mail home.
Now we got to sit in on an English class where the students seemed very accomplished in reading and comprehension as well as speaking. The students were in 10th grade and most had been studying English for at least 5 years.
In the afternoon we went to the temple of Confucius, The Kong Mansion and Confucius Forest. We first visited the Temple, which is inside the city wall of Qufu. No building is allowed to be over 24.8 meters within the palace wall because that is the height that Confucius’ statue is. Three was much damage to the city during the Cultural Revolution. So many of the buildings had to be repaired. A lot of the buildings are done in red because red is a lucky color.
There are 9 courtyards and 7 gates within the walls of the city. They have so many superstitions related to statues and trees. We all touched the dragon tree because, if you touch it, you will be young forever. Too late for some of us!! There was so much information and I found myself taking notes, trying to soak it all in.
Next, we went to the Kong Mansion. The first part was for working or greeting visitors, the 2nd part was for living and the 3rd part was for the gardens. Up to the 77th generation of Confucius was born here. After 1936 no one lived here. They moved to Taiwan.
Our last stop was the Forest, which is the Confucius family burial grounds. There are 100,000 graves and 100,000 trees. The cemetery is full of wild orchids, which are purple. The cemetery is 3 times larger than the old city. Those with the family name of “Kong” can be buried here. There are five kinds of people who cannot be buried here; one is monks; two is daughters-in-law who bear no sons; three is if you “do a crime:” four is “daughter who marries out:” five is son-in-law.
The day came to a wonderful end this evening with a journal session after dinner where half the students read an excerpt from the journal and much discussion ensued. As I sit and listen to these kids I am filled with pride and admiration over where they have come from and how far they will go. Like the trees in the courtyard that are budding more each day, so are the kids blossoming. I am grateful to be sharing this wonderful adventure and learning experience with them. It is a great group of young adults.