Visit the Seniors’ Center with us!

We are preparing a volunteer outing to a senior center on May 28th. Visiting the senior center is one of the most splendid volunteer events held by Lotus. By joining us you can show your international community service by showing your love and care to seniors. It is also a wonderful experience to participate in the Confucian ideal of filial piety. You can find more information about our volunteer excursions on our website, and read about our most recent visit to the seniors’ center.

The detailed arrangement are as follows:

When: 8:00am—2:00pm on May 28th, 2011
Where:Suite 1201, C#XiWu Plaza, 12 Suzhou St. Haidian District
Who: Lotus Students, staff, host families, interns and volunteers

We will go to the senior center at 8:00 am, departing from Lotus Beijing office. The caring program will start at about 9:00a.m. until 12:00 pm. The program and includes caring activities such as singing, dancing, Chinese Cheirapsis, balloon games, holding a birthday party and listening Senior’s personal stories. From 12:00pm. to 2:00pm., we will return to the Lotus Beijing office to have lunch and share personal feelings about the experience.

If you would like to join us or you have something you’d like to perform for the seniors, please email us at beijing@lotuseducation.org before 6:00 pm. on May 26th (this Thursday).

Visiting Confucius Hometown

A few weeks ago I took a weekend trip to Qufu, the hometown of one of China’s greatest philosophers, Confucius. Confucius was a philosopher in the Spring and Autumn Period. I first heard about Confucius at the age of 12 when my parents returned from a trip to China, having spent two days in Qufu studying Confucian thought. Until I went to Qufu, I figured pretty much everyone in the world had at least heard of Confucius, being one of the most famous Chinese philosophers and all. As it turns out, westerners either haven’t heard of him, or just aren’t that interested in visiting his hometown. In Qufu I got as many stares from people, on account of being a foreigner, as I normally get in small villages in China.

[singlepic id=156 w=320 h=240 float=left]In Qufu there are three major sites: the Confucian temple; the family mansion occupied by his descendants after Confucian thought became the basis of Chinese society and the basis on which emperors maintained power. There’s also the wooded graveyard where Confucius and many of his descendants are buried. I got a part-English, part-Mandarin tour of the Confucian temple, from a 76th generation descendant of the man himself. That was good Mandarin practice for me, and my guide’s English competence meant that I could get clarification on anything I didn’t understand. It seems Confucius has provided well for his descendants. They have a whole city to themselves with an endless supply of domestic tourists. Who says studying philosophy doesn’t pay? Bill Gates will never be able to provide this kind of endless economic opportunity to his descendants.

Though Confucian thought originated in China, I don’t think there’s much of it left here. It was exported from China a long time ago, to neighbouring countries such as Korea and Japan. It still remains strong in those countries, but as a result of the Cultural Revolution in China, it’s just not that strong anymore. My tour guide at the temple told me of how the majority of the temple was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. One of the tablets that was not destroyed had a red mark on it, placed there by a student, indicating that this particular tablet should not be destroyed. The reason he marked it as such, was because that tablet was written by an emperor who had grown up as a farmer. During the communist days, farmers and labourers were held up as the most important members of society. That that one tablet was not destroyed seemed a bit random to me. Why save it, just because it was written by a former farmer turned emperor? Sounds like typical ideologically-driven thinking to me and also sounds like it could have gone either way, as mobs roamed through the Confucian temple.

[singlepic id=155 w=320 h=240 float=right]Then I started to wonder. How did that student, in the middle of all the destruction, come to mark that tablet and save it from destruction? He or she was obviously educated enough to know what the tablet meant. As someone who was educated, he risked being a target of the mobs destroying things during the Cultural Revolution, not a participant. Who was this person? Did he agree with what was going on, but also think this tablet deserved to be saved? Or was he participating because he had no choice, but when he saw the opportunity to save a piece of history, he took it? Was there a debate among the students at the time about the merits of saving something written by a feudal emperor praising Confucius, given that they were trying to destroy both feudalism and Confucian thought? Did that student get denounced as a counter-revolutionary because of his suggestion? Did he survive the Cultural Revolution? I bet there are a lot of stories like this, with anonymous actors and unanswered questions, throughout China and throughout history.

[singlepic id=173 w=320 h=240 float=left]Among the notable sights at the Confucian temple are the ten dragon pillars. In imperial China nobody except the emperor could claim to have any affiliation with dragons. Not only were there ten dragon pillars in the Confucian temple, but they were considered to be even more elaborate than anything in the Forbidden City. Any time an emperor came to visit (and several did, some of them several times) the pillars were covered up, so that nobody would wind up losing their heads.

In the evening, back at my hostel, I found they stocked a bottle of fine French liquor called Pernod. I’ve rarely seen good liquor in hostel bars, and I never seen Pernod anywhere. I guess the Confucians have good taste. However, I had to teach the bar tender how to serve it. I sat there that evening, in the hometown of Confucius, who lived 2,500 years ago, drinking French liquor and talking to my friends online. The next morning I took a bus to Jinan, and then the bullet train back to Beijing.

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Flowers in Beijing

It’s spring in Beijing, so it’s the season when people love to go to the local park to see flowers in bloom. There are two particularly notable flowers blooming in Beijing. The first is the Japanese Cherry Blossom. The other is the Peonie which is, unofficially, China’s national flower. A few weeks ago I went to Yuyuantan Park to see the Cherry Blossoms in bloom, and more recently I went to Jingshan Park (just north of the Forbidden City, and the site where the last Ming Emperor hung himself) to see the Peonies in bloom. I arrived a bit too early for the Cherry Blossoms and a bit too late for the Peonies, but what can you do? I still saw a lot of beautiful flowers.

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Announcing the New Chinese Blog

Lotus has just launched a Chinese-language blog to accompany its newly revamped Chinese website. It’s called 美国Lotus教育基金会中文博客, which simply means Lotus Educational Foundation Chinese Blog. Maybe we should start a competition here on the English blog to come up with a more creative name for the Chinese blog.

In case you’re wondering, our Chinese website is targeted at students and host families here in China. It provides information on hosting foreign students in China, as well as information on Lotus newly launched program, for Chinese students to study English in the United States over the summer.

If you think your Mandarin is up to the challenge, we invite you to join the discussion on our other blog (but don’t abandon us here at the English blog!) and see what staff and others at Lotus in Beijing are up to these days.