Race win­ner ab­sorbs life in China

Havelock North Village Press - - News -

It was back to the class­room for Iona Col­lege’s Caitlin Thomas last week, al­beit in Ji­nan, China.

The win­ner of this year’s Amaz­ing China Face Race is in Shan­dong Prov­ince, start­ing her win­ner’s trip in the prov­ince’s cap­i­tal city Ji­nan, pop­u­la­tion seven mil­lion.

The first three days of the trip were a whirl­wind of cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences for Caitlin Thomas, with vis­its to the Shan­dong Art In­sti­tute, Mu­seum, Art Mu­seum, and the Nis­han Acad­emy at Shan­dong Li­brary.

The acad­emy is one of 150 across Shan­dong where univer­sity stu­dents go to study Con­fu­cian­ism, the prin­ci­ples and eti­quette for life set down by renowned philoso­pher and first scholar Con­fu­cius more than 2000 years ago. The phi­los­o­phy is rooted in benev­o­lence, hu­man­ity and moral prin­ci­ples. As well as moral train­ing, tra­di­tional arts are also taught at the acad­emy and li­brary, in­clud­ing archery, zither play­ing and wood block print­ing.

Caitlin, 15, tried play­ing the zither and took a close-up look at the an­cient print­ing style. On what was a very rainy day, it was too wet to try out archery.

“The zither was the most fun but the most im­pres­sive was the wood carv­ing, the in­tri­cacy of it and that they are work­ing so hard to keep up the tra­di­tion of it,” Caitlin said.

“The zither seems to have sim­i­lar­i­ties to the gui­tar and the pi­ano. The notes were quite sim­i­lar and frets were well marked. I think with a bit more prac­tice I could work the frets out and play some­thing sim­ple.”

Also fo­cused on the preser­va­tion of tra­di­tional art is The Vil­lage of 100 Flow­ers, a replica vil­lage de­pict­ing life as it would have been for lo­cals some 200-300 years ago.

Built by Ji­nan’s tourism devel­op­ment com­mit­tee, the tra­di­tional two-storey homes are set by a spring-fed wa­ter­way, shaded by a large wil­low tree. It re­flects that there would have been a spring stream by ev­ery home, and a wil­low tree by ev­ery door. Mak­ing the best use of the in­door space to­day, each set of rooms is de­voted to a slice of lo­cal his­tory or a craft: mak­ing tofu by hand, books and cal­lig­ra­phy, the pol­i­tics of the day, mu­sic, house­hold ap­pli­ances and hor­ti­cul­tural im­ple­ments.

In both the acad­emy and the vil­lage, free com­mu­nity classes are run in all the dis­ci­plines, to en­cour­age res­i­dents to learn them.

At the vil­lage, Caitlin tried her hand with the grinder used in tofu mak­ing and cal­lig­ra­phy, and left her im­pres­sions of her visit so far in a vis­i­tors’ book in ex­change for a post­card de­pict­ing Ji­nan un­der a win­ter cov­er­ing of snow.

“The build­ings were beau­ti­ful — they seemed old even though they are repli­cas. It gives you a win­dow into how China was, and maybe is a bit like I thought China might be.”

Her visit to Ji­nan also in­cluded vis­its to parks and springs, many set in large tracts of green spa­ces in the heart of the city.

“I re­ally liked the Dam­ing Lake. It’s in an 84ha park in the heart of the city, which has the li­brary and acad­emy in it. There are so many of the rounded style beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated bridges you think of when you think of Chi­nese bridges. I also liked the wil­lows and green­ery, and how well-used it is, with peo­ple do­ing Tai Chi or just sit­ting. It’s re­ally the gen­eral at­mos­phere of the park.”

The prize for win­ning the 2018 Amaz­ing China Face Race is an all-ex­penses paid guided trip through Shan­dong, fo­cused on learn­ing about the cul­ture and his­tory of the re­gion. Her next stop is a coastal city, Yan­tai, where she will spend time on Yan­tai Moun­tain. She will then go onto Qing­dao, where she will visit May Fourth Square and spend a day ex­plor­ing Mt Lao.

The trip has been funded by the Chi­nese Cul­tural Cen­tre in New Zealand and hosted by the For­eign Af­fairs Di­vi­sion of the Shan­don Pro­vin­cial De­part­ment of Cul­ture.

Zither play­ing with Mi Xi­ran (Mary) from the Shan­dong Pro­vin­cial De­part­ment of Cul­ture.

Shan­dong Li­brary is a place of ab­so­lute quiet.

The an­cient art of Chi­nese wood block print­ing.

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