As I sit down to write this reflection, its hard to accept that we have only spent two weeks exploring China given that we have experienced such a wide range of places. I want to start my reflection with my perception of the overall objective/benefit of this program and then discuss my own personal experiences.
For me, the main essence of this program lies in trying to understand a complex yet pivotal question that has no straightforward answer: “What is Chinese identity?” Before this trip, my perception of China was quite single-minded in which I perceived China to mainly be the home to many prominent cities and a burgeoning nation in terms of economic development. However, after only two weeks, I have come to realize that the country encompasses many different and unique identities ranging from Chinese Buddhist Temples to Tibetan farmlands. Through this program, we get the opportunity to experience different snapshots of each distinct part of China. So far, these “snapshots” have included Beijing, Shanghai, Yichang, Chinese Buddhist Monasteries, Chongqing, and many other small places. In the second half of our trip, our program will be focused on the more rural side of China and we will begin to explore and understand the Tibetan aspect of China.
Another interesting benefit to this program is the opportunity to start understanding the connection between Chinese history and contemporary Chinese politics from the perspective of Chinese natives. Before China, my education regarding Chinese history was limited to American history textbooks that portrays a different depiction of Chinese history. Through discussion with locals, visits to museums, and intricate history lessons, I have started to develop a brand-new perspective on the relationship between Chinese politics and history.
In my newly formed personal opinion, in terms of personal growth, my most rewarding experience happened in a rural Chinese Buddhist monastery which we stayed at for three days. The monastery was called Er Fo Si and was located right outside of Chongqing in a small town. Our days in the monastery consisted of walking meditation sessions, sitting meditation sessions, reflections in an isolated park, Buddhist chanting/praying, and the observing of strict silence for a whole day. Of course, we learned about Buddhist principles and traditions, but I was also truly able to reflect and subsequently develop personally.
All in all, so far, this trip has been beyond memorable and truly life changing. I am looking forward to experiencing a different side to China on the Tibetan Plateau.