We came into Beijing at 11 p.m., and slept on the way to the hotel. Construction goes on 24 hours here; the streets are full of cars and bicycles at rush hour. The air is hazy with pollution, and the buildings and streets are dusty, but there is hardly any litter. Laborers sweep the streets and dig holes. Here and there are old-fashioned houses built around courtyards, gray and crumbling, their tiled roofs cracked and broken. New construction triumphs--Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons are buildings hotels for the 2008 Olympic Games. Western-style luxury in the heart of Communist China! Now there is an image.
On Monday, we saw where power is made and where that power is used--the nuclear power plant and Delta Electronics.
There is a concerted effort in Taiwan to produce innovative technology, to anticipate needs and change according to them. The huge campuses ensure a homogeneous corporate culture, as no one needs to leave. ITRI has housing, cafes, a post office, a gym, a pool, and the world's largest cafeteria. Every moment of an employee's time is, so to speak, company time. We were told that the cafes are there to give employees a casual, relaxed place out of the office to discuss projects. If you are always at work--even when you are going to the gym or posting a letter--do you have any real private life?
I could not help thinking of Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake. In that book, there were walled towns, like gated communities, where everyone was an employee (or a family member of an employee) of a single company. No outsiders, no one whose goals are not the goals of the company. What would become of someone like me there? The protagonist of Oryx and Crake was stuck in a marketing position, writing ads, while those with scientific know-how benefited most from this new world model. The type of creativity he possessed had no place in it.
Successful science and technology development require as much creativity as any artistic endeavor, though--and more innovation because there are more obstacles to overcome. We writers can perhaps become complacent, telling stories in the same form stories have taken for two centuries. We do not have an impetus for change because the economy does not depend on us changing; we are not concerned about competition from overseas writers who will do exactly what we do and more cheaply. No, our innovation depends on the visionaries who do something new for no other reason but the joy of it--or because they do not know any better.
But technology and art are different in what they mean to those who create them. Technology has always been concerned with what is new, with change, with making what people do easier or different. But in art we have tradition, and we value it. Our goal as storytellers has always been the same--to show the minds and lives of our characters, to say something about all of us through that. "Look," we say, when we read Gilgamesh, when we read Homer, when we read Shakespeare or Tolstoy or Joyce or Steinbeck--"Look how we remain the same, in our fears and aspirations even while all the technological and sociological details, the vehicles we ride in, our means and modes of communication, the organization of our societies, change."
Art is here to remind us of our constancy, our nature. Innovation in art comes when some genius envisions a new way of showing this.
From a May 29 entry in my travel journal--my thoughts are a bit disjointed in it, but I will post my more structured thoughts about Taiwan, written on May 30, soon:
The graves in Taiwan are small, colorful shrines nestled at the foot of steep hills. Everything is tiled--the sidewalks, the sides of buildings. We took a footbridge over Tamsui harbor, and the tile was slippery with rain.
At the nuclear power plant, the employees wear red boots. The buildings are stark and spare and a bit dingy--a government building, a portrait of Chiang Kaishek in the conference room. They gave us ties as gifts. We stood on the fifth floor, the reactor below us. There was an eerie green pool, square and deep, with twelve-foot fuel rods standing on their ends.
We visited a temple in a small town, shabby but brilliantly colored, the statues of local gods lavishly painted.
Delta Electronics was as sleek and modern as the friendly power plant was not. Flat panel TVs and electronics of all sorts. The engineering students were inspired. At both visits, I was impressed with their questions, the earnestness of their inquiries. I wondered at Delta if there were any women executives. All the women we saw at Delta were administrative assistants who were not introduced to us.
The streets are full of cars, both familiar and uncanny--Toyota Camrys are common, but there are also unknown models of Nissans and Hyundais, both tiny coupes and sedans. Among them zip the ever-present scooters, their riders wearing bright plastic parkas against the rain.
Such a variety of buildings--tenements, square and dirty, clustered between mountains, with rooftop gardens; structures with corrugated metal roofs, burnt-out temples, abandoned vacation homes like red and green and yellow Jetsons pods. Temples everywhere, and statues of Kwan-Yin.
I have all my pictures up at my scrapbook
. Looking at the pictures of Hangzhou and Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai made me want to go back. Once the maglev from Hangzhou to Shanghai is finished, I think I will. All the heat and the dust and the illness were worth it--all the sights and sounds of this place on the other side of the world. It's only beginning to really sink in: I was on the other side of the world
. I was in China
. And if I hadn't gone, I wouldn't have met people like my new friend Peter, who writes to me from Beijing, or seen Tea Master Ming practicing his craft.
Tea Master Ming is 79 years old, and he once showed Chairman Mao the technique for drying tea by hand, which is the only way they do it at Meijawa Tea Farm. He is one of those people who seems very joyful about his skill and his life. He showed us how he could, with a quick brush of his hand, make all the tea leaves line up perfectly in the drying wok. His hands are very smooth but very hard from many years of exposure to heat.
The tea is delicious
, by the way.
If you are requesting membership to this community, please email me and let me know who you are and what your LJ user name is. Strangely enough, I have gotten add requests from people not associated with GTI. Thanks!
Taken in Hangzhou, a beautiful resort city, my favorite of the places we visited. I was at the height of being sick at this point, however, thus my complete lack of care to how I look. No make-up! Woo. (Photo by Tony C.)
I have uploaded more pictures of Taiwan and China, up through my visits to Taipei 101, Tsinghua University, Beijing University of Technology, and the Great Wall. The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square to follow, then Hangzhou and Shanghai.
The gallery is here
. (There is a picture of me in my uniform, for those who were curious, as well as rainy days in Taiwan, the magical Great Wall kitty, and the slightly-foreboding Institute of Intelligent Information and Control.)
There are pictures from other students who went on the trip here
. If you're vigilant, you will find pictures of me looking like a total dork while wearing a racing helmet.
Excuse me. I need to go defend the Glorious Middle Kingdom from the Mongol Barbarians from the North.
I wrote this for my "Letter from the Editor" column in the July issue of the SLG fan club newsletter:
When I went to China last month, I experienced something startling and horrifying: I was illiterate. I know a few Chinese characters, but these were largely useless when it came to doing anything practical, especially since I have no idea how they fit together to form phrases and sentences. So, while I was in China the image became supreme. I could only go to restaurants that had pictures of the food. When I went into bookstores (one’s habits die hard), I looked at only children’s picture books, art books and graphic novels.
This is because of something I’m sure you already know: Pictures, like math, form a universal language. And if you suck at math, as I do, the image is the only universal language of any use to you. While I was in China with a delegation of students from San Jose State University, we used pictures often to communicate what words could not, especially when we were talking to fellow students at Beijing University of Technology: a hastily sketched map of North America cleared up what “Mexico” is, a drawing of scorpion described what we saw street food vendors selling on sticks better than any of the combinations of words and hand gestures we attempted. When we were out shopping, the image of a stick figure flying a kite enabled one of us to find a vendor who sold the desired item.
So the reason I sought out graphic novels was not out of professional curiosity alone. It was because all people crave communication, and the image was the strongest way for China to communicate with me. It is also because I adore stories, whether they are in words or pictures. And because of my lack of Mandarin, pictures were where I found stories in China most often, whether it was in the fast-moving action of a Chinese graphic novel, the intricately-detailed painting of a T’ang dynasty master, or in a single image, such as when I was leafing through portraits of Emperors and saw one that differed in style. It was the Qianlong Emperor at twenty-five, the sheen and folds of his splendidly embroidered yellow silk robe so beautifully and realistically painted that I could feel it under my fingertips. This was the official portrait of a Chinese emperor at his inauguration, but it was painted by an Italian named Giuseppe Castiglione.
Just in the imagining, there is a story there, in the details of a single image.
The first few of many pictures! These were taken on our first day in Taiwan. We got off the plane and immediately went to work. No time for jetlag! That day we visited the nuclear power plant. But first, we had breakfast.
This was the view from the little restaurant where we ate vegetable dumplings, fried dough (mmm! dough!) and hot soymilk for breakfast. It's surprisingly free of scooters. People rode them everywhere in Taiwan, even in the rain, even on the sidewalks. They wore huge plastic ponchos to keep dry.
More...( Read more...Collapse )
We'll be visiting the National Palace Museum on May 31. I'll be covering the
museum's history and collection in my presentation, but I wanted to post some of
the pieces I liked on the National
Palace Museum website.
Bronze Wine Goblet
Shang Dynasty (1600B.C.-1046 B.C.).
This goblet was made by an unknown artist around 1500 B.C. The decoration on
the bottom band represents a beast of some kind. This piece is 3500 years old,
but it is not the oldest in the National Palace Museum's collection, which has
pieces dating back to the Neolithic era.
Draft of a Requiem for My Nephew by Yen Cheng-ch'ing (709-785)
Tang Dynasty (618-815)
Yen wrote this poem when he was fourty-nine to commemorate his nephew, who died in
battle. It is a draft, so there are characters that have
been struck out and other revisions. The calligraphy is spontaneous and strong,
revealing Yen's emotion. It appears to have been written in one sitting.
Immortal in Splashed Ink by Liang K'ai
Sung Dynasty (960-1368), painted late 12th/early 13th century
In Taoism, an "immortal" is like a saint in Catholicism or a Bodhisattva in
Buddhism, a human who attained enlightenment and became a "celestial being" who
serves as an example of the wisdom, humor, and virtue that humans could emulate.
Liang K'ai himself gave up a very prestigious position in the Imperial
court in order to live "a life of drinking and painting." He gave himself the
nickname "Madman Liang."
Celestial Globe Vase
Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
Ah, the famous Ming vase. It reminds me of that scene in Indiana Jones and
the Last Crusade when Dr. Jones Sr. smashes a vase over the head over Dr.
Jones Jr., is horrified when he thinks it's a Ming vase, and then is greatly
relieved when it turned out to be a fake.
This vase was made during the Yung-lo period of the Ming dynasty (1403-1425).
It depicts a dragon on a ground of lotuses. These vases were often made for
trade with Central Asia and reflect the tastes of Muslim culture.
Another item of interest is a painting called
"One Hundred Horses"
by Giuseppe Castiglione, an Italian Jesuit who came to China, took the name
of Lang Shih-ning and learned Chinese painting. His painting style reveals a
blend of Italian and Chinese techniques.
good morning everyone!!!...i appologize in advance for making this entry (and most likely the rest of my entries) rather informal...so that's that...
so it's sunday morning and i have three more finals to go...what better way to prepare myself than to start blogging here?!...hehehe...
so are you guys excited yet?!...good grief...i can't wait 'till we start gathering in the airport next saturday/sunday...wohoo...
questions: are you guys going to check in one or two pieces of luggage?...also, are you guys gonna wear your uniform on the plane or just dress up once we land?...
hmmm...i just realized that it would probably be more effective if i just sent an email out with these questions rather than blogging it...but oh wells...our blog needs more blogs anywho...=)
well, i'll see you guys around...g'luck on finals!!!
(Goooooo group G1!...headed by princess lulu...hahahaha)
- Location:my desk
- Music:happily ever after - renard silva
This is the group journal for scholars of the 2006 Global Technology Initiative. We are twenty-six students at San Jose State University
--twenty-one from the College of Engineering, three from the College of Business, one from the College of Social Sciences, and one from the College of Arts and Humanities. The San Jose State University College of Engineering is sending us on a two-week trip to Taiwan and China, where we will visit companies, universities and cultural centers in order to better prepare us to be business leaders and technological innovators, citizen ambassadors and global citizens.
We will be writing about our impressions of Taiwan and China, their businesses, universities, culture and people, as well as about the insights we gain about the three themes of the 2006 GTI program: 1. Global Economy 2. Sustained Development 3. Social Responsibilities of Global Businesses and Citizens. We have set up this journal so we can record our thoughts as we travel and fulfill the GTI's goal of sharing the knowledge and experience that we gain during our trip--and also so our friends and family at home can follow our adventures!
On a personal note: I am Jennifer D., the Arts and Humanities student being sent on the trip. The GTI trip is giving me an invaluable opportunity to meet students outside of the English department and broaden my view of the world. Although business and technology are not my expertise, the themes of the GTI are important for every American who hopes to make a difference in our increasingly-global world. I look forward to touring Taiwan and China with many new friends. Thank you to Prof. Jacob Tsao and Ms. Shirley Lin for organizing the trip and preparing us for an exciting and fruitful time in Taiwan and China!