China Research

Buddhist Beauty

Week 6 in Xiamen started off with an adventure, as it usually does. I decided to take my roommate from Eckerd’s advice and get lost in China. Explore without reason, and discover things you otherwise wouldn’t have. This being the first trip I have taken by myself to a completely different area, I only took her advice to an extent. I got on the bus, paid my 1yuan, and headed into the vast unknown—although on the other side of that unknown, I knew was the SM Mall. I did not know how far it was, what it was close to, or how I would know when to get off the bus, but I was determined to find it. It turns out that the SM Mall is quite unmistakable and just so happens to be the last stop on bus 20. So, sorry Taylor, I kind of cheated. But there will be other times where I truly get on the bus and get off somewhere I have never been. I just figured for the first time, I wouldn’t get too carried away. I feel very comfortable with the bus system now and have realized that no matter where you go, there are bus stops every 200 feet. So, the chances of actually getting lost probably are not as high as I first thought. So, the SM Mall. When we first pulled up, the first thing I noticed besides the biggest sign I have ever seen that said SM was another sign that said Wal-Mart! AHH!!! There is a Wal-Mart in China! Xiamen no less! Yesssss I will indeed check that out I said to myself with a smile. I pulled out my camera and started snapping photos. The first place I went was the bottom floor to the Wal-Mart. I thought it was very interesting that a store that sells so many products made in China would have a store in China. I wonder if they sold products from the United States…wouldn’t that be outlandish?! Sure enough, I did see quite a few products from the US in the Chinese Wal-Mart. I was hoping it would be similar to home, but of course not. The rest of the mall was not too exciting. If you were going there to purchase a new wardrobe, then you would be in heaven, but I was not interested in clothing, so I did not find the rest of the mall too thrilling.

I found a STARBUCKS on Tuesday! Max and I were talking about how we were both craving iced coffee, so I decided to search for one. My lab told me there were 4 in Xiamen. My reply way: “How did I not know about this 5 weeks ago?” ha! When we got off the bus and saw the sign glowing like a halo of beauty, I almost shed a tear of utter happiness. Needless to say, the caramel frappuccino was incredibly satisfying.

My lab’s weekly meeting was held in the coffee shop this week. I ordered a macchiato since I have never had one before, so why not try it. It was as tiny as a child’s tea set! I had to control my laughter as I drank it. I felt like I was having tea with the characters of Alice in Wonderland. The coffee itself was horrid.

Later that day, I went with Yuan to get her hair cut. I ended up getting bangs and having my hair layered as well. I am quite protective over my hair, so getting it cut from someone who did not speak English and trying to explain the side-sweep bang was challenging. I was terrified he would cut it short. I did not want any length cut off, so every snip was hard. I survived, and my hair looks very nice. I even gave the man (who was 26, but looked like he was 15—making me even more nervous) a tip – which is unheard of in China. He was shocked, so I just smiled and said xia xia (thank you).

After getting stylish and “high fashion” as Yuan says, we went to have dinner. As we were eating our food outside under a large umbrella, it started POURING! We started laughing, and continued to eat our food. The lights went out shortly after that, so not only were we eating in the rain, we were eating in the dark. It was very funny. In one of the previous blogs, I mentioned a dessert made of pineapple, ice, and milk…well at this dinner in the dark and rain; we ate the same dessert with watermelon instead of pineapple. It wasn’t as good, but still very delicious. After dinner, Yuan got a call from her friend who is a very prominent monk at the Nan Putuo temple just outside campus. He asked her if we wanted to see the temple at night when it is closed to the public, and of course we both said yes! We met him at the entrance and he handed me a gift. It was a bracelet made of wood from a rare tree. I was very happy, the bracelet is gorgeous. Yuan explained to me that he thought it was fate that I came to China, met him, and was introduced to the Buddhist religion, and therefore, a gift was an appropriate measure. He showed us around the temple which I had been to during the day, but it was nothing compared to its serenity after dark. Without the 10,000 people surrounding you trying to take photos, the temple is quiet, soothing, and unbelievably beautiful. The amount of detail put into each carving was like nothing I have ever seen. He even brought us up a winding stair case to see the sacred bell marked with Chinese characters they use to wake the monks in the morning and tell them it is time to rest at night. This area was strictly prohibited to the public, so being there was very special. We performed a prayer where we bow with our hands in prayer, kneel down to the bench, touch with our right hand first, put our head to our knees, and relax your hands with your palms facing upward. I felt honored to experience such a personal place for the monks. Her friend also showed us their housing, and a classroom equipped with thousands of books, some teaching English, a chalkboard, and even a projector. As we were leaving, Yuan gasped. The monk master walked out of temple and bowed to us. Seeing him, she said, is very rare. “He is very busy, this is a good night of experiences for you.” Certainly, it was.