Tsinghua University Research Laboratories, Sohu and Beijing University

Author: James Berry


On the morning of Friday, May 6th we left the guest hotel at Tsinghua University and walked across campus to visit the Department of Engineering Physics. We first visited a classroom where undergraduate students were working on electronic design projects. We watched a presentation which discussed the value of electronic design for the products and systems of the future. Interestingly, the CAE software package they use is Altium Designer. This is the same package we use at the University of Michigan.



We next visited with Prof. Yi-kang Pu. His area of interest is plasma science. He described to us a class he teaches for undergraduates that allows them to become familiar with plasmas and build simple plasma based projects. I mentioned to him the Neon-Argon filled sculpture I purchased titled “The Phoenix”. It is mounted on an inductive driver, which can ionize the gas and produce interesting combinations of colored light. It also radiates a considerable amount of broadband RF energy, which can interfere with Wi-Fi and cell phone communications.

We were shown another project in the Engineering Physics Department, a spherical Tokomak that is being used to study the behavior of cold plasma. I stayed in this lab to get a photograph of the system and the Post-Doctoral researcher that worked with the it. As a result I became separated from the group and could not find them subsequently.



I wandered around the hallways on several floors of the building before going outside. They were not there either, and I did not know where we were to go next. I had noticed that a bus, which had been parked behind the building, had left and thought perhaps they were on it (not a likely possibility if I had thought about it at all deeply). In any case, after wandering about outside and inside the building for seven minutes or so, I finally gave up on finding them and went back to the guest hotel. I thought I would be able to contact Prof. He or perhaps Yuefeng Zhu on my cell phone. On the way back to the guest Hotel I was able to photograph the original Tsinghua Gate and the Grand Auditorium on the plaza that was the original Tsinghua campus.



Back at the guest Hotel, I spoke with the person at the desk but they could not help me. I went to my room and tried to contact Prof. He, to no avail. The maid came and asked me if she could clean my room, so I went to the lobby. As I waited it occurred to me that I should visit the bathroom. I went to the lavatory near the dining room and discovered it wasn’t equipped with any western style toilets (sigh!). While I acquainted myself with the use of a traditional Chinese bathroom, the Tsinghua University student assistant who was assigned to our group called out my name. Prof. He had guessed I would return to the guest Hotel and sent the assistant to find me.

Following my rescue, we returned to the student dining canteen for lunch. We met the rest of our group there. They had been in a classroom when I lost them, after which they had gone to visit the accelerator lab, a short walk from the building we had been in. I was told that I would have enjoyed that part of the tour. The Lab included a fabrication shop with modern numerically controlled machine tools for making the electrodes and other components used in a particle accelerator. According to their web page, the Accelerator Lab at Tsinghua University is focused on the electron linear accelerators (linacs), and it isn’t surprising that they would concentrate on the details of the geometry of their designs. To quote the Engineering Physics Accelerator Lab web page:


The Accelerator Lab is engaged in research of low energy electron linac, accelerating structure, and beam dynamics.

The accelerator physics group is comprised of 3 full professors, 6 associate professors, 13 Ph.D. candidates and 17 master students. The lab offers courses for both undergraduate and graduate students, and has participated in writing and compiling a series of textbooks.

The lab participated in designing and manufacturing China’s first electron linac for medical applications, irradiation and dosage benchmarking. Besides the extensive research in S-band accelerator, the lab also devoted much efforts in designing and manufacturing C-band, L-band and X-band accelerators.

The lab’s goal is to construct an advanced center for low energy electron linac research, an advanced X-ray source based on Thomson scattering and an influential cradle for cultivation of qualified researchers in accelerator physics.


These people were the ones that designed the very compact electron linacs which we had seen at Nuctech. According to members of our group, they also have an Inverse Compton accelerator and a proton accelerator. Apparently the web page is not up to date. I was not familiar with an Inverse Compton accelerator, so I looked online and found a description of the process in the Wikipedia article on Compton Scattering:


Some synchrotron radiation facilities scatter laser light off the stored electron beam. This Compton backscattering produces high energy photons in the MeV to GeV range[7] subsequently used for nuclear physics experiments.

[7] Grenoble Anneau Accelerator Laser


Inverse Compton Accelerators produce Gamma-Ray photons; perhaps we should build one.

After lunch we boarded individual cars and drove to the headquarters of Sohu. This is a Chinese internet media conglomerate that was started by Dr. Charles Zhang, a classmate of Prof. He at Tsinghua University. Dr. Zhang founded this organization after completing a doctoral program at MIT in the early 1990’s.



It is very similar to Yahoo Inc., and like Yahoo is worth in excess of 1.5B dollars. We met Dr. Zhang, spoke with him briefly in his penthouse office and took several pictures with him.



Afterwards we listened to a presentation by a staff member at Sohu which provided some background on the company and business activities. The organization has four divisions: Media, Video content, Search and Games. The search engine part of the business is handled by Sogou, a wholly owned subsidiary. Interestingly, one of the most popular products of Sogou is the Pinyin convertor, an online tool which converts traditional Chinese characters into a phonetically equivalent meaning using a Romanized alphabet. There is another company called Changyou (also a wholly owned subsidiary) that is responsible for gaming. Afterwards we were given a tour of the offices, ending with a visit to the gift shop.



We got back into the cars and drove to Beijing University. It is actually called Peking University, which is the old spelling. This small piece of confusion was nothing to be concerned about for us who do not (yet) speak Mandarin Chinese. Our group made individual and collective attempts to acquire various words or phrases in Mandarin, but on the whole most of us were lost.

At Beijing University we were taken on a tour by Weiyi Wang, an employee of H3D and a PhD graduate from the Orion Research group. We walked around for the remainder of the afternoon. We learned that this campus was established in the aftermath of the first Sino-Japanese War, during the Hundred Days of Reform in 1898. It occupies a site which had formerly been the Imperial Academy, and before that had been an Imperial Garden; it is smaller than the campus of Tsinghua University. It was explained to us earlier in the trip that “Tsinghua is like the M.I.T. of China, but Peking University is the Harvard of China”. It was hard to know what to expect based on that comparison, but what we saw was a large and beautiful campus spread across a rolling terrain. Weiyi was happy to show us several places including Weiming Lake and the Boya Pagoda.



We saw many of the buildings on this campus, but not all of them. It may not be as large a campus as Tsinghua, but it is still a very large campus! At one point Weiyi mentioned that the campus had been more than an Imperial Garden – it had been built originally as a residence for a Princess of the Qing Dynasty. Weiyi went on to explain the significance of the studs that were used to decorate the doors on the gates of Imperial grounds. The Emperor was at the top of the hierarchy, and so was represented by the number nine. Other member of the royal family would be assigned numbers commensurate to their rank. The studs on the gateway doors to Peking University had a pattern of five columns by seven rows, consistent with the status accorded to a Princess (also consistent with Weiyi’s version of history).



Afterwards we returned to the campus of Tsinghua University and had dinner at a different student canteen. It had been a very full day of site seeing.


Hangzhou

Author: Daniel Shy

We left the Shanghai hotel promptly at 7:00 AM and made our way to the Hangzhou-bound express train. The majority of the group had breakfast on the train that consisted of noodle soup. After arriving at Hangzhou, we were picked up at the train station by the tour guide and began navigating the city. The tour guide described the city as “small” with a population of just a few million. The effects of the smaller city was seen in the traffic as it was more civilized compared to the Beijing/Shanghai chaos.

The walking tour started on the east side of West Lake. The lake was magnificent and filled with engineless wooden boats. Those boats were also docked along the lake rim ready to offer rides for willing customers. Fog and mist covered the lake which just added to the mystic vibe of the combination of the forest, mountains and lake. Several traditional houses lined the path that once housed famous scholars and calligraphers.




The tranquility came to halt when the path was blocked by a construction zone that was fenced with banners of pictured forestry. Chinese characters covered the edge of the banner which translated to “Beautification for the G20 summit” which will hosted by Hangzhou.

Following the Hangzhou walking tour, we got back on the bus for the four hour trip to Huang Mountain (Huangshan). The route took us through the mountains which were blanketed by endless trees. Hidden in the valleys of the mountains were small rural villages. The poorly maintained houses that made up the village were amidst rubble and other demolished houses. With no clear sewage system, water from the rain accumulated on the side of the road and caused a flood in several location. Even with the rain, cloths were hung to dry in the patched grass garden. The day concluded in the hotel with planning out the trek up Huang mountain.


Forbidden City, Jing-Shan Park, Bei-Hai Park and Zhong-Shan Park

Author: Jiawei Xia

The visit to Forbidden City made up most of the trip on May 4th. The Forbidden City has a rectangular shape, with an area of 720000 m2. The whole construction of the city started from over six hundred years ago. It is said there are a total of 9999 houses in this place. This number might be specifically designed, since the number “9” always represents the highest dignity in China.

We started the visit to Forbidden City by entering its front gate, Meridian Gate in the south. It was a giant building, with five entrances distributed symmetrically. We passed through the main gate in the middle, which was intended only for the emperor during ancient times. Through several more doors, we arrived at the Hall of Supreme Harmony. The most famous throne in China, with a history of almost 500 years, has always been placed in the middle of the hall. Behind the hall, a giant stone carve with nine dragons lies in the middle of the stairs. It is said the stone weighs over 200 tons. 400 years ago, by pouring water on the ground to form ice during a winter, people transported the stone from 50 miles away to the palace.


The Hall of Supreme Harmony [Photo via Emily Lake]

The Hall of Union, following the Hall of Supreme Harmony, was very unique. It was a very small pavilion, but was used to store the 25 imperial seals of the Qing Dynasty. It lay between the Palace of Heavenly Purity and Palace of Earthly Tranquility, and represented the harmony of China between heaven and earth under the authority of the royal families.

The exhibition of jewelry might be the most unforgettable part in the imperial city. After many years of war and unsettling, some of the most valuable masterpieces were lucky enough to be saved and shown to all the visitors. The exhibitions was huge, ranging from ivory over two meters long and jade pieces each weighing two or three tons, to crystal opium bottles (carved from inside) as little as two centimeters in height. One of the most amazing piece, was called “田黄三连印”. It had three seals, connected to each other with chains. Surprisingly, all the three seals and all the chains were carved out of a single piece of jade. The art itself has made it priceless.


The “田黄三连印”, the three seals and chains were carved out of the same piece of jade.

After the Forbidden City, we went on into the Jinshan Park. Jinshan is a man-made mountain using the soil and rocks from the moat of the Forbidden City. At the pavilion on the top of the mountain, we received an amazing view of all the royal structures in Beijing. Over the past 500 years, people built a series of gates all the way from Tiananmen to the Drum Tower. Imagine if the Emperor stood in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, he would be able to see things several kilometers away through all the gates. The ancient Beijing city was designed to be perfectly symmetric around the line connecting all the gates. Under the clear and blue sky, the whole imperial city was shining golden light on all of us. Surprisingly, we were even able to see the structures at the Beijing Olympic Park (the Nest), which is on the far-north end of the city.

Our next stop was the Beihai (North Sea) Park. Though called the “North Sea”, Beihai was actually another man-made lake. In the park, we saw the famous White Tower of Taoism. It had a shape of wine bottle, with white color covering most of its surface. From the other side of the Beihai Lake, the White Tower and its reflection in the water formed an unforgettable scene.

On previous days, we passed by the front door of Xinhua Gate, the south and main entrance to Zhongnanhai area. Nowadays, this area is the working and living space for the leaders of China. After Beihai Park, we went onto a street on the north of Zhongnanhai. The lake of Middle-South Sea started from the bottom of the street we stood on and extended to the other side. Most of the buildings were hidden behind the trees and could not be seen. Still, we were able to imagine how the presidents and prime ministers of China lived and made decisions here.

We went through the South Changjie and North Changjie Streets, where Prof. He lived till elementary school. Over forty years have passed, many buildings from his time still existed. On the bank of the Forbidden City’s moat, senior people were flying kites as high as three or four hundred meters high.

Our last visit during the day was the Zhongshan Park. The park used to be another royal park and was renamed in memorial of Zhongshan Sun, the leader of earliest modern revolutions in China. The Five-Color Soil was placed in the park. During ancient times, the soil of five different colors represented all the lands of China and was worshiped by all the emperors.


Five-Color Soil in Zhongshan Park.


Qinshan Nuclear Power Base and Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Author: Bennett Williams

During the stay in Shanghai, the group visited the birth place of nuclear power in China, Qinshan Nuclear Power Base. At first glance, the power plant facility resembles that of a typical United States plant; the characteristic, towering containment buildings were visible from blocks away, turbine buildings line the coast, and transmission lines span the sky. Despite the familiar scene, the plant facility retained characteristic Chinese attributes. Signs at the entrance loosely translate to “for the good of the Party”, and the scenic hill separating the three sectors was named for the emperor of the Qin Dynasty, who was rumored to have visited the peninsula on which the facility sits.

A team of the plant’s personnel met the group at the visitor’s center to provide a brief introduction to China’s first nuclear power facility. The first domestically designed nuclear power reactor (Qinshan I) was constructed on the first sector of the peninsula, and it was apparent that it was a great source of pride as evidenced by its colloquial name “the Glory of China”. While only a 310 MWe reactor, the Qinshan I PWR forged a path for the domestic design, construction and operation of nuclear power plants.




The tour continued towards Sector II which contains China’s first domestically designed, commercial-scale facility with a total capacity of 2.62 GWe among 4 PWR units. While only a small fraction of China’s expected nuclear power capacity in coming years, the installation is an integral part of the future of China’s nuclear power industry. Sector II contains an analog control room simulator at which prospective licensed operators can train for careers in the rapidly expanding industry in China.

Following lunch with the hosts at Qinshan, the group spent the afternoon at Shanghai Jiao Tong, with whom the University of Michigan shares a joint institute for engineering education. The group was afforded the opportunity to visit the lab where research on fluid dynamics – specifically xenon and krypton gas removal and reactor coolant pump stability analysis – is conducted. A general discussion between the Orion group and the school of nuclear engineering of SJTU followed and continued over dinner at the Academic Exchange Center of SJTU.




The hospitality demonstrated by the hosts at Qinshan and our counterparts from SJTU was nothing short of extraordinary. The former were extremely gracious in sharing the great technological and engineering achievements at the Qinshan power facility, and their generosity was overwhelming as they presented each of us with fine silk gifts as the tour drew to a close. The morning was a testament to these principles of Chinese culture, cementing lasting impressions on our group members.


“The hospitality demonstrated by the hosts at Qinshan and our counterparts from SJTU was nothing short of extraordinary.”


In the evening, the graduate students and faculty from SJTU fostered a genuine sense of community between individuals that are otherwise separated by thousands of miles, language and culture. Students were able to discuss research interests and bond over the commonalities of pursuing graduate degrees over a filling, well-crafted array of Chinese dishes. As the dinner drew to a close, Dr. He gave a toast and expressed these sentiments of gratitude to our hosts at SJTU.


Yellow Mountain

Author: Michael Streicher

I am both excited and disappointed to write this article about our trip to Yellow Mountain (Huangshan to the locals). Excited because it was the best part of our trip; disappointed because neither words nor pictures can capture the majesty of the site.

We woke at the hotel to a breakfast hodgepodge of Western and Chinese breakfast items. My plate included both steam pork buns and a chocolate glazed donut! We were on the road to the Yellow Mountain Park before 8:30 and began our hike around 10 am.


Western and Chinese breakfast! Note the donut and pork bun!


The clouds were so thick as we began our hike that it was a stretch to see 50 meters in front of the path. The mist, low visibility, monotonous stair-climbing, and greenery contributed to a sense of mystery and uncertainty.


 

Professor He was an able guide as he visited the mountain 35 years earlier; and all of the other tourists were helpful and friendly when we needed a quick reassurance of our path. We chose to take a difficult circular path to the top of the Peak of Celestial Views. The trail was difficult with ladders carved right into the rocks and a bridge that extended unknown into the fog. After about 2 hours we finally reached the cloud covered peak. It was exciting to be sitting on the top, eating lunch above the clouds and occasionally catching a glimpse of an antenna on another peak or another rock formation. Right as we were about to leave, the clouds lifted and shouts of awe were discernible, regardless of the language of the speaker. Vast peaks were revealed, maybe one kilometer away, earlier obscured by the dense clouds. Now the rock formations were beautifully obvious above a sea of clouds.

The hike was nice allegory to our experience in graduate school. The journey is sometimes hard, but the hard work is rewarding. You lean on your fellow students for support and companionship all under the guide of an able mentor. The hard work pays off and you reach the top. And then, with a little luck, you can make some amazing discoveries.


After the fog lifted, we experienced view after spectacular view of rocks, clouds, trees, lakes, and light. Many of famous Chinese works of art and poetry are based on the gorgeous scenes on the Yellow Mountain. After seeing the real views ourselves, the art is even more meaningful.

We climbed to the top of the mountain where our hotel awaited. The climb included a famous narrow steep rock stairway known as “100 Stairs to the Clouds”. Two students even raced up this passage! Once we reached the hotel, we had a quick dinner and retired to our rooms, exhausted from the day.


The sunrises on Yellow Mountain are world-renowned. Some eager (and slightly sleep-deprived) students woke up at 4:30 am to hike to the top of the Purple Cloud Peak to watch the sunrise. The pre-dawn light lit the path to the peak. The red and pinks of the rising sun over the peaks was not something that will soon be forgotten.

After a quick breakfast, we began the descent down the mountain – some opting to hike down the steep terrain and others utilizing the cable cars. The crew which hiked down saw men carrying supplies up to the hotels on their backs. Each man carried at least 100 lbs of water, food, or oil up the mountain with the weight balanced on what resembled an ox yolk. Without roads to take the supplies, the men had to walk the 8 km to the summit each day. Amidst the scenery it reminded me that while China has extremely impressive infrastructure and scientific progress, there are still those who must perform backbreaking physical labor to survive; labor which would not exist in the US. There are also men who will carry tourists to the top of the mountain for a price.

After reaching the bottom, the crew took a very sleepy bus ride followed by a sleepy train ride back to Shanghai for the night.




High-Speed Train to Shanghai

Author: Niral Shah

Our day started off like any other in Beijing with a bright and early breakfast at the Tsinghua University hotel, but unlike other days, this day was special as it was our last in Beijing. With heavy hearts and full bellies, we piled into a Tsinghua bus with our luggage to take us straight to the Beijing South Railway Station. Two of our Tsinghua student hosts joined us to the station to say one last goodbye – just another example of the great hospitality we received throughout our trip in China.



We arrived at the station well before our departure which gave all of us some time to relax and gave me time to learn about the high speed train. The Beijing-Shanghai high speed railway, also known as Jinghu, is the world’s longest high speed line constructed in a single phase. It connects two major economic powerhouses serving close to a quarter million passengers daily and connecting a quarter billion people that live along the railway. Although the railway can operate a maximum speed of 380 km/h (236 mph), the average commercial speed is just above 300 km/h (186 mph) in order to reduce operating costs and to increase the longevity of the line. At that pace, the high speed train races across 1,318 kilometers (816 mi) in close to 5 hours, cutting travel time in half compared to alternatives.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Traveling through mainland China gave us a new perspective compared to the sprawling capital. The region between Beijing and Shanghai is at times bustling with activity in rapidly growing cities and at times quiet in the rural farmland. Unlike Beijing which is practically teeming with history and personality, the new cities popping up along the rail line are carbon copies of each other with construction crews working nonstop to build identical high-rises to support the massive population shift from rural towns to the urban cities. In between the new cities, we saw endless miles of crop and clear blue sky, much like in the US.


“After a long meal, we walked through brightly lit streets to the Bund and relaxed watching the river pass by and the Shanghai skyline behind it.”


As is a common theme for our trip, our dinner was unique and spectacular. We ate in a traditional Chinese hotpot style restaurant just across the street from the Marriot. At the center of the table, there were two boiling pots of broth surrounded with thinly cut meats and raw veggies. Rarely waiting our turn, we grabbed the meats and veggies and dipped them into the boiling broth to cook them. After a long meal, we walked through brightly lit streets to the Bund and relaxed watching the river pass by and the Shanghai skyline behind it.


High Energy Physics Institute and China Academy of Space Technology (CAST)

Author: Yuefeng Zhu

Today’s trip started with a pleasant weather. Blue skies and golden sunshine reminded people of southern California. After the breakfast in the early morning, we took a short ride on Tsinghua’s bus to the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP). Prof. Wang, a famous scholar in astrophysics and a friend of Prof He, acted as the host of today’s trip.

We first had an informal meeting and discussion with some of the Ph.D. students from the institute. We had an introduction of each person and what they were doing. It was pretty interesting to learn how diverse their research topics are. One of them was working on neutron stars using X-ray telescope. He claimed that he could observe the change of x-ray spectra from many binary neutron star systems and reveal the secrets of the universe. Another person was working Yabajin telescope in Tibet. This telescope was designed to be placed on a high altitude so that cosmic ray showers can be detected with minimum attenuation. There were also people working on medical instruments such as PET and CT. They said there were instruments built in-house and they use them to do software development.

After the short one-hour discussion, we were led to visit some labs. The first one was the manufacturing site of PET systems, including small animal PET and human PET. They use LYSO scintillator as the detector to 511-keV gammas. They have successfully modulized the detector so that they can be used for either small animal PET or full-size human PET. We saw the real machines of both versions. The next stop was the BEPCII, Beijing Electron Position Collider. This was the first major scientific project built in modern China, proposed by Nobel Prize laureate Tsung-Dao Lee. We learned in concept how the collider worked and how the positrons were generated (through pair production). The collider also has synchrotron beam outputs, which people can rent to study their materials or perform other analyses. Since the beam was turned on, we could not visit the tunnel. We saw the control center and were impressed by how intense the beam was. The last stop was the clean room IHEP used to make the detectors for space telescopes. There are several projects actively developing in the institute. The most interesting one was HXMT (Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope). Prof. He’s master degree involved working with the NaI scintillator detector of this telescope. After 30 years of additional efforts, this telescope finally became true and launched to space. The visit in IHEP ended with a special lunch in the dining room of the IHEP. Prof. He used to eat there and it is still serving people. Jim requested to taste Chinese version yogurt and he was impressed.

Still accompanied by Prof. Wang, we took the bus to travel to China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). It is the equivalent institute of NASA in the United States. We received a warm welcome from a professor of the institute, Rui You. On our way to the exhibition hall of the institute, we met the statue of Xuesen Qian (also known as Tsien Hsue-shen, who graduated from MIT and Cal Tech and was the father of Chinese space science). After sitting down in a nice meeting room, we were first shown a short movie to introduce CAST and its previous and current projects, including the first lunar exploration, space station and the Mars project. The lunar project, Beidou navigation system, and the Mars project drew a lot of attention from us. Several questions were raised to better understand the purpose and motivation of the projects. For example, people were pretty interested in the scientific goal of Chinese lunar project and how it differed from USA’s previous lunar exploration. The answer was China wanted to achieve better results with better instruments compared with USA’s project dating back to the 70’s. They are also interested in building the foundation for future deep-space exploration, such as the Mars project. After the intense discussion, we were led to the exhibition hall to see the full-scale models of the satellites. We were impressed by the size of the satellites and the number that CAST had actually built. There was also a real returned capsule from a manned space project. We could see the burned surface of the capsule and were deeply impressed by the achievement. There were also models for the lunar lander and rover. We were told that several radiation detectors mounted on the rover were designed and developed by Prof. Wang. The exhibition was the technical high light of the day.

Leaving CAST, the bus driver delivered us to the restaurant, which was arranged by Prof. He for a special reason, which was kept secret before the dinner. Since we arrived at the restaurant one hour earlier than the schedule, Prof. He took us to a nearby park called Purple Bamboo Park. With Prof. He’s introduction, we got to know that this was the first English corner, where Chinese people started to learn English after China’s reform and open policies. Now, there is no studying of English any more. Instead, many local people use the place to enjoy their lives with music and dancing. Later, we received the special introduction from Prof. He that one of his high school classmates bought an apartment close to this park, and he built an incredible corridor inside his apartment using his skills as an architect. This short detour ended, and in the restaurant, we met this legendary architect. We also revealed the secret of the dinner place: it was a place where people can eat and watch performance in the same time.

The food was incredible. People liked the soy source pork and squirrel fish a lot. The performance started in the middle of the dinner. The first performance was a Sichuan Opera face changing, which was a unique cultural legacy from southern China. We also heard Beijing Opera and Chinese fellow music. They are both unique to American students. Another impressive entertaining performance was happy kitchen. The actor showed off his skill to rotate 10 plates simultaneously. He also used comedy elements in his show and created lots of interaction between the actor and the audience. Both David and Emily enjoyed the special service.

The dinner was a special treat from Prof. He and his high school classmates. All of us appreciated their generosity. We also appreciated the help of the young lady from the education section of IHEP to arrange the tour there. There were also two Tsinghua students accompanied us during the day, and we would like to thank them.


National Stadium and Yong-He Temple

Author: Jiyang Chu

Although it was rainy today, we started our trip quite early in the morning with positive expectation. Two students from Tsinghua University, Yilin Liu and Chengzhu Zhang, acted as guides in today’s tour.

Our first destination was the Olympic park, which was built for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The national stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, caught our attention as soon as we reached the Olympic park. There was a small exhibition in the stadium illustrating the technology applied in construction. 24 trusses were used to support the surface of the building, and the steel structure was open in the air, which formed the unique nest shape. The stadium could take as many as 91,000 audiences. After taking photos inside the stadium, we visited the box preserved for VIPs, which was incredibly luxurious and splendid.


“When the group saw the famous Buddha statue, which was as tall as 18 meters and made of one whole sandalwood, everyone was too shocked to say a word.”


After the Olympic park, the Lama Temple was our next destination. The shower became heavier, but people still had a lot of interest in this religious and cultural place. With sufficient respect to Buddhism, we entered the temple and explored the buildings and statues in it. The buildings there had yellow roofs and red walls, which had the same high standard as the Forbidden City, because it used to be the palace for Yong prince who became YongZheng, the fourth emperor of Qing dynasty, and QianLong, the fifth emperor of Qing dynasty, was born here. People were deeply attracted by the peaceful and sacred atmosphere in the temple, and admired the exquisite decorations on the buildings. When the group saw the famous Buddha statue, which was as tall as 18 meters and made of one whole sandalwood, everyone was too shocked to say a word. It was impossible to imagine how the workers built it in Qing dynasty with only their own hands.

We had lunch as soon as we arrived at Wang Fu Jing in a Nanjing style restaurant. The foods there were sweet and delicate. The highlight of the lunch was the rice wine, which was spiced and had a low alcohol percentage. After lunch we started shopping in the Wang Fu Jing stylish street. People bought some souvenirs and enjoyed bargaining with the vendors very much. Some of us returned to hotel early because they were exhausted. Unfortunately, they missed the most marvelous minute of today! Daniel and Charles bought three deep fried scorpions and ate them. But they still thought it wasn’t exciting enough, thus they bought three alive scorpions with struggling legs and tails! Daniel, Charles and Steven, three scorpion warriors, shared these creatures with great courage and determination.


Tian-An-Men Square and the Temple of Heaven

Author: Emily Lake

We started our day walking along the 12-lane Chang’an Avenue and stopped in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace. It was a Chinese holiday weekend, so we shuffled through masses of sightseers and policemen. It was clear that this landmark was of great significance for both Chinese nationalists and foreigners. The iconic gate is emblazoned with an enormous portrait of Chairman Mao and considered the front door to the Forbidden City. We crossed the street and stood in the middle of Tian-An-Men Square. The vast size of the historic square impressed upon us as we walked towards Chairman Mao’s mausoleum. Mao was considered the father of modern China, and today his mausoleum sits at the center of Tiananmen Square and at the center of Beijing’s central axis.

We made our way to Dahilar Street, one of Beijing’s oldest and busiest shopping districts. Here, a mixture of ancient and modern shops lines this well-preserved street. We stopped for a memorable lunch at Qianmen Quanjude, which has been serving Beijing’s famous Peking roast duck since 1864. Known as the best dish in China, the duck was delicately carved in front of us with exactly 108 cuts to each bird. The skin was crispy and the meat was very tender.



After lunch we saw an awe-inspiring example of Chinese religious architecture at the Temple of Heaven. A procession of beautiful trees led to an impressive blue-roofed wooden tower. We followed Beijing’s central axis to the Imperial Vault of Heaven. Dr. He whispered into the echo wall and across the vault students listened for the word “Polaris”, but his words were lost in the noise of hundreds of other visitors. We enjoyed Chinese ice cream (my new favorite snack) under the trees then walked through miles of the temple gardens. The grounds are so serene that they were once thought to be the meeting place of heaven and earth. Before leaving, we stopped to hear the alluring sounds of an eight-piece traditional Chinese band.


“The grounds are so serene that they were once thought to be the meeting place of heaven and earth.”


Later we stopped for dinner just beyond the temple gates. Students were excited to try traditional dishes, and some were taken out of their comfort zone with specialties including ox stomach, kidney, and pork skin gelatin. By the end of the day, we had walked over 11 miles through historic Beijing.


Summer Palace

Author: Steven Brown

We began our day early with a walk along the tree-lined streets of the beautiful Tsinghua university campus. The rising sun lit up the foliage and revealed clear blue skies that persisted throughout our day trip. Just two subway stops beyond the university’s west gate and down a few bustling Beijing streets, we arrived at the Summer Palace where we were immediately plunged several centuries into Chinese past to the emperor’s private vacation getaway. Professor He guided the group through the opulent palace gates and down shady stone paths to the astutely-named Garden of Harmonious Pleasures, a tranquil pond surrounded by willow trees, bridges, and ornately-decorated terraces. An excessive number of photographs were taken by me at this first site, a recurring theme throughout the rest of the day.

Our next stop within the sprawling grounds was the impressive Grand Theater Building, housing a towering three-story performance stage that must have filled the eyes and ears of royalty that sat on cushioned benches just yards away. The true extent of the emperor’s grandeur was unmistakable upon stepping out onto the vast Kunming Lake. We walked along the Long Corridor, a special covered walkway erected just to keep rain off of the emperor; every cross beam was painted with a different scene that told what may have been a kilometer-long story. Before taking a ferry ourselves, we ascended the steps of the Tower of Buddhist Incense and viewed the expanse of the paddle boat-laden waterway.


“Just across the street a replica sculpture of an Old Summer Palace ruin was symbolically cast in steel, perhaps to signify new strength and hardness of temperament.”


After indulging in a sizable family-style lunch, we set off for the emperor’s original vacation destination, the Old Summer Palace nearer to our Tsinghua home base. Now mostly ruins, this beautiful labyrinth of man-made hills, ponds, and tree lines stretched out far beyond the extent of one afternoon’s visit. According to Professor He, the loss of the palace’s magnificent wooden structures to fires set by Anglo-French soldiers one-and-a-half centuries ago still motivates the Chinese to never again tolerate foreign aggression. He said that this is a mindset that permeates Chinese society even today. Following $2-per-person spicy hot pot dinners and drinks at the nearby Tsinghua student cafeteria, we found ourselves walking past a large, bright new student library that dwarfs even Michigan’s beloved Duderstadt Center. Just across the street a replica sculpture of an Old Summer Palace ruin was symbolically cast in steel, perhaps to signify new strength and hardness of temperament.