SSUE – Shaanxi Normal University

22 May

By Jean Tan

What a wonderful experience I have had thus far! My learning journey started even before we had reached our destination. On the flight from Guangzhou to Xi An, I was seated next to a middle-aged Chinese man. Curious about why a large number of Chinese-looking people were speaking mainly in English, we struck up a conversation. The man, whose name I had unfortunately not asked, works in Macau and coincidentally, his son studies in NUS on a scholarship. He praised Singapore’s foresight in establishing a bilingualism policy. Indeed I am grateful to be adept at both languages, for it enables me to communicate efficiently with others globally. Many Chinese also learn English, but the man finds that they are not very comprehensible when speaking in English, because they only start learning it in middle school, much later than we do.

The man also raised a point about Chinese girls who would tend to stay in Singapore after their education and bond service there, but Chinese boys who would return to their homeland in fear of having to serve in the National Service (NS). This is a contentious topic amongst Singaporeans, who often lament about foreigners taking advantage of our system, then returning to contribute to their homeland instead of Singapore, which had nurtured their capabilities. But in my opinion, globalisation has made this much less of an issue. I believe that we should be proud that our universities are able to produce competent graduates that are productive and can contribute to an increasingly connected world, and what goes around will come around.

Francesca Lee

Francesca Lee

Upon landing at the airport in Xi An, we were greeted enthusiastically by our exchange partners from Shaanxi Normal University and Xi An Jiao Tong University, who had waited nearly 4 hours for us due to flight delays. We were really excited to meet each other, even though it was only for a brief time as we soon headed to the hotel affiliated with the university.

Welcome Ceremony by Shaanxi Normal University

Welcome Ceremony by Shaanxi Normal University

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Shaanxi Normal University planned a series of interesting events for us. We first visited 2 museums in their school.  The first museum was about the history of China, where we managed to view their collection of ancient artifacts such as 青铜器 (qing1 tong2 qi4) – items like coins and pots made out of bronze alloy, and a large array of intricately carved 瓦当, made of stone.

Group photo with Angelvin Parma from SUTD Student Life

Group photo with Angelvin Parma from SUTD Student Life

The second museum was about women in the history of China. What especially shocked me was the photo of a woman’s bound foot back in the days. It was so broken and deformed – how could it have been beautiful? I had heard of feet binding but this was the first time I had actually seen a photo of the feet, and the tiny shoes that those women purportedly wore.

Another interesting piece of information was about 自梳女. Back in the old days, women who got married had to tie their hair up. To avoid forced marriage to certain suitors, some women would tie their hair up by themselves and declare that they would never get married, and retreat into an enclave of fellow 自梳女. If one ever engaged in a relationship, the other ladies would be rightly obligated to execute the couple. It is an indubitably harsh punishment, but the concept is quite similar to a situation in Singapore whereby if a Singaporean boy were to declare to be homosexual during NS, he could be thrown in jail if he wanted to get married to a girl someday.  I am absolutely glad that civilisation has progressed to a stage where people have more free will, but there are also some archaic ideals which our society still holds on to, which may no longer be suited to the present.

Riding on a bicycle around the city wall of Xi An (西安城墙) was an unforgettable experience. The region of the current Xi An had been the capital city of many past imperial dynasties.  Along the rocky route, we enjoyed the view of the inner city and also learnt about the changes to Xi An that had occurred over time.

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Dinner was a banquet of dumplings, presented in various physical forms and in terms of the filling and cooking methods. A small, duck-shaped dumpling packed a spicy punch, while another flower-shaped dumpling teased our taste buds. The 16 dishes were completed with a surprise – an exquisite golden pot was brought in front of us.

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Filled with boiling soup, a bowl of small dumplings were poured into it to cook. The server distributed the dish into bowls for us, and apparently the number of dumplings we receive each has a different connotation to it. For example, if you received no dumplings, it means that you would have no worries for the rest of your life, while five dumplings meant 五福临门, and three, six or nine dumplings meant 步步高升.

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