Sunday, February 10, 2013

Freshman in College

My college was located in Ya'an (雅安), used to be the capital of Xikong (西康省) also called “Rain City,” a small city southwest of my city, about four hours away by bus. It was located in a small basin with mountains all around, the hometown of the Giant Panda and the cradle of Tea Culture of the world. There were two major rivers in the city, well known in Chinese 川西咽喉, 西藏门户, 民族走廊. It is a cultural center for the two main routes, one running west to Tibet and another running north–south from Chengdu to the southwest. Previously known as Yazhou-fu, the city was first mentioned during the Zhou Dynasty (1122-255 BC), established under the Qin (221–206 BC) and Han dynasties. It was later taken over by the Mongols, retaken by the Chinese in the late fifth century; it became Ya Prefecture in 604 and received its modern name Ya’an. Sichuan University of Agriculture
The Gaoyi Que, a stone-carved pillar-gate (que, 闕), 6 m (20 ft) in height, located at the tomb of Gao Yi in Ya'an, Sichuan, from the Eastern Han (25-220 AD).
     Buses were the only mode of public transportation. Unlike Chengdu, our college was the only one there. There used to be a college of Sichuan University in Chengdu. When the Cultural Revolution started, the government thought that agriculture should go to a small town close to the farms rather than in a big city. However, Ya'an was a unique place with abnormal rain, clouds, and hills. It was not close to any major agricultural fields. The school’s move to Ya’an was more political than agricultural or scientific. One thing was clear. There were lots of famous university and college professors there from all over the country for whatever reason. Some said they were the right wing of the government. Not completely listed from later clearing their names, there were 85 “right wings” in our college. They were all isolated from the big city science communities that had easy information exchange. Still they made the best of what they have.  The College was the only one not in capital city yet made it to Project 211 today.
     A number of them had very sad life stories. For example, our entomology teacher worked in a very poor, remote farm for ten years before he came back to the college. He married a local farm girl there and had two kids. He looked like a farmer with dark, coarse skin. Although we thought he was an unfortunate person, he considered himself to be very lucky to be alive, have a family, and make it back to college again.
     Freshman year was a most difficult time for all of us, including me who wished for a long time to get out from under my parents’ roof.  We had 32 students in my class of 1978. The oldest was 32 years old, married with children and the youngest was 15. 
I was about 17 years old. There were two groups that year in the forestry department. There were seven girls in my group and six girls in the other. The seven girls in our group lived in one room with bunk beds and two large library tables in the center of the room for studying. The six girls in the other group were next door, and the year 1977 students had three girls who lived across from us in a two-story wooden floor building.
     Most of us felt the hardest thing was being away from home even though we didn’t want to admit it, and adjusting ourselves to sharing a room with six to eight classmates. Worst of all, we were grouped ten together for the three meals. Whoever came late would get cold meals or not enough. This meal plan did change later. Surprisingly, everyone seemed to gain weight during the first year. I guess the biggest adjustment was that we as a whole had to follow the same schedule from 6 am. The big bell rang and everyone in the whole college got up and rushed to the field for morning gymnastics following music from a large speaker.


     Then some ran on the track. Some went back to their dorms. I returned back to the dorm right away since I did not want to get up in the first place. Breakfast was at 7 am. Classes started at 8 am. Lunch was at 12 noon. Classes or labs were held in the afternoon. Dinner was at 6 PM. We usually went for a walk after dinner, then came back to the classroom to study. I usually went back to my dorm at 10 PM because the school turned off all the power at 10:30 PM in the dorm. Others came back after 12 midnight but they had to be very quiet because most of us were asleep already. Every now and then, someone complained that someone made too much noise although it was understandable since everything was dark.
     Another thing was money. Some of my classmates always ended up broke before the end of the month. Usually, we received a wire transfer from our parents at the beginning of the month. We went to the bank to get the cash that our parents had sent to us. I usually did pretty well since I never had an allowance before. I only bought things that I really needed.
     There was a period of time when someone stole our clothes from the clothesline at night. We washed our laundry by hand and dried them on the clothesline. Some of my roommates forgot to take their clothes in before nightfall or completely forgot about them until they needed to wear them and then the clothes were gone. My mom’s training paid off because I always remembered to take my clothes in before dark. I heard that someone was caught once in another dorm and the students beat him up pretty bad.
     On Sunday, we usually went “downtown” or to the farmer’s market to get something to eat. We had fresh fruits, nuts, a little dinner, some snacks, or went to the movies or hiking in the nearby mountains. We usually went as a small group or even the entire class if we went for a hike. We took all the available opportunities to climb all around. We reached the peaks all around us on Sundays. There were two peaks that I remember well.
     A favorite place was Jinfeng Temple (Golden Phoenix Temple) and the tomb of a high-yee Que. Jinfeng Temple was built in early Tang Dynasty; reconstructed and expanded in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, when Han and Tibetan ethnic groups lived in harmony. The High Dy tomb was built in the Eastern Han (209AD). The tomb preserved the most complete Que’s finest treasures. There we saw a crematorium with a very high stone chimney. People used to think that they could reach the sky and join the gods or goddesses after life. Even though it was abandoned for a long time, we could still see remnants of bones that remained.
     The other one was State Forest Park. Duke Zhou Mountain (周公) was another favorite place for us to climb. Our college was at the foot of the hill. On the top, there are Duke of Zhou temple sites, Han Chi rainmakers, and the Ming and Qing Stone Temple. Only stones remained today.
    We said, “Good morning” every day when we got up to do our morning exercises facing Mt. Zhou Go. There was a famous river called “Zhou Go River.” In the river there was a fish that was very famous around the country, called “Ya Fish.” This type of fish lived in a dark cave in the river for a long time before it appeared in the open river. They had fewer predators this way and had evolved with fewer bones. The meat was so delicious that rumor had it that Chairman Mao and his wife used airplanes to transport this type of fish to Beijing.
    To climb to the top of this mountain, we had to pass several rope bridges on which boys liked to play tricks on the girls who were afraid of the bridges. I have to admit that in my heart it was scary. I was amazed at the local people who would ride a bicycle across the bridge while the bridge was swinging. I kept thinking “what if…” when I looked down and saw the rapidly running water.
Since this mountain was close to the city, people with lots of crops occupied most of the mountain. Only the harsh upper part of the mountain was without trails. It was either dense with small bamboo or thorny rose bushes.
     We had more than enough berries to eat so that everyone’s mouths became black or purple. Going through the brush was so difficult that we had to crawl at ground level, up one after the other. The first person would open a hole, and the rest would crawl through. Finally, we reached the top. The top was so small so that the 15 of us had hardly enough space to stretch. One amazing thing was the stone structures that had been built up there and since fallen. The stones were cut into big 12-foot long blocks. I don’t know what the early people would want to build in this little space or how they carried these huge blocks of stone block up there. On the peak, there was only enough room for two dozen of us standing very close. We used to scream from our lungs after when climbed to the top, then took turns to sing as loud as we could as if we wanted the world to know that we were at the top. It was such a good feeling. On the foothill, there was Zhou River, part of the Ming River branch. It ran underground in the cave from where Ya-fish, a famous local fish, came. 

"There is a beautiful place"(有一个美丽的地方)from Chinese Tai in Yunan (my neighbor province). I was the director for the dance which was similiar to this video and won the college first prize. 

20150319 地理中国 探秘雨城

Giant Panda
Wood Supply to Forbidden City
Yao Ji (Jai Rong Tibetans, see how they make yarns)
Tea Horse Route