Wednesday, November 24, 2010

China Day 6: Yuelu Academy

Today we toured the Yuelu Academy. Although I really was listening to the guide, I was also monitoring my four year old child so that she did not destroy 1,000 years of history while my back was turned. Hence, I did not get as much information as I would have liked. Thank goodness for Google. By the magic of the internet, I was able to find a little more background about the Academy. I could paraphrase the article that I read, but it is so much easier to just plagiarize…so here’s the low down:

As one of the four most prestigious academies over the last 1000 years in China, Yuelu Academy has been a famous institution of higher learning as well as a centre of academic activities and cultures since it was formally set up in 976 (the Nothern Song Dynaasty). It was operated by monks in its earlier period. In 976 AD, Zhu Dong, a prefect of Tanzhou(ancient name of Changsha), took over the administrative power and handed it to the Confucian scholars. Henceforth, for more than one thousand years, Yuelu Academy has been a divine spot for Confucianism education and a center of culture and literature.The Academy, which has survived the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, was converted into Hunan Institute of Higher Learning in 1903. It was later renamed Hunan Normal College, Hunan Public Polytechnic School, and finally Hunan University  in 1926.

This really was a fascinating place, so full of history. It makes you feel like America  is just in its infancy. I mean I was walking through an Academy that was established over 1,000 years ago. Take another look at the zeros in that number, my friends…one thousand years ago.

Our second stop was an embroidery factory. This is not your grandmother’s embroidery. Many pieces in the factory took years to create. They are embroidered with silk that is ¼ the thickness of human hair. Layer upon layer of stitches combine to create what looks like a painting or photograph. Only upon close inspection can you see the perfect, tiny, hand-crafted stitches. So very beautiful. I am always amazed at the precision and attention to the minutest detail that the Chinese put into their craft.

Of course I did purchase a silk embroidery. Did you have any doubt?  However, it was not any of the ones pictured below. Mine was just a tad less detailed and just a wee bit less expensive than the masterpieces I photographed.

And finally on the food front, dinner tonight was amazing. It took longer that it should have (of course) to order. I mean how tough could it be. We were pointing at pictures and waving yuan around. It should be obvious to anyone that we wanted to purchase food. But it still took half of the wait staff to figure things out. Lots of whispering and running back and forth.

In the end, we were brought what we wanted, sort of. We got pepper beef and steamed dumplings. For our final dish, we thought we were ordering noodles. What we ended up with was a dish of finely sliced and sautéed bamboo shoots with vegetables. Wow, was it delish. Way better than noodles. Aaaah, just another day in Changsha.

Luke and Molly planning our tour of the Yuelu Academy.IMG_4469

Love this picture. Look beyond the gates for even more amazing architecture.IMG_4475

Molly welcoming us into the Academy.IMG_4474

Gratuitous cute shot of the kids.IMG_4479

These engravings are over 1,000 years old. Wow!IMG_4490

China splendor.IMG_4495

Even more splendor. There is so much detail involved in everything in China.IMG_4496

Photographic proof that I was on the tour.IMG_4498

Luke and Molly were most impressed with the fish.IMG_4502

Another picture that begs you to look beyond the path.IMG_4506

Peaceful and serene.IMG_4504

Rooftop detail.IMG_4516

More China cuteness.IMG_4515

Look! George W in China. Apparently this embroidery factory was commissioned to do a portrait of the first family.IMG_4517

These are embroideries, my friends.IMG_4521

Simply breathtaking.IMG_4523

Late night hijinks.IMG_3849

Time for a swim (swimming cap NOT optional).IMG_3852

Molly in her element.IMG_3855

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