Eunoia GO – A documentation of the 2018 BSP Chongqing-Chengdu immersion trip
Led by 4 teachers, 35 Eunoians in the Bicultural Studies Programme (BSP) embarked on a 12-day immersion programme to Chongqing, China on 24th November 2018. This immersion programme is an enriching one, comprising enterprise visits, interactions with locals in schools and communities, city explorations and many learning opportunities. By having first-hand experiences of local life, we had a more comprehensive understanding of the local customs in China.
Day 1: Beginning of a wonderful journey
After a 5 hour flight, we finally arrived at Chongqing. Filled with anticipation and curiosity, everyone was excited as we headed to our first attraction – Chongqing Hongya Cave. As we departed from the airport, we saw the bustling nightlife and beautiful city lights of Chongqing from the windows of the bus. I was mesmerised by the numerous high-rise buildings and bridges that were well-lit by neon lights. The traditional Ba-yu architecture of the Hongya Cave caught our attention too. It is said that this is one of the places that the anime Spirited Away took inspiration from. I immersed myself in the lively atmosphere, surrounded by people everywhere; we could also see a whole variety of stalls on the streets, stall owners selling local specialties and mala skewers, “spicing up” our first impressions of Chongqing as we concluded our first day.
Day 2: Dazu Rock Carvings
We visited Dazu Rock Carvings– which is categorised as an AAAAA-level tourist attraction– and admired the spectacular Buddhist culture of the Song Dynasty. As we listened to the guide’s explanation, we realised that this attraction was truly fascinating: every Buddha sculpture was extremely detailed. We were impressed by the effort put in by those who managed to carefully carve these sculptures 800 years ago. What shocked us more was that when placed together in a gallery style, the sculptures of Dazu Rock Carvings told a full story, which displayed the faith people had towards their religion. From the story, we also learnt the importance of filial piety, and to always be thankful for what we have.
Day 3: The charm of Chongqing
After breakfast, we got to experience the transport system in Chongqing by taking the Chongqing Rail Transit to the well-known Liziba Station where the trains travel right through a housing block. Although we have seen such videos online before, being able to witness it in real life was a totally different experience. Chongqing is located in an area with many mountain ranges, making it a challenge to construct a developed rail transit system. Liziba Station is proof of the great planning and wisdom behind Chongqing’s rail transit system– one that is worth learning from！
In the afternoon, we paid a visit to Raffles City Chongqing in Chaotianmen (built and run by CapitaLand), where the person-in-charge introduced the features and meaning behind this project to us. Chaotianmen square was once a port used to welcome imperial edicts, hence carried great historical importance, and it is now located in a prime area in today’s Chongqing. The fact that this location is being used for the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, a priority demonstration project between China and Singapore, demonstrates the close ties between the two countries. We then proceeded to Changan Automobile Factory (one of China’s state-owned enterprises), and observed how the factory manufactured cars, as well as learnt more about state-owned enterprises. As dusk fell, we visited BreadTalk at Chongqing’s Shin Kong Place, and immediately felt closer to home at the sight of a familiar Singapore brand. The wide variety of bread and pastries had us uncontrollably buying a few to taste –and they were delicious, even though many of the bread sold in Chongqing were different from the ones in Singapore. The bakery had found ingenious ways to integrate Chongqing’s food cultures into the bread, creating interesting and unique local flavors.
Chongqing No.8 Middle School has a history of 80 years, and is a very well-known school in Chongqing. We were given a guided tour of the school’s newest campus, the Yubei campus, by enthusiastic teachers and students. One could really tell China’s emphasis on education and their efforts towards grooming the students. During our tour in Chongqing No.8 Middle School’s archives, the teacher placed great emphasis on the school motto “Nurturing talents”. This showed how much the school valued the students’ conduct and behaviour, and I believe that their achievements today must be closely related to the way they firmly enforce their founder’s ideals.
Chongqing No.8 Middle School arranged enriching lessons for us, ranging from a fun Wushu lesson to a tie-dye workshop where we handmade our own tie-dye products. We also participated in the community service activities, where we visited a nearby old-folks home with the students of Chongqing No.8 Middle School. Each of our groups prepared a performance item for this visit to show our spirit of giving back to society. The elderlys there were really friendly, and were excited to know that we were students from overseas. They were more than willing to share their experiences with us. This was the first time we did volunteer work overseas, and even though our interaction with them lasted for only a few short hours, it was really an unforgettable experience.
Day 5: Goodbye Chongqing
The visit to the Three Gorges Museum allowed me to understand the historical landscape of the Three Gorges and the importance of Yangtze toward Chongqing’s development. Chongqing was the temporary capital of China during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and it became an important anti-fascist city. Chongqing’s geographical location also brought about development in the city during post-war times, causing it to be one of the major cities in China today.
Thereafter, we visited Zhou Jun Ji, a private enterprise in China famous for its steamboat seasoning. We learnt more about their manufacturing process and bought some of their products afterwards. Through this visit, we also learnt about the challenges these private enterprises face and their respective development in China.
In the evening, we concluded our time in Chongqing and boarded the high-speed rail to Chengdu. The rapid advancement of the high-speed rail and its well-developed system has brought great convenience to the people and allowed China’s economy to flourish as it links up the various major cities in China. We spent the first night in Chengdu in a communist-themed hotel, which was designed based on the Mao Zedong era. As the hotel was located on the outskirts of Chengdu, the lack of facilities affected our quality of rest, but I guess this was a rare opportunity for us to experience a different kind of lodging.
Day 6: Travelling across China
Early in the morning, we first visited Liu’s Manor and Anren Town. Through these historical buildings, we learnt about life back in the olden days and the cultural history behind them. Afterwards, we visited the Jianchuan Museum Cluster where we visited museums with different themes. For example, we learnt about the days when the Nationalist Party and Communist Party battled against Japan together, the hardships they went through as they worked together and the times when they fought against each other. Each museum allowed us to gain new insights of the history of different periods in China’s modern times.
Day 7: Singaporeans in Chengdu
We were very fortunate to have a chance to visit the Consulate General of the Republic of Singapore in Chengdu and learn from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officers. They shared about the future development and opportunities in China’s West region and also the collaboration between Singapore and China. The experiences they shared about their work as MFA officers greatly benefited everyone.
Following up, we also visited Raffles’ City under Chengdu’s CapitaLand. We received a very warm welcome from the project manager as he brought us around and introduced to us the way of management and their ideals. He also shared about the knowledge he has gained in China. Afterwards, we had dinner with fellow Singaporeans who were either working or starting a business in Chengdu. They shared about their life in China and work experiences, giving us lots of advice and allowing us to understand the development of China from different points of views.
Day 8: Exploring the city map
We finally had the long-awaited city exploration activity! We needed to explore the local way of living in groups in the form of group competition. I found this learning experience especially interesting as it allowed us to thoroughly explore the city and understand how life there was really like. We had many opportunities to interact with the locals to learn more about Chengdu culture from their perspectives as we moved through the city to complete our tasks. During the exploration, each group tried their best in order to win and the competitiveness made the entire process exciting and fun. It was definitely a memorable learning experience.
Day 9: Crossing mountains and rivers
Our stamina was really put to test on this day of climbing and trekking, but everyone still had a blast! We first visited the majestic looking Dujiangyan Irrigation System, understanding its importance to the entire Chengdu’s irrigation system. The knowledge and wisdom of people from thousands of years ago was truly remarkable.
We also went to Mount Qingcheng to learn about its history and religious cultural value. Mount Qingcheng is one of Chinese Taoism’s places of origin and this famous Taoism mountain is said to be highly valued by all dynasties. It was a pity that it drizzled that day. Even though everyone persevered through and climbed to the top of the mountain, it left some regrets in us as we were unable to fully admire the scenery and pay tribute to Taoist deities. But this was made up by the Sichuan Opera show later that night, which was simply incredible! Enjoying and appreciating all the talented performances with the locals allowed us to experience how life is like living in Sichuan.
Day 10: National Treasure
We definitely cannot miss visiting pandas when we visit Chengdu, which is the home of this “national treasure” of China! Our anticipation grew as we approached this day listed on our itinerary, and we were bursting with excitement when we finally saw those cute pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Pandas. After watching the way the cute pandas laze around, everyone could not help but fall in love with them. All of us had a blast there!
Moving on, we paid a visit to ByteDance, the company that founded TopBuzz and TikTok. We learnt about the strategies they use to develop different applications and also the development of digital media in China. I found out that many China corporates are now focusing on their development in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and that innovation and continuous research in the age of digital media will be the new main driving force for China’s future development. This is definitely worth our attention and we can learn more about it.
Day 11: School Exchange
On our second last day of the trip, we went to Chengdu’s LongQuan No. 2 Middle School and interacted with their teachers and students. Once we stepped into the campus ground, we immediately felt the warm welcome extended by the school members. Afterwards, we joined the students in paper cutting class and martial arts class. We joined the school’s international class students, who were studying one foreign language (Korean, Russian, Italian and French), along with the two languages they are already learning in school – Chinese and English. They were all trilingual, and we were extremely impressed! LongQuan No. 2 Middle School is an arts and sports school, hence students were given many opportunities to develop in their co-curricular activities. The students were all talented, passionate and proactive, and we befriended one another in no time at all!
In the afternoon, we went to Chengdu’s University of Electronic Science and Technology and visited their museum, innovation centre and library, where there was a virtual reality (VR) gaming area. The library used a face identification system that was used in China’s skynet programme to grant entry to visitors. After learning more about it, we realised that China is already very developed in the technology of scientific face identification. This allowed us to have a much better understanding about China’s development in areas of electronic science and AI.
Day 12: Farewell
On the last day of our trip, we visited Wuhou Temple and Jinli Street to learn about the historical importance of Chengdu in the Capital of Shu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms period. Wuhou Temple was built to commemorate the bright and intelligent Zhu Ge Liang. We also went to the Thatched Cottage of Du Fu, immersing ourselves in the local cultural atmosphere and also its local flavour. Ms Lan, our tour guide, explained about spring festival couplets to let us understand more in-depth about the ancient purpose from those Chinese words.
It seemed only befitting that it started to drizzle on our final day in China; gusts of wind blew past and autumn leaves scattered on the ground. Everyone was busy taking pictures and doing some last minute shopping. Even though we were filled with reluctance to leave, we still felt immensely blessed to have had this rare opportunity of participating in our last bicultural overseas trip. Over the past 12 days, we gained much more knowledge about China’s development in different areas, as well as formed new perspectives on the Singaporean culture and what it means to be Singaporean. Thank you to the 4 teachers for taking care of us, helping us to plan our schedule, preparing information and leading our daily reflection activity. I am grateful for everyone’s participation and forming wonderful memories together!
Translated by Lee Hui En 李卉蒽 (20-I4)
and Quek Zhi Jun 郭芷君 (20-A6)
经过五个小时的飞行之后，我们的飞机终于到达重庆，带着期待与好奇，大家兴奋地踏上了旅程的第一个景点 —— 洪崖洞。从机场到洪崖洞，我们在巴士上看到了重庆市繁华、绚丽的夜景：随处可见的高楼大厦和跨越两江的一座座大桥被霓虹灯装饰得梦幻无比，令我感到十分震撼。而洪崖洞独特的巴渝传统建筑特色外观也十分迷人，这里据说也是日本动漫千与千寻的取景地之一。而置身其中，你会发现四周人山人海，热闹极了，而且到处都能见到不同的摊位正在摆卖重庆土产和道地的麻辣串，就这样我们在扑面而来的重庆味道中，度过了我们这次旅行的第一个夜晚。