Early in the fall, China celebrates its independence with a week of festivities. Sichuan Normal University cancels classes for a week, while many Chinese visit family and friends. In Chengdu, a spectacular fireworks celebration captures the skyline at night, as do fireworks around the country. The Chinese are known for fireworks, having invented gunpowder around 1000 A.D., nearly 500 years before Europe.
A traditional Chinese board game that looks similar to dominos for Westerners, Ma jong can be found frequently anywhere one travels in China. Shortly after arriving in Chengdu, Chinese friends will want to know if you’ve ever played. The game is fairly simple, but the strategies are harder to grasp. After playing a few games and learning to recognize the characters on the bamboo pieces, you will feel a closer connection to your host country.
Known as “Hot Pot” in English, this is the most popular meal in Sichuan Province, a region touted for its spicy food. Your friends will frequently invite you to dine with them for Huo guo. Together, you sit around a table that contains a large pot of boiling broth. Large buffet lines offer an array of vegetables and meats, from which you choose what you wish to cook in the broth. Pull your cooked food from the broth and dip into a spicy sauce and eat. While tasty, the spice can sometimes be powerful.
A defensive martial art, Tai Ji requires disciplined meditation and daily concentration in learning a series of moves. As part of the afternoon seminars, you will learn some of the basics, which prove to be a fascinating exercise in patience and repetition.