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Field Trips & Independent Travel


Regular local and extended field trips are an integral part of the experiential education offered at the China Center and are considered an important component of the Area Studies courses. Extended field trips usually take no less than three days and complement several courses. Local day trips allow students to visit local communities, villages, organizations, and historic heritage sites to survey the local cultural and socio-economic contexts.

The following are some examples of extended field trips:


Students will have the opportunity to visit the capital of China in early November of fall semester for a period of seven to ten days. In Beijing students will visit the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven; in addition they may visit the Daoist White Cloud Abbey, the early seventeenth-century tomb of Italian Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci, and the Dongyue Temple, with its ghastly dioramas of hell. Students may also have the opportunity to candidly discuss flashpoints in Sino- American relations, including trade imbalance with the United States and tensions across the straights with Taiwan, with the Chinese government's top political strategists, and with the Chinese central intelligence agency. Students may meet with representatives of the U.S. Department of State to learn about bilateral relations from the government's perspective, so that students can compare different political views on these important contemporary problems that threaten regional and global security. Students may also get a chance to screen movies with the underground film director, Wang Chao, and tour urban artist communities. They will also hike along wild sections of the Great Wall.


Students will have the opportunity to visit this exciting and dynamic cosmopolitan city to view the colonial architecture in the Bund, the Shanghai Museum, and People's Square and to see a contemporary play and Shanghai jazz performance. An aerial panoramic view of this quickly developing city will also be taken in from atop the Jin Mao Tower. Students will also have the opportunity to enjoy the city's rightly famous shopping and nightlife.


Soon after the students arrive for the spring semester, there will be an opportunity to participate in a trip to the southwestern Yunnan province as part of the Area Studies course on Chinese ethnic minorities. Yunnan is home to over half of the ethnic minorities in China, so it stands out as a colorful and diverse place in comparison to coastal China. Students may spend almost two weeks visiting and traveling around the Tibetan highlands in northern Yunnan all the way down to the tropical Thai areas on the southern tip that border Myanmar (Burma). Homestays in the historic and beautiful old-town of Lijiang of the Naxi people in northern Yunnan and with the Thai people in the south may be organized for the students and often prove to be an incredibly fruitful language learning and cross-cultural experience. In addition, students may have the opportunity to experience the sacredness of a Tibetan monastery in Shangrila as well as meet with experts on local religious traditions. A meeting with a local environmental NGO and a visit to a magnificent mountain lake may also give students another perspective on the vast changes being caused by development and tourism. Finally, in the capital of Kunming, the students may have a chance to experience this city of “eternal spring” and make critical observations on the representation and identity of ethnic minorities in sites such as ethnic theme parks.


In the spring semester, during the traditional Chinese Qingming Festival holiday, students will hike along the Ancient Hui-hang Caravan Trail. Called Hui Hang Gu Dao in Chinese, Hui-hang Caravan Trail used to be a trade route connecting Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province and Jixi, Anhui Province. The tea, silk, nuts and other important goods were exchanged and transported between the two bordering provinces through this trail since Tang Dynasty (A.D. 700). This field trip is more than just an intensive outdoor exercise. During the trip, students will visit two historic towns, meet with local communities, accomplish a 21 kilometer trek up a mountain and through the forest, and camp on the top of the mountain. Students will be exposed to the regional history and the differences in culture, architecture, and traditional clothing between the two provinces.


Students with sufficient preparation may design one or two independent study projects (ISP) guided by their faculty advisors and/or field advisors. In consultation with the advisor and field advisor (if one is assigned) students will create a proposal as part of their learning plan that will include specific learning goals, methods to be undertaken, reading and written assignments, places (if any) to be visited and a timeline for completing the study. The proposals must be consistent with the student‘s abilities (language, methodological etc.) as determined by the advisor in consultation with the student. With permission from their faculty advisors, students can plan the independent travels necessary to conduct their studies.

Students have conducted a wide range of ISP projects in recent semesters, including studies in the following subjects:

Religion: Tibetan Buddhist New Year Rituals in Amdo
Philosophy: The Philosophy of Laozi
Social Science: Development of Civil Society Organization in Mainland China; Corporate Social Responsibilities
Ecology & Development: Tourism and the Yunnan’s Nujiang River Valley; Environmental Policy in China; Tea Culture; Bamboo Culture
Medicine: Traditional Chinese Massage and Acupuncture Techniques;
Literature: The Chinese Writer as Social Activist
Art: Chinese Calligraphy; Daoist Elements in Chinese Painting; Chinese Woodblock Water Printing
Women Studies: Contemporary Chinese Women Writers
Ethnomusicology: A Comparative Study of Western Traditional and Chinese Ethnic Musical Forms
Politics: The Personality Cult of Mao Zedong; Policies of Liberation between 1949 and the Present; Afro-Sino Relationship
History: History of the Cultural Revolution
Education: Cross cultural Linguistic Learning;
Martial Arts: Wushu, Qigong and Taiji Traditions of Martial Arts