China through the eyes of the CAMP team

China is so large and diverse that even foreigners who spent considerable amounts of time in the country might have very different experiences or images in mind when they talk about 'China'. To better understand where the CAMP team was at, we asked each other this simple question: what is your favourite place in China? The result is a wonderful kaleidoscope of impressions, reflecting China's own diversity.

 

Andrea: Shangri-La (Yunnan)

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My favourite place in China, hands down, is Shangri-la in Yunnan Province. I spent a year living there in 2009-2010 working for the Eastern Tibet Training Institute but my favourite thing about it was the scenery, the hiking, the food and the people. You might not think at 4000m that the food would be great, but it really was. I ate yak curries and would walk my friends dog up into the mountains of an afternoon. It was sheer heaven. 

Yan: Quanzhou (Fujian)

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Coming from the old cultural capital Xi'an, I have been growing up in the heritage and breathing history. Outside China, Kyoto is the city of my heart. In China, Quanzhou is the one, the starting point of the "silk road on sea".

I have been Quanzhou once, pretty much as a passer-by. We arrived in the night and stayed in a hotel in the city center. Next morning I was woken up by music and laughters, I looked outside the hotel room window and saw thousands of women, men and children doing their morning exercises in the square outside: Hundreds of children and teenagers are demonstrating their South Shaolin martial arts with their masters. There were elderlies here and there under the banyan trees practicing Taichi, stretching or playing chess. In the evening, we walked through the square to the old town, there were people everywhere, performing Nanyin opera's on the street, dancing, practicing Gongfu. I am amazed by the liveliness and authenticity of a city as such.  

Vivien: Beijing (Beijing) DSC04586.JPG

I love Beijing! I lived there for a year studying at Beijing Normal University. While the pace of change is rapid in China, Beijing still to me encompasses both old and new. On the main streets you can find the hustle and bustle of modern life, and in the hutongs a lovely kind of quiet because they mostly accomodate foot traffic and where you can imagine what it was like hundreds of years ago.

 

Rachel: Baoshan stone village (Yunnan) 

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Baoshan Stone Village in Yunnan province, the starting point of a 120km hike between there and Lugu Lake.  A breathtaking 800 year old walled village built on top of a cliff in the middle of an enormous valley through which the Yangtze River flows.  Beautiful, red/orange stone, beautiful people of the Naxi ethnic minority. 

 

Julien: Harbin (Heilongjiang)

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I spent six months at Nanjing university, and developed a strong emotional connection with the whole Jiangnan region - Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuxi, Yangzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou... but another chinese City holds a special place in my heart.

In 2008, I migrated overland from Paris to Australia, and for my first encounter with China, I stepped off the Transsiberian at Harbin. I was expecting a radical culture shock, yet found the place oddly familiar. The combination of Chinese characters and European architecture in the 'little Paris of the East' is certainly something that touches me. But more deeply, the boisterousness of Dongbei culture, people shouting at each other across the road, waving their arms around, and the general human warmth and loud hospitality, brought back memories of my own Mediterranean background, and made me feel right at home. Then I discovered Dongbei food, bit into a roasted pork knuckle, and my love for Harbin crystallised.

 

John-Paul: Kashgar (Xinjiang)

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My favourite place in China is the westernmost city of Kashgar,  an oasis town and important trading post on the ancient silk road. It was a great base from which to travel the Karokaram highway and nearby border towns in the Pamir ranges.

Travelling there was like stepping back in time by hundreds of years, like I was on the set of some biblical trilogy.   Spending time in the old town and making friends with Kashgar's majority  ethnic minoity Uighurs, who dance and sing at every opportunity taught me a lot about how to celebrate life.  The difference in culture and perspectives amongst the different minorities there, the Uighurs, Tajiks and Kygryz to name a few is a testament to the rich diversity of China's ethnic makeup, but at the same time a stark reminder of some of the pressing social challenges that are central to modern day China.

 

Aimee: Fuzhou (Fujian) 

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FuZhou, the Provincial Capital of FuJian is my hometown where I spent the first 11 years of my life. My attachments to this city began in my grandmothers courtyard house where I grew up and the city till today is filled with fig trees meandering around the Min river. It is no wonder Fuzhou has the 3rd best air quality out of all the cities in China. 2000 years ago it was a fishing village surrounded by mountains on all three sides, thus its name- the city of luck! It is the provence of China with olive and tea plantations a plenty in nearby village. Fuzhou is close to heart because the essence of the city is centred around a culture of balance infused by tea, it moves slower and its fuzhou people hold these traditions in their daily lives. 

 

Lucy: Shanghai (Shanghai)

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Shanghai! It's air is a little cleaner than Beijing and it's more modern and up-and-coming than Yunnan province. I have a scholarship to go and study there in September! I'm so excited!