Learning Mandarin in Kunming China – Rachel’s story [2]

Posted by Grace Feng on June 16, 2014

This article is recommended by?Keats School?in Kunming. It’s written by Rachel Shaw, a lady who is studying Chinese in the school. She was very excited to have her family to visit her there in Kunming from UK. The places she and her family went after their reunion in Kunming reminds me of my good old memories. That is exactly the place where I grew up. Thanks Rachel for your beautiful article and pictures!


Biography of the author:

My name is Rachel Shaw. I’m from the UK and I learn Chinese in China at Keats School. ?


Culture Show

On the night before my parents left Kunming, we went out to a show performed regularly at Kunming’s art theatre. The show is called, “Dynamic Yunnan”, while the title may not seem all that inspiring, and despite the English language leaflet listing rather bluntly all the awards the show has won, this performance was genuinely exceptional. The word ‘dynamic’ was evidently chosen in order to give attention to the fact that the show is a showcase for Yunnan’s ethnically diverse population and customs of these ethnic groups.

For somebody like me, the performances were all stunning due to of their extreme newness. I have never experienced real traditional tribal drumming, and it really is more impressive than my words on this page convey. One of my favourite performances was the Moon Dance, performed by one of the lead Dai dancers. This is the one whose silhouette graces the show’s pamphlet. This dance was mesmerising. I hate to lower the tone by the following comparison, but the willowy figure undulating ever so gently, was evocative of the animated Disney films where they have silhouetted cartoons growing impossibly big and then small, making incredible curves and impossible angles.

While most were serious or simply interesting in nature, one performance was very humorous. It depicted the traditional dances that are used to attract or possibly bind a man and woman together. It centred around one couple, dancing a tango of sorts that ended in the man ‘triumphing’ over the woman. This man then has to carry this woman in his arms, back to, I suppose, his home. At the end of his conquest however, the man is exhausted, struggling pitifully to half-carry, half-drag her across the stage. A few paces away from stage left, he collapses on the floor. The woman comes to life and starts angrily yelling and gesticulating at him, hands-on-hips, woman-wronged style. She pauses for breath, then bends down, putting her arms under his knees and armpits, heaves him up to her chest, strides boldly off-stage.

The intelligent use of lighting, music and choreography all combine to give an incredible show. It really was fantastic, more than worthy of the national prizes and acclamations.


Xishan and a Traditional Chinese Welcome

My favourite day was the day we went to Xishan (Western Hills) and then afterwards had a real Chinese banquet at our house, hosted by my landlord-flatmates. Xishan was breathtaking. It was rather cloudy on this day, but it simply added to the sensation that we were above the clouds on some kind of ethereal or spiritual summit. We started at the north entrance and walked what felt like miles through rocky, woody greenery. I must admit that the journey we took to get to Xishan was a bit of a trek, taking the 66 from Xiaoximen, then the 6 and finally getting a private taxi from a local (one of the many who try to rush you as you dismount the bus). It was however quite a pleasant walk, reminding me of my childhood trips to Ashdown Forest (Winnie-the-Pooh) at home.

Learning Mandarin in Kunming China – Rachel’s story [2]When we eventually reached the Dragon Gate, we discovered that it was the entrance to what was actually the main event, namely a string of ancient temples and pagodas.

For your education, below is a story that relates to one of the temples we saw:

As I walked down, underground, through one of the mountains, I was taken by the novel and natural feeling of it. On the way back we walked the length of just under a mile, while a shuttle service (¥8 per person) ran back and forth. Then we got the coach stop and took this coach back to the number six bus stop.

The evening after this outing was hosted by my landlords-cum-roommates. They had prepared a welcome dinner in honour of my parents. Also invited were a few friends, most of whom I had previously met and gone out with. The most charismatic of these was Aofu, my flatmate’s boss, entertaining us either with bold philosophical musings or halting but firm forays into the English language. And not forgetting the exulting eulogy of David Beckham.


Learning Mandarin in Kunming China – Rachel’s story [2]The food was delicious. We had been treated to the very best of Hunan and Yunnan cuisine. Among the tofu, chilli crab, purple-coloured baozi, shredded huagua, marinated pork chops and a lot more, we also had the opportunity to sample zongzi. As it was only four days before Dragon Boat Festival (a major festival in China), it was considered apt that we try this national delicacy that is traditionally eaten on this day. Zongzi are sticky rice dumplings. They are irregular pyramids of glutinous rice with various fillings ranging from duck egg to jujube. They come wrapped in a bamboo leaves, which lend them a rather pleasing appearance.

Learning Mandarin in Kunming China – Rachel’s story [2]This evening amongst my family and Chinese friends was really and truly one of the best dinners I have had in my life. I cannot say more how much I will miss the friends I have made here; when I go back home and see my family and English friends, I will possibly cry again, but these may be tinged with sadness for what I shall leave behind.







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