China 2012

Website for the PDS trip to China!

June 21, 2012
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Caves and Camels

Today we spent our final morning in Xi’an. We said goodbye to our talkative tour guide, Helen, and made it to the airport with just enough time to grab some Burger King and board the plane. We landed in Dunhuang about two hours later and were relieved to be in the desert. After being in two cities, it was refreshing to see the sand dunes and mountains in the distance that were not hidden behind any smog. Our new tour guide, Larry, was excited to usher us to the bus so that we could begin our journey to the Mogao Caves. At the caves, we were able to see various pieces of art from different dynasties and periods of history. We also learned that Buddhism was heavily influenced by Indian culture. Inside the caves there were many different Buddhist statues, paintings and scripts, the most exciting of which included the second and third largest statues of Buddha in China and the famous sleeping Buddha statue.

Mogao Caves

 Next we made our way to dinner, where we enjoyed a typical Chinese supper. We ate quickly because we were anxious to get to our next destination, the sand dunes.  We had been hearing about riding in the camels on the sand dunes from Mr. Freedholm. Before riding the camels, we took a short ride to see a beautiful oasis right before sunset. Thirty years ago, the oasis was five meters deep but sadly it is only one meter deep today. Next, we were divided into groups of five and we each mounted our own camels (which we tried to name). Some camels were more rowdy than others; Zeeza’s even wore a muzzle, because it was “young and liked to cry”. Amanda’s was very old and she doubted its ability to climb the dune at some points. Regardless, our fears disappeared once we were able to see the sunset from the top of the dunes.

A few of us decided to sled down a smaller dune in wooden sleds, which was also fun. At the bottom of the sledding dune, we hopped back on our camels and returned back to the bus. Five minutes later we finally arrived at our beautiful and large hotel, The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel. From the outside it looks like a Chinese castle, and inside there are many different corridors and Buddhist decorations that give the hotel a rustic feel.

We are extremely exhausted, but today was definitely a highlight of the trip so far. We are excited to see more of Dunhuang tomorrow!


-Zeeza and Amanda

June 21, 2012
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We are in Dunhuang!

We made it to Dunhuang this afternoon, safe and sound. We immediately went to the Mogao caves, had dinner, and then did an epic camel ride in the desert. We checked in to our hotel well after 10 pm. So, more info and pictures will follow later. Everyone’s tired and off to bed.

June 20, 2012
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Famen and Beyond

All are well, present, and intact. Today, we visited the Famen Temple, which was an hour ride from Xi’an. The temple is best known for its possession of a part of the Buddha’s finger bone, a holy relic which has become an object of pilgrimage for Buddhists globally.  The temple also houses a collection of treasures from the Tang Dynasty, which were buried underneath the temple for centuries and recently discovered in the late 1980s. The Tang treasures and the Buddha’s finger bone had been buried at the end of the Tang Dynasty when dissolution and upheaval appeared imminent in an attempt to preserve the treasures of China’s golden age. We wandered the temple’s grounds, exploring both the outside and visiting the indoor museums housing the unearthed objects.

After a vegetarian lunch within the temple compound, we boarded the bus and made our way to the Tomb of the Qianlong Emperors. The tomb contains the bodies of the final emperor and empress of the Tang Dynasty.  The property in its entirety spans not only the tomb itself but much of the surrounding countryside and contains great deal of Tang Dynasty sculpture. Once we returned to the city, we had a hot-pot dinner. Hot-pot is a common Eastern Asian dish which consists of a large bowl of boiling stock (everyone either has their own or there is a communal pot) and meat, vegetables, noodles, or dumplings are cooked in the pot at the table. Condiments are then put into a personal bowl and the soup and cooked food are mixed into the seasoning. Tomorrow, we depart from Xi’an to fly to Dunhuang. We’ve all had a great time in Xi’an and are excited for what is to come.

-Kiley and Caroline

P.S. Hi Mom, Dad, Sarah, Joe, and Suzie! -Caroline

P.P.S- Mother, my luggage broke. We are never buying suitcases there again. I had to haggle to buy a new suitcase and then proceeded to carry it through the streets of Xi’an. Everyone here knows me as the ‘White Suit Case Girl’.  Also, I have way too much peanut butter. I know I only have one jar, but still.



June 19, 2012
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Great Mosque

After an unforgettable viewing of the Terracotta Warriors, our PDS group toured the Great Mosque near the center of Xian. Traditional chinese structures made up this incredible building with red, green, blue, and gold accents. The photo students came across a pair of willing models: a woman and her adorable child. However, soon a group of us were also dubbed as models, since tourists tend to attract a lot of attention, even in a tranquil mosque. This improvised photo shoot ended with smiles, laughs, and Mrs.H sharing her photographs with the locals. – Susanne

June 19, 2012
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Terracotta Warriors!

Along with the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors are one of the most famous landmarks in China’s history, so it was absolutely amazing to see them in person! The entire tomb they were buried in was huge and though a lot of warriors had been destroyed or cracked from age, each one still had so much detail. All of the warriors were unique and there were an incredible amount of them and their horses. It was amazing to see just how massive the project was to create the warriors and to learn about why they were sculpted. Then after hearing the story of how the warriors were discovered we actually got to shake hands with the man who uncovered them on his farm!

Later on we went to a Muslim mosque and it was incredibly beautiful inside. All of the carvings on the wood and stone throughout the mosque were so intricate and lovely, though I was wearing a tank top so when I entered they gave me a scarf to cover my shoulders. Also it was really cool to see the prayer hall even though we couldn’t go inside it. We went shopping outside the mosque afterwards, though bartering was a little difficult because shop owners there were pretty stubborn. Over all today was awesome! – Mackenzie