Chinese Gardens and 白酒

This Tuesday, we spent our afternoon and evening in a very different way than usual. We were informed to meet our professor for our “Globalization of China” course at the gate of the university, because we were to see a traditional Chinese garden for class. Upon arriving at an apartment complex, the professor told us that we were about to meet one of the most famous garden designers in the country. We went up the elevator onto the floor that the designer owns. He owns the entire floor of the building. When we walked in, we saw a low-standing table, long enough to seat at least 10 people. We were told by our professor that we were going to be making our own Chinese garden under the tutelage of the master designer. Then, we entered what seemed to be a study or personal library to meet the designer. He was of average height, and sported a small beard. He did not speak English, and the professor interpreted for him. We were informed that we were going to take part in a traditional Chinese tea ceremony at that very minute. The designer lit incense and prepared the tea. The tea was perfect. It has a very mild taste and as the professor said, was only used on very special occasions. We then were shown an ancient Chinese instrument, which appeared to be a flat-lying guitar. The designer played several songs with it and then invited each of us to play it a little. We did, and then he showed us his ancient sword collection. The designer is also an accomplished master of kung fu. He proceeded to explain that he was also trained in calligraphy. He then wrote our names in ancient calligraphy and wrote me a special birthday wish in the same manner. We then went to construct our Chinese gardens at the long table in the first room of the apartment. We started by adding soil to the pot we were given. Then, we were instructed to add a large rock, which symbolizes a mountain. We took small plants next and molded their soil against the rocks. The designer then gave us instructions to add moss to the side of the mountain where we had placed the plant life in order to fill in the unused space. After doing so, we added light brown pebbles and crystals to the soil to replicate a river. We were then handed a small water bottle and told to spritz the garden with two full bottles upon creation. Once we had finished our gardens, the designer told us to get into a car, because we were all going out to dinner at a restaurant that specialized in his hometown’s food. The dinner was enormous and included a variety of vegetables, fish, soups, seahorse, and beef. The designer also surprised us with two bottles of red wine and a bottle of bai jiu, or white rice wine. The bai jiu was very strong and reminded me of rum. After the meal, he thanked us for being great pupils for the last few hours and told us we were welcome back anytime we wished.

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