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In the Land of Confucian -- Foreigners in China

Archive for 1997-1998 Season

"He who has not been to the Great Wall, is not a great man." -- Chinese Proverb

This season we present to you a series of articles Scott Urban wrote about his weekly bicycle trips to the Great Wall of China, a hiking trip to Jiuhua Mountain and its vicinity with his brother Pat visiting from the US, as well as occasional contribution from our readers like you.

Introduction: Scott and his bike

In the Fall of 1996, Scott Urban and another friend William Lindesay spent every weekend possible cycling to the Great Wall of China to find lost sections of the Wall, with nothing more than curiosity, bicycles, and a map of the greater Beijing area. The trips involved comparatively big distances and tough conditions, but the payoffs were rich: in store could be anything from a swath of rubble to a grand section of Ming Dynasty ramparts with intact towers and inscribed tablets. This fall we invite you to join the ride and see the China that's not usually seen.

Scott currently resides in Denver, Colorado, USA, and is involved in a number of China-related projects. He can be reached at rrurban@ aol.com.


Week 1 (August 29, 1997) -- The Eagle's Nest, Part 1

Week 2 (September 5, 1997) -- The Eagle's Nest, Part 2

Week 3 (September 12, 1997) -- Happy Chinese Moon Festival (September 16)!

This week we have 3 articles:

Week 4 (September 19, 1997) -- This week we again present 2 articles:

Week 5 (September 26, 1997) -- Midnight, Part 3

Week 6 (October 3, 1997) -- Wingtip, Part 1

Week 7 (October 10, 1997) -- Wingtip, Part 2

Week 8 (October 17, 1997) -- Wingtip, Part 3

Week 9 (October 24, 1997) -- Wingtip, Part 4

  • Scott Urban's Bike Trips to the Great Wall: Wingtip, Part 5
  • Golf Tournament in Beijing

Week 11 (November 7, 1997) -- In the Shadow of Jiuhua, Part 1

In this episode Scott and his brother Pat set out on a hiking adventure to Jiuhua Mountain, one of the four sacred Buhhism mountains in China.

Week 12 (November 14, 1997) -- In the Shadow of Jiuhua, Part 2

In this episode Scott and his brother Pat were guided by a local who got them all lost and wandered into an unkown mountain village.

"Elation yielded to anxiety... Contact with these people was going to be the meeting of two worlds... Fear of the unknown is a terrifying and irresistible fear, and it would hold true as much for those people as it did for us."
But Scott, Mom said don't talk to strangers!--Editor

Week 13 (November 21, 1997) -- In the Shadow of Jiuhua, Part 3

Scott recalls he and Pat's meeting a friendly Mr. Chang on a train to Anhui and Pat's drilling of Mr. Chang's name in Chinese.

"Can he say my name?" Chang asked. I translated the query to Pat and reminded him of Chang's name. He disfigured it.

In a master stroke of face saving, Chang praised my brother for saying Chang's name correctly. It was a device he'd engineered in a split second to conserve Pat's face.

Week 14 (November 26, 1997) -- In the Shadow of Jiuhua, Part 4

Mission: Disposal Scott and Pat ate and drank with a rural family in Anhui. Then Pat had to pacify his restless intestines.

[Moral: Another proof that giving is more blessed than taking. So don't overstuff yourself during Thanksgiving!.--CBW's comment]

Week 15 (December 5, 1997) -- In the Shadow of Jiuhua, Part 5

Wonder how is it like to be a doctor in a village in a foreign country that you are visiting for the first time?

"It was difficult because the woman spoke only the local dialect, which Chang translated into Mandarin, which I translated in English; and then the other way around. I had to stop the conversation often to look up words, and we had some pretty sensitive ground to cover -- and with an audience."

Week 16 (December 12, 1997) -- In the Shadow of Jiuhua, Part 6

Asking strangers for directions can be nervous:

"A lone person stood in front of the house, a middle-aged man, his hands behind his back, chin up slightly, looking straight ahead with us in his peripheral vision. It was a pose as if to say, "I don't know who you are. But I'm going to stay here until you're gone." I must have been nervous because I don't remember what I said to the man..."

Week 17 (December 19, 1997) -- In the Shadow of Jiuhua, Part 7

East Meets the West [ed.]

"...people kept a safe distance. An awkward sense prevailed as people watched us drink the water and chat, exhausted... Many people, especially the men, stayed aloof, 20 or 30 feet away. ... A small group had gathered near us and the tension was palpable, fed by the silence between the community and the two strangers, whom they didn't know what to do with or how to respond to."

Week 18 (January 9, 1998) -- In the Shadow of Jiuhua, Part 8

Zanjian (Goodbye.) [ed.]

"Foremost among the children, and eldest among this particular group, was a girl we dubbed "Firecracker." She was extraordinary. Not yet a teenager, but no longer a kid, she dared to ask questions no one else would dream of asking. Merely asking Pat for a book earned her a slap from the old woman, which earned her the book, as far as we were concerned."