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China in My Eyes | Yeu Her's trip to Anhui with Global Youth Leaders
Nov 23, 2023
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Editor's note: This year marks the 125th anniversary of Peking University, and it is also designated as PKU's Global Engagement Year. To commemorate this special occasion, PKU News is publishing a collection of articles around the theme "China in My Eyes," which features the fascinating and unforgettable accounts of its international students studying and living in China. From northeast China's Jilin Province to the panda-abundant southwest China's Sichuan Province, as well as the bustling capital city of Beijing – Peking University's diverse student body from around the world is eager to share and showcase their journeys and experiences in China. In the following article, Yeu Her, a Malaysian graduate student at PKU, takes us to East China’s Anhui Province to experience its rich culture and dynamism. 

By Yeu Her

It was my very first time joining a GYLD (Global Youth Leaders Dialogue) Tour organized by the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies (ACCWS). I didn’t expect much about what I would experience before the trip; I was just attracted by one of the sessions, climbing Mount Huangshan, one of the most iconic mountains in China, which I'd been longing to see for a long time since I started my studies at Peking University. It turned out that the tour to East China's Anhui Province was super fantastic, amazing, and memorable, and I am excited to share my story with you guys here!

With a little bit of nervousness, I met the team at Gate 8 of the departure hall at Beijing Capital International Airport on the afternoon OF Nov. 9. We had a wide range of nationalities – friends from the Union of Comoros, Russia, Brazil, the UK, USA, Pakistan, Poland, Indonesia, and Croatia. This was literally my first trip with a bunch of foreigners, each with very diverse backgrounds – some were university students like me, while others were experts and scholars from different fields. I overcame my shyness, welcoming my new friends with the warmest smile. And during our flight to Mount Huangshan, I already knew this trip was going to be super interesting and unprecedented for me. 

We checked in at the hotel around 9 p.m., ensuring I got myself enough rest, looking forward to a new adventure the next day with my new fellows.

Day 1: Immersing Myself in the Rich Cultural Heritage of Anhui

Our first destination was Hongcun Village in Yi County. It was an 800-year-old village that has been well-preserved for its architecture and Hehe culture. While crossing the bridge to enter the village, the awe-inspiring scenery made me understand why Hongcun was listed as one of the most beautiful ancient villages in China! 

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The author and her friends in Hongcun Village

The meandering tiny rivers led us into a peaceful world inside the village, where villagers were washing vegetables beside the rivers or selling fruits on the streets. Although crowded with tourists at times, I was immersed in the richness of culture and amazed by the divine craftsmanship both protected and preserved by the government and simultaneously showcased to the public.

For lunch, we had our meal at an elegantly furnished restaurant, 徽煌府第, and were introduced to the authentic cuisines of Anhui, 臭鳜鱼 (the smelly fish) and 毛豆腐 (hairy tofu). "Smells bad, tastes good," was the comment I had for the smelly fish. For the fermented hairy tofu, it was not my cup of tea, which was a pity! The lunch was well-prepared, with the food and environment both at their best. Really appreciated!

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The “smelly” fish

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In the afternoon, we were honored to attend the opening ceremony of the 13th Anhui International Culture and Tourism Festival as well as the opening ceremony of the 6th Intangible Cultural Heritage Art Exhibition. The spectacular performances left a great impression, which demonstrated the importance of publicizing cultural heritages, as it really helps in the preservation and inheritance of highly valuable culture. 

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The author and her friends at the opening ceremony of the 13th Anhui International Culture and Tourism Festival 

Day 2: The Higher You Go, the Wider You See

Finally, the session I was most looking forward to had arrived: CLIMBING MOUNT HUANGSHAN! As the Chinese saying goes, “五岳归来不看山,黄山归来不看岳,” which literally means, "One does not bother to admire the Five Great Mountains of China after visiting Huangshan." As a mountain hiker, Huangshan has always been on my list, so when I was standing right beneath Huangshan, I was excited and couldn’t wait any longer to start my journey to the summit. We took a cable car ride to the halfway point, and then started climbing staircases up to some iconic tourist spots including the Yingkesong or Guest Greeting Pine. 

It was way too hazy, and we could barely see the view, which was a little bit disappointing. However, just as we were about to take another cable car ride back to the foot of the mountain, the haze suddenly disappeared and the giant rocks showed up, creating a breathtaking scenario reminiscent of Kung Fu novels. It was a worthy visit to Mount Huangshan after all. 

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In the afternoon, we headed to the provincial capital of Anhui, Hefei, by high-speed train. Before entering the gate, we took a photo of several countries’ passports together. That became one of my favorite photos of the trip – it captured the very precious intercultural communication moments brought about by GYLD. 

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Day 3: Understanding China from Various Aspects

The last day of the tour kicked off with a visit to the Shibalianwei Ecological Wetland located in the Changlinhe Ancient Town of Hefei City. We were introduced to the ongoing ecological preservation carried out by the local government, as well as being brought to see the wetland which has been nurturing various bird species.

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Another interesting session was the visit to the super cool Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) at the Institute of Plasma Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP). “You guys are literally standing at the warmest as well as the coolest point on Earth!” one of the scientists told us while explaining the operating mechanism of the machine. We then got an opportunity to discuss face-to-face with the young scientists regarding their intercultural experience in scientific studies as well as some real science questions that were apparently beyond my knowledge (haha). 

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The group at the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences

Our last stop was at the NIO Center. NIO is a company manufacturing Electric Vehicles (EVs) that provides not only modernly-designed EVs but also high-tech services to their customers including fast-charging stations and battery-swapping stations. We were also invited to visit NIO’s manufacturing factory to better understand the most advanced EV techniques in China.

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The author and her friends at the NIO Center

Ecology, science, technology - we wrapped up our last day of the tour after delving into these three essential fields of China.

The four-day tour to Anhui Province felt short as it was too fruitful and memorable for everyone on the team. During the trip, I met people from very diverse cultural backgrounds, and I really had enjoyable conversations with them. As a student studying in China, the GYLD trip served as an eye-opener to build a deeper understanding of what’s happening in China, as well as a platform to get to know excellent people around the world. The most important thing is – if you open up your heart to new friends and new things, you will eventually harvest something surprising or unexpected.
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The author and her friends at the Hefei Railway Station

More from this series:

China in My Eyes | Niki Qiu’s ‘aimless’ adventure to Xiamen

China in My Eyes | Vincent Jeong’s journey of courage to Changbai Mountain

China in My Eyes | Vissly Chan and her Beijing museum-hopping in the winter break

Edited by: Dennis Meng
Photos by: Yeu Her