Holhot: both ancient and new city

Continuing my description of my two days in Holhot, Inner Mongolia, they drove me to my swank Westin Hotel where we had lunch of a Chinese banquet worth of food.

Holhot is a growing city so there are entirely new urban developments of mid-rise shopping plazas and high-rise tower condos and apartment complexes. In the new developments, the buildings are so new that many of them are not occupied by tenants. The shop keepers, of mostly young men, sit in the doorway smoking cigarettes or playing games.

You feel like you are in a modern old West film with a Chinese set of actors. I guess the Mongolians would be the Indians as they are directly related to our North American Indians.

We went to the new campus of Inner Mongolia Normal University. The "normal" means that they focus on teaching teachers and that they do not have the full range of program's as a university. The new campus was built in 2006, but some of the buildings were just finished last year.

I met with Dean Wu Li Ji, who is the expert on Mongolian art. I also meet with the Vice Dean who is a noted traditional Chinese painter. We went to visit the Mongolian cultural museum.

The museum is underground and designed like the tombs found in the area. It shows the history and culture of the Mongolian peoples from prehistoric times until the end of the Qing Dynasty.

The early Mongolians were nomadic. They always had chiefs as there were raids and conflicts over grazing lands, so strong men led those raids. As they assimilated Han culture, they became more settled and had kings, queens, and tombs and bling which is the main displays in the museum. What it boasts is a 1.5 scale replica of a Mongolian tomb found not too far from the city. Inside the tomb are murals of daily life and sacred life.

Photos were prohibited in the museum but I will see if I can find it on the web.

Through the loveliest young translator, Joan, Dean Wu asked many questions about Aboriginal Australian culture. How they live? How they buried their dead? The use of body art. The reply was that it was very similar to how the Mongolians were before they became Han-ised. This would make a great comparative research project.

After the museum, we went for dinner at a restaurant across from the largest dairy factory in mainland China, Esse. The diary factory and mining are the main employers in the town. The dairy company owns most of the land around the new campus. The restaurant is shaped like the traditional Mongolian yurt (tent). Normally, they would order lots of beef and lamb, but with me being vegetarian they settled for vegetables, eggs, and fish. I got to try the Mongolian milk tea which was tasty. We discussed our colleges and futures exchanges after more higher level talks.

After dinner, we went back to campus where I gave my lecture. The Q&A was amazing. My trick of offering gifts to those who ask questions got the ball rolling. I think we went on for over one hour. My talk was about Cultures-based innovation. They expressed their happiness to hear my message about developing and maintaining their cultural values through the creation of resonate forms for today and the future. One student said how an artist the week before said to not focus on old culture to just be modern, but he disagreed and was happy to have his feelings validated by my talk. It is especially important because Mongolian culture is a minority culture.

After the lecture, Dean Wi showed me around the art studios where they imitate both modern and traditional painting styles. We then went to his office where we exchanged gifts. He gave me his book on Mongolian art history. I have him and Aboriginal painting and kangaroo meat. I gave the Vice Dean and my translator Joan a small Aboriginal drawing and Mr. Chin who showed me around a CD.

I then returned to the hotel where I stayed up to 1:30am watching movies on HBO just because they were in English.

Holhot: both ancient and new city

Holhot: both ancient and new city

Holhot: both ancient and new city

Holhot: both ancient and new city

Holhot: both ancient and new city


Affinity diagram for CAFA analysis lesson tomorrow

So in preparation for tomorrow's exercise on affinity diagramming, I completed one today based on the "data" I have collected for my research question: What are the conditions for Cultures-based innovation in China?

I completed the analysis in three hours based on informal interviews, observations, and the literature over the last few weeks. It is not an official research project yet but may serve as a basis for one between CAFA, Swin, Inner Mongolia University Normal, and maybe Hong Kong Polytechnic.

Final interpretations? You will have to find out tomorrow.

Affinity diagram for CAFA analysis lesson tomorrow

Affinity diagram for CAFA analysis lesson tomorrow

Affinity diagram for CAFA analysis lesson tomorrow

Affinity diagram for CAFA analysis lesson tomorrow

Affinity diagram for CAFA analysis lesson tomorrow


Holhot Inner Mongolia

Yesterday, I arrived in Holhot, Inner Mongolia. It is a town of about 2 million in the city and 5 million with the surrounding areas. The place is very ancient, but the city itself feels very new. There are no old trees. The buildings on the road are so newly constructed that most are not occupied yet.

It is an minority region of the Mongolians who have an ancient culture that I will explore more of today.


Holhot Inner Mongolia

Holhot Inner Mongolia

Holhot Inner Mongolia

Holhot Inner Mongolia

Holhot Inner Mongolia


Imperial College

As a professor, the Imperial College was fascinating for me. I had not realised before how democratic it was as a system in terms of making sure bureaucratic posts were based on merit not just heredity. This was part of Confucius's philosophy.

It widely influenced education throughout East Asia and Europe. It was the only Chinese college to allow foreigners to enrol and had places reserved for ethnic minorities. What was really cool was the Emperor's lecture hall in the centre shaped like a bi (circular disk of jade with a square within representing heaven and earth). Ah, to give lectures in a room like that!

The exhibition that explains its history was very thorough with scene recreations of the working and living traditions. The only question it did not answer was at what age would the students enter the academy?

They ended the Imperial exam system in the early 1900's. The exhibition displayed two critiques of the system. First, the system caged top scholars in the nation limiting their thoughts and thus potential contributions to knowledge. Second, the system stifled innovation as the education system was geared toward learning for the exam, but not surpassing the knowledge in it.

We should think about the second more as we rush to teach to the test.

Imperial College

Imperial College

Imperial College

Imperial College

Imperial College


Confucius Temple in Beijing

After lunch at a cool Western vegan restaurant in the local hutong, we went to Confucius's Temple. It is the graduation season in Beijing, so there were students taking photos with his statue.

It is amazing to think of his contributions regarding governance and education. His desire for virtuous government and the rejection he received from the leaders of China at the time is a model for perseverance. Although his ideas seem old fashioned now, one can imagine that his humanism was heretical at the time.

I am most fascinated by his contributions to education. I did not know the connection between his ideas and the establishment of the Imperial National System in China.

Confucius Temple in Beijing

Confucius Temple in Beijing

Confucius Temple in Beijing

Confucius Temple in Beijing

Confucius Temple in Beijing


Lama Temple

Our first trip was to the Lama Temple, established in the late 1700s as a symbol of harmony and unification when China annexed Tibet. A former palace, it is the largest Tibetan temple in mainland China outside of Tibet.

If I were to claim any religion, the one I am closest to is Buddhism. Li Fan Fan was a practitioner so I performed the prayers at the various temples within the complex with her. It took nearly two hours.

I left feeling very peaceful.

Lama Temple

Lama Temple

Lama Temple

Lama Temple

Lama Temple


Mobile library in Beijing

Yesterday, Wang Yan and Li Fan Fan took me to the Lama Temple, Confucius Temple, and the Imperial College. It was nice because it was their first time to see as well. On the way to the subway, we came across a mobile library where people can electronically check out and return books. Wang Yan read out some of the titles for me. The range was very wide from mysteries, books on raising children, Chinese medicine, mathematics, to Ming Dynasty history. It is such a cool concept. There seemed there might have been two or three books checked out.

Mobile library in Beijing

Mobile library in Beijing

Mobile library in Beijing


Panjiayuan: antique market

Yesterday, I went to the Panjiayuan antique market with Hang Hai, super guru of all things Chinese and antique, Hu Xiaomei and Zhang Rui, the super negotiators. I bought some amazing textiles. The indigo wax prints are from artisan Shou (I am sure I an writing this wrong) in Southern China. He draws the image in black wax and then it is died indigo and the wax melted. This was the highest quality ones we could find. There was a stall in which they had painted on the pattern, but kept trying to tell us it was wax.

The other piece the seller said she bought ten years ago from a woman. It is probably 20-30 years old. Hang Hai explained that there are not a lot of antique textiles as they dissipate in the Southern climes where they are made. Also with all the cultural upheavals in China, it is rare to find something over 100 years old. Thus it would be extremely expensive. The late Ming textiles Hang Hai was looking at were over $5000 Aud.


Panjiayuan: antique market

Panjiayuan: antique market

Panjiayuan: antique market

Panjiayuan: antique market

Panjiayuan: antique market