July 12 2016
Term III at Elmira College provides students an opportunity to further explore subjects and concepts through travel and experiential learning. Dr. Mark Pitner, Assistant Professor of Asian History, utilized Term III this spring to provide students in his History course, China East to West-Past to Present, a chance to explore globalization through an in-depth look into China’s past and present. Below is a recap, written by Dr. Pitner, on the work and travels the students completed this spring.
“Term III in China this year focused on the connections between the historical Silk Road and the recent initiative by the Chinese state called “One Belt, One Road” (yi dai yi lu 一带一路). Through the lens of this policy, the course explored globalization as a concept, as a historical process, and as a visible economic manifestation. The course began on campus orienting the participants to China past and present through a concentrated exploration of China’s history, current social and political structures, language, arts and culture. In the third week of the term, we embarked on an intense travel program that began in Beijing. While in Beijing we examined the new and the old, from the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square to the vibrant modern art scene. From there we traveled west by night-train to the ancient capital of Xi’an, a center of Chinese culture for over two thousand years and home to the famous Terracotta Soldiers. From Xi’an, we ventured into the western most regions of China to the minority region of Xinjiang and the cities of Dunhuang, Turpan, and Urumqi. This brought us to the traditional beginning of the Silk Road and introduced us to the place where “East” met “West” and revealed the hub of the modern “one belt” system of trade that seeks to revitalize the traditional trade routes and relationships.
These moves revealed: geographic differences, from the green plains of Beijing to the hilly river valleys of Xi’an and on again to the singing sands of Taklamakan Desert; historical difference, from the modern megalopolis of Beijing to the capital of the first united empire of China in Xi’an; ethnic difference, from the centers of Han Chinese culture to the varied lands on the edge of Central Asia. This course gave students an opportunity to meet the complex of things that we often call China and the diversity of folk that we often term “the Chinese” in person.”
For more details on this trip, visit the course blog site.
For general information about Term III in China, visit Dr. Pitner’s faculty website.