Singing China iconicSinging China, with my daughter, and at Cherry Blossom time, opened my heart and my eyes.

We travelled to see and sing with a Culture Path China Tour. I was part of a lovely choir, and our group included a splendid tenor — Ken Lavine and his entourage, plus two fabulous high energy kids’ string ensembles. The trip exceeded all expectations!  Here you can see our itinerary, and pictures of the venues we performed in, and here, some pictures of the cities and sites we visited.

Lisl and I agreed, a few days into the tour, that if we had to pick one word for this exploding country, it would be “functional”.  Everything worked: the high speed trains, the roads, the buses, the connections. People seemed to be getting from here to there smoothly, maneuvering in the sometimes crazy traffic fluidly, like a school of fish… rarely any honking or hurrying.

You learn to wait in China! The lines can be like nothing you’ve ever seen, and the security checks getting in and out of the country were also eye-opening. But real highlights came while singing China. We sang in five spectacular venues, in cities large and smaller (only 10,000,000, not 26,000,000!): Beijing, Shijiazhuang, Hangzhou, Suzhou, and we had the privilege to be in the Shanghai Symphony Concert Hall for our memorable closing performance.

Singing China childrenSinging China with Lisl will be up there on my life’s highlight memories. The cultural exchange with a Chinese community choir, rubbing shoulders, posing for pictures; and then singing the exhilarating finale of our program The China Song, accompanied by a bevy of little Chinese kids, opened our hearts wide. Besides singing China, we had classic outings.

The Great Wall is truly a stupendous phenomenon. We climbed the stairs, were awed by its incredible history and numbers.Singing China  We also visited a handsome, very old and well maintained Buddhist temple, Lingyin; walked the Shangai Bund by night and revelled in the market; saw and sampled as a tea plantation and visited a silk factory as well.  Iconic and intriguing.  I brought home a silk duvet.  Not the cover, the duvet itself is made of soft silk — fresh off the cocoons!  A tangible and lovely reminder of the trip.

Impressions: progress, efficiency, cleanliness, order; lots and lots of tree planting; lots and lots of high-rises for lots and lots of people; no, I mean zero, obesity among the Chinese (except a couple at the buffets in our fancy hotels!). Feng Shui that you could feel even in the high-rise jungle; the huge variety of the country; incredible food, in our hotels and on the streets. We felt safe at all times, even in Tiananmen Square, where the security cameras were abundant, Singing Chinaand in the long, orderly lines at the airports and train stations, where the checks were numerous.

The dark underbelly:  And it must be said, too, course that no criticism of the government, no dissent is tolerated; we, and certainly not they, aren’t allowed to ask any questions out of the comfort zone. I was unable to access the internet at all.  Almost total control of information for most people. Our tour guides said that we must not ask any questions when we are in public. There are plain-clothes policemen, and the guides would lose their job, or worse. Many people don’t even know about the horrors that happened under Mao’s regime, nothing in history books, never talked about. Or the uprising in Tiananmen Square.

Still, on the face of it, people seemed generally well off.  We were told by one of our guides that when many people in a country have the sense the their children will be better off than they, there’s a feeling of positivity. And this is still, and most certainly the case, economically in particular.

Musically it was encouraging to see that, as well as local performers, many western, including classical, musicians are coming to the grand performance venues later in the year.  CATS is scheduled as well 🙂 There appears to be a fair bit of freedom in the cultural area.  And that was lovely to see and feel.  Singing China

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity.  BECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, and growth.  Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.  Follow me on Twitter, let’s be friends on Facebook :-) 
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