- McDermott Scholars
- The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.
Monday, July 06, 2009
A changing Chinese culture
Sitting in a music hall in Li Jiang, China, I heard the sound of two worlds colliding. The intended performance of the night was an ancient Naxi minority musical arrangement; 1000-year-old music played on centuries old instruments by 80 year old musicians (pictured). The music was beautiful, haunting, and accompanied by the booming bass of a nearby western dance club. A perfect analogy of the cosmic culture shift occurring among the Chinese youth, the bass line was unrelenting, unstoppable, and unignorable, and yet these stoic men of another China played on proudly and unflinchingly.
That has been the inescapable theme of my entire trip in China. Whether it be dance music intruding on 1000-year-old epics, Kentucky Fried Chicken replacing noodle stands, or MRIs and modern pharmaceuticals pushing out herbs and acupuncture, the conflict between old and new, East and West, is constant.
I too, find myself conflicted. The changes taking place in China seem inevitable and necessary. It is amazing and a testament to technology that even in the most rural parts of China, I can call home on my computer using Skype on a wireless internet connection. Information, modern health care, and transportation are seemingly no longer luxuries in much of China, and they shouldn't be.
At the same time, the worst parts of the west seem to be accompanying these advancements. Cars and smog are replacing bicycles. Clubs are raucous and filled with drug dealers. The modern youth are embracing consumerism and individualism, much to the dismay of their traditional parents who expect them to be their retirement plans.
So, on any given day, I've never been certain which China I would be experiencing. I've worked with patients in a traditional Chinese medicine hospital, witnessing the application of millenniums old techniques. The slow, purposeful movement of Tai Chi has been my morning coffee. I've seen the best of China's ancient Buddhist and Taoist temples carved into the sides of mountains (pictured). I've also danced to American music, eaten at more than one familiar fast food restaurant, and kept up to date with all my friends on facebook. It's hard to know exactly what I'm supposed to be experiencing and whether I'm missing out on the "real" China, or whether that China exists now only in history books.
Whatever the case, my experiences in China's Yunnan province have been other worldly and eye-opening. I've learned basic Mandarin, the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, and the limits of my digestive system. Most importantly, I have a much better understanding of 1/6 of the world's population. I can't thank the McDermott Scholars Program enough for the opportunities for self-improvement it makes possible.