View of Changtan Reservoir from a Mountainside Temple, Jiaoling County
Mountains and Water, Jiaoling County, 26 June 2001
A view of Changtan Reservoir, from a mountainside temple
Today we made another trip to Jiaoling county, where my family and I lived to do my research on Little Rome. We left around 8:00 am to meet Mr. Lin Qingshui, a retired teacher who does research and writing on Hakka culture. We first visited a village in the southern part of Jiaoling county and met with some local village cadres (specifically, Ms. Zeng, the party secretary of the administrative region where the village is located). After visiting some ancestral halls and homes, we then made a quick stop in my dissertation fieldsite. We then went up to the county seat, Jiaoling City, and visited Jiaoling High School, the key high school in the county with close to one hundred years of history. By then it was lunchtime, so we ate lunch and then visited two temples, one of which is where I took the picture of Changtan Reservoir, a lake created by a dam on the Shiku River. The Shiku River runs from Fujian province (to the North) winding down south to the Mei River, and ultimately flowing to the Pacific at the city of Shantou. Although it was a busy day, we had a chance to have some fun — at the Changtan Reservoir, we rented a boat and sailed on the lake; below is a picture of Liz sitting on the prow of our boat. We also had a fun time swimming in the reservoir.
Globalization in Rural China, Jiaoling County, 27 June 2001
Today was another day where we were scattered to each do our own fieldwork, so I’m going to write a bit more about what we saw as a group in Jiaoling County, the area where I have done extended fieldwork and am most familiar with. Pictured to the left is a statue in Zhenshan Park in Jiaoling City. Although I visited here only last year, it’s hard for me to recognize the county seat because of all the changes in the area. A large statue of a historical figure from Jiaoling County, Qiu Fengjia, used to be located at the southern border of the city; some time last year, the statue was moved to Zhenshan Park. There are numerous new main roads that are in the process of being completed, and a number of new tall buildings recently constructed or being built all around the city. The statue with the globe was there when my family and I lived here, originally symbolizing world peace. Today, it seems instead to represent the impact of globalization on this rural county seat.
Like the built landscape, life in Jiaoling County is also changing fast. Pictured on the left are a group of kids that we saw play basketball in the schoolyard of Jiaoling High School. Notice the backboard — if you can’t read the characters, the logo should be recognizable: Pepsi Cola. At Butler, we have similar signs of corporate sponsorship scattered around the campus (including Hinkle Fieldhouse). Here also you can see more of what we are trying to understand as a group. One aspect of globalization is the interdependence of economic systems and the increasing importance of transnational corporations like Pepsi in many societies throughout the world. Another aspect, a little more subtle and more challenging to understand, is the flow of global culture throughout the world. The picture is not just evidence of Pepsi, but also of basketball and its popularity here in China. These global cultural flows, like basketball, probably have a stronger impact on societies throughout the world (and is probably closer to the heart of these kids on the court), than do the commodities that circulate transnationally.
Local Communist China, Meixian, 28 June 2001
Today we had a day trip to Songkou, a city in Meixian (one of the seven counties of Meizhou). Songkou is about 50 kilometers away from Meizhou City, and was a flourishing port on the Mei River that historically used to flow through Chaozhou and ultimately out to the Pacific. Many overseas Chinese who emigrated during the late Qing dynasty and Republican period may have started their journey in Songkou on a riverboat. The old city streets of Songkou still show evidence of this former role, and there are many overseas Chinese who still maintain ties to this area in Mei County. But today I wanted to talk about what the students have experienced in doing their fieldwork here in Meizhou. As you can see from the picture, there is a certain social procedure that needs to be followed in order to conduct research in a particular place. Pictured on the right are the students sitting in a reception room at a local township government office near Songkou. China is still a Communist country, and for a foreign group to visit or do research in a particular place, local government offices must approve their trip. Before we visit a site, we usually have to stop by a local government office and explain to them what we are doing (many times, this has been done “behind the scenes” by our host, Prof. Fang Xuejia). The students have learned a lot just from interacting with local government and party leaders as we visit a particular site.
Because local cadres are involved when we visit a particular place, this means that we also have to follow certain “secular rituals.” One of these involves drinking enormous amounts of tea! At the local government offices, we drink tea with the cadres as we explain who we are and why we want to visit a particular area, and as they introduce us to the area. At each stop that we make, we also have to sit down with people to drink tea — not to do so would be rude. In this particular village, we visited a senior center on our way to see some ancestral halls and weilong wu, traditional Hakka homes. Pictured on the right are the students having tea with some of the members of the senior center. Drinking so much tea also means that the students have been exposed to local bathrooms throughout rural China!