Student Blog: The China Ten - Business Study Tour of China
Buddhas to Bargain Shopping: Day 2 in Shanghai
by Brad Ross '09
After getting in so late from the nightclubs of The New World, the China Ten were disappointed when they received their 7 a.m. wake up calls. But tour guides Xian and Micco had a very eventful day planned for us, so they had to make sure we were up and on the bus in a punctual fashion.
Our day began with a short bus ride to the Jade Buddha Temple located in the heart of the city of Shanghai. Though in an urban environment, the beauty and sacred nature of the temple is preserved within a series of towering walls that surround the complex. But once past the barricade, the tranquility of the temple takes its visitors to a distant land far away from modern civilization. Inside the complex lies a series of pagoda temples that house statue tribunes to the Buddhas of past, present and future. The temple complex is also home to Buddhist monks who preserve and practice the religion. Throughout the entire Jade Temple sanctuary, the smell of fresh incense gently massages your nose as you travel from courtyard to courtyard admiring the architectural harmony between nature and man. Also the sight of watching monks pay alms to the Buddhas through prayer and meditation gives even the common Westerner a sense of relaxation. And no visit to the Jade Buddha Temple would be complete without visiting the temple's tea house where they infuse handpicked herbs with tea to aid all sorts of health ailments. The monks sell the tea to outsiders in order to fund the maintenance and upkeep of the complex. Overall, I really enjoyed touring the Jade Temple complex; it allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for the religion and its followers.
Upon leaving the temple complex feeling fresh and rejuvenated, we boarded the bus and made our way to a local silk weaving factory for the inside scoop on this Chinese luxury. The company tour guide walked us through the history of the material starting with the silk worm. By nature, the silk worm spins a cocoon made of silk in order to molt into a moth. But right before the worm breaks free of its little home, they are placed into hot water to kill the worms to keep the delicate cocoon in tact. Silk weavers then unravel the pod onto spools to be then used for various applications. The average length of the silk thread from a single cocoon is an astonishing one mile! In my opinion, this large amount of silk extracted from one cocoon helps rationalize the loss of the worm. The company tour guide also explained the many advantages of silk use in everyday living. For example, the material is very strong and is fire-resistant when compared to polyester and synthetic fabrics. Also, silk thread used in clothes and bedding allows fluid air exchange between the inside and outside of the fabric which results in a cooler environment for the user. Following the educational tour, we were given the opportunity to purchase silk products made at the factory for wholesale prices. This clever business strategy encouraged almost everybody in the EF tour program to make some sort of purchase. Whether a $500 USD bedspread or a $50 nap blanket, the EF tour travelers made sure they left with a piece of genuine silk.
Following the silk factory, we ventured downtown to the Shanghai marketplace. Inside, shoppers could find numerous Chinese trinkets ranging from handmade tea sets to jade jewelry. The Buddha tea house from earlier had inspired me to find a tea set to take home. So I teamed up with shopping connoisseur Sheri Keithley in my search for the perfect tea set at a reasonable price. The first store we wandered into was a small nook that happened to specialized in tea ware. After glancing over their inventory, I came across a beautiful 7-piece set that was red and black in color with an intricate dragon design on the cups. Showing interest in the set, I asked the store clerk to give me a price. Pulling out her calculator, she keyed in 800 RMB and slid it back to initiate the bartering phase. From past experiences, I knew that the rule of thumb in setting your discount price in China is typically 90% off of the listed price. So with Sheri's approval, I counter bided with 150 RMB and awaited the clerk's rebuttal. She began laughing at my price saying it was way to low and then responded with 500 RMB. I followed up with a reasonable 225 RMB and of course she gasped and counter bid again with 450 RMB. Getting fed up with her prices, I pretended to lose interest and slowly drift outside of the store and as I predicted, she immediately cut her price down to 380. Knowing we were near the final price, Sheri stepped in and offered a firm 350 RMB in my behalf and the clerk finally agreed. So, after settling on a price that was more then 50% off the original price, we left the store with a sense of accomplishment.
After some further shopping, we decided to meet back up with the group in order to go on a walking tour through the Shanghai gardens, located within the marketplace. The garden offers its visitors an array of wonderful scenery that embraces the art of feng shui, the balancing of energy flowing throughout the surrounding environment. Each garden had its own unique personality through the variety of plant selection and rock formations. No garden in China would be complete without a koi pond and fortunately, Shanghai had some of the most elaborate ponds I have ever laid eyes on. The sheer size of the ponds was enough to amaze most onlookers, but I was more impressed by the vast number of koi that resided in the water. Herds of koi fish of all size and color circled about the ponds, sometimes following the tour groups in hopes that some food might be tossed into the water. From exploring the gardens of Shanghai, I gained a deeper appreciation for Chinese feng shui and believed that the experience helped me balance my own chi.
After our Chinese dinner, the China Ten were very exhausted from our travels of Shanghai. Before everyone went to their rooms to end the night, we all bid farewell to our local tour guide Micco, who was a very big help throughout our stay. Looking back, I know that everyone enjoyed the sights, sounds and tastes of Shanghai. But we won't have much time to reminisce because Xian and her Terra-Cotta warriors are up next!
PHOTOS: The China Ten: Business Study Tour of China