I often hear people talk about how Chinese are slimmer than Americans. People usually cite the vegetable-laden diet and plenty of walking as items that keep the Chinese fit. While those features exist, we should also note that Chinese are ever-active. This is particularly true of older Chinese, especially after retirement. Chinese value, respect, and honor the aged. Retirees are commonly found practicing morning tai chi, especially in public parks.

Yesterday we visited the Temple of Heaven, at which the emperor would seek the likes of good harvests from the heavens. A large space located within Beijiing, the Temple hosts not only some interesting buildings, but also gardens and open spaces that double as a public park. We arrived in late morning and found an astounding number of people—most elderly—not just exercising, but also engaging in panoramic play.

This guy was playing with a popular toy that is apparently hard to master. One uses a string to get the plastic "gyro" rotating, then one carries out a set of acrobatic tricks with it. The toy makes a sort of low whirring sound; hearing a bunch of them at once creates an interesting ambience. Maggie, our guide, is to our left, while Carol and Father observe.

He's going at it. The movements are artful.

This guy was nearby. People were even playing "volleyball" with the toy!

Nearby was an outdoor gym with hundreds of people in it. Folks were stretching, lifting, and doing isometrics.

And then, the ultimate: a random woman chided Father into playing a Chinese version of hackeysack. Though she later sold the "shuttlecock" to Father, she clearly enjoyed teaching and playing with him.

When the game got tough, Father ripped off his jacket and got down!


This may have been Father's greatest joy from the trip.

You cannot tell from here, but the park was filled with sounds from dozens of boomboxes and makeshift PA systems. This couple was randomly dancing along the walkway.

These folks were doing a sort of line dance to traditional music…

…while these, along with many others, played cards. This entire surface continued for hundreds of feet, with all sorts of activity taking place. For example, the man in the background was part of a throng of people enjoying Karaoke, which is immensely popular here. Karaoke bars are common, and they feature private rooms that allow groups of friends to have their own Karaoke party. The one near the Beijing Center is called: "Party World"!

This guy is working his pipes out on the lawn.

I cannot recall what was going on in here, but it was attractive. You can see here how the older Chinese indeed get out…and get involved.

Here, Carol (my spouse) and Father Roberto Ribeiro, Director of the Beijing Center, go through another park—this one, the Temple of the Earth, opposite the Temple of Heaven, geographically, on the way to a lunch with Carol's Beijing colleagues. Though Beijing is bustling beyond belief, it indeed features locations of respite.

At the end of the day, we gathered with the Beijing Center's Jesuits for Mass in Father Anton's room. Father Anton is at the right, with Francisco and Chris at the left and middle. (I do not recall their last names.)

Here, Father is with Father Gene Geinzer, formerly the Rector at Loyola.

Last but not least, the masters of the East: Chen and Father Ribeiro.

And: as promised, here we are with Loyola's very own—students and alumni!

See you back home!





Yesterday we played tourists and visited the Great Wall and the Summer Palace. We followed this with dinner with the Loyola students and two of our alumni, John Hanrahan and Brian Marana, each of whom is a graduate of the Beijing Center program (and of Loyola!). Both of our alumni have stayed in Asia to work—Brian in the Phillipines and John here in Beijing.

Father and I were impressed with the students, who were gracious hosts. Most impressive was their orientation in the large: the way in which they approach their lives. They are reflective, aware of their trajectories and possible futures, and informed of the world at levels that are well beyond what one might expect from persons their ages. Though the topics ranged greatly, conversation centered often on issues associated with human cultures, expectations, communication, and difference and commonality. Much of what the students have learned here, while seated within and about Asia, will translate well to our “world” within the United States.

The students are here for different reasons. Some seek knowledge about Asia that will help them in their future careers (e.g., in Asian business, commerce, language, or culture); some are here for reasons of identity (having Asian heritage); others are here for personal and global exploration.

Though Beijing is known for its swift growth and modernization, much of what goes on here remains distinct, hence it requires a certain bravery, which all of these students possess. That said, I know that many of them did not arrive with the comfort and wisdom they now exude. They spoke positively about how the Beijing Center welcomed and oriented them, offering a seamless bridge for those who arrived with trepidation. No matter what their paths, though, the students, to a person, expressed joy over their experience here. When they return to Loyola (most will return following the fall semester), they will be available to discuss their experience with anybody seeking to know more. (Were I a student, I would come here in a heartbeat!)

Father has the camera with the evening pictures of the students; I am guessing he will post that soon (if he has not already!). Here are a few shots from the tourist jaunts.



Charles was our guide today.

Father and Charles climbing atop the Great Wall. About a third of it remains intact. This section has been restored.

This lends a sense of the sort of climbing one can do on the Wall. If you zoom in, you can see the (relatively tiny) people upping the stairs in the distance.

Father and Charles—not a cakewalk!


Not a Sherpa guide-Carol, my spouse!

Father's time in the FAC has paid off! : )

Father took the cable car down the mountain. He sat in a special car. : )

This is a sort of art shot I took in one of the buildings in the Summer Palace—a seasonal getaway site for the Ming imperial court.

This detail gives a sense of some of the art that surrounds one when in China. These are protective monsters that are roughly nine or so inches tall.

The temples and dwellings of the Summer Palace also required no small amount of climbing…

...up and down...

...and with plenty of angles through all three dimensions.


Sunday afternoon in Beijing

Hi, this is Father Linnane again. Tim has a post ready to go and should be up before too long. He had hoped to send his post from the looking internet coffee shop this morning but experienced a computer glitch. Ah, the joys of international travel!

After Mass we had lunch at a local noodle shop a few steps away from the church compound. They know their clientele because the reception area of the restaurant was filled with pictures and statues of the Blessed Mother and the Sacred Heart. Once fortified with noodles and broth and pigs’ ears and a few other things Chen ordered but refused to identify (all very tasty!) we headed to the “Dirt Market,” a huge flea market (note to my friends from ABAC, the Chinese claim that the Dirt Market is largest outdoor market in the world but I feel confident that the market we went to Bangkok is larger; nonetheless the Dirt Market is enormous!).

Here you can see something of this open-air market including the huge crowds, me with “Young Brother” Chen who proved—once again—to be an excellent guide and fierce bargainer!, and a local woman taking her purchases home.

Next stop was to the 798 district, an old industrial distinct in Beijing that is now a center of contemporary Chinese art. Father Ron and Chen were relieved of their tour guide duties for the day and Father Roberto took over for the art scene. We stopped in this Soho-like area and visited a few galleries before attending an exhibit at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) The show was called “Breaking Forecast: 8 Key Figures of China’s New Generation of Artists.” I am not the biggest fan of contemporary art but I must admit that this exhibit gave me a great deal to think about. It was also fascinating visually. I had to return time and time again to a few arresting installations.

Take Sun Yuan & Peng Yu’s smoke installation (Each person thinks of one thing, when putting them together, an expressive relationship will be built in between). An enormous black box produces this ring of smoke with a great rumbling sound (left) and it floats across a darkened room under spot lights only to activate a feather fan which then dissolves the smoke ring (right). Most of the artist seemed to be critiquing the materialism and attending spiritual aridity of contemporary China (I realize that such interpretations are above the pay grade of theologian/administrator!). In addition, there was a persistent critique of US foreign policy (a model of Git’mo made of rawhide, for example). This, too, seemed to be a way of criticizing China’s international ambitions and perceptions of repression within China. We had a lot to discuss over dinner that evening! (special thanks to Dr. Snyder for his great patience and artistry in getting the smoke machine photos) I encourage interested readers to check the web site and for Loyola students coming to Beijing for the spring semester, the show runs until February 28 and is free for students with a valid ID.

As you can imagine, Sunday was quite a mixture of the traditional and the (post) modern!

Good morning Loyola! Catching up

I feel that I have been neglecting my devoted readers. The blog from Beijing has been a little difficult for two reasons. First, we have been going from morning until late (for me!) at night, so there is little time for Tim and me to blog. Secondly, at times it has been difficult to access the Loyola web site due to necessary updates to the web system. ITS often uses vacation times to this necessary work so it is understandable. I am grateful to our friends in ITS for their diligent work during the time most of us are relaxing with families or entering into the Christmas shopping frenzy.

Tim has already mentioned Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception but I would like to make a few additional comments , the photo of the Cathedral taken from about a block away was a bit of a homecoming for

an old Jesuit like me. You see the Baroque architecture that is traditional to Jesuit churches throughout the world. Even from a distance I knew that I would be attending Mass in a church associated with the Jesuits. Indeed, this church reminds me of the old Jesuit church in my hometown of Boston, “the Immaculate” on Harrison Avenue, the original home of Boston College. Notice that the churches share the same name indicating the particular devotion of the Society of Jesus to the Blessed Virgin. Upon arriving at the church, hidden from the street by a high wall and courtyard, I learned that this was indeed the site of the first community of Jesuits in Beijing. And Tim has already noted the prominent place of the statues of Matteo Ricci and Saint Francis Xavier (See the statue of Saint Francis Xavier above). It is also worth noting the difference between the two photos in terms of air quality. There has been a perpetual haze in the air since we have been in Beijing reflecting the coal being burned to heat frigid Beijing.

One of my faithful readers has asked about the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Chinese government which is, of course, officially atheist. Many will recall that the government understands that the Catholic Church in China is independent from the authority of the Holy See (or the Pope) and that this has been a source of tension between the Vatican and the People’s Republic and between those Catholics in the Patriotic Association (the church recognized by the government) and the underground church. In recent years, the Vatican has taken what might be described as a middle road; recognizing that the ordinations of the priests in the Patriotic Association are valid and licit and so the Vatican has given these priests faculties (or a license) to practice their pastoral and sacramental ministries. Thus it is perfectly legitimate to attend the Catholic masses offered publicly in China. The Mass that we attended was celebrated in English and all of the hymns would be familiar to anyone who attends Sunday Mass at Loyola. The sacramentary (missal) was the one we use in the USA and we prayed for Pope Benedict in the Eucharistic prayer as all Catholics do. In his most recent letter to the Catholic of China Pope Benedict XVI has urged both the Patriotic Association and the underground church to work for reconciliation and harmony.

About the Jesuits in China. The Jesuits and our lay colleagues who are here are representatives of the American Jesuit universities and not of the Catholic Church. The work they do in China is not pastoral but academic and scholarly. In addition, the focus of The Beijing Center is international and not domestic (note that the library is entirely in English and other western languages). Virtually all of the teaching is done by lay persons and the Jesuits provide pastoral support to the American undergraduates and the necessary link to American Jesuit universities who send their students to this great program.

I have much more to tell you about the Great Wall and the wonderful dinner with our students but I know that I am already late for my next adventure in Beijing. God Bless!

More on the Center, and Word from the Street

My writing this trip will be relatively sparse, for I am staying in a wireless-less room. : ) As Father noted, our hosts, Fathers Anton and Ribeiro, have been spectacularly thoughtful, and our trip has helped us understand how we might partner further with the Beijing Center to accelerate and broaden learning in our Loyola Programs.

The Beijing Center, here in the University of International Business & Economics campus, is indeed a sight to behold. Father Linnane covered the main points, so I will only add that the works of art within the Center are of major-museum quality, yet one is able to get close to and even handle some of them. This renders the works symbolic not only of China’s past, and people and events associated with it, but also the ways in which the Beijing Center brings about academic quality via “hands on” learning. Another example is more direct: each semester, students engage in an immersion (travel) experience, with each assigned a distinct research topic for presentation during the trip and a paper that is due following the trip’s conclusion. These are only small examples of a program that has been tuned over the years for maximal intellectual engagement. Not only is the program sound, academically, but the price is good, too: living here ends up being a bargain for students, who can subsist on just a few dollars per day (even less than ten), and they can get rid of car insurance for a semester!

The campus is surrounded by interesting commerce, including many superb restaurants. A subway (station) is within walking distance, as is a lovely park that runs parallel to a canal (and vestiges of a City wall!).

I have to keep this post short because we are going tomorrow to the Great Wall and to the Summer Palace. Tomorrow evening, we have Mass and dinner with our students. Though Fathers Anton and Ribeiro have explained all one may ever want to know about the program, Beijing, and the student experience, the students will have plenty more to disclose from the inside!

Enjoy and See you again soon,


PS: Here is a cloud of pictures from today.

I like this one because it gives you a sense of how mountainous Hong Kong is. As you can tell from other pictures, Beijing is as flat as Toledo—my home town.

This is not your normal tourist picture, but it gives you a sense of how some of commerce takes place here. Hong Kong’s beach area featured rows of these.

Father spoke about how terrific our guides have been. They work with students on the various excursion trips; we benefited from their expertise and their warm care. Here Chen, mentioned in Father’s blog, allows Father to contemplate the heavenly beauty of the subway system. He noted frequently the glass doors that protect travelers from falling onto the tracks. The subways themselves offer smooth, swift, quiet transport—and for cheap!

So often, when we travel abroad, we see configurations of color that would not necessarily be accepted (or attempted!) back home. I thought this one was of such a type.

Fathers Anton and Linnane are with a statue of Matteo Ricci, an influential Jesuit scientist, mathematician, and cartologist Jesuit who visited China in the sixteenth century. This was outside of the South Cathedral, at which we attended Mass this morning. It was packed!

I like this one for many reasons. It is the same players as above (Matteo included), but, now, with the Church visible. The Church’s architecture contrasts with all that surrounds it.

The number of bicycles outside the “Dirt Market” was…plenty!

Had you smelled these vendor-roasted yams, you, too, would have bought them!

Father Anton and Chen lean out here to rein in a cab. I like the shot because it illustrates a small example of their thoughtful nature (this was outside the market—Father Anton brought the backpack in case anybody purchased anything). It also gives a sense of the many styles of conveyance in Beijing.