China: Day 3

Our seminar topic today was a controversial one, and certainly got us all talking: ‘Cross-straits Economic Relations Between Mainland China and Taiwan’. This topic got us talking so much that the professor didn’t event use his presentation! He based the entire seminar around our questions and international politics (including the recent EU referendum results and potential implications).

After a short lunch break at Two Tomatoes, we regrouped at the university gates and awaited our bus driver. This time we were visiting the infamous soy sauce company: Gulong Co. (Ltd.). Before we all chance to get off the bus and properly apply sun cream, we were whisked away by an employee and the company tour began. We learnt that this Xiamen-based company exports its sauces to countries all around the world, and is certainly familiar with the optimal duration of fermentation! Their methods remain traditional but they believe it is the most effective way to produce a great-tasting soy sauce. We discovered this for ourselves as we were offered tastings at the end of the company tour. As someone who wouldn’t normally choose to have a soy sauce-based dish, I was surprised at just how nice their sauces were. And soy isn’t the only foodstuff they produce. They make all sorts of local delicacies, from chilli sauces to canned meats, fish, salted eggs and even packets of ready blended spices for that ‘perfect’ curry.

As if we weren’t exhausted enough, our late afternoon session was occupied by a visit to the Nan-Pu-Tuo temple. And I am so glad we made time for it! Found carved into the side of the mountains adjacent to the University, Nan-Pu-Tuo temple was a little bubble of tranquility and serenity amidst this fast-paced and chaotic summer school. Time seemed to slow even before entering the temple as we joined locals in lighting incense sticks. Already it became an activity that called upon reflection and gratitude. Traditional monks paced slowly around the grounds and impressively ornate dedications to Buddha and the Three Kings towered over us as we joined the student helpers in appreciating them with a bow of the head. The terra cotta ‘swallow’ roofs indicated that the temple founder enjoyed a high socioeconomic status. It was certainly an impressive place, and despite being a centre for tourism, it still retained a great deal of tranquility – essential for the Xiamen students. And of course the turtle-filled pond outside helped as well!

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