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Humanities Trip 2016

From 29 November to 4 December of last year, the class of 1AH and the humanities scholars of ACJC embarked on its annual Humanities Trip, an overseas immersion programme that takes humanities students into the heart of Asia.

This year, we headed to China’s Fujian province, a region of startling dichotomies and diversity. From the vibrant metropolis of Xiamen city, to the rural aura of serenity in the unperturbed Wuyishan region, the trip encompassed a spectacular breadth of insight and exposure. Aside from the rich historical and geographical import of the province, Fujian also holds a strong cultural significance for many Singaporeans, being the ancestral home of over 40% of Singaporean Chinese. Being able to gain a deeper understanding of part our cultural identity made this a meaningful experience. 

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We started our trip with visits to two different schools in the region, where we spent time attending lectures, interacting with the students, and preparing lessons for younger pupils. At Number Ten Middle School in Xiamen, we were definitely in for a surprise. Listening in on an hour-long lecture about the history of Chinese philosophy and how differing perceptions on the origin of 理 (reason and natural order) had implications on religious teachings and society’s collective moral reasoning was definitely an experience not to be forgotten, especially considering it was fully delivered in Mandarin! Through speaking and spending time with the students there (language barrier notwithstanding), we found ourselves to have much more in common than we thought, laughing at similar experiences like leaving school with the evening twilight behind us, and the universal struggle of keeping awake in the all-too-comfortable lecture theatre. Our visits to these two schools was a thoroughly engaging time, where we rejoiced over our differences and were again reminded of the things that unite us as people, that give us our ambitions and hopes and feelings, and how they remain intrinsic commonalities even across oceans and borders. 

The Fujian province held a lot more in store than just the diverse people we met on a daily basis. Being a part of one of the oldest and most complex civilisations on the planet, the province is home to a huge plethora of cultural traditions and an unimaginably vast repository of physical remnants of the past. In this trip, we were greeted with architectural insights through which China’s history and social setting managed to manifest. One of the most iconic architectural icons of the province was the tulou (土楼), which are large fortified buildings with earthen walls that were hollow in the centre. We saw numerous iterations of this structure, with buildings as old as 700 years old. Surrounding these traditional buildings were other villages in which elaborate ancestral temples with stone totems could be found. Another particularly interesting sight was that of the Jimei schools, built by the philanthropist Tan Kah Kee. These were a curious but greatly artistic fusion of east and west, with Chinese peaked roofs and European colonial-era facades. All of these sights and locations offered much knowledge and insight into the lives of the Chinese both throughout history and in the present day. With the instruction of our friendly guides (and also locals along the way) the various locations and villages offered to us a visceral understanding of Chinese history and culture through the ages. 

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Historical Tulou Houses

This understanding and appreciation was also enhanced by the natural geography of Fujian. Being used to the hectic bustle of Singaporean city life, it was a wondrous experience to take in the tranquility and zen that nature had to offer in Fujian. A slow drift through the scenic Nine Bends River and a trek up one of the peaks of Wuyishan provided much relaxation as we took in the picturesque vistas of natural beauty and quietude. The memorable experience also aided discussions about the physical geography of Fujian and exposed us to natural formations and phenomena unheard of in our little island. Whilst the mountainous region was cold and at times inclement, the majestic view and the exposure gained definitely made it worth it.
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Natural Beauty

These 6 days were a spectacular opportunity for discovery. Whether it be through the people we met, the food we had, or the various sights and smells Fujian had to offer, it was a rewarding and memorable trip, to say the least. This trip wouldn’t have been possible without the teachers who accompanied us, Ms Katharine Ho, Mr Tan Chun Wee, and Mrs Susan Meow. We’d also like to thank the principals, vice-principals, the humanities department, and everyone who has made this trip possible for their endless support.