Friday 20th July 2018
The Shanjuan Caves
Early start this morning, 5am! With showers and breakfast out of the way we met our class guide and buddies and boarded the coach to visit the Shanjuan Caves in Yixin, Wuxi. On arrival, we were greeted by some local cave men and women who, instead of making fire and hunting in the forest, demonstrated their tribal moves to a dance music soundtrack whilst fire breathing and rubbing a torched club over their torsos. This new found discovery in our ancestry is certainly a re-write of the history books! Following our prehistoric ‘masterpiece’, we descended into the caves hidden below the canopy of bamboo trees. Inside the caves, multi-coloured lighting guided the way, illuminating the many pools, carved stones and statues of gods. The carved passage led us to a beautiful waterfall and pagoda, where we took the opportunity to pose for some photos with our new Chinese friends. Heading further into the cave, we met our new mode of transport… a collection of wooden boats to take us to our final destination. Powered by a single man on the rear of the boat, he used the roof of the cave to navigate the twists and turns through the passageways, ensuring no one was impaled on the knife-like stalagmites. Of course this also meant that we had to balance our weight across the boat to ensure that there was no ‘…man (or woman) overboard’.
To celebrate our safe arrival on the other side, all students (English and Chinese) were treated to an ice-cream by Mr Redfern and Miss Cox; this was quite the treat as it was only 9:30am! Shortly after, we got to go back to basics and demonstrate our own handy-work on stabs of clay which we modelled into creatures of the Chinese zodiac.
Following the early start, we headed back to the school dormitory for a much deserved snooze ahead of our afternoon Mandarin lesson. Today’s objectives focused on learning advanced numbers, the calendar, birthdays and telling the time. Our Chinese teacher was impressed with our retention of knowledge from the previous lesson but in wanting to push us further, gave us homework… Can you believe that we have come all this way to be given more homework!?
In the evening, we took a stroll around the neighbourhood and to our surprise we stumbled across a Christian church. We were invited in to join the congregation in song but decided that Chinese hymns were nowhere near as familiar as some of our classics (I mean, how can you beat Shine Jesus Shine?). The next place we visited was a shopping centre, full of small retail shops and food stalls. Buying up some of the many local goods, many of us are still astonished at how cheap things really are in China.