kunming the city of diversity.

As a participant of this ICKCBI programme I feel very fortunate that I have got a life time opportunity to visit Kunming the capital of Yunnan Province. The experience is Unique as there is inter mingling of diversified culture, their dresses their food really attracts me. In fact we are learning a lot from the professors of Yunnan University and looking forward towards learning more which will enlighten us and help us in our further study.

Grey Kunming!

Dian Lake Trip,Kunming.

I don’t really know where to begin and how to start to tell the adventure that I started on June 21st. After a tiring,long flight and several long layovers in boring airports, I arrived at Kunming. The first thing that I confirmed in my head was that “ yes, there were a lot of people in China” and maybe most of them were at the Kunming airport that day. My teammates welcomed me at the airport on a rainy, gloomy,and kind of a depressing day. I sat down by the window side in the car. I was already lost in thoughts as I was looking out from the window  to this developing city, its high-rise buildings, its huge constructions, to its highways and its people. The only question I had on my mind was whether I will like this place or not?

It has been 10 days since I have stepped foot to the land of Kunming and I feel like I have been here for a month; living and studying like a local. We have done, learned, experienced and communicated with a lot of local people in less than 10 days that I didn’t feel like a foreigner at all. I love my program, I love my teammates, I love the cultural variety that the entire team offers, I LOVE that connection we have, and the fact that we have already created a strong foundation for a life-long relationship. I love the fact that I am a 24/7 learner, I love to feel empowered while doing my project and I love the fact that people are beyond friendly and hospitable. What more can I say? To accept one another as who we are and learn from each other’s practices, and work together towards eliminating all the misunderstandings that were shaped by a piece of paper is refreshing, liberating, and promising. I, once again, reminded that there is still hope to make this place a better place, to stop hatred between nations and the key is communication, patience and empathy.Yes, communication is essential but it can be challenging at the same time,especially in a setting like this. We experience moment when things get lost in translation and lead to misunderstandings and sometimes what the mind thinks can also be different from what the mouth says. However, it ends within the individual to overcome this barrier by keeping empathy and positive thinking in our perceptions and I believe ICKCBI team is doing a great job so far. Keep up the good work, team!:)

Group Love@the Green Lake Park

“Come, come whoever you are.

Wanderer,worshiper of fire, lover of living.

Ours is not a caravan of despair.

Come, and come yet again” Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi

Dynamic Yunnan

After dinner we went to see a dance performance called Dynamic Yunnan that is all composed of dances and songs of the various ethnic minorities in the Yunnan province.  Apparently there are around forty of them in the province and Yunnan is known for that.  By ethnic minorities, I gathered that they also meant indigenous minorities because a lot of the performances we saw were “tribal” in a sense.  They tended to be big group numbers with many different kinds of drums and very colorful body paint or costumes.  In general I found the production to be of extremely high quality with fantastic set and costume design.  The dancers were all exquisite as well.  Most people rave over the Peacock Dance at the end of the show where one very tall and very thin female performer basically moves her arms and hands and even every joint of her fingers in such a way as to mimic the head of a peacock.  It’s really quite amazing how she can move her arms and hands so fluidly.  There is a part where she moves her whole body that way too and she looks like she had no bones somehow.  Pretty amazing.  The first part of the peacock dance is done with just her as a silhouette in front of the moon but the second part is her and a whole corps of dancers moving identically, all wearing these beautiful white peacock gowns that eventually glow in fluorescent colors when they turn a black light on.  I loved that effect.

Nevertheless, I think my favorite was probably the Tiger Drummer where one sole drummer performs for about 7-8 minutes and the beat goes from slow and somber to very quick and intense but the whole time he is incorporating his body into the drumming in this almost organic way.  He was really impressive.  All of the other dances were also really good though and there were people of all ages onstage, even a couple of 6 year-olds, which was very cute.  It was definitely a very unique experience.

Getting There

I guess I never thought that getting to Kunming would be particularly easy, but having travelled to some of the least developed countries in Africa, the prospect reaching a vibrant Chinese metropolis didn’t seem like it would stand much of a challenge. But then again I’ve always been a bit of a penny pincher, so I didn’t mind going through layovers in Dallas and Los Angeles on my way to Shanghai to save a few hundred dollars on my flight. The prospect of flying into Shanghai and then taking a train to Kunming didn’t even seem that daunting to me either, more like an old time adventure and an opportunity to see a large swath of the country from out the window of a locomotive, romantic in a Wong Kar-Wai, Steampunk kind of way.

Everything went rather smoothly all the way to Shanghai, the Pudong airport is very easy to navigate and well-marked in English and Mandarin. I made my way to Airport Bus #7 which goes to the Shanghai South Railway Station, the point of departure for the train to Kunming. After about an hour on the bus we arrived at the massive station which Wikipedia tells me is the world’s first and only round train station, which means that trains radiate out from 12 platforms in 360 degrees, covering much of the country’s territory. The first snag of my journey came about when I arrived at the self-serve ticket station and found that both the first and second class tickets for the ride had sold out, which meant that I was relegated to the least expensive, and least comfortable option, auspiciously labeled as “hard seat”.

I was a bit disappointed and nervous, I knew that the ride lasts about 40 hours and the prospect of spending the entire time in a hard chair was something that no one would look forward too, however I consoled myself with the knowledge that I was A) saving money and B) getting to Kunming just as fast as my first class counterparts in the “soft sleepers”. I also splurged on a $60 hotel room near the station with floor to ceiling windows and a queen sized bed, I don’t want to give the wrong impression here…

After a brief bit of sightseeing the following day I made my way with my luggage to the train station, watched an episode of the Soprano’s on my laptop in the waiting room, and then eventually boarded train K181 to Kunming. At first it seemed OK. I had a seat number on a three person bench – the middle seat – but there was no one else on my bench and I was able to put my feet up, lean against the side of the train, look out the opposite window, and feel good about my decision to buy such an inexpensive ticket. However at the very next stop the train received an influx of passengers and I was quickly joined by some travel companions on either side of me. As we rolled along into the evening we picked up more and more passengers and the prospect of leaning against anything other than human bodies faded into the recesses of my imagination.

At one point a blue-shirted train worker made a sleeping motion towards me and then pointed towards the section of the train where the sleeper cars were located; I nodded vigorously, seeking any opportunity to get out of my situation, price be damned. However he then asked me a few questions in Mandarin that were wholly incomprehensible to me and then marched off once he realized that I was incapable of communicating with him. That brief exchange replayed in my mind for the duration of the trip.

I’m not searching for pity here, but let me just say that I’ve never experienced anything like the 42 hour train ride from Shanghai to Kunming. To sit down at 4PM and then have night pass, then a day, then another night, and then not disembark until 10 AM the following day is something that I’ve never experienced before. And while Kunming is without a doubt a beautiful city in its own right, it was all the more lovely as it represented the emancipation from seat 50 in cabin 3 on K181 from Shanghai.

Yunnan Resources

Hello everyone, I hope you are all getting ready for and excited about our upcoming program in Yunnan! To get the ball rolling with the blog, I’m sharing some recommended resources – websites, readings, films – about Yunnan. If others, particularly our China fellows, have other Yunnan resources to recommend please share them here via the student portal. Reflections also welcomed!

Useful Websites:

GoKunming: http://www.gokunming.com/
English language information about Yunnan plus weekly events, classifieds and forums.

Yunnan Explorer: http://www.yunnanexplorer.com/
Includes an extensive bibliography of books about Yunnan: http://www.yunnanexplorer.com/bibliography/

Selected Bibliography:

Atwill, David G. The Chinese Sultanate : Islam, Ethnicity, and the Panthay Rebellion in Southwest China, 1856-1873. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2005.

Chao, Emily. “Hegemony, Agency, and Re-presenting the Past: The Invention of Dongba Culture Among the Naxi of Southwest China.” In Negotiating Ethnicities in China and Taiwan, edited by Melissa J. Brown, 208–239. Berkeley: University of California Press., 1996.

Clarke, Samuel. Among the Tribes in Southwest China. 1911. book review: http://www.gokunming.com/en/blog/item/2280/book_review_among_the_tribes_in_southwest_china

Davies, Henry Rodolph. Yün-nan: The Link Between India and the Yangtze. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Fei, Xiaotong. Earthbound China a Study of Rural Economy in Yunnan. Rev. English ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945.

Fiskesjö, Magnus. “Participant Intoxication and Self-other Dynamics in the Wa Context.” Asia Pac.J.Anthropol.Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 11, no. 2 (2010): 111–127.

Gladney, Dru C. “Representing Nationality in China: Refiguring Majority/Minority Identities.” Journal of Asian Studies 53, no. 1 (1994): 92–123. [This isn’t Yunnan-specific but provides a glimpse into the politics surrounding minority identification in China].

Goullart, Peter. The Forgotten Kingdom. Olympia Press, 2010. book review: http://www.gokunming.com/en/blog/item/2290/book_review_forgotten_kingdom
available online: http://pratyeka.org/books/forgotten_kingdom/

Harrell, Stevan, ed. Cultural Encounters on China’s Ethnic Frontiers. Seattle.: University of Washington Press., 1995. [This edited volume provides an excellent overview of minority issues].

Hillman, Ben. “Paradise Under Construction: Minorities, Myths and Modernity in Northwest Yunnan.” Asian Ethnicity 4, no. 2 (January 1, 2003): 175–188.

Hyde, Sandra Teresa. Eating Spring Rice: The Cultural Politics of AIDS in Southwest China. University of California Press, 2007.

———. “Sex Tourism Practices on the Periphery: Eroticizing Ethnicity and Pathologizing Sex on the Lancang.” In China Urban: Ethnographies of the Contemporary Culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press., 2001.

Litzinger, Ralph A. “Making Histories: Contending Conceptions of the Yao Past.” In Cultural Encounters on China’s Ethnic Frontiers. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995.

Michaud, Jean. “Incidental” Ethnographers : French Catholic Missions on the Tonkin-Yunnan Frontier, 1880-1930. Vol. 33. Leiden, The Netherlands ; Boston, Mass.: Brill, 2007.

Mitchell, Sam. Ethnic Minority Issues in Yunnan. Yunnan Fine Arts Pub. House, 2004. [Sam Mitchell was the academic director of the School for International Training Yunnan program for many years. These two volumes are compilations of students’ work].

Mitchell, Sam, ed. Yunnan Through Foreign Students’ Eyes: Volume 1, Tourism and Development in Yunnan. Yunnan Fine Arts Publishing House, 2003.

Mueggler, Erik. The Age of Wild Ghosts : Memory, Violence, and Place in Southwest China. Berkeley.: University of California Press., 2001.

Mullaney, Thomas S. “Ethnic Classification Writ Large The 1954 Yunnan Province Ethnic Classification Project and Its Foundations in Republican-Era Taxonomic Thought.” China Information 18, no. 2 (July 1, 2004): 207–241.

Ningsheng, Wang. “Changes in Ethnic Identity Among Han Immigrants in the Wa Hills from the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries.” Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 11, no. 2 (2010): 128–141.

Rock, Joseph F. China on the Wild Side: Explorations in the China-Tibet Borderlands. Volume 1: Yunnan and Sichuan. Caravam Press, 2007.

Rock, Joseph Francis Charles. The Ancient Na-khi Kingdom of Southwest China. Harvard Univ. Press, 1948.

Yang, Bin. Between Winds and Clouds: The Making of Yunnan (Second Century BCE.-Twentieth Century BCE.). Columbia University Press, 2008.

Yin, Shaoting. People and Forests : Yunnan Swidden Agriculture in Human-ecological Perspective. Kunming: Yunnan Education Pub. House, 2001.

Yunnan Films:

Yunfest is a biannual documentary film festival. You should be able to view a listing of the films screened here: http://www.yunfest.org/e-last.htm

(Input the Chinese characters into Google, Baidu or your university’s Library Search. Some of these should be available online).

Ghost Town (废城) directed by Zhao Dayong, see trailer: http://www.lanternfilms.com.hk/2009/02/ghost-town/

Kora (转山): After the death of his older brother, Shuhao decides to cycle from Lijiang to Lhasa. You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vVhdRFQEDI

Sacrificed Youth (青春祭), plot summary: http://contemporary_chinese_culture.academic.ru/665/Sacrificed_Youth

The Park (公园) directed by Yin Lichuan, plot summary: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1071291/plotsummary

King of the Children (孩子王) directed by Chen Kaige, plot summary: http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/132137/King-of-the-Children/overview

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (千里走单骑) directed by Zhang Yimou: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0437447/

Cherries (樱桃) directed by Zhang Jiabei, plot summary: http://meinte-film.blogspot.com/2008/06/cherries-yingtao-china-2007.html

Green Watershed

Got the great news this morning – I’m going to volunteer with Green Watershed, an environmental NGO based in Kunming, Yunnan province. This has been the point of anxiety for me – it’s almost May, and I still haven’t had much lined up; in fact, all I had were my plane tickets and the visa. Now that I got the confirmation from the NGO, I can start making larger plans, such as accommodations, budget, transportation within China, and free time fun. I’m even thinking of getting Burmese or Vietnamese visa and taking a weekend to travel to one of the countries… or maybe both? Budgeting is an issue of course but I’ve been saving up for the trip and I think I can afford to cover extra travel expenses on my own.

I will be in Kunming only for about three weeks which won’t give me much time so I will have to use all the time I have to figure out the lives of environmental NGOs in the PRC. I have been told that Yunnan has a large international presence and that the rules are more relaxed due to the distance from Beijing, as well as other factors such as local government friendliness so to speak. This is already very far off my original proposal and basically I will be focusing on the legal and financial side of environmental NGOs but also on activism tools they use.

Are any of you going to be in the area? Or in Shanghai/Beijing at the end of June? Let me know, if yes, we can explore China together 🙂

ICKCBI 2012: A Ford Fellowship Opportunity

India China Knowledge and Capacity Building Initiative
A Ford Fellowship Opportunity

Join us for two months next summer in Kunming, China and Kolkata, India to work in partnership with other emerging scholars from Yunnan University and the University of Calcutta. By taking part of this initiative you will:

  • Take the innovative India China Interactions course in Spring 2012!
  • Meet and work with Chinese and Indian Master’s students!
  • Participate in a collaborative research project!
  • Present your findings at a major international conference!
  • Most importantly, see these two countries from an insider’s perspective!

The three project themes for ICKCBI 2012 are: Ecotourism, Culture and Media, and Development and Governance.

As a Ford Fellow you will receive $750 towards international airfare in addition to having room and board expenses covered on the ground in China and India.


Date (Day/Month)

Sat 23/6  All students arrive in Kunming, China.

Sun 24/6 – Thurs 28/6   Orientation, lectures, establish project work plans

Fri 29/6  Team project meetings

Mon 2/7  Begin Kunming fieldwork

Tues 10/7 – Sat 14/7  Trip to Shangri-La: retreat/reflection

Fri 20/7   Mid-term Symposium, Kunming

Sat 21/7  Travel to Calcutta, India

Sun 22/7 – Wed 25/7  Orientation, lectures, establish phase 2 work plans

Wed 26/7  Begin Calcutta fieldwork

Wed 1/8   Team project meetings

Tues 7/8 – Sat 11/8   Trip to Darjeeling: retreat/reflection

Thurs 16/8   Final Symposium, Calcutta

Sat 18/8   Final project reports due

Mon 20/8  All students depart Calcutta



1)     A Recent CV
2)     Statement of Purpose: (maximum 3 pages double spaced) addressing why you want to participate in the ICKCBI Summer Program, your interest in one of the three themes, what relevant skills or experience you may have, experience living/working abroad, and how the program fits into your future studies and goals
3)     Successful completion of the India China Interactions course in Spring 2012. (Please note that acceptance into the ICKCBI Summer Program is contingent upon this requirement)

For more information please visit our website www.indiachinainstitue.org or send an email to indiachina@newschool.edu