Sunday, April 11
Nanjing is a very important city in the history of China. It served as the capital during 6 dynasties, until being moved in 1400s to Beijing. It is the burial site of the father of modern China, Dr. Sun Yat-sen. It was the sight of an unspeakable war atrocity in 1937 often referred to as the Rape of Nanking conducted by the invading army of Japan. And after WWII it served as the Capital of the Nationalists, lead by Chiang Kai Shek, but was ‘liberated’ in 1949 by Mao’s Revolutionary army forcing the Nationalists to leave China and move to Taiwan.
The weather did not cooperate for me to go sightseeing today. In fact, my sightseeing trip was almost a super disappointment. It started raining in the morning, but didn’t look too bad. After spending time with a guide book, the internet, a map and someone at the front desk, I plotted out four stops in the order that I should see them. I thought it might be tough getting a taxi from place to place in the rain, so I inquired at the hotel about booking one for the entire day. I decided it was too expensive and that I’d take my chances.
The taxi ride to the first stop was very long. I got to Nanjing Museum fine, except that the driver left me at the front gate, which must’ve been about 300 meters from the actual museum. Until I entered the gate I thought there was only a history museum. Well, it turns out that there is also an art museum. Much to my surprise I was told that the history museum was closed and in the midst of a three year for renovation. It had started raining a little harder, so I decided to look at the art museum in the hopes that the rain would let up. The museum has brocade work, lacquer work, bronze pieces, porcelain and jade. It was definitely not the type of thing I would have ordinarily gone out of my way to see. The entire museum took about an hour to see.
When I was ready to leave it was pouring buckets. I decided to give it a go anyway. First I had to walk the ~300 meters to the street. Then I realized that it would be difficult catching a taxi at that location. So, I walked another ~300 meters to an intersection. It took me more than twenty minutes to flag down a taxi and the one I caught at a stop light already had an occupant. However, the young woman who was the taxi driver (the first female taxi driver I had seen) took a look at the note I handed her with the name of the place I wanted to go and waved me in as the light changed. I understood that we would take the first passenger to her destination and then I would be dropped off. Never the less, I was happy to be inside. I was completely soaked. The sleeve of my winter jacket was so wet that both my sweater and blouse were soaked. My shoes and socks were soaked through and my jeans, from just below the knee to the hem were very wet.
As we drove to the first passenger’s destination I decided I should just pack it in and go back to the hotel. I was so wet I was afraid I’d get sick. So, when we let off the other passenger I showed my driver the card from the hotel. The roads were not particularly crowded because of the rain. On the other hand, with little traffic it was possible to drive about 120 km per hour on the slick street, raising waves of water along the curbs. I held on for dear life and hoped that we didn’t hydroplane. At least this taxi and the one I took earlier in the day had accessible seat belts in the back seat, the first taxis with this ‘luxury’ since I arrived in China. Maybe Nanjing has a law?? I thought we were driving very far and when she finally stopped it wasn’t at my hotel, where I had planned to go at this point, but the Nanjing Massacre Memorial and Museum, which was where I originally indicated I wanted to go. Hmmmm. I guess using notes and not being able to speak the language does contribute to miscommunication. At this point, I was so happy to get out of the car, it didn’t matter.
I spent about two hours at this memorial/museum. The designers and curators did a wonderful job. The topic of 300,000 Chinese – mainly civilians- killed within less than a six week period in Nanjing in December 1937 through January 1938 is deeply disturbing. The atrocity has been profoundly depicted and memorialized in this combination outdoor memorial and indoor museum. The combined square footage is massive. While it was somber and heart wrenching, seeing this museum made the day worthwhile. I will, however, have to come back to Nanjing someday to see the outdoor sights I decided to pass on because of the weather.
It’s 6:38 pm and the first round of evening fireworks has begun at the entrance to the driveway of my hotel.
When I got back to my hotel room around 5 PM, my noisy neighbors were GGGGOOOONNNNEEEEE!!! HURRAY!
Monday April 12
After checking out of my hotel in Nanjing I was picked up by Mr. Leo Fu of Nanjing Kai Yang Auto Plastic Parts (NJKY). Leo is the Manager of the Sales Department. The company is a Tier One OEM supplier to Mazda and a joint venture between the largest Taiwanese aftermarket manufacturer, Tong Yang Group, and two Japanese partners.
Leos’ English, like that of so many people I have met during this visit, is really quite good. This was not my experience in 2003 when I was in Shanghai and during my two 2005 visits. More and more people are learning, and mastering English, though I would not say it is widely spoken.
Leo has worked for NJKY for two years. Prior to that, he worked at a Tier One supplier in Shanghai. Luckily for him, he got this job, which is closer to home – only about an hour commute each way daily – as opposed to a three hour high speed train ride weekly.
While at NJKY I also met the President, David Chen and Gloria Huang, a young woman who comes from Szechuan Province and goes home to see her parents only once a year – as do many of the young people working in the factories. Even with that, the ones I have met, who speak English, seem to be very happy that they have ‘good jobs’. There are about 450 employees at the factory, half of whom live in dormitories. The others are local. Leo told me that some of the key managers, including the President, are Taiwanese, but that the company is more and more ‘localizing’.
I was given a factory overview and a tour. The factory makes bumper fascias and instrument panels for a Mazda factory about four kilometers away. It is a just in time system, with NJKY stocking about 1.5 days of inventory. The OE arranges the logistics. I had never been in a Tier one supplier, just in time delivery set up. It was very interesting.
After the tour Leo took me to lunch. We had a very interesting discussion about life for a young family in China. His wife, who has an office job with the police department, and he have a 22 month old son. We compared the U.S and China child care situations, assistance offered by grandparents, and a variety of other aspects of the lifestyles in both countries. After lunch Leo took me to the airport, where I caught a flight to Xian – the location of the famous Terra Cotta warriors.
I should note, especially for women, that public bathrooms are always an adventure, even in nice restaurants. Suffice it to say you should make sure you have plenty of tissues and good knees if you ever make it over here.
The flight was bumpy, but OK. My luggage arrived safely and so did I. Other than that, what else is important?
I had been told that I’d be met at the airport by ‘Steven’. Sure enough, as I rolled my luggage out, there was a young man holding a paper sign with my name – spelled correctly this time .
It turns out that Steven Xue, who was born in Xian and lived here with his family until he was seven years old, has been studying at Oxford University in Cambridge for 6 years. He is currently winding up his Masters degree in Engineering. He has become friends with my friend, Yungtai Hsu and that is how it came to pass that Steven met me at the airport. He had flown in from Suzhou (about an hour from Hong Kong), where his parents now live, about two hours before my arrival.
In the car, on the way to the hotel Steven and I had a lively and insightful discussion about China’s evolution to their version of a free market over the past thirty years. We both agreed that the people lag behind the overall progress evident in the eastern part of the country. We talked about salaries and how people can afford apartments, cars and other luxuries. We also agreed that if China has 300 million people in the middle and upper class, the sheer volume that type of demand requires accounts for successful businesses. He explained to me that many government employees receive a variety of benefits almost equal to their salaries, making it easy to save.
We were met at the hotel by Jou Lin a very good friend of Steven’s mother who also happened to be Steven’s kindergarten teacher. She now teaches early childhood education at Xian University.
Jou Lin and Steven had not seen each other in eight years. Jou Lin took over from here. She made sure we were checked into the hotel, settled, had brought us each fruit and a knife to cut it, for our rooms. She was the proverbial ‘mother hen’ for the rest of the evening. We ate at a restaurant with delicious food. Steven and Jou Lin later informed me that there was a Moslem population in Xian and that the food at this restaurant was ‘Hallal’.
It turns out that the car and driver who brought us from the airport is somehow connected to Jou Lin and her friends and colleagues. He will be our driver and this will be our car while we are here in Xian, a nice Audi with leather seats.
During dinner Jou Lin wrote out a detailed itinerary for the driver, including directions and the order of which sights we should see when.
Our hotel is in the heart of downtown, right next to the “Bell Tower” which was built in the 14th century. Down the block is the “Drum Tower”, built during the same period. The ringing of the bell indicated when to open the gates of the walled city. The beating of the drum indicated when it was time to close the gates at night.
The view from the front of our hotel is really terrific. Both of these towers are lit up beautifully. As we walked to the restaurant, across the street (which we crossed through an underground walkway), I noticed a glass feature which looks very similar to something designed by a famous architect, I.M. Pei, and located outside the Louvre art museum in Paris. This was quite a combination of old and new.
This was a great dinner and first look at Xian.