Ni Hao

by Andrew Stein

Having had very limited exposure to China or Chinese culture, I regrettably admit that I only knew China through my Chinese friends and Chinese food. I was also aware that Chinese food in California is not what I might find in China. It was probably a highly Americanized version of Chinese food, which although still delicious, it lacks some authenticity.

Recently, the cliché that has come to surround China is that China is the future. Its economy, its language and its international influence continue to grow every year. When thinking of studying a new language, many people told me that I should consider Mandarin because it is the language of the future. With well over a billion residents, the Chinese have the first ingredient to propagating any language, a large Mandarin-speaking population.

China also has its long and storied past, which can start as far back as Homo erectus more than a million years ago if we choose to start there. Closer to 2100 BC is when the dynasties begin with the Xia, Shang, and Zhou. Coming from a country that has limited recorded history before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1942 and really before the Plymouth Colony started in 1620, going all the way back to 2100 BC produces such significance and grandeur that I am unaccustomed to. Through its five millennia of existence, China’s history is filled with wars, emperors, invasions, rebellions, revolutions, invention, art, natural disasters, foreign rule, and modernization.

I look forward to leaning about a small piece of that throughout my visit.