Our first full day in China was paced well, with an opening ceremony, a tour of campus, and a brief introduction to China in lecture+discussion format.
I should not fail to mention the meals that punctuated our day. We began with breakfast in what was apparently just one of several cafeterias on this campus of 30,000 students. The cafeteria nearest our on-campus hotel is designed to accommodate students of the muslim faith, for instance no pork is served there at all. A few posters on the wall underlined its purpose. At lunch there were a variety of very appetizing-looking dishes. Most in our group seem to have mastered their chopsticks well. Thank goodness there was time for a nap or a walk after lunch – or even both.
In the morning session we learned that NCEPU was founded in 1958, and that it is to be one of 211 universities of excellence in China in the 21st century. Its emphasis is on the sciences, primarily engineering and energy-related technologies, but it also has among its 10 schools a math and physics school, a business school top-rated for its research, a foreign languages school, and Chinese language programs. A substantial campus already exists, but construction of its largest building is still underway. When completed, that structure is expected to reach 230,000 m² = 2,475,699 ft².
The afternoon lecture was already compact without attempting to summarize it here. Nevertheless, here are a few facts that could become part of everyone’s general knowledge about China. Measured by geographical size, China is the third largest country in the world, right ahead of the USA. Beijing was named its capital in 1267, and the city now has 19 million inhabitants. NCEPU is in a north-northeastern suburb of Beijing. China has 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities, and 2 SAR (Hong Kong, Macao). Building on the Great Wall of China began in 770 B.C. The People’s Republic of China was founded on October 1, 1949. There are 56 nationalities total in China. The term nationalities seems to refer to ethnic groups or peoples. The Han make up 91.6% of these, and the others combined make up the remaining 8.4%. In 2009 the per capita GDP was $3,315, putting China in 106th spot worldwide, between Armenia and Iraq. China is currently undergoing swift economic and social change, particularly in the areas of higher population concentration (the southeastern portion).
Dinner was a hands-on cultural event: a Chinese banquet. In the hotel restaurant, a generous spread was presented on a large glass “lazy susan” at each table so that everyone could reach items to sample them. Suffice it here to say: Many toasts were made – by our hosts and to our hosts. What hospitality!