Thursday, February 5, 2015

HNC Study Break: Xuanwu Lake

The HNC Office of International Admissions is currently busy reading your applications and HNC students are all on winter break, but we hope you enjoy this post by HNC student Nanfei Yan on one of her favorite places to take a study-break this past semester:

Hi All,

It’s pretty easy for college students to fall into a cycle of dorm-classes-cafeteria-library. In order to break this cycle, I usually take a break and go to one of the scenic spots just a subway station away. About five minutes from Xuanwumen Station is Xianwu Lake. On this particular day, I was especially lucky to run into a Xinjiang food festival taking place just outside of the station. 

There were about a dozen stalls full of famous Xinjiang 小吃 (small, local snacks). Without a doubt, the star player was 羊肉串 (lamb skewers seasoned with spices such as chili powder, black pepper, and most importantly, cumin). The secret to tasty lamb skewers is the balance of fatty and lean meat. Over a hot grill, the fat sizzles and marries perfectly with the generous spices. Next to the long lines for these skewers were also stalls cooking up fresh 馕 (similar to flatbread), 抓饭 (similar to rice pilaf), and 大盘鸡 (big chicken stew). Across from the food stalls was an informal stage where traditional dance was taking place. The atmosphere was casual, as audience members joined in on several occasions. 

Dancing at the Xinjiang Food Festival
Lamb Chops at the Xinjiang Food Festival
After thoroughly enjoying the festivities, I made my way to the lake. Xuanwu Lake consists of a park (once an imperial garden) bordered by the Nanjing City Wall, preserved from its Ming Dynasty construction some 600 years ago when Nanjing was China’s capital city.

While it’s a popular activity to walk the Wall (as we did over Alumni Weekend), I prefer to simply stroll around the lake. On any particular day, the lake is full of joggers, newlyweds, and kite flyers. The entrance is usually lined with street peddlers hoping to attract the business of tourists. Beyond the gate, there are many beautiful gardens and open spaces which lend themselves to a variety of activities. Despite the cold weather, there were still many families and couples exploring the lake via boats. 

The setting sun offered excellent lighting for photographs. While they don’t do the park itself full justice, I do believe they capture the beauty of Xuanwu Lake’s peace and quiet. If only for a moment, it allowed me to take my mind off of papers, exams, and the world of US-China relations. At the same time, it’s moments like these that lift our heads out of the pages of academia and back to the experiences that attracted us to China in the first place.