2014 The Year of the Horse
A student friend of ours, “Zoe T.,” invited us to spend the beginning of the New Year Festival at her parents’ house, in a suburb of Hangzhou. There we ate traditional rice cakes,
Now bus and train stations, ferry boats, and airports are crowded as more than 100 million Chinese people are returning from visiting their parents and grandparents. China is developing rapidly, but this ritual of returning home, the largest annual human migration, is an important way people here hold onto the past. A great documentary film about this phenomenon is Last Train Home, directed by Lixin Fan.
And meanwhile…a teaching interest of mine is “America in the World,” which explores how Americans have impacted other parts of the globe. In that light, and in honor of Presidents Day (the real excitement every February!), I tracked down a hotel in China famous for hosting a (former) U.S. president – not Richard Nixon, not Jimmy Carter, but another Illinoisan, Ulysses S. Grant! Grant toured Asia in 1879 as an international military hero.
He and his family visited Shanghai, staying at the city’s Astor House Hotel.
As Mark Twain said, “history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”