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Int'l students explore beauty of ancient Beijing through cycling

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-08-21 17:09
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For Eleanor Grace Ellsworth, a college student from the United States, her recent experience of cycling across the Central Axis of Beijing was just like a time travel trip which brought her into close contact with the rich history and culture of the Chinese capital.

"It has been really fascinating! This class was a good opportunity to actually explore the city," said Ellsworth, from Rhodes College in Memphis.

Ellsworth was among a group of students from different countries who joined a cycling course offered by the Peking University Summer School International 2023. During the course, which lasted a month, students had the opportunity to gain cycling knowledge and skills, while joining cycle tours to explore the ancient charms of Beijing.

"We hope that students from all over the world can experience the long history of the ancient capital, including the grandeur of royal architecture, and explore the beauty of the city from different perspectives," said course lecturer Lu Fuquan, who is an associate professor.

A total of 51 students from seven countries and regions, including China, Sweden, Australia and Malaysia, have joined the course.

According to Lu, six cycling routes were designed to enhance students' exploration of the historical beauty of the city. These routes not only include popular tourist sites such as the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Jingshan Park, but also feature places such as museums, theaters and former residences of celebrities.

The Central Axis of Beijing formed a major part of these cycling tours. First created in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the Beijing Central Axis, or Zhongzhouxian, stretches 7.8 km between the Yongding Gate in the south of the city and the Drum Tower and Bell Tower in the north. Most of the major old-city buildings of Beijing sit along this axis.

The students visited more than 10 important sites along the Central Axis. Neither the recent high temperatures in the city, nor the occasional rainy weather, managed to reduce the enthusiasm of the students, who kept on riding wearing either sun hats or raincoats.

Ellsworth, who has been learning Chinese for six years but had never previously set foot in China, was fascinated by these historical sites. "I've read about them in books and I have heard about various dynasties, but it's another thing to actually walk in these historical places, and to just see that they are still there and people still care about them."

Gabriel Barnagaud, an art history major from Ecole du Louvre in France, said he gained a lot of interesting knowledge during the cycling course, especially by visiting museums and venues with different types of architecture.

"The Forbidden City is probably one of my favorite Beijing venues, and the whole area around it is full of wonderful sceneries and buildings," he said. "The Central Axis offers lots of important things along its long way. It's really impressive and I feel very small compared to it."

Jiang Yatong, a student from the National University of Singapore, believes that cycling is like a "moveable feast," and found that the image of Beijing became increasingly profound as the cycling course went on. The colors of ancient architecture and little sculptures of animals visible on the roofs of palaces all made a strong impact on her, "as if every brick and every tile have their own stories."

At the end of the course, Ellsworth began to look forward to her next visit to China. "I plan on coming back at some point in the future, because I feel like even if I came here like 30 or 40 times, and I spent months here every time, I still wouldn't have seen everything," she said.

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