My adventures in China, learning Mandarin and in Chinese Culture!

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Hiking the Great Wall at Simatai


This was the most exhausting of all of my days in China, but also one of the most memorable!

We signed up for a tour and luckily we were the only ones! It was just us and our tour guide, Candy. She knew so much about The Great Wall and its history!

We chose to go to Simatai because the section of the wall nearest to Beijing, Badaling, is supposed to be really crowded, really touristy and mostly rebuilt. We wanted to see The Wall without the crowds and unrestored.

Simatai is about a two hour drive from Beijing and about halfway into the drive you start to feel like youre in the countryside. It’s very pretty!

We parked at the foot of a large hill and couldnt really see anything. But after about a half hour of climbing, there it was! The pictures don’t really show how huge and beautiful the Wall is.



There weren’t any people on the wall that we could see. It was like we had it all to ourselves! It was a big surprise when in one of the guard towers in the above picture, there was a woman selling t-shirts and water!  A few minutes after we arrived, there was a small group from Germany and a guy from Brasil.

P1020479The hiking was a little hard, we all were sweaty and tired at the end, but it was totally worth it! I would go back in a second!

After we climbed down the mountain, there was a little village at the bottom.


And it had several cannons, but most importantly at that time…


It had a great restaurant! We all ate a LOT. And it was tasty!


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Being a Youth Ambassador for US-ChinaStrong


“The US-China Strong Foundation is a nonprofit organization that seeks to strengthen US-China relations by investing in a new generation of leaders who have the knowledge and skills to engage with China. Established in 2013 as the 100,000 Strong Foundation – and relaunched in 2016 as the US-China Strong Foundation – the organization leads a national movement to ensure the next generation of US leaders is equipped to engage effectively with China: a global strategic power, the second largest economy in the world and America’s fastest growing trade partner.”

USCS has three main missions. They are:

  • 1 Million Strong: a campaign to see the number of students in America studying Mandarin in grades K-12 grow to 1,000,000 by the year 2020. Currently, only about 200,000 students in the US are learning Mandarin. (Some estimates show the number of Chinese students studying English at 300 million!).
  • 100,000 Strong: a campaign to increase and diversify the number or US students who travel to China to study each year. This was the original mission of the Foundation, formed under President Obama in 2009.
  • US-China Alumni Network: this campaign aims to “build an online community
    of students and young professionals who understand China” and connects US and Chinese students and other 100K Strong Alumni.

This year, I was invited to become a Student Ambassador for USCS, and I accepted immediately! I think the work they do is very important, and we need to do as much as we can to help motivate kids to learn Mandarin (and other languages too!).

As an Ambassador, I have agreed to do three projects in my first year to advance the causes of the Foundation. The projects are

  1. This blog!  ( was started to help share my experiences in China and my stories learning about China and Chinese culture.
  2. A Community Outreach Program: I will be hosting and translating a dumpling-making class at Peter Chang Restaurant in Williamsburg. Before the event, I will be sharing information about both US-China Strong and the William and Mary Confucius Institute’s community programs with the attendees.  You can see the official announcement here:
  3. Teaching At A Local School! : I’m very excited about this!  I will be going to Woodville Elementary school in Richmond and doing an after-school class on China and its culture for 2nd and 3rd graders later this year! We will do some letter-writing, we’ll read a book and learn some basic conversation. Can’t wait!

I’m very proud to have been given this opportunity and I’ll be blogging about each event here. Thanks for reading!!


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My Friend, Yahan, and the Guzheng


Professor Qiong Yang was working at the William and Mary Confucius Institute up until this summer, when she returned to China with her family. While she was here, I became great friends with her, her husband Gang and her daughter, Yahan, who I call Emily or sometimes Yangyang.

When I visited Chengdu, I got to do a presentation for Yahan’s class (that’s her  in the above picture) and she helped out a lot! She is a really good friend and I’m glad I met her!

Yahan is also a child prodigy on the Chinese zither, which is called the “guzheng.” She started learning how to play when she was only five years old! With her teacher’s instruction and Yahan’s hard work, she won many awards in music contests all over her hometown of Chengdu.  She did so well that she received a special grade of “10” which is the highest possible ranking for an amateur musician when she was only 9 years old!

The guzheng is a very old instrument – it’s been around for over 2,500 years! It has 16 strings and bridges which move! It looks really difficult to play!

Here is a video of one of her performances at William and Mary Confucius Institute:

And another, called “Fishing Songs on the East Sea”:

and another:

She is a fantastic musician and I’m very lucky to call her and her parents my friends!


Yahan would love to do performances for cultural centers in the USA!

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Chengdu Panda Research Center (!)

i LOVED this place! It is definitely a must-see for anyone visiting Chendu! This is not just a very large park with loads of giant pandas and red pandas, but, like the name says, it’s a research center and educational facility too!


The official website is here.  You can read all about the different programs, including one where you can actually pet and be photographed with a baby panda. We heard that they were kind of rough and not as cuddly as you can imagine, plus you have to wear a hospital gown and latex gloves, so we didn’t do that.


We were told to get there early, as the pandas are most active in the morning. But, that was not the case! We got up late and got there late, but the pandas were very active and playful and fun!!



It’s hard to show in these photos, but the place was really big. It’s not just one little enclosed area with a few pandas.

For absolute cuteness, the baby pandas win! But you have to look at them from behind a thick glass wall and they just sleep a lot. They look more like plush toys!


The education center was really modern and very informative. Lots and lots of different hands-on exhibits. You could spend a couple of hours there if you had the time!


The red panda (Shifu, from Kung Fu Panda), is harder to find in the trees, but we saw a couple!

And finally, here’s a short video of one of the pandas munching on some bamboo!

This place is FANTASTIC!!  🙂

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The Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an


I was really excited about visiting the “Emperor Qin Huang’s Mausoleum Site Museum” aka The Terracotta Warriors!  I’d seen several documentaries and read about the warriors – even in my local newspaper, as there was a visiting exhibition at the Virginia Fine Arts Museum scheduled for 2018.

Emperor Qin was the first emperor of China and he was buried with hundreds of clay sculptures in approximately 200 BC! There are several buildings you can visit each with archeological digs and a museum too. The place is huge! The photos I’ve seen of it before my visit didn’t convey just how big it is!


This photo can hopefully give you some idea of how big this place is! If you look on the right or left, you can see visitors looking into the pit. The whole building is at least as big as a football field.


This is the view when you pass through the main doors of the largest building. What you can’t see is that from where the photo was taken were hundreds of people all trying to get a great photo.


Just after you enter the building and round the first corner, you can see the statues up close and you can tell that all of the statutes are different! They weren’t all just stamped out of one mold. Everyone was unique!  The horses too.


You can tell a warriors rank from the shoes they are wearing! If the toes curved upward, then they were more important, higher-ranking soldiers.  Looking down the row above, you can see the entrance into the mausoleum midway to the right.


The heads and bodies were cast separately.


The above two photos were taken in a different building from the main dig.

The Terracotty Army was discovered in 1974 by a local farmer, Yang Zhifa. He is still alive and you can meet him (for a small fee!).

I still cant believe that this was created in 200 BC!


They also do a lot of restoration and behind me is a section of warriors being repaired.

For more information on the Terracotta Warriors, you can visit the National Geographic page here.


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The Temple of Heaven in Beijing

The Temple of Heaven is located in Southern Beijing and was built in 1420. This was during the period of the Ming Dynasty. The Emperors during the Ming and Qing Dynasties used the temple to make sacrifices to the gods.

There are three main altars in the huge and beautiful park. There is the Hall Of Prayer for Good Harvests, The Circular Mound Altar and The Imperial Vault of Heaven.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is the most well known of the structures in the park.  Here are some photos:




This is not the original structure from the 1400s! There was a fire at the end of the 1800s and the whole thing had to be rebuilt. It is breathtakingly beautiful and a must-see on any trip to Beijing.

The Temple of Heaven is a UNESCO World Heritage site and you can learn more about it here.





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Kids World Exchange, 2017 Mandarin Award!


In February 2017, I learned about Kids World Exchange, an organization founded to enable kids from China and the US to speak with one another through recorded videos. The idea came about, I think, because of the time differences between the two countries and the difficulty in finding a video buddy with similar interests.

You can see some of Kids World Exchanges videos on their YouTube Channel.

They had a nation-wide contest where they asked kids to share their favorite local places and to speak about it in Mandarin. Below was my entry, which won first place!


You can learn more about Kids World on their Facebook page!

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Lollipop Art in Chengdu!


Jinli street in Chengdu can be a really crowded, but super-fun area with a lot of shops and snacks and souvenirs. Its great for people watching too. There are tourists from every country you can think of!  Within a few minutes, we heard people speaking Polish, French, English and a tour group passed by carrying a flag from Iran!

I spotted a woman making beautiful hot sugar lollipop artwork on Jinli street, but there were too many people waiting in line.  🙁

After we left Jinli, we wound up in a park where we found someone doing the same thing, but this time with no line!

There was a spinner and you give it a twirl and get whatever animal comes up. I got a rooster and my mom got a butterfly. It was a shame to eat it, it was so pretty!

You can watch the whole process in this video:

Very cool and tasty too!




Learn to Make Dumplings with Peter Chang!


On Sunday, February 25th, 2018 at 11am, please join me at Peter Chang’s restaurant in Williamsburg to learn how to make delicious dumplings!

Chef Chang and his wife Lisa will show us how to  make both meat and vegetable dumplings (my parents are vegan), learn how to make the fillings, roll the dough and seal and cook the dumplings. Also, we’ll discuss the special Szechuan spices, the ‘ma la’ combination of hot and numbing.

But wait, there’s more! In celebration of the Chinese New Year, we’ll have the opportunity to sample some of Chef Chang’s favorite dishes!

US China Strong_Final_update

We will also share some information about the US-China Strong foundation and its mission to have more students from the US study in China. You can visit their website here to learn all about what they do.

Peter Chang’s restaurant is located at: 1203 Richmond Road in Williamsburg. You can find it on Google maps here.

I’ll be helping Chef Peter Chang and Lisa translate their instructions! We did this a couple of years ago and it was a lot of fun! I hope you can come out and share a great lunch, learn about Chinese cooking and The US-China Strong Foundation!



The fee is $20 per person. Adults and kids are welcome!



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Welcome to my new blog!

Hi everyone!

I’m Izzy (aka: Baoling) and this is my world of things that I love about China; the language, travel and of course, the food! I hope that you will enjoy my adventures!


One of the topics I’m most passionate about is learning languages.


Thank you for visiting!
Baoling  🙂