Sidney is an incoming Freshman who will be joining the Chinese Flagship Program at WKU this month. She has just completed her first trip to China on a U.S. Department of State National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Scholarship.

Beauty has no bounds, no region of life in which it cannot thrive even if largely and unfortunately overlooked.  From the simple, subtle beauty of the mountains to the ornate, man-made beauty of the Imperial Palace, beauty of all types and sorts exists everywhere.   Beauty is what has shaped my experiences in China and what has drawn me to the language and the people.  I search for beauty in everything, but most of the time, beauty ends up finding me.

My project embraces two mediums of beauty: the written word and the spoken word. By reading the poem Xiang Si by Wang Wei, I have the opportunity to learn and taste the beauty of the Chinese written word. Poetry is a universal beauty crossing cultures, ethnicities, and religions. It is this beauty that has continually reminded me that people are people, and all people are beautiful, in a unique yet similar way. We all have ideas and thoughts that tumble onto the pages of novels, poetry, biographies, and the like. These thoughts and ideas are then inevitably shared, disregarding different distances, languages, and times preserved in scribbled words. The idea and thoughts of the previous ages have taught those of us in this age; and the ideas and thoughts of this age will teach the next generation. The beauty of each generation is pressed, like a delicate flower, onto the pages of the written word. My time in China has only exemplified this idea: from the intricacies of the roofs of the Imperial Palace buildings to the names, carved in stone, of those who passed the Confucius.

The spoken word is just as important, if not more, than the written word. Spoken word and song predates writing, and many of the earliest texts discovered were oral traditions for years before they were penned.  Ages ago, spoken word was all that was used to pass the thoughts and ideas that make up the beauty of each generation of people. Now we are blessed with the written word, but it is the spoken word that originally embraced the emotions. The spoken word can cause you to love, to hate, to follow, to lead. The spoken word is a powerful tool. In the beginning of this trip, I noticed what a tonal language Mandarin is. It seemed to me that, while the tones were (and still are) difficult to learn, they are beautiful to listen to. As I moved further into my stay here, I had the opportunity to listen to Chinese music. It is beautiful. The voices are incredible, and I love the language. One song that I heard stuck out to me. The name is 童话, or in English, Fairytale. The song, which has an equally moving music video to it, is about a boy wanting to be his girlfriends Fairytale. In the end, the girl dies, and he remembers all of the things they did together. Although sad, I think this song is absolutely, breathtakingly, beautiful. Not because of his voice (which is very good) or the music notes, but because of the beauty of his heart.  The meaning if this song is like many other songs across the world, yet unique in it’s own story. The beauty of the heart is a multicultural substance, the story, individualistic.

Although beauty is cross-cultural, China has it’s own very distinct beauty. From the written word of a poem about red berries and love to a song about love and loss, China and this trip has left a lasting impression on me, a stamp on my heart. Although this trip is coming to a close, and a new chapter of my life is starting, I know that I will come back to China. This trip, this glance into the deep, beautiful Chinese culture has strengthened my desire to continue my study of Chinese.