Studying Chinese in Nature's Hot Tub

There may not be snow in Guilin, but winter is still winter and with the changing seasons come new opportunities to experience Chinese culture. Last weekend, CLI students partook in what some locals deem a winter tradition by traveling into the mountains for a soak in the hot springs.

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The hot springs are nestled in the mountains, providing the most picturesque view.

The hot springs, or nature’s “hot tub”, provided students the opportunity to relax in the mountain’s natural beauty without feeling the effects of its cool, stinging wind. Besides being surrounded by scenery fit for a postcard, the sulfur springs are also believed to have many health benefits. The sulfur springs are used to treat ailments ranging from arthritis to skin irritations to high blood pressure.

After a relaxing day, students sat down for a traditional Yao minority dinner. Students enjoyed homemade rice wine, local produce, and the traditional Spring Festival meat, làròu. Yao minority women are known for their colorful handmade clothes, silver jewelry, and long hair. Their hair often reaches lengths of over one meter.

The next morning, as the sun climbed over the mountains and steam billowed off the water, students return to the hot springs for an early morning soak before hiking to a nearby village for lunch. The consensus amongst students was that everyone should have the opportunity to start their day in this tranquil manner. Once in the water it was tough to leave, but a flowing waterfall and lunch were waiting in a nearby village.

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The journey to lunch was as beautiful as the destination itself.

To get to the nearby village and waterfall students trekked alongside a meandering river. The water rushing over rocks and quacks of webbed foot inhabitants provided the optimal hiking soundtrack.

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After a peaceful walk, our destination was finally in sight.

At the village students had the opportunity to practice speaking Chinese by ordering lunch. After lunch was ordered, students relaxed near the local waterfall while waiting for the food to be prepared. A hot pot lunch was eaten outside in the shadow of the mountains. Food was plentiful as each student did their best to finish the heaps of food that were placed before them.

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Students enjoying a relaxing break from learning Chinese in the classroom.

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Bryan enjoying some sunshine while waiting for lunch.

After lunch, it was time to hike back to the van that would return us home to Guilin. It was tough to say goodbye to the comforts of the hot springs, but with Monday fast approaching and homework still needing to be done it was time to go. It’s a safe bet to assume many wished CLI had its own nature’s “hot tub” to relax in.

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Based in scenic Guilin, China, CLI is a leading center for Chinese language and cultural studies.