Thanks to Trustee Oscar Tang ’56, 14 Faculty Members Traveled To China for Cultural Revelation

As a young immigrant from China, Oscar L. Tang ’56 received a scholarship to attend Phillips Academy. Some forty years later, he founded the Frances and Oscar Tang Faculty Endowment in honor of his late wife, Frances Young Tang ’57. Thanks to his $1.5 million gift to the endowment, PA’s faculty was able to make their thirteenth annual trip to China this past summer. Nine of the 14 faculty members who went on the trip spoke about the cities they visited in chronological order during this week’s All-School Meeting. Instructor in English Nina Scott, the first to speak, described Beijing as “a beautiful and mysterious paradise.” In the capital, they visited various monuments including the Emperor’s Balcony, the Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall, and Tamarind Square. The faculty met up with a group of students from Phillips Academy who were traveling with Instructor in Chinese Travis Conley. Chip Schroeder ’08 said, “It looked like [the Andover faculty was] having a really good time. They didn’t know Chinese going into the trip, so it was a different experience.” After witnessing the polite manner in which Henry Yin ’07 argued with a rickshaw driver about directions during a tour of the city he was giving the Scotts, Ms. Scott said, “I thought and hoped, ‘maybe this is the future of China’.” Head of French Department Henry Herbst described his visit to Crescent Moon Lake in the city of Dunhuang. He enjoyed bamboo sledding down the sand dunes of the Gobi Desert. Mr. Herbst also learned during a visit to a museum that metal debris from the September 11 terrorist attacks was shipped to China and India for recycling. Xi’an is the only city wall in China that encloses its entire territory, including the famed Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses. The emperor Qin Shi Huang began his mausoleum in 246 BC when he was 13 years old. Three pits holding the life-size ceramic horses and soldiers were first opened to the public in 1979. Instructor in French Sally Herbst said, “My first sight of these warriors literally took my breath away.” In Tibet, the faculty visited the Potala Palace, Jakhang temple, and the Sara Monastery, whose interiors “are a visual feast,” according to Director of Peabody Malinda Blustain. Upon learning of the faculty members’ nationality, a woman they met in front of the Sara Monastery said, “I love Americans. I love you.” They were surprised by the unusually warm welcome. In Tibet, tourists often suffer from the serious effects of high altitude sickness. The Andover faculty, who stayed in a hotel that supplied oxygen to its rooms, managed to evade oxygen deprivation. Instructor in Biology Patricia Russell said, “I had heard and read a lot about Tibet… actually getting to see the place was the most dynamic for me.” After their visit to Tibet, the faculty traveled along Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia. In the course of the three days spent on a boat, the faculty noted China’s recent development in its increasingly modern cities. In a shocking contrast, they encountered corpses floating on the water, evidence that traditional river burials are still practiced. Instructor in Math Ellen M. Glover and Instructor in Japanese Teruyo Shimazu took advantage of the three days spent on the Yangtze River as a time for reflection. They saw abandoned cities, a full moon, and the flooding of the river. Dr. Merrill said that the experience led the travelers to think “about things from the intensely personal to globally impersonal.” In closing the meeting, Mr. Merrill said he hoped students would “multiply the value of Mr. Tang’s gift” by talking and learning from each other about China.