Learning on Journey: Writer Travels Around China with Daughters

 August 28, 2020

Author: Xue Zhou

Publishing House: CITIC Press Group

Publishing Time: August 2020


Xue Zhou, a writer, poet and interpreter who spent 10 years on a self-driving tour with his two daughters Qiaoqiao and Dizi, published a series of books in August about Chinese history in their eyes gleaned from their journey, after visiting about 1,000 museums, memorial halls and historical and cultural relics in 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in the country.

"Seeing while traveling is a lifestyle of our family, and the book is a gift dedicated to my daughters' growth." Xue said. 

When the daughters were of preschool age, the family travelled any time they wished. Afterwards, they went sightseeing in summer and winter vacations.

During the summer vacation in 2017, they visited 78 museums, and toured another 80 in the summer vacation in the next year. Last summer, when the younger daughter Dizi turned 6, they traveled to Tibet Autonomous Region, the 31st provincial-level administrative regions they had visited in China.

Xue's family has a tradition of recalling the most impressive places during their trips after returning home, such as the inns and streets in Lijiang City, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, or the bamboo houses in Zhaoxing Dong Ethic Village in Southwest China's Guizhou Province.

Every long trip is a test and a lesson for children according to Xue. "The experiences and feelings on a journey become the highlights of our life, reminding us of the beauty of life that is worth looking forward to," Xue said.

The family keeps working and studying during their journeys. "While I was driving, my daughters often recited multiplication formulas and poems accompanied by their mother," said Xue. After arriving at the hotel in the evening, the parents would work and read books, while the daughters did their homework and read books as well.

When Qiaoqiao was 4, the family drove to Sanya in South China's Hainan Province and lived there for two months. Every day, they spent a couple of hours on studying English before going swimming. By the end of the vacation, the child had read more than 300 English picture books.  

"Our family are fond of walking and watching more first, and thinking and digesting later, just like using a big fire to cook but turning it lower when the food is about to be cooked. This is also a way to maintain mindfulness," the father said. 

Each time before departure, Xue would draw up a route map and tell the children stories about what they would see in advance. He suggested traveling to the same scenic spot several times with different themes, just like going through a good book more than once.

Xue often searched the dining table for history. Which foods were introduced after Zhang Qian, a royal emissary of China's Han Dynasty (206 BC- 220 AD) opened the terrestrial Silk Road, and which were brought in after the geographical discoveries of Columbus? Why is cucumber called cucumber and spinach called spinach? Talking about this, the daughters' interest was stimulated.

"Interests are not inborn, but are picked up or cultivated on the road," Xue said. "Seeing more and talking more, there will be many more impressions."

Xue likens his family to a team. "My wife is a partner in my career, a good friend in life, and a companion on trips. I am concerned about our children's mind and ideas, and she takes care of the children's life and studies more. We do what we are good at," He continued.

Xue believes that travel is the best way to put one's heart and soul into accompanying children. "The first benefit is to appreciate the scenery, and the second is to test one's own knowledge. School performance is just a reflection of children's outlook on life and learning attitude. We are not too anxious about that. Instead, we pay more attention to stimulating children's spontaneous enthusiasm and motivation," he said.

Xue never enrolled his children in tutorial classes, other than interest classes. "I usually ask my children to study hard at school and play hard during holidays. They all agree with this idea."

Though the elder daughter Qiaoqiao never went to kindergarten, she has a wide range of interests. With many strong points including dance and playing the piano, she was rated as one of the best students in Beijing when graduating from elementary school.

She once wrote a column Qiaoqiao Takes You Around China for a newspaper to introduce her journeys, and her school's official WeChat account often publishes her travel logs.

Dizi is very proud that she has traveled so many places. She likes to read historical storybooks, such as China's four great classical novels (The Romance of the Three Kingdom, The Water Margin, Journey to the West and A Dream of The Red Mansions), Annuals of the Kingdoms in the East Zhou Dynasty and martial arts novels of Jin Yong (Louis Cha). 

"To learn from traveling, one should be committed to lifelong learning. Learning about history during trips enables parents to broaden their children's horizons," said Xue.


(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Women of China)


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