10 June 2013

Qinghai University guest lecturing trip.  Qinghai is one of the largest provinces in China and one of only a few places that I hadn’t been. Through Southwest University I established linkages with Qinghai University’s grassland sciences programs and was invited to give presentations to the Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine Institute. (See the following link for information on the university: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qinghai_University)

Animal Science Academy sign Animal Science Academy sign and bldg - 2 (1)

Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine Institute contacts requested all 3 of the presentations that I offered to give. The university website announced the presentations:
http://animals.swu.edu.cn/animals/index.php?module=notice&id=2628 and

Poster Announcing Lectures

With a personal introduction added at the beginning, that made for a full day of seminars including: (1) US and Chinese Grasslands: Compare and Contrast; (2) GIS-based Crop Suitability Mapping; and (3) Writing English-language Scientific Papers. Four faculty members and about 30 graduate students attended the presentations, with the first 3 topics in the morning and the writing papers session in the afternoon.

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For the morning session, there were 25 undergraduates, 30 graduate students, and 15  faculty in attendance.  In the afternoon, the numbers were 25, 40, and 10, respectively.

Meals are always a major event of official visits. Qinghai matches my food requirements far better than the southeastern portion of the country, since mutton, beef and yak are typical rather than the ever-present pork in the SE. And, being so far from the ocean, hard-shelled seafood is rare although shrimp was served a number of times.


The flight into the capital city of Xining came through Xi’an on star alliance partner Shenzhen Airlines (well, at least that’s what is advertised). This provided  a view of the changing landscape into the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, with deeply carved valleys with ribbons of green against a backdrop of mostly brown mountains.

But it was the trips out via CRV that provided the best view of the rangelands and the grazing livestock.

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Driving west out of Xining, we stopped at a Yak Research Center affiliated with the University.  Several families have combined to own 400 yak being raised for breeding bulls and live animal meat sales to the city.

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The host family invited us into their home for yak milk and butter, tea, bread, and yogurt.  Skipping the sugar that they normally use to top the yogurt and taking only a small amount of bread from the plate piled high, I was able to enjoy without overloading carbohydrates.

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From the yak herder home we retraced our driving a bit and stopped at a home with thousands of free-range, “organically-produced” chickens.  I question the classification since the cornmeal being poured on the ground is not likely to be organically grown.  But, they are able to command a hefty 20USD per chicken in the city due to the concern over food safety.

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Next stop was the forage research station where Qinghai and other sourced rangeland plants are being observed and evaluated by grazing.

The forage research station is located at 3156 meters elevation and 36° 59′ North latitude and 100° 53′ East longitude (Xining is 36°38′N 101°46′E).  It is administered jointly by the local government and the Animal Science Institute. 1200 entries are under observation, with representatives of 11 families, 48 genera, and 159 species. A small number of species have been chosen for evaluation in sheep grazing trials. Recommendations for farmer/ herder evaluation are made to  the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Science and Technology, and seeds are given at no charge to improve the rangelands.  Since the establishment of the station in 2009, several varieties have been developed for rangeland improvement.

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Lunch was at a family run restaurant not far from the research station and included bread, a roasted barley flour mixed with butter and sugar and squeezed into 5-inch by 1.5 inch unbaked cookies, mutton, and a hot pot of who knows what bubbling inside.  I stuck with mutton and beer.


Around 2 pm we headed for Qinghai Lake through interesting scenery and blue skies with clouds for much of the drive.  The lake is the largest in China, recently named an AAAAA tourist attraction which means crowds and development are spoiling what was once a clean, clear lake.

Touring boats belch fumes into the air and fuel into the water, with additional docks being built. I preferred looking at the mountains on the other side of the road, although excessive numbers of livestock are spoiling that resource in a different way.

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Tourist shops lined the exit road, with pelts of various animals and stuffed toy animals, including the Tibetan mastiff dog and antelope. No, I didn’t buy anything.

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The return to Xining took several hours, with amazing scenery of grazing yaks and sheep, power lines, and train tracks and trestles stretching across the rangelands.

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We arrived in Xining nearly 12 hours after our morning departure. Dinner was at a Muslim restaurant that serves huge plates of chopped chicken (including heads and feet), in a sauce of ginger slices, garlic, green onions, chili peppers, and tomatoes, with potatoes and potato starch noodles rounding out the dish.  Some minutes after delivering the dish, a plate of flat, stretched noodles was brought and unceremoniously dumped on the platter, as if any additional carbs were needed!  Hot tea was my choice of drink, since the only other choice was soft drinks.

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The next morning, the plan was to go to an oat research station. But, due to the rainy weather, that was skipped and we went directly to the famous Ta’er Buddhist temple.  I found it all disturbing; the opulence and hundreds of idols, although the tapestry was beautiful.

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I preferred the natural scenery surrounding the buildings and idols inside.

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Return to Xining for lunch was to the same restaurant as the first afternoon of arrival, but several mutton dishes were ordered this time and a beef dish and a plate of fried/roasted potatoes, shredded cabbage, beer and tea.  The mutton was tender and served as my primary choice.

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I was given the choice of a museum or time at the hotel prior to pick-up at 4:30 for meeting a group of faculty for dinner. I chose the hotel for email and a shower and short rest.

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Dinner was at a carved meat restaurant, like the Brazilian versions in the US.  There was a piano in the center area and permission was granted for me to play while the group was assembling and people were having appetizers. I played Chopin, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn before choosing my appetizers and joining the table. One curious thing to me was having two colleagues engaged in a loud conversation while standing behind me while I was playing and others engaged in taking flash photographs of me while playing, then saying how marvelous the music was. How would they have heard or noticed? In any case, I enjoyed the opportunity to play.


The meats were good and “white wine” was the drink, so “slowly, slowly” was my self-reminder. They did serve pork ribs and some sort of crustacean, but they were easily identified and avoided.

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Return to the hotel was accomplished by around 8 pm, so I was able to organize packing for the next day’s departure and do some work-related and personal emails before retiring reasonably early.

My primary host(ess), Ji Yajun, asked me to accompany her in the morning to the city park to look at the tulip plantings and other flowers (http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90782/8238885.html).

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They are trying to reduce their costs of purchasing new bulbs each year but are having difficulty ensuring large, vigorous bulbs and flowers in years 2 and beyond.  I provided some web links to tulip plantings and management. The primary issue seems to be ensuring that there is good drainage and sufficient fertility for growing large, strong bulbs for subsequent years. Some additional suggestions were made for ensuring season-long flowers, with early spring bulbs followed by late spring, early summer annual flowers, peonies and dalhias and roses for summer, and chrysanthemums for fall color. Contact will be made with Jan Karlik related to his frequent tours of international gardens. Linkage with Chris Daly’s USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map will also provide useful information of cold tolerant plants and flowers (http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/).

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Transport to the airport for the flight scheduled at 13:05 was a bit later than I am comfortable with, but check-in through the gold-card line (1 million miles plus has some benefits) was fast. The first/business class lounge provided a large chair and hot water for tea (all the snacks were not in harmony for what I eat, since they are largely simple carbohydrates).  The plane was delayed over an hour, so there was time for email and a bit of other work.  Subsequent delays in the connecting city of Xi’an made arrival in Nanjing over 2 ½ hours late.  My limited Chinese capability did allow for the taxi to know where to take me: “Nanjing Nong Ye Da Xue, 2 Hao Men; Bai Xia Qu Tong Wei Lu 6 Hao.” After some consideration, I decided to modify to have him drop me next to the roasted duck stand so I could get a half duck (half = bàn jié), some almonds and walnuts, and eggs for breakfast. Home again, home again; cold and empty and some time before food will be ready, after a shower.

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Combined with Starbuck’s Sumatran coffee made with microwaved water and a French press, the duck, eggs, vegetables and Tillamook cheese (brought from US and kept frozen) made a perfect breakfast.

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Posted in 10 June 2013, June