Alfred University News

Students immerse themselves in Chinese history…and food

Students studying Chinese history, culture and language at Alfred University recently enjoyed a field trip that brought them up close and personal with one of China’s most beloved cultural artifacts: food.

Sixteen students studying with Daisy Wu, Director of Chinese Language and Culture Programs, and Andrew Kless, Assistant Professor of History and Global Studies, visited Rochester’s Asia Food Market, then feasted at Szechuan Opera, sampling dishes such as sweet and sour lotus root, pork dumplings, duck, and various tofu dishes. At the Asia Food Market, the students stocked up on snacks to bring back to campus such as haw fruit candies, matcha tea biscuits and bean paste rolls.

The visit coincided with the annual Chinese Moon Festival celebration.

Anthony Cetta, a student from Walton, NY, bought bubble tea, jelly strips and Asian candies to bring back to campus. A veteran traveler who recently toured southeast Asia with his sister, alumna Rebecca Cetta ’18, Cetta says he approached the Chinese border while in in Vietnam and hopes to tour China on a motorbike in the future.

Franky Pecora-Fraye, another student in Kless’s Modern China class, said the trip was his first visit to the Asia Food Market, where he tasted crawfish-flavored potato chips. A student in the School of Art and Design, Pecora-Fraye said he is taking Kless’s history class to satisfy his humanities distribution requirement. “Usually I’m in my studio 24-7, so this is a nice change of pace.”

While Kless’s class focuses on modern Chinese history, Wu’s Chinese Language and Culture class offers students an introduction to the Chinese language itself.  That’s a serious academic challenge, according to Laura Bishop, a second-year student who grew up studying Chinese. “My mother is Taiwanese,” she explains.

Bishop notes Wu’s class is offered in the first and second semesters. By the end of the second half, she estimates, a student ought to have at least a rudimentary grasp on the language – sufficient for ordering food in a restaurant and asking for directions.

“I still remember a lot of what I studied when I was young, so it’s a little easier for me,” she says.

Bishop has added another aspect of Chinese culture to her academic work at Alfred University: She is studying the Guzheng with Wu, an award-winning Guzheng artist who founded and serves as artistic director of Alfred University’s Guzheng Ensemble.

To watch Wu playing the instrument, which Bishop describes as a Chinese harp, visit: