Thurston, Anne F., Turner-Gottschang, Karen, Reed, Linda A.. "2. Preparing for the Trip." China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1994.
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CHINA BOUND: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC
Within these limits, the less you take, the better. Storage space is limited in hotels and dormitories. Most dormitories and apartments will have only a small free-standing armoire for clothes. A small footlocker or trunk with a lock is useful for storing and transporting goods; some researchers suggest locking valuables, such as notebook computers, in the trunk while you are out of the room.
Western and Chinese styles of dress are converging. Dress in China is casual, but not nearly as casual as in the past. Chinese men are wearing coats and ties and women are wearing skirts and dresses. Appropriate dress in China is pretty much the same as that worn under similar circumstances in the United States. Attire will depend on age, status, and the occasion. Men can wear casual slacks and an open neck shirt for teaching, and a coat and tie for meetings, more formal lectures, and banquets. Women can wear slacks, skirts, or dresses to teach, and somewhat dressier attire for special occasions. Nevertheless, the Chinese expect their teachers to be somewhat conservative. Students dress much less formally than visiting Fulbright scholars or researchers, although a certain modest decorum must be observed even on the hottest summer day. Bright colors and tasteful jewelry are quite acceptable now, but extremes of style and ostentation are not considered acceptable for "intellectuals." Bare midriffs, shorts (except for sports), and décolletage are still considered risqué. Bermuda-length shorts, however, are acceptable on men and younger women. No matter what your age or status, you will be doing a lot of walking, so comfortable walking shoes and sturdy boots are essential.
In general, China, except for the far south, has extreme variations in temperature. For example, Beijing is bitterly cold in winter and hot and humid in summer. This is true even in such "southern" cities as Shanghai, Nanjing, and Hangzhou. Residents warn that winters are cold and the heat is turned on late (well into November)—and then only for a few hours a day. Many public buildings, libraries, offices, and laboratories are unheated altogether. Chilblains (dong chuang) —where the skin turns a patchy purple, especially on the hands and ears—are a common complaint in southern China in the winter because rooms are often unheated and the air is very damp. Dry exposed skin well after washing and keep fingers and ears covered at night if the room is unheated.
In areas where winters are cold and classrooms are unheated, it is wise to observe the Chinese custom of dressing in layers—many layers. Until Americans become fully accustomed to this necessity, or have suffered one too many respiratory ailments or chilblains, they tend to stop halfway—after three or four rather than the seven, eight—or eleven—layers that their Chinese friends will be wearing. Duo chuan yifu—"put on some more clothes"—is an admonition many under