As part of Experiential Learning – Asia Pacific Study (RMG 917), a group of 17 TRSM Retail Management students are visiting China for a two-week learning experience exploring the Chinese retail market. The group began their journey in Beijing on Saturday, May 7th.
Here, students Cherice Wilson, Aliana Kopec and Lauren Rainville describe some of the highlights of their exploration of Nanjing.
A Visit to Sasseur Art Plaza
During a busy day of shopping, we stopped by Sasseur Art Plaza. Situated in Nanjing’s Jianging District, the Sasseur Art Plaza is a multi-level outlet mall located in the suburbs.
Excited to see what awaited, we rushed into the mall, ready for what was probably Round 6 of shopping for us. We made our way through familiar luxury and premium stores, Asia’s local brands and everything in between. As we marveled at clean displays and bright merchandise, there was one question that echoed among our group: Where are all the people?
We were greeted by sales associates with a friendly “Nihao” as we entered empty store after empty store. Sales associates outnumbered patrons by far. This was a departure from the fast-paced street market that we visited early in the day. Was it the time of our visit? Location? How does a shopping destination find itself full of beautiful merchandise but with hardly anyone shopping in it?
Visiting Gong Ye Tea House
There is a saying in China that if your tea is kept for a year it is for drinking, after three years it is for medicine and after seven years it is a treasure. The tea culture in China is a longstanding tradition. With over 50,000 variations of tea flavours, China is home to some of the most unique flavours in the world.
At the Gong Ye Tea House, in Nanjing, China, we sat down with tea masters to learn about tea etiquette and history. My tea master studied tea abroad in California for three years and was eager to share her knowledge with our group. As she poured our tea gracefully she explained the intricacies of tea preparation. Tea is treated with the most delicate care, where it cannot be touched by bare hands. This is to preserve the taste of the tea.
When it comes to tea, it is just as much about the experience as it is about the tea itself. Tea is supposed to be a calming experience and this was apparent as we sat down at the small wooden table with tranquil music in the background. For a girl that enjoys her tea there were three things I was told to treasure by Gong Ye’s resident Tea Master: One was red wine, the other was black sugar and of course red tea.
I could not agree more!
Imagine shopping along Queen Street West in Toronto, but not being able to communicate with vendors with anything besides calculators and hand signals. During the visit to the wholesale market in Nanjing, bartering is not what you assume. The people there were very strict with their prices and would only lower the cost 5 yuan. Forget about trying to order from the street vendors. The food could be fake, who knows! We Ryerson students proceeded to our comfort zone: Pizza Hut. Along the way, we stopped at Sasseur Outlet Mall. Completely different from the typical image of the Eaton Centre. It is spotless, with no one to be seen! This multi-level shopping mall had modern designer clothing with beautiful merchandising that captured your attention. Bright lights and colours attracted me into the store like a kid in a candy shop! The blaring North American top 40 hits blended in with the domestic and foreign luxury brands together. Today, the students experienced both ends of the shopping spectrum – low-end street market to premium luxury brands.
Our last day in Nanjing started off with a trip to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s mausoleum. The heat was unforgiving as we made the long trek to the top of the memorial, but boy was it rewarding. We were late leaving the scenic area since we were all stopped numerous times by the local people. I counted 30 before I lost track of how many times we were asked to be in pictures. We then moved to Xuanwu Lake where we enjoyed a nice waterfront stroll capped off by a boat tour. My personal favourite part of the day was the Chinese tea tasting. We got to sit in a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and got to taste many locally sourced teas. Last but not least was the Confucius Temple.
Even after a week, getting to see historical Chinese architecture doesn’t seem to get old. I’m definitely sad that this is our last night in Nanjing, but I’m excited to see how Shanghai will measure up!