During Nov.16-20th, Shanghai Hongrun Boyuan School launched its Building Shanghai inquiry-learning projects, during which the students, based on their personal interest, got out of the traditional classrooms, walked into this fascinating city to learn its past and present and imagine its future. Take the real world as the book to learn and to be inspired.
By studying the influence of religious culture in Shanghai, our project group aimed to reduce religious discrimination, understand, and generalize the important role that religious culture played in historical development, as well as how religions had influenced people’s thoughts, artistic creation and their lifestyles. Finally, we planned to visit a religious museum to test our life experience and the data we had searched for the week. As it was impossible for us to cover so many religions in such a short week, our group focused on the world's three major religions —— Catholicism, Islam, and Buddhism, and divided the students into three groups.
Our main job for Monday was to acquire some background information of the three major religions, the Catholic Church and the Xilin Temple. First, we learned when and where the 3 major religions came into existence, their gods, architecture, festivals and important features. On that afternoon, we set about searching for basic information about the two major religious and compare their similarities and differences. Throughout the afternoon, everyone was absorbed in sacred religious rites.
Our main task for Tuesday was to design the first draft of a religious “museum”. First, 3 groups of students held a heated discussion on the basic structure and appearance of the museum, and finally agreed on the plan designed by the Buddhism group: To combine museums representing 3 different religions to form a big exhibition hall; To take 3 elements into consideration, i.e. beautiful appearance, independence, and inter-connectivity of the 3 pavilions so that visitors could move from one to another. Later, all groups were engaged in designing the floors. As we planned to go out and visit temples and churches, we didn’t have plenty of time left for us. Fortunately, by the end of class on Tuesday, we had over-fulfilled the assignments the teachers gave us, and everyone’s effort paid off.
The first place we visited was the Catholic church located on the Sheshan mountain. Since its interior was under maintenance, the church wasn’t open to public at that time. However, we could easily imagine its spectacular interior by just looking at its magnificent shape and its fine glaze from the outside.
We left the Catholic church for our second stop on our exploratory trip--- Xilin Temple. As a very old temple, it had been renovated many times, and it was known far and wide for its interior abstinence hall. It happened to be lunchtime when we arrived there, so led by our teachers, we ate vegetarian food. Delicately cooked, vegetarian foods such as tofu and mushrooms looked good and tasted as if they were meat. After having a full meal, we burned incense, worshiped Buddhas and took a tour around the temple. On entering through the gate of the temple, we saw the grand main hall at first sight. The layout of the inside was plain yet solemn, with the Buddha statue standing high in the centre. In the rear part of the main hall and on both sides stood four heavenly kings. Walking in the middle, I could feel the majesty, and could not help but calm down to slowly feel the edification of God. Behind the main hall, there was a small building like a museum with tributes inside, such as the Book of Songs, jewellery etc. In the temple, there was also a fish pond with many colorful koi fish in it. Having heard that if someone touches a yellow koi fish, he or she will be blessed with academic success, some students gathered around the pond to look for the yellow fish. Hoping for a happy marriage in the future; others were trying to look for red koi fish. Still others made wishes for their own future with their eyes closed and finger clasped, and then tossed some coins into the pond.
We had a relaxing day on Thursday. As we had finished our assignments in advance, what was left for us was not so overwhelming. While recalling yesterday’s brilliance and happiness, each group finished writing their own final report on the visit to the museum. During that time, there were some small competitions among the groups. For example, one group said that they planned to open a lot of snack bars on the top floor of their museum so that visitors could enjoy food there. Another group hated to show white feather by setting up an “introspection room” where tourists could calm down to reflect on their own past and think about their future.
Our project group was supposed to report and give a speech to the whole school. We made a wonderful speech, not only bringing happiness to the audience but also making them understand the main purposes of our project and the world’s 3 major religions.
This PBL program had a profound influence on me. I benefited a lot from it. Not only did I acquire lots of knowledge on religions, improve my skills in English speaking, but also I improved my thinking skills.