What better way to start the BYU Young Ambassadors' first full day in Xi'an, China, than to ride bicycles nine kilometers around the ancient city wall?
Local bicycle rental company personnel were happy to see the student-perfromers when they arrived first thing in the morning, rented bikes, and circled around the entire city in one hour's time. Frequent potholes and the heat were challenges, but ice cream treats and cold drinks at the end of the ride made it all worth the extra effort. Some of the group members even tried out making the trip on bicycles built for two as they enjoyed the scenic adventure.
Two sold-out performances for enthusiastic audiences in the Chang Le Theater in Xi'an included luminaries of the artistic community as well as generals, colonels and commanding officers of a Chinese Army Medical School and Hospital.
Wednesday's visit to the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Museum was a phenomenal glimpse into Chinese history around the late third century BC. Young Ambassadors sang for one of the farmers who discovered pieces of the warriors as he was digging a well on his farm in 1974.
A Chinese calligraphy lesson at the art museum was also among the highlights of their days in Xi'an. Outreaches included a visit to a Catholic school for special needs children and to a martial arts school where children from ages 5 to 20 were trained to compete for and win more than 2,000 bronze, silver and gold medals in international competitions.
Faculty and students from the Music and Dance Departments of the Xi'an Normal University shared their expertise in Chinese classical dance and choral music during an exchange where the Young Ambassadors' performances were enthusiastically received.
As the students' days in Xi'an were coming to a close, LDS Church leader Sheldon Poon hosted the group for an amazing farewell banquet consisting of traditional Xi'an dumplings filled with many local delicacies. After the farewell dinner, the cast was treated to a spectacular performance of music and dance from the Tang Dynasty.
Thursday's flight to Shenzhen and the subsequent bus ride across the border and into Hong Kong was accompanied by heavy rainfall and substantial humidity. Once in Hong Kong, however, the weather improved and the group enjoyed a spectacular view of the city from Victoria Peak.
On Friday morning, the Hong Kong Temple scheduled an extra session to accommodate the Young Ambassadors before two outreach performances with The Neighborhood Council and the special needs youth and adults.
Saturday morning's schedule included the Blind Union Exchange outreach performance before the second of two final performances for Hong Kong audiences in Yuen Long Theatre. Tickets for both Hong Kong shows were in high demand, and three years of "Harmony — the Music of Life" came to a fitting conclusion with two encores in their final performance on May 18.
Sunday morning found the entire company walking to the Star Ferry for a short ride across to Hong Kong Island and Church meetings in Hong Kong's high-rise chapel complex with local members of the English, Chinese and Filipino branches.
A picturesque bus ride back out to the beautiful New Territories Stake Center brought the Young Ambassadors to their final fireside performance together. Stake members prepared a delicious dinner for their BYU guests. As always, Hong Kong church members have welcomed the Young Ambassadors with open arms.
During the fireside, hymn settings that have been some of the Young Ambassadors' favorite musical moments of the year were punctuated by testimonies from Young Ambassadors veterans and local Chinese members of the Church.
How do you sum up the rich experiences of the past three weeks in China? Life-changing, heart-warming, full of surprises? This year's Young Ambassador tour was all of that and much more. Monday's flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles and on to Salt Lake City closed another remarkable chapter in BYU's ongoing relationship with old and new friends in magnificent China.
Writer: Performing Arts Mangement