By KELSEY WINDAS
Senior Bryan Clark’s passion for Chinese culture has gone from a hobby to the foundation of his future career.
“I’ve been studying China for the past seven years of my life,” said Clark. “It’s my first true love.”
It was due to this distinct interest that Clark, a history and philosophy double major, was truly able to mix business with pleasure. As part of an individual study with Dr. Liane Houghtalin from the Classics, Philosophy and Religion Department, Clark set out on a three-month endeavor to restore 150 ancient Chinese coins taken from the University of Mary Washington’s KurtF. Leidecker Collection.
According to Clark, the coins go through the dynasties in chronological order from the Xin Dynasty (7-23 AD), to the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD) and, finally, to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD).
Last Friday, Clark presented a small sample of the restored coins from each of the three dynasties at the Ridderhof Martin Gallery.
“The goal of the presentation [was to] give the audience an overview of Chinese coins from different periods,” said Clark. “I want to show how Chinese coinage hasn’t changed in the past 2000 years and that unlike other coinage systems, Chinese coins have stayed relatively the same. The only thing that has changed is the caricatures on the coins.”
His interest in Chinese Culture did not arise from its coinage alone, however. In fact, according to Clark, his interest in China was sparked in high school where some of his close friends inspired him to begin his research.
“My best friend is from China,” said Clark. “And most of my friends are from China, so they really influenced me to study the history because they know so much about it themselves.”
With the help of his high school friends, Clark even began to learn the Chinese language.
“I developed a conversational approach through speaking with my friends and stuff like that,” said Clark. “They taught me a lot … just by hearing [the language] and going back and forth.”
According to Clark, he attended the University of Alabama for one year after high school before transferring to UMW. Here, he continued to further his studies of China, and even got the chance to study abroad for six months in Hong Kong. That was Clark’s first and only visit to China.
Only visit, that is, until now.
With only a few more weeks to go before graduating, Clark is once again looking forward to visiting the country that he has grown to love. This time, however, he will not be going as a student. Instead, Clark will be working as an intern at a government-owned factory in Jining City, China—an area he chose due to its detachment from city life.
“I wanted to work more in the countryside,” explained Clark. “I didn’t want to work in the big city because it’s very commercialized and there’s a lot of western influence.”
According to Clark, his time at the factory will be spent translating and tutoring the workers on their English language skills. The internship will span three months, during which time he will reside in a provided on-site dormitory along with three other factory workers.
“At the end of three months I’ll be able to extend it if I want to, but three months is a definite,” Clark said.
Clark’s journey is set to commence on May 22 when he departs for China to follow his passion.
“It’s definitely a very unique experience, but that’s how I describe my life,” Clark said. “You’ve got to live life. That’s what I always tell people.”