China: The Great Wall and Beyond- Summer 2016
Location: Beijing, Hubei, Guizhou, Chongqing, Hunan, China


Gordon Tucker, PhD and Zhiwei Liu, PhD, Your Guides to Plant Usage and Culture in China.
See more photos of this exciting program!

Department: Biology

Leaders: Dr. Zhiwei Liu ( and Dr. Gordon Tucker (

: Biology

  Terms/Timeframe: May 10-31, 2016

Language: English

  Credits: 4

Budget: TBD


Good Academic Standing
Good Judicial Standing

  Application Deadlines:
January 29, 2016
  Application Materials:

EIU Program Application (Faculty-led Programs)

Course Selection Form


Academic Program

Ethnobotany is an investigation of past and present human dependence on plants, emphasizing plants used as foods and medicines. This course is an on site exploration of the diverse ways in which plants form an integral part of modern China and its history. By studying how plants have been or are used in human societies, ethnobotany also gains insight into the complex relationship between plant uses and cultures. A growing interest in ethnobotany is seen since the 1990's because of pharmaceutical applications. Although chemically-synthesized drugs replaced plants as the main medicinal source in the recent history of human civilization, especially in industrialized countries, plants are again considered as a significant source of new pharmaceuticals. Industries are now interested in exploring parts of the world where plant medicine remains the predominant form of dealing with illness.

China has a rich and well documented tradition and diverse usage of plants. China provides a classic example of the incorporation of plant derived drugs in all aspects of medicine. The diverse usage of plants is also reflected in the many kinds of Chinese food that are consumed by people of various cultures around the world. China is one of the "cradles" of agriculture, the birth place of the cultivation of many important crops, including rice, millet, soybeans, and water chestnuts, and is the only undisrupted major ancient civilization in the world. Some plants find use in almost every aspect of Chinese life, such as the bamboo, a woody grass, which provides material for many uses, from construction to furniture, tools, crafts, paper, and food. Thus China is an outstanding location for the study of ethnobotany, allowing close examination of the diversity of human usages of plants, past and present, and its implications on humanity in the near future.

China’s recent emergence as a fast growing economic power provides numerous opportunities for American companies. Increasingly close ties have formed between China and the US in economic, political, and academic fields since China opened its doors to the western world two and half decades ago. This means for the university and its students tremendous opportunities, as well as a serious challenge because of the cultural differences between the two countries. The proposed course will help the students to gain an understanding of China and its people by surveying a core theme of everyday life, use of plants, and other related cultural phenomena.

"It is wonderful to observe how people on the other side of the world live, just how small your backyard is, how old cultures are when compared to our own... and that the food is unbelievably good." -- Roger Cunningham, Summer 2010 participant.

"The best 3 weeks of my life. I learned so much about life and myself." -- Zachery Guthrie, Summer 2010 participant.

"Going to China was probably the most mind-blowing experience! The culture was so different and interesting, the food was incredible and the people were so welcoming. I want to go back." -- Kateri Tonyan, Summer 2011 participant.

Please also see the Program Website


Sample Activities/Itinerary

1. Diversity of plants on the Chinese table: eating in various restaurants
2. Experience cultural change from the north to the south by riding a train from Beijing to Yichang (Highspeed train) and from Jishou - Beijing (regular train with sleeper)
3. Visit to modern pharmaceutical company, specializing in plant-based medicines
4. Visit to drug store of Chinese traditional medicine
5. Visit to Tea plantation and kiwi product company
6. Tea tasting at a family owned tea shop
7. Visit to farmer's markets
8. Visit to house of local farmer & the typical farmer's vegetable garden
9. Explore cultural diversity and wonderful landscape in eastern Guizhou and western Hunan
10. Visit iconic Chinese sites, including Great Wall (pictured above), Forbidden City, Ming Tombs, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, the ancient Fenghuang town, Three Gorges Canyon of Yangtze River, and Three Gorges Dam; (Information is available for all the mentioned sites in Wikipedia.)
11. Cruise boat on Yangtze River while viewing the beautiful scenery of Three Gorges Canyon. The boat ride concludes at Yichang, Hubei, the place of the world’s largest dam, an controversial project with ecological consequences while offering renewable electricity. Therefore, it offers a great example to examining issues related to the needs of economic development, the needs for conservation of nature and culture, and ways to balance the two
12. Exchange with Chinese students


Undergraduate option:
BIO 3970 (4 cr)
STA 3990 (4 cr) - may be substituted for EIU 4111G* (4 cr)

Honors option:
STA 3990 (4 cr) - may be substituted for EIU 4290G* (4 cr)

* senior seminar

After Your Trip:
Take STA4000G at EIU to fulfill your senior-seminar requirement!


Students will share rooms in hotels during their stay in Beijing, Zhangjiajie, and elsewhere in Hunan.


At least two pre-departure orientations will be provided and are required for all participants.

Your faculty leader will hold one of these orientations, where he/she will cover information on safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in the host country(ies), as well as planning logistics.

The Office of Study Abroad (OSA) will hold the other orientation. They will cover general information about traveling abroad to different areas of the world and facilitate a panel discussion composed of students who have already participated in faculty-led study abroad programs.

Necessary Documents

To enter a foreign country, you must have a valid passport. If you are a U.S. citizen and do not currently have a valid passport, or if your passport will expire during the time you will be overseas, please go to the U.S. State Department web site for information on how to apply for/renew your passport.

You are strongly encouraged to read the U.S. State Department's Consular Information Sheet on your host countries. It will provide you with a great deal of information to help you prepare for your trip.

Visa fees are included in the budget.

**Please be aware that you are responsible for obtaining the most up-to-date information on entry requirements. The Office of Study Abroad only provides general information, as visa regulations and procedures are constantly changing. Please consult the Consulate for more information. **