Office of Global Affairs

November 20, 2015

From a Pac-12 announcement to a tea ceremony, dancers make most of time in Shanghai

Four UW dancers and Harry the Husky took part in the UW’s events in China, courtesy of the Pac-12 Conference. Here in the second post about the group’s experiences, Annie Millspaugh and Julia Tran discuss the announcement of the Pac-12’s partnership with China’s Letv, as well as a traditional tea ceremony.

Annie Millspaugh, sophomore, Dana Point, CA

UW dancers and Harry the Husky with Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott at the announcement of a new agreement with China's Letv

Annie Millspaugh (third from right) with Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, fellow UW dancers, and Harry the Husky at the announcement of the Pac-12’s partnership with Letv

Before the start of this trip, I didn’t understand why we were playing our opening basketball game in China.  Our trip was sponsored by Alibaba and after attending their academic program at the Alibaba campus and the press conference with Pac-12 with Letv, I was able to gain a lot more insight on the importance behind this historic basketball game.  This game was not just about basketball; it was a chance for us to learn more about China and their culture, and for Alibaba to expand their organization internationally.

This game was live streamed on Letv in China and on the Pac-12 network in the U.S. Letv held a press conference with the Pac-12, and they announced all of the details behind their partnership, along with their plans to stream many more live Pac-12 sporting events in China.  The sporting events include basketball, football, and soccer games.  This game was the first live Pac-12 basketball game to be played and streamed in China.

During the press conference, Larry Scott spoke about Pac-12 and it’s tradition of being known as “The Conference of Champions.”  It led me to reflect on the many years of success and championships Pac-12 has had.  The Pac-12 includes some of most prestigious universities in the country and has won numerous NCAA championships throughout its history.  Hearing this speech made me very proud to help promote the Pac-12 and represent the University of Washington.

This new partnership is not just about the excitement and competition behind these games, it is about providing inspiration to Chinese students and sports participants.  I felt very honored to be a part of this inspiration and motivation for Chinese student athletes to continue fighting to reach their goals.  To know that you are an icon for success in the minds of many Chinese students and athletes felt very surreal and rewarding.  I really enjoyed getting to experience this amazing culture and learn more about the building of relationships between China and the U.S.  It gives me a lot of pride to be a part of such an amazing organization and knowing that there will be much more success to come.


Julia Tran, sophomore, Portland, OR

Building in Shanghai near the Chenghuag MiaoIt’s hard to recall a more riveting moment on the sidelines than when Andrew Andrews shot that three-pointer that put the Huskies up 71-67 with only 3 minutes left on the clock. Cheering on our team, who was predicted to lose, as they won in a foreign country in front of our international fans was definitely a surreal experience.

Though cheering that game was unforgettable and definitely one of the greatest parts of our trip, some of the most memorable experiences I took away from this trip was also being immersed in China’s rich culture. One of my personal favorite experiences was witnessing a traditional tea ceremony in “Old Chinatown”—the traditional district of commerce surrounding Chenghuag Miao, the City God Temple of Shanghai. The tea ceremony took place atop a building that overlooked the traditional Chinese architecture that populated the area. Standing tall with sweeping gabled roofs that floated over traditionally colored red and gold bases, the buildings emanated majesty. It’s hard for this neighborhood not to leave a lasting impression even after you’ve left.

Julia Tran (left) during the tea ceremony in Shanghai, with coach Sheila Sampatacos

Julia Tran (left) during the tea ceremony in Shanghai, with coach Sheila Sampatacos

As an avid tea drinker, some of the best mornings are when my apartment-mates and I sit around the kitchen island drinking steaming cups of tea. But even so, I always saw tea as a soothing remedy to drink when it’s chilly or when I need to relax. In China however, drinking tea is largely a social event—an opportunity to get together and enjoy time spent with friends. Being exposed to a new culture and sampling the various types of tea with my coach and teammates was an exciting experience for all of us. There was an irreproducible warmth and enthusiasm in the atmosphere when smelling the different types of tea leaves, tasting them, and finding which brews we liked or didn’t like. After taking part in the tea ceremony it’s not hard to understand why tea is so commonly used for social gatherings; it’s amazing how something so simplistic can bring people closer together. Seeing the value of tea in Chinese communities and the parallelism of tea and companionship in their culture has those made those cold mornings drinking tea with my friends more cherished.

Tea during a tea ceremony

One of our personal favorites from the ceremony was the jasmine flower tea. This tea is especially used for tea shows, as a welcoming gesture to guests, and very common for gatherings with friends. This tea is interesting because it has an element of entertainment: the guests choose the closed jasmine blossom to use for the tea, which then blooms upon steeping in hot water and reveals a different flower with each blossom. Because of this, it is known as the “lucky draw tea.”

Furthermore, we learned that tea in China is not only used as an enjoyable drink, but also valued as a health promoter, and even as medical treatments. The most popular ones being: oolong tea, which is good for energy, body warmth, and weight loss (in Chinese culture it is even used to wash the dishes!), and green tea, China’s national tea, which is also referred to as “long life tea” for its antioxidants and its believed anti-radiation, anti-cancer, and anti-aging properties. Medicinal teas are used for a wide array of things, including sore throats, detoxification, liver protection, and the cleansing of the lungs. In Chinese culture drinking these medicine teas three times a day for three months is considered a treatment.

A set of tea cups is used for tea ceremonies and sampling teas. The thin top piece is used to smell the tea’s fragrance, while its long structure holds the flavor of the tea longer. It can be rubbed against the face, hands, and eyes to give warmth to the drinker. The bottom piece is where the tea is sipped from.

It was such a grand experience feeling directly immersed in the Chinese culture. It was eye-opening to see the value of tea in China, and fascinating seeing how tea is emphasized and used differently in places compared with back at home. What I loved most is how tea represented well-being and community in China; the room was filled with positivity and eagerness to learn about Chinese traditions and try new things and flavors. It was unique witnessing how something like enjoying a communal pot of tea could cultivate such blissful feelings between people and unite our two cultures. It was a truly memorable experience that I’m glad I got to share with my teammates.