Young Ambassadors

Sharing the Stage in Xi’an

The Young Ambassadors prepare to hike the Great Wall of China.

The final week of the BYU Young Ambassadors’ tour to China was a whirlwind of activity. The busy week started on Monday with a cultural activity at the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Center, where artisans from the Shaanxi Province had booths showcasing local art, crafts, and music. The students were captivated by the variety of art forms represented. 

The Young Ambassadors were honored to represent the United States at the US-China Tourism Leadership Summit in Xi’an. They spent the afternoon rehearsing for that evening’s private show for the summit’s delegates. The performance included a simple Chinese dance with parasols and fans to be performed with the other program participants for the finale. The performance that night was simply stunning. 

The curtains close as the final performance of the Young Ambassadors’ China tour comes to an end in Taiyuan.

The show, titled Broadway Charm and Qin Rhyme, featured the Young Ambassadors performing a shortened version of their show. They were followed by six performing groups from the Shaanxi Province who showcased Chinese dance, acrobatics, martial arts dance, calligraphy, shadow play, marionette puppets, Chinese opera, and street dance. The BYU students were awed and honored to share the stage with such prodigious talent. They were also thrilled to take photos and interact with the other performers following the show. 

Early the next morning, the group traveled to the Xi’an International Convention Center, where they rehearsed with other performers for the opening ceremony of the summit. They spent the afternoon visiting the excavation site of the Terracotta Army and were amazed at the vastness of the ancient clay soldiers. That evening, they attended the summit’s welcome ceremony as honored guests. 

Young Ambassadors members Mariel Alexander (left) and Riley Holmes pose for photos with audience members following the Taiyuan performance.

Wednesday morning, the group joined other performers at the summit in singing the beloved Chinese folk song “Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower)” for the opening ceremony. The BYU students were honored to be involved in celebrating the growing ties in tourism and cultural exchange between China and the United States. 

That afternoon, Xi’an Tieyi High School hosted the group for a cultural exchange, after which the Young Ambassadors boarded a flight to Nanjing. They performed in Nanjing on Thursday evening, followed by an early-morning flight to Taiyuan. Friday evening, they gave their final performance of the China tour, at the Taiyuan Youth’s Palace Arts Center, where they entertained a nearly full house and many dignitaries in attendance. 

Bryndal Braithwaite, a member of the Young Ambassadors, learns to play a Chinese instrument with a student from Xi’an Tieyi High School.

On Saturday morning, the group boarded the final train of their tour, heading for Beijing. They spent the afternoon climbing the Great Wall of China at Juyongguan. Several members of the group bravely completed the full loop of the wall in that area in two hours, despite the rain, cold, and foggy conditions. 

The Young Ambassadors’ last full day in China began with attending church in Beijing with an international branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were overjoyed to finally worship with local Church members, having missed the privilege previously in the tour due to scheduling and government protocols. That afternoon they toured the Forbidden City, marveling at the scope and craftsmanship of the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Afterward, they explored the Silk Market to gather some final souvenirs before boarding a flight to return to Utah on Monday morning. 

The Young Ambassadors pause for a group photo with their Chinese tour directors after the performance in Xi’an.

The Young Ambassadors have treasured their time on tour. Reflecting on her experience in China, BYU student Riley Holmes says, “It was really special for me to interact with people from other cultures in music and song, even if we couldn’t understand each other. It also meant a lot to become so close with our team. My time in China was a dream come true!” 

BYU student Christian McCleary adds, “I learned that the arts are a universal language. We may not have been able to understand each other’s words, but we could always relate to music and dance. I learned a lot about how diverse cultures can be, but what meant the most to me was the time I spent with my fellow performers.” The group members are grateful for the opportunity they had to experience ancient and modern Chinese culture and to connect with the people of China. They have made memories and associations on this tour that will last a lifetime. 

Members of the Young Ambassadors (left to right) Annalise Decker, Mariel Alexander, Brooke Nielsen, Bailey Dayton, Kersee Whitney, and Riley Holmes share an exuberant moment with the young Chinese street dancers following the Xi’an performance.

The BYU Young Ambassadors, alongside Chinese performers, rehearse for the finale of Broadway Charm and Qin Rhyme in Xi’an.