China 1985

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

China 1985

We were on the tourist route to some extent today.

After a comparatively late breakfast, we travelled by bus to the Great Wall at Badaling.  The drive highlighted the contrasts within China’s capital.  We drove along wide expressways, past new high rise housing blocks, while on the roads we were dodging bicycles and pony carts transporting nightsoil to the nearby communes.  We had superb weather for the trip, with clear, blue skies, no snow or ice on the ground and an expected maximum temperature of +2 degrees.

We all rugged up in expectation of strong winds, taking our army coats and hats or scarves.  True to form, the strong wind for which the Great Wall is famous was certainly blowing.  Half-way up the wall, however, one of the boys, had a coughing fit, so I gave him my scarf so he could breathe his own air.  Consequently, my ears and forehead got very cold and I developed a cold (so did almost everyone in the group).  The cold temperatures were quite comfortable as long as no wind was blowing.  Indeed, many of the students experienced more discomfort from the effects of Beijing’s extremely dry air on their eyes than from the cold.

As always, the Great Wall was great sight.  From the beginning of the walking route (near the “Great Wall Antique Stall”, which sells nothing but T-shirts), the wall branches in two directions.  Last time (in 1982) I scaled the so-called difficult side off towards the left, so this time I took the easier side to the right.  The boys were fascinated by the wall, especially some of the unrestored sections, and would have liked more time there.

After the Great Wall, we drove to the Ming Tombs, where 13 of the 16 emperors of the Ming Dynasty are buried in large, sealed tombs in the foothills of large amphitheatre of the valley.  Several of the boys with a less than sophisticated appreciation of art became somewhat bored during this visit, which was to the one tomb that has been opened, the Ding Ling tomb of Emperor Wan Li who died in 1620.  As my guide book says, “the general traveller’s consensus on the tombs is that you’d be better off looking at a bank vault, which is, roughly, what the tombs are”.  The appearance of the famous carved stone animals and soldiers which guard the approach road has not been improved, in my opinion, by the addition about three months ago of bright red metal fences around each of the figures.

Day 14

Beijing and Great Wall

Monday, 16 December 1985