Virtual Home of
Russell Eagling


This will be my last message before coming back to England :-( But, the last week has been so good - Xi'an and the Terracotta Army was great, Mao Zedong's private house in Wuhan was bizarre, the Military Barracks where the republic was declared in 1911 and off to the Great Wall again tommorrow before flying back. The best thing right now is it is the low season for tourism - as a result virtually everything we have visited has been really quiet - indeed other than for train tickets we haven't had to queue for anything. The Terracotta Army is an amazing site - huge beyond any archaeologists' dream, the statues are so vivid and the prospect of what is yet to be dug up lingers heavily in the air. Xi'an as a city is well worth a visit - it has a strong Muslim population which dates from the 8th Century and walking round that quarter offered real contrats to the rest of the city and seeing a chinese mosque was quite something. On a broader note however, it has huge surviving city walls, two impressive pagoda's - we only climbed one - and an astonishing museum (founded in 1087!) of carved stones (steeles). The Forest of Steeles (as the museum is called) really caught our imagination - I was keen to go in order to view what is the earliest reference to Christianity in China (carved in 781 AD) - the carving was so impressive that we ended up buying the 'rubbing' which was then bound in a boom to provide a really unique and different momento of a month round china. The City of Wuhan held some real surprises - wandering round the back streets off of the main shopping drag we found ourselves in what looked like tatty shanti's - as I looked closer I realised that under the wooden, cardboard and loose concrete frontages were all the original colonial buildings from when Wuhan was a French and British Concession territory.  It was really interesting and is a part of chinese history which is still sensitive and it is clearly still uncertain what is best to do - the buildings however are impressive and worthy of being revealed and cleaned... Wuhan is a large and growing city but is surrounded by large lakes and water - one of these, the main one, is the East Lake.  We had been told that there was a Mao Zedong villa to be visited - after walking around the suspected area we came across as estate still guarded by soldiers but open for us to walk in.  The place was virtually deserted, but amazingly after a walk we came across Mao's house - for a mere 15 Quai (1.50 UKP) we were allowed unfettered access - literally - the house is as he left it in 1974. We saw his lounge, bedroom, bathroom, his work desk, his shaving brushes and bath robes, his underground bomb shelter - clearly the chinese are not sure what to do with this 60's, 70's building and so have left it as when Mao lived in it... the whole thing is slowly rotting away and clearly not visited by the chinese but it is well worth a visit.  It was odd walking round the house of someone who was clearly both a hero of china as well as a leader responsible for the death of millions. Now we are back in Beijing - spent the morning going round the Hutongs (interesting and posh slums!) and the House (palace) of Dr Sun Yatsen's wife (founder of the Republic in 1911), she was known as Granny Soong (a sort of Queen Mother fugure for China!) and was given a house to live in for services to the republic.  The palace (which is what it is albeit small) belonged to the last Imperial Qing Dynasty and was where the last Emperor was born which just added to the sense of history and change that pervades China. Tommorrow as the final treat we intend to head off to the Great Wall to do another section before I fly home for work and Russell flies back to Wuhan for teaching. I should add a final note about clothing - without Berghaus outdoor clothing I would nevcer have survived the Beijing wind or the cold of north China - all the other stuff we have had has been useless compared to the Berghaus gear which has kept out wind and rain - highly recommended from this cold traveller! Hope these ramblings haven't bored too much.... Ed xx

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