City Ruins

Nicholas Quirke was determined to find some ruins on 9 April 2020 after the fiasco of the previous day. He was still feeling a little aggrieved by his failure to locate the ruins of the northern city wall of Khanbaliq or Dadu, capital of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty constructed in 1267 and finished in 1276 but abandoned in the Ming dynasty, and he would not return to the park till another time. Instead he was going to head west across the city to view the remains of another wall created in the Ming Dynasty. First though, he was forced to experiment with his breakfast and was given a traditional Japanese food made from soybeans that have been fermented with Bacillus subtilis var. Natto. It was in interesting experience and quite an acquired taste with its powerful smell, strong flavor, and sticky, slimy texture. Preparing to eat the Natto was not without effort as after adding Wasabi sauce he had to furiously stir the beans to create a sticky consistency before eating. Definitely a recommended taste experience, very nutritious and apparently good for weight los. He would return to the Breakfast again. It was also cleaning day and he had more food preparation, including making peanut butter, to get through. His tasks were interrupted by a welcome Phone call from his dear friend Kim in Australia. She was concerned that the impression from his blogs was that everything in China was ok while the rest of the world was suffering. Was there a conspiracy! He was very quick once again to quash any implications of Chinese treachery by sending out armies of nationals with the disease across the world. The country was still in lockdown. He could not travel freely around China, although he had the privilege of that freedom now in Beijing. Schools, Theatres, Museums, some shops and many public spaces were still closed. His temperature was checked most places he visited, face masks were still to be worn and the impression of liberty he might give was an impression. He momentarily felt bad that while people were miserable and feeling trapped around the world, he was adding to their frustration by happily getting on a bike and cycling round the City that was definitely slowly emerging from the pandemic, but it was a freedom he was going to enjoy and felt his gallivanting, his stories and pictures might bring a a small bit of pleasure to those who read it. There was a lot of work finding Tea Houses and restaurants that were open was also a lot of work in the background and often resulted in disappointment when on arrival it was closed. China, like other countries across the world was still experiencing the ravages of the Virus, but it was definitely further forward in its recovery. The existing authoritarian infrastructure also made it easier for society to shut down here where in the west social liberty was a norm and therefore a harder goal to achieve. He truly believed there was no conspiracy and his experience of China since January 31st, the fear and distress of its citizens and authorities was a real as the west was now experiencing, and demonstrated otherwise. With these thoughts reverberating in his mind he lept onto a bike and powered his way east across the city on a 4 mile ride to the Beijing Ming City Wall Ruins Park where with the longest and best preserved section of the city’s Ming Dynasty wall, built in 1419 stands. The wall is surrounded by green park land which he was able to walk through, but access to the ramparts was closed due to COVID-19. The Ming city walls stood for nearly 550 years until the 1960s when most of the gates and walls were torn down to build the Subway and only this 1.5 km section was spared. Nicholas was fascinated by the fact that when restoring the wall in the 1990’s, to preserve the historical integrity of the fortifications, the authorities solicited donations of Ming era bricks from city residents to use in the restoration. He enjoyed his wander through the history of Beijing and was intrigued by the number of families and kids wandering around and playing with guns, he suspected toys, it was a sight he never saw in England anymore. He cycled home he made supper, he enjoyed a chat with Cole and catching up with news of lockdown life in Brighton and went to bed feeling his day had been very productive.

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