Zhongshan Park

Nicholas Quirke was returning to his favoured Beijing pastime on 6 May 2020, by indulging in a new spate of parking. His attempts to get to Zhongshan park had been stymied on several occasions but he had never taken his eye off getting into the famous park alongside the Forbidden City. Now that the holidays was over the crowds would be less and an ideal time to start looking around the green spaces again. Getting through security seemed a lot easier than it had on Saturday and it was probably fair to say that they were now fairly relaxed about the security though he was still surprised to see that he was still the only western face he saw in the park and on the road on a bike? The park was well worth the wait. He was seeing the gardens on another warm and lovely day, though there was a smog hanging in the air through which the sun did its best to penetrate and amongst its major attractions were the Cypresses that were 1000 years old. Their twisted, knotted trunks with gnarled and fretted barks looking like alien beings that had been sculpted filled him with a sense of his own, in fact, mankind’s insignificance. Touching these beautiful and magnificent specimens felt like he was in communication with a wisdom and knowledge that in our Species temporary habitation of the earth we had failed to fathom. Of course, Beyond its awesome flora, it boasted a temple, the Alter of Land and Grain built in 1429, pavilions, arcades, a statue of Mr Sun Yat-Sen, a peace monument, a rock from Antarctica, a lake, a famous Stone ‘A Slice of Dark Clouds’ an aquarium of the weird and wonderful and even the mangiest feline he had ever encountered. Along with ancient trees, the attraction that he was most in thrall to was a couple of stone lions. Relics from the Song Dynasty who had ruled China from 950 for 300 years, these 1000 year old lions survived the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s when the caretakers buried them to protect them from destruction. His wander through this peaceful, calming setting gave him an opportunity to absorb more of the History and culture of the city and country that was now his temporary home and with every experience, every new day his insight into the world he was inhabiting was growing. It made Nicholas hungry to move further afield and to discover more of the wonders there were to explore in Hangzhou, Guilin, Chengdu, Shanghai and more. He had been fasting after a heavy few days of eating and started to feel weak and once he was home he prepared food for the next day, edited his photographs and video while Peng counteracted his greed over the Long weekend by a gruelling exercise bike ride on Zwift where a fellow rider was in face a 38 year old Nick Quirke from London. He made plans for the next day and with an empty, grumbling stomach he went to sleep.

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