Beijing Ming

Nicholas Quirke was plundering the history of the Ming Dynasty with the fervour and tenacity of a religious zealot and his objective on 7 May 2020 was leading him even deeper into the world of the dead Emperors when he and Peng went to foothills of Tianshou mountain where there are 13 mausoleum sites though only 3 of them open to the public. Not only had he just visited the Ming tomb in Nanjing but he had visited the underground burial chambers of Emperor Dingling at this location in 2018 and this time his sights were on the Emperor Changling’s tomb. He had always been fond o f a mausoleum and he reimbursed his trip to Malaysia with his sister, where they had communed with dead and had felt a little threatened. Of course the road to the tombs would not be complete without a visit to the sacred path, the highway to heaven, which had actually originally been established in the Han Dynasty, and this was the first stop they made once they were beyond the boundaries of the city. It had been an early start to avoid the traffic and crowds and it was already apparent by 8am that it was going to be another scorching day. The sacred Path, lined with 400 year old carved animals, mythical beasts, generals and officials looked amazing in the blue, cloudless skies and the 800m walk was peaceful, very beautiful and each of the statues, 36 in total, represent an omen, provide protection for the spirit of the Emperor and even display personality traits. in particular, the camel with its slightly amused smile, all, of course, have theirs eyes facing downward. The path would take them 4 miles along the road to the Changling Mausoleum which in the heat seemed to onerous a task and as it was largely on the road they drove to the next tomb location. The site, built in 1409 for Emperor Zhu Di was the first of the sole graveyards to be constructed and has been maintained for 600 years. Its major feature is the wooden pavilion in the middle of the site which is truly magnificent, it boasted a display of jade ornaments, the value of which was the equivalent of numerous towns, the collection, however, was clearly deemed to be too precious for these uncertain times as the cabinets were mostly empty apart from some clothes and headwear. Two memorable moments for Nicholas was the sighting, by Peng, of a woman in a ‘facekini’, basically a mask leaving only lips and eyes revealed. And he spotted a photograph of Mao Zedong reading in exactly the spot where the photograph was taken. The surroundings seemingly unchanged since then. On the drive back to the city Peng took them past the Beijing reservoir, which though it was closed due to the Virus, they stopped to look at and still seemed to attract a number of visitors with street vendors creating a small fruit market. It was a spectacular setting in the mountains and it was a shame they did not get the opportunity to explore further. Their route back into the city took them near Ikea and as Peng wanted a new shower curtain and duvet cover they stopped and enjoyed some of their vegan range for a late lunch. He was once again the subject of shifty glances and bold stares, particularly from children, and he continued to be struck by the lack of multiculturalism in China, despite them shopping in a European store. Peng had to drop off his ID with a car dealer as he needed to arrange to have his number plate transferred from the old car to the new Honda Elysian he was now driving. This was an interesting feature of Chinese automobile administration where number plates had to be purchased and transferred to each vehicle. He had a temporary number plate in the window until the new registration had been completed. They dropped of the car which was kept at Peng’s parents as it was free Parking got the subway home and watched ‘Bad Education’ and engrossing tale of fraud with Hugh Jackman and Alison Jenney. Thoughts of his finances crossed his mind and thus troubled, he went to sleep.

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