Peking Man

Nicholas Quirke was making an early start to the day on 26 June 2020 to go south west of Beijing to see the site and accompanying museum of ‘Peking Man’ an archeological discovery in 1927 of human life 700,000 years previously. It was good to head in a complete alternative direction than the one they usually found themselves on. The majority of the treasured sights of Beijing lay north, or Bei as it was called in mandarin. Heading south west, or Xi Na gave him a broader sense of the city and it was apparent how underdeveloped the outskirts of these areas were. He noticed immediately that large areas of land and properties lay empty and derelict and the familiar soaring skyscrapers and eccentric buildings were missing, and now, with the new building regulations the government had imposed restricting the construction of super tall and Inharmonious buildings, the skyline would not be marred. The closer they got to the foothills of the mountain range where the remains had been found the poverty of the district became even more apparent. There was no spectacular scenery here, but it was certainly a spectacular history both geological and human. It seemed to him that the older he got, the more a sense of time overwhelmed him and as he stood in the caves where early man had lived and slept 750,00 years previously made him feel so utterly irrelevant, a cough, a spit, in the journey of the planet earth and mankind. The relentless rhythm of life was never as evident to him than as they walked, climbed, through the archeological site that was still being mined for its treasures and the stories they told. Stories which were further elaborated on at the fancy museum that had been built to hold the fossils and artefacts; the skulls and cranial fragments that had been found and pieced together to create the astonishing picture of mankind’s development. On the journey home they stopped at a mall which had a particularly amazing IMAX cinema that Peng had frequented yet now, since January had lain dormant. Nicholas once again felt a wave of horror over the terrible waste COVID19 had ravaged on the world and he longed, yearned to sit in the dark of a cinema and theatre again and have stories fed to him. The closure of these palaces of fun was not something he had ever foreseen and the effects on everyone in every aspect of the industry was devastating. They dined in the mall at a Chinese and then headed back to the apartment. The evening film was a heartbreaking story, ‘So Long, My Son’, a contemporary tale of a Chinese couple and how they deal with a modernising Chinese society, though its 3 hour length started to take its toll and sleep called before he saw the end.

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