Military Might

Nicholas Quirke was made aware that it was all a matter of perspective on 29 January 2021 when he visited Beijing’s Military museum. Martial history was not of great interest to him and he had avoided the institution but with travel not recommended his options were now dwindling and exploring something new was of importance to him. His day started by braving the minus 12 temperature to get a couple of parcels that had been delivered early and discovering just how cold it felt ensured that when he left the apartment for the museum visit he would be well and truly protected against the chill. Before he left he managed to talk Peng out of disposing of another wardrobe and instead get rid of a second shoe cabinet. Once again the blue skies were utterly misleading. His journey was a mixture of cycling and subway making his destination very easy to find as the station was actually called ‘Military Museum’. Unfortunately, as with many public place in China even though he possessed a ticket getting inside was an ordeal. Even having gone through security and health checks he was stopped and the stick his GoPro was attached to was removed, though he could keep the camera. He then had to deposit his bag where the officers on duty seemed puzzled by his presence and request, though he eventually understood what was happening as they didn’t understand why he already had a ticket. Once he was through though, it was plain sailing and he could photograph anything he liked. He passed a giant statue of Mao and made his way to the 70 years of Military Might exhibition which, started in 1950 and the onslaught of the Korean War. Only a year before he had been in South Korea and been to their equally impressive Museum of Military history and read of the war of Chinese aggression. In a volte-face he was now reading of the war of American aggression and it was easier to see the steps that China took to protect its borders which it believed were vulnerable when America started arming the South Koreans involved in their civil war. They came to the aid of North Korea’s sovereignty and crossed the Yalu River to war. It was a fascinating exhibition and equally full of heartbreak as that of South Korea’s for the loss off life that was suffered. Mao’s own son, Mao Anying met his demise at the hands of US bombers in Dayudong. The museum also had permanent exhibitions on the Japanese occupation and the ensuing war and battles between the KMT and the PLA for the unity of China. Most of the displays were in Chinese and he had to use WeChat translate to understand what the pictures represented. It was quite extraordinary how much visual documentation existed and images of Japan’s concentration camps, echoing the horror of the Nazi’s were seared into his memory. The halls were full of art, memorialising the fight for freedom, the most impressive being an immense sculpture with bodies of solders literally anguished emerging into battle from the earth and clay. The cabinets of guns and weapons and a great hall full of war planes and vehicles were less to his liking but the scale was imposing and quite stunning. There was no doubt that New China was proud of its heritage and it birth and enshrined for its citizens was compelling and he supposed necessary. It was a draining experience and when he had finally seen enough he headed to a tearooms where he planned to have lunch. 21 Grammes was an interesting venue situated in the foyer of an office block and it wasn’t until he had ordered his tea and sat down to eat his salad that he discovered just how cold it was in there. He managed to eat, but his jacket stayed on and his hands never got warm as the Siberian chill permeated the doors. He had planned to move somewhere warmer and started walking there but once he found himself at Caishikou being in the sunny freezing air was too much and he just walked home. There were a number of parcels waiting to be collected but to his horror there were a multitude of packages to sift through which took him a good 20 minutes. He was relieved to finally get into the warmth and set to work on the blog as he devoured a bowl of cherries. Massage chair and movie, the light hearted ‘Psycho Goreman’ put the the world at war behind him and in the mood for a deep satisfying sleep.

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