China is a fascinating country, and it has fascinated the west for centuries.
Its exoticity and relative inaccessability by sheer distance from Europe means that it is not a top holiday
destination for Brits, and you couldn't have a place more different, it's like another planet.
The world's most populous and third largest country, China bears little but increasing
resemblance to the Western world. Its history goes back five thousand years,
such things as paper and the rocket were invented here, and it was the Chinese who discovered
and made use of coal, as recorded by Marco Polo. Today anything that is made is made in China,
and the world's insatiable desire for cheap manufactured goods has fired China's economy into one
of the fastest growing ever.
My first visit to China was in April 1989, a matter of weeks before the infamous demonstrations
and controversial response in Tiananmen Square. We stayed in Beijing for 5 nights, and visited
such places as the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Ming Tombs and the Temple of Heaven amongst others.
There were very few cars, rivers of bicycles, and most people were still wearing their communist
The Great Wall of China. Built to keep the Mongols out
it has stood in various forms for over a thousand years. The main length and spurs of the
wall total over 4000 kilometres, much of which still stands today. There are sections however
which remain collapsed after attacks by invaders, or simply through neglect. It is
said that the Great Wall is the only man-made object that can be seen from the moon, which
is a nice sentiment, but personally I don't believe it as the wall is only 15 feet
wide. Even with shadow, you are more likely to see the M6.
The Temple of Heaven in Beijing, with my Mum. In China, earthly objects are square,
and heavenly ones are round.
A Chinese soldier next to an old statue of a dragon.
There were innumerable soldiers everywhere in Beijing.
A small Chinese boy dressed in military regalia, perhaps just for the tourist cameras,
but I am not sure.
Note the blue Mao overalls in the background.
My Dad in China, looking like he does in almost all
holiday photographs past and present. I think this is within the Forbidden City.
Me posing for a picturesque shot with a temple behind.
Sarah by a large statue at the "Spirit Way", part of the Ming Tombs, outside Beijing.
Sarah in Tiananmen Square, central Beijing. The
square is outside the Forbidden City, where the portrait of Mao-Tse Tung hangs.
Here I am leaning into one of the many large pots
that sat around the various temples we visited. Most were full to the brim of water,
and if you could float a coin on the water, you were brought good luck and a wish.
Tiananmen Square, full of people. It was two months
after this picture was taken that student demonstrations in the square turned into a
disaster when the Chinese military brought in soldiers and tanks to try to clear them
out. In the distance the entrance to the Forbidden City and the portrait of Mao can just be
An example of the fabulous artwork adorning
the Lama Temple in Beijing. The amount of time and effort that has gone into these
creations is really quite amazing.
An ornamental ship ostensibly carved entirely from solid marble,
sits in the lake at the Summer Palace. Probably carved for the delight of the Emperor, it shows
the kind of luxury they could afford even in those days.
One of the sculptures flanking the entrance to Chairman Mao's mausoleum, Tiananmen Square.
There were many street vendors working in Beijing
everywhere you go, and my Dad was all too keen to sample them. He bought some meat sold
on a bicycle spoke, and gave me a piece. I am not the greatest carnivore that ever
there was, but I knew this was not good meat, it was particularly chewy. "It's dog, Ross"
he told me. Think about that next time you stuff down a hot dog...