Day By Day

Friday, July 10, 2009

China Diary -- Part 35 Walls and Thrones

After lunch we drove to the Zhonghua Gate, constructed by the first Ming emperor back in the 14th century. Our route took us through some of the worst parts of the city.

Our guide explained the squalor through which we were passing by saying "this is where the farmers live." By "farmers" she meant "peasants" and her disdain for them was very much typical of the city-dwellers I spoke to during our journeys. Such sentiments are a bit off-putting, but not really different from the way urban dwellers of all cultures have traditionally thought of economically disadvantaged newcomers in their midst.

Eventually we arrived at the city wall and entered its fortifications.

And at the top we ran into yet another wedding party.

Then it was back on the buses and off to our next destination -- The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom History Museum, which houses exhibits commemorating the mid-nineteenth century Taiping rebellion. A fascinating episode in Chinese history the rebellion was in part peasant revolt, in part an ethnic uprising against the Manchu ruling class, and in part a religious crusade lead by a man who claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ. In the end suppression of the revolt cost somewhere between 20 and 30 million lives. The rebels made Nanjing their capital and the museum holds a sizeable collection of artifacts commemorating their rule. Here is the imperial throne.

Then we traveled to Chaing Kai Chek's presidential palace nearby. Here is a picture of the reception room to Chaing's offices. Very western and very much a contrast to the throne rooms of earlier rulers.

We lingered there a while, then it was back onto the buses and off to our next destination, the lovely Xuanwu Lake.