Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Regular readers know that I have not been able to see Blogspot blogs, including this one, since I left the Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai. We have now travelled in a great clockwise arc and arrived in Beijing and will spend the next three nights at the Grand Hyatt. Once again I can see Blogspot blogs. I can even see Wikipedia's "Tiananmen Square protests of 1989", which was not available in Shanghai. Screencap:
My anecdotal investigations of the past week suggest that the Great Firewall operates inconsistently. In particular, it seems that the Chinese have allowed the expensive international business hotels to get around at least some of the blocks.
Anyway, we arrived in Beijing in time for a late dinner, after which Mrs. TigerHawk repaired to the room. The Son and I took an evening constitutional to Tiananmen Square, about ten minutes walk from our hotel. The coppers were just shooing people away so we could not set foot directly on that hallowed ground, but we did manage to get a few pictures across the street at the entrance to the Forbidden City. Here's another sweaty picture of me, this time with Chairman Mao:
Beijing has changed unbelievably in the 22 years since I was last here. One of the differences is that people have a much more nuanced view of Chairman Mao than they once did. This is true of the English-speaking Chinese one meets, including the tour guides, who will occasionally and politely suggest that Mao made a few mistakes. It is also true, though, of the Western tourists. In 1984 a huge percentage of the tourists were ignorant Sinophiles, and considered China in absurdly romantic terms. I remember standing in line at Mao's tomb, waiting to see the great leader under glass -- he is the best example of Chinese taxidermy I have ever seen, and that is damning with faint praise -- chatting away with my friends. A scruffy American "traveller" in front of us turned around and hissed "show some respect." Not "will you please be quiet" or "shut the frack up so I can hear the orders from the PLA soldiers," but "show some respect." One of us, and I honestly cannot remember whether it was me or one of my friends, retorted: "We should respect Mao because he slaughtered 50 million people?" If looks could kill...
Tomorrow, the actual, as opposed to virtual, Great Wall.
I just found this blog via Fishkite. Brilliant and fascinating. I will be following your journey. Your comment on "Chinese taxidermy" made me laugh outloud -- and that is NOT faint praise! That means you are in the exclusive club that includes Bill Bryson, Dave Barry and Douglas Adams (and one of them is dead).
Very kind of you to say, Patrick.
We have seen a number of examples of Chinese taxidermy on this trip; suffice it to say that is one art that they could improve upon.
I hope you become a regular reader!
Yeah, but they got it wrong. What they should say is 70% bad, 30% good - if you're feeling generous.
Hey, Tiger, I think that American muppet deserved everything he got. If I heard a comment like that I don't think I could keep quite either! Though I won't ever go to see Mao - I'd feel tempted to spit on him.