Beijing 3: The Great Wall at Badaling and The Ming Tombs

Mr. Xian picked us up early to take us to the Ming Tombs, a necropolis where 13 of the 16 emporers from the dynasty are buried. My father talked about these huge animal statues and how elaborate all the temples were…which led to my extreme disappointment. Jack told us there were two tombs – one was bigger and more interesting, he said. We were still technically in Beijing because the city buses were running to the periphery parts of the city. we were in the middle of a big valley and all of the sudden pulled into a parking lot. It had snowed again, so we were once more greeted by the sweepers and a snowy park. The park was dominated by an enormous red tower and flanked by trees. Yeah, that was about it. we had to descend About 150 feet into the tombs where we were pushed like cattle through five rooms. We saw replicas of the small red coffins and thrones, which were littered with money. Like many cultures, Chinese believe that ancestors must be given things like food and money to take with them to the next life. We left in about 25 minutes.
From there, Jack took us to a jade factory. Once again we were told, don´t buy here! But that didn´t stop Nancy and Linder for bargaining the shit out of it. Jack bought us lunch in the dining hall of the store – spicy chicken with peanuts, vegetables, fried pork, egg drop soup. By now, it was starting to warm up so the weather was getting hazy. As we drove on the outskirts of town to Badaling, the touristy part of the Great Wall, we could barely see the tops of the mountains and the remains of the wall looked just like the wall between two farms, despite the Wall rising to 25 feet in some sections. Originally built over centuries to keep out the Mongols from the north, the wall has been reduced in some areas to mere feet because of erosion, sandstorms and vandalism. Badaling is among one of the preserved spots, bringing in a lot of tourists and jsut as many people seeling postcards, stamps and other souvenirs.

There were stalls and ropes like an amusement park leading to the main gate. The wall has been around for eons, so many of the steps were slick and the snow added an extra danger. The kilometer or so we walked was full of people, and even though the views of the surrounding mountains were pretty, the fog or contamination made taking good pictures of the landscape nearly impossible. Square watchtowers rise every couple hundred yards. My dad and I climbed to a high watchtower, slipping a few times and me taking a spill halfway up. It was impressive to imagine the sheer manpower that it took to build something 4,000 miles long with limited technology.

Nancy wanted to see how silk was made, so we spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find her some silk stores. At each, we learned the life cycle of the silk worm, how silk is stretched and dried and how a silk duvet is made before the sales pith came. I would have liked to buy one. I was getting really sick of shopping by that point, so I sat near the escalator and waited while contemplating buying Kike a silk robe.

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

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