Drums, Bells and A Short History of China

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October 5th 2013
Published: October 5th 2013
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I woke up a little later than normal this morning and so decided to leave the Wall until tomorrow. I said goodbye to the Danes, and then had breakfast before I set out to the National Museum of China. There was also a strange woman at breakfast cauterising a wound on her hand with a cigarette.

Yes, the Chinese are definitely crazier than the Kongers.

I had to pass through Tiananmen Square again, still as crazy as the last time. Now, I am usually first in line to go see an embalmed communist dictator, and I am not adverse to waiting in queues, but this was possibly the longest line of people I have ever seen, snaking it's way round the mausoleum and back on itself.

I did go into the National Museum, even with queue, and made silent friends with a little girl who stuck out her tongue at me and got more than she expected back.

It took a while to get my ticket because everyone else just had to put their identity card on a machine and it printed them a ticket with their name on it. After I got my ticket I wen through security and had all my dangerous items taken off me; foolish me I had a bottle of water and a can of deodorant! (I drank some of the water and was allowed to keep that, but everyone knows you can make a miniature flamethrower with an aerosol!)

Down in the basement for my introduction to Chinese history. The detailed exhibition said how in every dynasty there was a great leap forward in technology, society and culture... in fact there doesn't seem to be a time when China wasn't doing extremely well, and improving dramatically. I will have to do some reading when I get back, and see how accurate that is.

In one of the other rooms there were many patriotic paintings. They reminded me of a Russian Soviet Art class I took, very stylised and with a clear (read: heavy handed) message. These did not have any translations, though, they didn't really need any. Revolutionary soldiers hacking the shackles off of grateful prisoners, Mao standing next to a man who looked a lot like Stalin, and several pictures of Mao talking to a crowd.

It was a bit of a trek to the Drum and Bell Towers as I came out of the wrong entrance of the subway, however I found it eventually, bought my ticket, was searched again before I could climb the pretty steep steps up to the Bell tower.

Inside the Bell Tower was a bell, and of course there is a tragic tale of casting the bell.

The emperor was getting tired with having to wait so long for his bell after the tower had been completed, but the Master Craftsmen, Hua Yan, was unable to get the metal right, and the bell kept failing. The emperor gave him 80 days to succeed, otherwise all the men would be beheaded. Hua Yan had a daughter, Hua Xian, went to go see what was wrong with the place they were trying to make it, because she thought there may be something spiritually wrong. On the eightieth day, the emperor came to see the bell, but it hadn't been finished. As Hua Yan looked into the last attempt he knew it wouldn't work. Hua Xian distracted them, pointing to colourful clouds in the sky, then jumped into the metal. Hua Yan saw it would work and cast the bell as he tried to hold his heart together.

But it's not all doom and gloom; they built her a temple nearby.

As I climbed the Drum Tower across the courtyard, it felt like bombs were exploding above my head, or canons were being fired from the top. It turns out every couple of hours they have a demonstration of the huge drums.

Also up the drum tower was a selection of old timepieces, things that burn, things that drip and things with metal balls that hit other things every so often.

Went down the Hutongs (small grid-pattern alleyways) to find something to eat. I managed to find a place mentioned in my Beijing app, and had 'san liang jjiu cai ji dan (guo tie)' in a small place called 'Men Kuang', washed down with a 'pi jui'. Beer and egg-chive dumplings, nom nom, NO MEAT! Huzzah! I had a stick of fruit for my pudding, a mixture between 'instant cavities' and 'guess which tooth you'll lose first'.

So, back in the hostel, going to wake up early and go to wall tomorrow, I've set my alarm, It's going to happen.

And a final BTW, cucumber crisps, who knew!

Additional photos below
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broken drumbroken drum
broken drum

this original drum was destroyed in an attack on Beijing in 1900

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