The steps of the Great Wall of China were designed unevenly to slow down invaders. Don’t know how effective they were against barbarian soldiers, but they worked well against my bumbling feet. I took a tumble three times. Even watching how I placed my feet on a riser, the next riser surprised my toes just the same and down I went into another harmless sprawl. It was funny. Like I’d forgotten how to walk. The irregular stairs combined with the steep incline made simply walking adventurous, so I was comic relief among our tour group that afternoon.

The Great Wall, first built in the 2nd century and expanded by ruling dynasties, runs east to west across northern China, spanning mountain peaks and snaking through the wilderness of vertiginous cliffs. It was a beautifully sunny day and the views across Badaling’s valleys were dazzling.

A serene corner in the Forbidden City.

My trip began in Beijing at Tiananmen Square, or “Gate of Heavenly Peace,” which marks the entrance to the Forbidden City, the former imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Tiananmen Square, said to be the world’s largest public space, was designed to hold one million people and it has held at least one million twice in its history, once on what became known as National Day, the day the People’s Republic of China was established and again during Mao Tse-tung’s funeral.

After Beijing came Xi’an, a city of 12 million, in central western China, for a visit to the Terra Cotta Army archaeological site. When first discovered, brought out of the soil after 2,000 years, the warriors were brilliantly painted. Within minutes of exposure to air, the paint disintegrated right off of them, but nevertheless, these meticulously crafted clay statues are magnificent. The name of the artist can be found somewhere on each statue and each statue has distinctive facial features and expressions: infantry, mounted bowmen, cavalry, along with the officers of the regiments. There are thousands of them buried in Xi’an. It is calculated that only a portion has been found and that there are thousands more depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, still deep in the ground along with horse statues, wheel carts, and military weapons, buried with the emperor to protect him in the afterlife.

The Yangtze River cruise began at the port city of Chongqing (population 30 million) where we boarded the ship, the Viking Emerald. China’s cities are humongous!



Sunrise at the Three Gorges on the Yangtze




The Three Gorges region is gorgeous! We were on our way to view the Three Gorges Dam.

More photos to come!


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