We finally saw Mao’s embalmed body this morning. We shuffled past him in a line with many hundreds of locals. I’m not sure what to expect, but I have to say Mao did not look healthy – I can see why some claim he is a waxwork. Given how many laid down flowers, he is still regarded positively here by many. Callum was under strict instructions to keep his views firmly internalized until we were back out in the open air.
Two little asides from the visit. First, the flowers are all artificial yellow flowers. You buy a bouquet and place it on a stand. Periodically someone comes and clears the stand and the flowers are returned for resale. Capitalism in action. Second, as you enter you have to go through very strict security. This includes having to drop the cigarette lighter that all locals carry into a huge bucket. As you leave, there’s another bucket you can pick a lighter, any lighter, out of. Communism in action!
After Mao we visited the China Natural History Museum and saw some great dinosaurs. There was a fascinating exhibition of dinosaur eggs; it turns out most of these are found in China. The eggs were great, but the clear highlight was one that had broken open revealing a fossilized embryo. While the detail on all of the explanatory posters was in Chinese, the was enough English to understand what we were seeing. The Museum is looking a bit tired, but the dinosaur eggs make this a worthwhile part of any Beijing visit.
And talking of posters in Chinese, we’re all very pleased to have worked out about ten Chinese characters. Through a bit of Rosetta-Stone-like deduction using signs and posters on the underground we can now recognize North, South, gate, square and a few other words. While we’re still completely useless communicators (all we can say is ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’) it is lovely to feel we’re getting some grasp on what’s going on around us. (And a tip for anyone else traveling in our broad circumstances, a smiling child saying thank you gets you an awfully long way.)
More on the museum here if you’re interested.