Thursday from Mountain Village to Mao’s headquarters

The Cocks crowing woke us early. It was only just light. I had slept well on the padded stone ledge and yet another bean pillow. There is a little cupboard under the bed where a fire can be lit in winter. It must get very cold and I guess lighting a fire is an effective way of not freezing to death even if there is a danger of being cooked from the bottom up as it were!

From the conversation over breakfast it would appear that not everyone had such a good night. Breakfast was good. Soup, bread and pickled cucumber with, of course, the ubiquitous boiled eggs.

What an amazing place the cave village is. So peaceful and representing a way of life that has gone on for generations but, like hilltop villages in Europe, it will not be around in 20 years unless younger people take it on. Apart from the people who ran the home stay, the only other people we saw in the village were very elderly. Having said this, cave dwellings are obviously a way of life in this area as we were to see evidence of them all day.

Having gathered ourselves, we were ferried down the road and boarded the truck ready to be carried off towards the town of Yan’an where the Long March ended and Mao Zedong set up his headquarters. It was in Yan’an that he initiated the practices and political ideology that would eventually be rolled out throughout China.

Our route took us initially along a river valley. There was very little water flowing in the river bed but vast expanses of sand coloured mud. Later we passed large industrial towns where major demolition was taking place and huge high rise residential towers were being built. It looked, I guess, exactly what it was – the eradication of the old to make way for all that is new and progressive. At the moment it looks a rather depressing mess. It must be awful for the people who live there.

Eventually the industrial gave way to the agricultural again with neatly planted fields of maize, beans and occasionally sunflowers. We are too far north for rice.

Arriving in Yan’an, after checking into the hotel, we hurried off to the Peoples Revolution Museum, housed in a huge ‘stalinesque’ looking building with a giant Mao Zedung (their spelling) in front of it. Everything inside was marble which one couldn’t help but contrast with the ideals of the Revolution itself. It was a cavernous place with giant pictorial friezes and bronze statues of heroes of the revolution and a lot of pictures, equipment and official looking documentation associated Yan’an and it’s involvement in paving the way to the modern China. Apart from introductory tracts at the beginning of each section it was all in Chinese. There was of course no mention of the fact that it is said that 80,000 set out on the Long March and only 4,000 arrived in Yan’an.

It was such a contrast to our previous overnight stop. We are being provided with the opportunity to look at the many facets of the country’s culture but handling the contrasts can be tricky…..

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