2 November  – Ming Tombs and a Tile Factory 

This morning we say good bye to our fellow Viking’s. Friends have been made so there is hugging, email address exchanging and promises to stay in touch. I am very sure I will be seeing Pam when I’m in the UK next Spring. We walked part of the Great Wall together and I hope she will join me and friends on part of our upcoming Pilgrims’ Way walk from Winchester to Canterbury. But let’s not get ahead of myself here…. that is just a teaser for stories to come. 
Back to China.

Dad and I meet our new guide and driver – Steed (English translation of his Chinese name) and head off on the next segment of our great China odyssey.

Two days ago we walked the Sacred Way which is a lovely treed avenue lined with massive marble statues. 

I don’t think I wrote about that – it’s all becoming a bit of a blur!

Anyway this avenue leads to a series of Ming Tombs. The emperors’ dead bodies paraded along it on the way to grand burials and the afterlife. The emperors were really set on ensuring a comfortable afterlife so they had enormous tombs built for themselves. There were 16 Ming Dynasty emperors and 13 of them have their tombs in this area. The Chinese are loathe to disturb their ancestors so only three of the tombs are open to tourists. One of these is temporarily closed but we spend several hours exploring the other two. The tombs are within elaborate temple complexes similar to, but smaller than, the Forbidden City. One of the underground tombs has been excavated so we descend many many steps to see the gigantic burial chambers and coffins. The scale of the place is hard to describe. Much higher and wider than a modern subway tunnel would be a staring point. There isn’t much to see down there any more as all the treasures have been removed and taken to museums. Only massive marble thrones too heavy to remove remain along with a few other oversized items.

The tombs suitably explored, we enjoy a lovely local lunch at a persimmon farm. Before leaving we check out the harvesting and drying operation. All done by hand but on a massive scale.
Ten tons of fresh persimmons yield two tons of dried fruit which will be ready for sale in three months. 

We now head north driving along small rural roads and getting a glimpse of rural life in this part of the country. This is a fruit orchard area and the predominant crop is – you guessed -persimmons. The farms we pass all seem tidy and prosperous and everyone seems to be busy. No idle men sitting around smoking in this country. (Unlike in Greece, Turkey, Morocco where Pat and I travelled last year.)
Just before dark we arrive in Mutianyu. Here we are staying for the night in a repurposed 1960s glazed tile factory. The pathways, walls and floors are decorated with colourful bits of broken tile. Our room has its own courtyard and a view of the Great Wall! It’s very comfortable and oh so quiet after the hustle and bustle of big hotels for the past week. Google The Brickyard Eco Resort in Mutianyu if you’re curious about this very upscale place to stay while visiting this area.
I will try to post some pictures but this seems to be problematic at the moment.

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