Wednesday, 28 April 2010

'Loyal to the Communist Party, loyal to myself!'

Our guide, Cobing, tells us his father and grandfather both are Communist Party members and they've had to prove their worth to achieve this status. They view his profession of tour guide as unworthy to become a member also. It's not a terrible problem for Cobing but it's a shame he doesn't get the approval of his family because he is very intelligent. He has a degree and speaks English very well. Although Cobing laughs jokingly about some of the things the Communist Party under Chairman Mao got up to during the Cultural Revolution, like destroying some of the Ming emperors' tombs because they symbolised Feudalism, he does speak highly of the developments in the country during the time of the founding of New China. The general standard of living for the Chinese population increased and the continuing legacy is one of looking after the people. Services tend to run better here than in many countries we've visited. For instance, when using legitimate taxis in Beijing (indicated by a B at the front of their numberplates) if you are charged too much and retain a receipt to this effect you may contact the taxi company and receive ten times the cost of the journey in compensation. This culture of retaining standards of service runs through to the upkeep of parks and cultural monuments throughout the city. There are numerous signs outlining ways of making a complaint to the staff and a substantial complaints office situated at the end of your visit. Beijing is proud of its ancient culture and Mao even, wanted in on this enthusiasm and so had his portrait hung on the city's south gate and a wide, nine lane street constructed perpendicular to the sacred north to south axis of the Forbidden City, at the bottom of Tiananmen Square as a statement of his allegiance to China. As a follower of Buddhism he consulted his monk for suggestions on how to retain a powerful presence even after death and forever into the future. The monk told him if you build a great road at the gate of the ancient city and have your image always displayed there you will remain ever popular. But, he warned it is not your destiny to enter any of the ancient monuments and so, Mao never stepped foot into Beijing's Forbidden City, Ming tombs, Summer Palace or Temple of Heaven. He is photographed as having visited the tombs but remained on the outside of the threshold smoking and reading as his red guards went in to attempt to uncover the secret of the Dingling tomb location. This tomb was sought by Mao for destruction because the emperor whose body lay there represented a feudal state during his reign and all the riches and sacrifices he was buried with were to be destroyed as an act against such wasteful imperialism.