Matt is a Penn State student studying math at Peking University
PSU-PKU May 27, 2014
We awoke at 0645. Upon dining on the second floor of the FuramaXpress for breakfast, I packed with me food and drink for our trip to the Badaling Great Wall and the Dingling Tomb. Of the many attractions of the world, I find the Great Wall to among the most astute, and also most legendary. At 0800 the bus, along with two PKU graduate students in mathematical physics chaperoning the trip, arrived at the hotel. We did not depart from the hotel until around 0815.
The trip to the Great Wall was neither long nor boring: I saw the slow, tumultuous unveiling of the many regions of mountains; the closer we approached them, the more grandiose they appeared. Ten minutes prior to our exiting the van at the front gate, we saw the beginning of the Wall, following it alongside in parallel.
Past the entrance gate, we could choose which “direction” of the wall to travel, left or right. The graduate students took to the right, knowing it to be easier, while we, PSU students and Professor Batakidis, took to the left. Though the left path, the Guizhan path, was challenging (most of it is uphill), we managed to creep up the steep slope rather sloth-like. One should not find oneself riddled with guilt about having to stop, because one may whip out one’s camera so as to capture the moment or simply to breathe in the scenery, or, perhaps more importantly, to catch one’s breath.
It truly was gorgeous: cumulus clouds nestled overhead, while beyond them in the far distance was a beautiful spread of blue watercolors, splashing the sky in the background. The solar rays bent and twisted around the Earth’s bumps and the dragon’s body. I will spare us poetic distress in describing the Wall simply because there are many writers, artists, and philosophers before me who have done it better. However, what they say is true: the serpentine skeleton that outlines the high peaks of the mountains is beholden to those willing to homogenize with its historicism.
At the end of the path (the vast remainder is sealed off from further travel), my roommate and I, the only ones willing to venture past the stele, turned round and headed back toward the opposite side. We met up with the rest of our group, exiting the sites of the Wall and venturing toward the Dingling Tomb.
The Tomb itself is most unremarkable, though I hope my saying so is not due merely to ignorance. Therein inhabits a spacious cove for tourists to toss (quite literally) money at the entombed thrones, concubines, emperors, and empresses. Perhaps it was too spacious, given that there is little to see and the walk through the chamber since the tourist’s path is jarringly linear. Nevertheless, outside the tomb we prepared for more sightseeing, despite it having started to rain. Perhaps after having seen the grand heights of the Wall, little else afterward could charm me equally.
We headed back to Beijing after the tomb to have dinner with Professor Ping Xu, which was delightful. All of us, including Mr. Mathieu Stienon, gorged our bellies with the cuisine, e.g., bamboo shoots, fish, pancakes and dumplings, all inclusive, with taste ranging from delicious to so-so. Afterward, we each returned to our hotels and called it a night.