June 05, 2011

The Nanchang Uprising

As the calendar turned from 2009 to 2010, I took a three day trip to southeastern China with three of my good friends. We assembled in the early hours of January 1st at the Beijing Capital Airport, wolfing down a Burger King meal to usher in the new decade. We were flying to Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi province. Another mega-city in a country full of mega-cities, we bypassed the large scale infrastructure of Nanchang and headed to the nearby village of Luotiancun for the first day.

The second day was spent exploring Nanchang. After going to a few Buddhist temples and having lunch, we saw a large lineup in front of a building and joined it without hesitation. We ended up inside a museum chronicling the history of the Nanchang Uprising. On August 1, 1927 Communist forces battled the Kuomintang for control of Nanchang. This marked the birth of the People's Liberation Army. We then headed to the magnificent Pavilion of Prince Teng, another of the "Four Great Towers of China" memorialized in poems by men of letters who had passed through before I.

Nanchang was shrouded in fog when we left for the airport before dawn on our third day, our taxi driver barely able to navigate through the roads in the zero visibility conditions. Because of the weather conditions, our flight was delayed indefinitely. We passed the time sipping coffee and playing cards. A bored Polish girl also joined us. She enthusiastically discussed her love for the Canadian television series "North of 60", an apparently riveting show about life in the sub-Arctic that I had never watched despite my nationality. Our flight finally departed in the evening, and night had fallen by the time we arrived in Beijing. A lot of snow had also fallen, the most that the city had seen in decades.

Witnessing an incredibly long queue for taxis, we headed to the Airport Express train platform to see if that would be a better option. The metal gates were closed shut. A much larger crowd congregated outside, growing more and more restless. The security guards cautiously opened the gates and let a few passengers push their way inside when the train finally arrived. Most of the crowd remained on the outside looking in as the guards prepared to close the gates again. Some people tried to keep them open, letting a few more stream through the portal. They could not keep it up for long though, as their strength was fading. One of my friends pumped his fists in the air, yelling "Do it for your fellow Beijingers!". Individual desires were set aside, and the door blockers were joined by the masses in forcing open the gates. In the ensuing frenzy, we surged through the gates and onto the train home.


"I am just a humble young man studying everything." - Weng Bo, from the Preface to the Pavilion of Prince Teng