April 07, 2013

End of the Long March

As my time in China came to an end, one of my final trips was to Yan'an. The small city in Shannxi province is a major stop on the red tourism circuit, as fans of Mao flock here to see the caves in which the Chairman once lived. The legendary Long March came to an end near Yan'an and a revolution was born. It was here that Mao and his comrades set up camp, and engineered their plans for domination of the Middle Kingdom.

From 1936 to 1948, the town functioned as the headquarters of the Communist Party of China. During World War II, the Japanese flattened the city through aerial bombing. The citizens stayed in cave dwellings during wartime. The Yangjialing house caves where Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai once lived and the accompanying auditorium and office buildings are the main stop for those on the Communist pilgrimage trail.

Yan'an is situated on a dusty plain surround by hills on all sides. The colossal Yan'an Revolutionary Memorial Museum, explains the tale of Mao, the rise of the Communist Party, and the corresponding increase in prosperity and power of a nation that had taken a back seat in world affairs until the past century. The museum had the the requisite Mao statue in the courtyard and gift store filled with Mao-morabilia. Apart from the propaganda pieces, a cliffside temple in the middle of the city is quite a sight to behold. Pagoda Hill also has some nice monuments and viewpoints on top. It is a relaxing spot to soak up the atmosphere after spending a long day basking in revolutionary glory.

We had a night train to catch to Beijing, but it seemed all the taxis were going in the opposite direction of the station after supper time. As the clock ticked ever closer to our departure time, my friend began to get jumpy. Finally we caught cab, but at the exact same moment two Chinese girls also caught it. My chivalrous nature took over, and I stepped aside and let them take the cab. The taxi driver refused to take them wherever they wanted to go and drove away. "What are you doing!? We have a train to catch!" my agitated travel buddy exclaimed. Seeing him gesticulate wildly, the girls asked if we needed any help. One of the two was ravishingly beautiful, and the other spoke a little English.

I showed the beauty my train ticket, and the other girl deduced that we wanted to go to the station. She suggested we cross the street and try there. I almost got run over by an oncoming truck, but the beauty pulled me to safety just in the nick of time. Some minutes later we found a taxi, and the ladies directed the driver to take us to the station posthaste. I bid them a melancholic farewell. Once in the cab, I wistfully remarked that I should have torn up the ticket and stayed in Yan'an - the "Cradle of Chinese Revolution". "My god, I have never seen anyone fall in love so fast." my friend said, shaking his head.


"We think too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view." - Mao Zedong