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27 February 2017

Cultural Trip to China

A group of seven pupils, led by Mrs Cashmore and Mrs Gregory, have recently returned from a visit to China, to experience the culture and explore the history of this rapidly changing country. During a three-night stay in Beijing, they visited the sites of the 2008 Summer Olympics and the iconic Bird’s Nest Stadium and the site of the 2022 Winter Olympics, which although cold, showed no evidence of any snow in February!

Of course no visit to Beijing could omit a visit to Tiananmen Square and to be impressed by the sheer scale of what is the largest public square in the world. Filing past the embalmed body of Chairman Mao, in his enormous mausoleum and witnessing people of all ages laying flowers, was a sight which bewildered the staff and students alike. On leaving the square, which is the centre of power in China in the 21st century, the group walked through the Forbidden City, the home of Emperors for hundreds of years again impressed not only by its beauty but its magnitude – it is the largest palace in the world. In the hat trick of ‘largest places’ the group headed off to the beautiful Summer Palace of the Emperors, which borders a man-made lake and contains the longest corridor in the world.The second day of the visit took the group up to The Great Wall of China. It is one of the few places in the world that cannot be truly appreciated from a photograph – it is awesome in every sense of the word. Perched on the top of mountains, snaking along the top for as far as they eye can see and in the clear blue February sky, it was an unforgettable experience. On returning to Beijing, having been overawed by the modern sky scrapers of 21st century city, a visit to a ‘Hutong’ – the old part of the city, was a welcome change and a rickshaw trip around the narrow streets and a visit to a traditional courtyard house contrasted with the hustle and bustle of the modern city just a few feet away.

The last day in Beijing was spent visiting The Temple of Heaven before going to a tea ceremony and a Chinese market, where some heavy bartering ensued as the group spent their Yuan on a range of ‘designer’ goods. Probably the most forgettable experience followed; the overnight train journey to Xi’an, but after negotiating the hordes of people at the train station, the berths were clean; the same couldn’t be said of the bathroom facilities …

The purpose of visiting Xi’an was to visit the Terracotta Army, which is located just outside the city. Like the Great Wall, they exceeded all expectations. Just one building was the size of two football pitches and within the three buildings there are estimated to be 8,000 warriors – only 2,000 of which have been excavated and restored. Realising that they are all different, with individual faces and characteristics, made the visit even more astonishing.

The final day was spent at a village about an hour from Xi’an. This was planned to be a visit to a school and a farm but it also involved a film crew from a local Chinese news channel, following this group of ‘westerners’, some of whom aroused a lot of curiosity as they were tall and blond! The perfect end to the trip was a cycle around the Ming Dynasty city walls of Xi’an, decorated with lanterns for the Chinese Spring Festival.

The long journey home gave plenty of time to reflect on what had been an amazing trip, with plans to make a return visit.

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