After two years trekking across the Silk Road, Gustaf Mannerheim arrived in Peking on July 26, 1908. He stayed at a posh hotel kitty-corner to the Russian legation in the capital’s Legation Quarter. He remained in Peking for two months working on his military intelligence report on modernization and reform in the late Qing Dynasty. He wrote very few observations about Peking, describing it as merely “all too familiar.” The ancient capital was sprouting modern buildings, power lines, railways, theatres, universities, and so on. In short, it was a tamed bastion of modernity compared to the wilds of China’s back of beyond.
I had that same feeling about Beijing: modern office towers, Western fast-food outlets, foreign professionals were everywhere in the city. It was by far the most Westernized city that I visited in China. Like Mannerheim, I stayed in Beijing about two months, taking Mandarin lessons and interviewing Chinese human rights and democracy advocates, economists, philosophers and history professors about China’s current rise and modernization. I also took in the city’s ancient sites and historical neighbourhoods, many of which were fast disappearing thanks to demolish and the building boom that was erecting a New China upon the foundation of the old.
Click on features to view details of my journey from Hohhot to Beijing.
View Horse That Leaps – Eric Enno Tamm in a larger map
Click on the icons to view photos of my journey around Beijing.
For more information about Beijing, check out these links:
Beijing on Wikipedia
China and World Institute
Charter 08 and political reform
Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Centre
Michael Pettis’ Blog on China Financial Markets