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Thursday, December 09, 2010

N. China - Day 2, Part 3 - Zhoukoudian, Beijing

"I don't generally feel anything until noon; then it's time for my nap." - Bob Hope

***

N. China
Day 2 - 31st October - Zhoukoudian, Beijing
(Part 3)

I then returned to the museum.

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Museum

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Homo Erectus - Peking Man, Java Man, Heidelberg Man. It looked like most or all were casts.

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Post-war finds

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"As early as nearly 2 million years ago, on the beautiful and fertile land of China, ancient humans were already leaving their footprints... their footprints could be found all over the vast area of China... Relying on their own intelligence and strength, they struggled stubbornly with nature and animals to secure themselves and nourish their descendants. They... [show] that humans were developing beyond ignorance and barbarism toward civilization... [China has a] long and splendid prehistoric culture"

You'd read something like this in a European museum maybe, oh, 80 years ago.

There was a video playing which used Yanni's Adagio as the background music. I'm sure it was not licensed.


Peking Man is so smart - Fire and Peking Man: One of the gimmicky pseudo-videos in the museum. Many of the pseudo-videos (projections onto a puppet show background) were down. Others showed things like the spearing of fish in a stream, the driving away of animals, the retrieval of animals from a pit trap etc.

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Skulls and brains compared

They had casts of the skulls of "Zuozhen Man", "Liujiang Man", "Tianyuan Man", "Ordos Man" (now we know where Frank Herbert Westwood stole this name from), "Xuchang Man", "Dingcun Man", "Xujiayao Man", "Maba Man", "Changyang Man", "Dali Man", "Jinniushan Man", "Hexian Man", "Yunxian Man", "Yuanmou Man" and "Lantian Man". It seemed like they had just gathered together all of the early hominid fossils found in China and pretended that they were all extremely important. That they were trying too hard was proven by the presence of casts of stone tools (!).

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Human evolution timeline

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Ash residue from Locality 1

Apparently there is some evidence for multi-regional evolution - 8% of Chinese fossils have shovel-shaped incisors, versus 5% for Europe and 10% or 20% for Australian Aborigines.

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Toad

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Snake

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Double-horned Rhino Mandibles. On the right is the right humerus of the same animal found at the samel location.

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Forest elephant - this looks like the fossil fragments my guide gave me at Sangiran, so maybe he was not smoking me after all. On the right is the tusk.

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Striped Hyena. Perhaps the pebbles were its shit.

There was a European Black Vulture fossil. That's some range.

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Wild Boar (?)

There was also a cute (but gimmicky) display which would transmogrify you. The resolution wasn't very good, but it was fun:

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Me as Peking Man

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Insert unimaginative, bad joke here. There were other animals as well, like a Sabre-toothed Tiger (the teeth didn't work too well).

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How the machine works

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"The Committee of Seeking for Skull-Cap of Peking Man"
This is quite sad. They formed in 2005 but I don't think they'll ever find it. Maybe it's in some Japanese private collection.

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Fish Fossils from Locality 14

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The Evolution of Man. It was quite amusing to see the Chinese version of this.

Here is the Eurocentric version in comparison:



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They were really sore about the loss of the fossils (if I were them I'd be too) but reproducing the boxes they were last seen in seemed a bit extreme.

The gift shop in the museum was amusing.

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980¥ for "文明之火" ("The light of Civilization"). That's ridiculously expensive - presumably because of the Olympic branding - but it's been more than 2 years, so these things should sell for a discount, not a premium! As a benchmark, your very own Peking Man bust (about life sized) would've set you back only 680¥.

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More crap. Notice that the UNESCO World Heritage symbol commands a premium.

I was bored so I listened to the French audioguide. I was very impressed as it was very well-done. There was no Chinese accent, and only occasional pauses. In short the enunciation was near-perfect, and I could only tell she was PRC because of the way she said Chinese names.

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Memorial to the scientists who excavated the place

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Locality 2 - I saw why this was off the beaten track (I was the only one who went there)

In conclusion, Zhoukoudian shows us how to do a prehistoric site well, unlike the steaming pile of FAIL that is the Sangiran Early Man Site in Java, Indonesia. Even if you don't have the star finds of your collection (or not anymore, at least) you can still put together a compelling experience for visitors with casts, reproductions, some writeups (in English too!), paintings and more.

Incidentally, Java Man was thought to be an ape until Peking Man was discovered. Yet another Indonesian FAIL.

There was another gift shop at the foot of the site, in the carpark.

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I was wondering what connection a ballistic missile on a truck, a giant ammunition cartridge, a fighter jet and a golden satellite had with Peking Man, then I remembered that Zhoukoudian was a "patriotic education base".

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USB stick in the shape of a sabre-toothed tiger's tooth. It was only 2gb, IIRC, and going for 198¥!

The shop also sold an outdated book on the UNESCO World Heritage sites in China.

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Peking Man is Scary Man

In the carpark, one man was bugging me to let him drive me to the bus stop for 10¥ (the bus cost 1¥), so I told him "我有的是时间" ("What I have is time"). I should've also told him "我没有的是钱" ("What I don't have is money").

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"In 1 minute at the post, responsibility is taken for 60 seconds"

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Girl at bus stop presumably growing hair for sale for wigs

At one of the bus stops there was an old man with a worn pink Disney Princesses bag. I asked if it was his granddaughter's, and he said yes - she didn't want it anymore. He thought I was from Guangdong (this was a recurring theme for me in Northern China - a lot of people thought I was from Guangdong, though some guessed Hong Kong also; this didn't happen to me in Shanghai, but then I was not there for as long and didn't talk to as many locals, somehow). Perhaps the standard of Mandarin in Guangdong was not that high. They certainly knew I was not from Beijing because I left out all the "儿"s ("er" sounds that Beijingers love to tack on to the end of certain words - which makes Beijing Mandarin harder to understand for those used to "standard" Mandarin).

A woman at the bus stop asked me "你是外地人?" ("Are you from another province?"). I told her I was from Singapore, and she heard "Sichuan". Gah.

My bus journey back to Beijing was almost as annoying as my journey to Zhoukoudian. Some buses said "天桥" on top, but didn't actually go there. No wonder there were so many 917s.

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"Peking Duck - Buy One Get One Free" - this seemed dodgy

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"不怕辣味就来吧! Mao Zedong's home cooking" ("If you're not scared of chili, come on in!")

I saw two portraits in the restaurant: one was of Mao and to his left was of someone I didn't recognise. I entered the restaurant to enquire and a lot of people got up (though there were still more staff watching TV than attending to customers). I was told he was Liu2 Xia4 Xi2. Err, okay.

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Hole in the wall 羊肉串 (lamb skewers). Virtually all the 羊肉串 places I saw were like this, renting space from a restaurant. Poor guys shivering in the cold.

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"洗头 Body Massage 保健" ("Head wash. Health maintenance")

The sign was not the only thing about this place that intrigued me: there were also 2 girls inside, and one was in a slutty dress. So I tried to go in to investigate and the door was locked. While one unlocked the door for me, one more girl came out from behind, and she was also in a slutty dress.

I enquired about the price of the services, and was told that massage would set me back by 150¥ for 45 minutes, and head washing would be 10¥. I was wondering which head would be washed, but at that price it sounded like it'd be the bigger one (only).

As I was coming out of the shop I tripped on my bad (worse) foot, since there were 2 steps leading to it. This was my retribution for screwing around with sex workers.

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The sign at the top reads: "成人保健" ("Health maintenance for adults"). The sign at the bottom reads "Sextoys". This is how I was clued in to this family of euphemisms.

Later on, I saw another sex shop so I went in to have a look. The merchandise was pathetic - even worse than in Singapore. There were also 2 middle-aged women in white coats. I asked them why and they told me it was for "hygiene", and that when one talked about these things one needed "hygiene".

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"盲人按摩" ("Blind people massage")
"洗头 保健 足疗 Body Massage, Foot Massage" ("Head wash, health maintenance, foot massage")
She can't be blind, she's reading a newspaper... (And wearing fuck-me boots)

Perhaps "足疗" meant that she would use her foot to massage customers.


This is not quite the Bund: Sword practice at night in Beijing

There was a place advertising that they'd take cae of the old and disabled. So much for Confucian values.

Motto of a real estate (I think) shop: "服务一次感动一[生]" ("One instance of service, a lifetime of gratitude").

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The other type of spa in China. You know it's a bona fide spa because of the word "美" ("beauty")

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In the series of sad things PRCs do for fun: climb onto the metal thing separating escalators.

At least it's better than jumping off Angkor Wat:



In the morning, I had had the bright idea of buying 2 subway tickets at the same time (since I had to queue to buy them each time it was easier to buy the 2¥ tickets in bulk). When I tried to use the second at night, I found that it would not work, and was scolded by the station control for buying an extra ticket. For some unfathomable reason subway tickets will only work at the station where they were bought.

"生物医药基地" is translated as "Biomedical Base" on the subway. This makes it sound more menacing than it (probably) is - it is probably better translated as "Pharmaceutical Centre".

Chinese exits are marked: "安全出口" ("Safety Exit"). This puzzled me, as I wondered where all the "危险出口" ("Dangerous Exits") were. Later, Charis told me that everywhere else was a "危险出口".

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Around 北池子大街 (Beichizidajie), far down along which my hostel was located, there were hawkers selling these candies from bicycle-drawn contraptions (there was a young man who was cycling around jokingly trying to steal this couple's business). The woman thanked me for taking a picture. Uhh.

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1¥ sugar-coated candy I later found out (at a tourist trap stall in the Summer Palace or Temple of Heaven with an English menu) was Haw. I didn't really like it: it was sour and had seeds in it, and so only had half.

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Back at the hostel, I was confronted with a leftover from their Halloween celebration.

While waiting for my night train which left at about midnight, I found that The Great Firewall was a little weird - Foursquare was allowed once, and then no more. I also reflected that I had only had one egg bing, a bottle of low-sugar green tea, a few candied Haws and now a can of Spirte this day.

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Deluxe Three-Wheeled Vehicle!

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More sad things PRCs do for fun: enter subway tunnels, climb subway grilles

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Major landmarks in Beijing - Zhanqianjie McDonald's Store, Zhongliang Plaza McDonald's Store

When I got on the train, for my hard seat night train to Taishan, I found that the seats could not recline. The train was also full, so I couldn't 补票 (upgrade).

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The train carriage would've been something like this when empty. At least there're tables to rest your head on.

However, it was not empty. It was not quite as bad as this:

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But it was still crowded enough that I was like this:

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That said, despite the name the seats weren't hard (but I already knew that). Actually I'd done such a crazy thing before (getting a night train with hard seats): my trains from Cinque Terre to Venice were scheduled for 2052-2252, 2334-0039, 0318-0611. However, I had company and wasn't going to climb a mountain the next day!

The lights were on, people around me were talking and eating guava seeds, the conditions were cramped (legroom and elbowroom were both worse than on Cattle Class on a plane - so people spilled into the corridors) and there was a heater beside my right leg (I wasn't the only one who was uncomfortable - someone else complaining about the heater was told that there were only 2 settings: on and off). Nonetheless, fatigue was the best sleeping pill so I eventually fell asleep (and incidentally felt no heater when I awoke).

The days of sitting with chickens are presumably over (maybe in the Western provinces that still happens)


Interestingly, everyone in China called Mandarin "中文", "华文", "华语" or "国语". No one (IIRC) called it "普通话" (Putonghua - its official name). Perhaps since it is their native tongue (as opposed to in the South) they don't mind (indeed, they might welcome) the conflation of Mandarin and the Chinese language.
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