First Impressions: The Great Wall

The last weekend was one among the best, ever, in my whole life. My friends, fellow CRCC interns, proposed a trip to the great wall, 150km outside Beijing. We rented a coach and set the itinerary. Unfortunately (not really though), we overbooked the coach, so I “had” to use my motorbike to get to Jinshan Ridge, which is where the section of the Wall we were visiting is. I really enjoyed my road trip. It was one of the best adventures of my whole life, as my gas tank was quickly draining and, without speaking a SINGLE word of Chinese, things started to get desperate. My Chinese vocabulary doesn’t even go as far as the word “gas” The good news is: everything worked out in the end. The best news is: it was really difficult. In 150km of highway there were only 3 gas stations: the first two were out of order. Luckily the last one was not, but, not so luckily, they had run out of gas! So I had to improvise. I did it, thanks -above all- to a group of very kind Chinese college students (like me!), that I had met on the road. To make a long story short, my new Chinese friends helped me bargain for the last little bit of gas left in the gas station, and I arrived at the wall before my friends, waiting for them as I got to know my new Chinese friends (who luckily spoke perfect English).

the highest point on the great wall

The final ascent of our climb!

Once we started our journey on the wall, I was able to see the immense glory of China! Such a sublime and awesome creation. The walking on the wall was more like trekking as it was incredibly tiring and fatiguing. In addition, we really had to push our European legs as my companions that arrived by bus only had four hours available to finish the track, as the coach would have left in that lapse of time. We really wanted, however, to reach the tower that was at the highest point of the Great Wall. Luckily enough the estimated time to reach our destination round trip was… four hours! So we marched on, while constantly being blown away. We stopped several times to take some of the best pictures of our lives (something we all agreed on). I have never seen so many smiling and impressed young faces at the same time, for such a sustained time. China is amazing, impressive, astonishing, huge, sublime. Like its Wall is! Throughout the harsh climb and a scary downhill we took the time to also have several (ironically) cigarette breaks. Hey, I am sure even the best marathon runners have to occasionally, how could they not!?

Approaching the summit on the Great Wall

Approaching the summit on our hike up The Great Wall

Anyway, during those breaks we had the chance also to think and philosophize a bit on this incredible structure, erected so many centuries ago. Chinese people had a problem: Huns. They solved the problem in the most pragmatic of the ways: “Why don’t we build up a defensive wall!” You have to think though, there must have been someone at some point who came up to point out that: “Ehm…isn’t our N-E boundary more than 8000 km long?” I would venture to guess that this was also the first guy to start working. This seems to also be reflective of the direction and drive of present day China. They don’t look and they do not pay much attention to constraints and limits. Chinese people do what they need with no regard to what it may cost. Of course, I understand that the emperor at the time had a great deal of power (and the philosophy of Legalism behind him), but it’s difficult to fault him for starting such a majestic and magnificent creation. The sheer size of it is simply incredible. But we also began to notice the appeal of the shapes of the towers and stones. The wall elegantly sits upon Chinese mountains and hillsides. It really stands as a symbol of Chinese glory and is a beautiful suggestion for enemies: KEEP OUT. If you don’t, you will have to contend with an enemy capable of building such a monster.

I also noticed that a lot of sections of the wall have been recently restored, something that certainly makes the walk easier, while still keeping the ancient appearance. This is also meaningful of how the government seems to care for these kinds of concerns. I think Chinese glory will endure this way. In direct contrast though, a few months before I left Italy there was a huge polemic in Italy on the status of archeological sites of Ercolano and Pompei. In Campania, I went for school trip in those sites and I witnessed how they are left at the mercy of their own destiny. I can understand the issues that at hand: budget constraints, an almost infinite number of artistic sites and so on. But they literally were falling to pieces. In fact, this polemic was in response to the tremendous collapse of a 2,000 year old house of gladiators in Pompei. Like the game Monopoly teaches us, victory is all about investments! Moreover, the best investment, it seems, is the one that is made in our most treasured places. The best bet is going to be the one on the best horse in the stable. China ran quick during ancient times, and now it’s momentum seems near unstoppable!

– Marco Tommaso Rossini, CPG Marketing Intern

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