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Standing beside the Famous

一言堂 wu 10240次浏览 0个评论 扫描二维码

Standing beside the famous, and capturing a photo to prove it, is a worldwide phenomenon, but in a ‘guanxi-conscious’ society as China, it seems to me to be certainly more prevalent.

长城水镇

Having one’s photo taken alongside local officials, provincial officials— the higher ranking the better — is seen as some kind of green-light connection that goes beyond the more often than not real reason for the meeting, mere chance.

Generally speaking, the photo’s are treasured because they show the ordinary standing next to the famous. But who knows? Perhaps they are too treasured by the famous, who like to tout themselves standing next to the unknown, as a means of convincing their down-to-earth personalities.

So, last month on a glorious autumn day, as I drove along the Jing-Cheng expressway, the famous and the ordinary brought together was very much at the forefront of my mind. As usual, I was en route to see the famous, the Great Wall. But unusually, I was really focussing on the ordinary beside it. My destination was a new tourist development that lies 120 km northeast of Beijing, marketing itself as ‘Gubeikou Water Town’.

长城风景

For those of you that are less in the know about Great Wall related goings on that myself, the name ‘Gubeikou Water Town’ has a strange ring to it. For various reasons.

Long time visitors to Gubeikou — and that includes me, who first went there in 1987 — will know that while the town has a trickle of water, it’s nothing remarkable. Like most of North China, surface water is little and far between. When I walked into Gubeikou I took a photo of the Wall snaking away and up the Crouching Tiger Mountain, with the narrow channel of the Chao River in the foreground.

In fact, ‘Gubeikiou Water Town’ is not in Gubeikou — its about 20 km to the east as the crow flies, at what is more widely known as Simatai.

Now, that a name that disappeared off the face of the map in recent years. Until about the year 2010, it was the destination for one of the most popular walks on the Great Wall, starting at Jinshanling and concluding at Simatai.

Then rumours spread that ‘Simatai’ was closed.

司马台长城

Closed? How can a section of the Great Wall be ‘closed’. Moreover, given there was a village called Simatai at the foot of the Wall, how could that be closed?

It was rumoured that ‘Simatai village was being redeveloped”.

To me, as a conservationist with a geographical, historical, archeological and social view of what constitutes ‘The Great Wall’, the news was grim.

In my eyes, the majesty of the Great Wall goes beyond the actual building. but extends to the surrounding land, to include the slopes and valleys, where the materials for the Wall were sourced and made, to the villages. Those, I aways considered, are vital to the continued existence of the Great Wall as a living part of China. For that is where ‘Great Wall people’ live, have lived, and sometimes have lived for a very, very, long time. Their experiences, their knowledge, their way of life, their oral histories, their views are a human — living — part of the Great Wall landscape of China. They keep the Great Wall alive.

I had heard of Simatai’s “redevelopment” and I’d heard of “Gubeikou Water Town”, but I didn’t connect the two — because Simatai is 20km away from Gubeikou.

But I was shortly to see that they were now one and the same place.

The Water Town is a quaint little recreation of a South China town with canals and little houses alongside. Welcome to Gubeikou, the ancient “North” pass that now has a flavour of the south. The developers are obviously expecting large numbers of visitors. the car parks are large, the five star hotel would dwarf most downtown-Beijing hotels, and the ticket office looked more like something you’d expect to see in a city railway station. there was a line of about 25 windows, with all sorts of “packages”. It was on seeing this that I felt the Great Wall was not the star attraction, but just one of many.

It was however the only original one.

长城风景区

For all its loveliness and quaintness and cleanliness, the water town seemed fake to me. Like a clean barn without the animals, straw and dung.

We had a high price ticket that allowed us to approach the Wall by water. We donned life jackets and started to be rowed along a canal. Welcome to Venice I thought.

I was curious to know where our “captain” came from. Simatai perhaps, thinking that the project designers might have had the political correctness to create jobs for the locals. No. this man came from Miyun County Town, about 50 or 60 kms away. There was a ‘work bus’ very day, he said.

Once through the ‘Water Town’ we reached the cable car station. It’s a new, high-speed flight up to the Wall, and there you will find the Wall.

The views remain tremendous, although I have always thought the the best place to appreciate Simatai is when viewing the ridge from afar, from Jinshanling, or the walk between Jinshanling and Simatai.

As I took the cable car down I reminded myself that If I was critical of the development of a southern-style Water town beside the Great Wall I wold be critical of the Qing Emperors who re-created the far so they could be near. They brought their favourite sceneries of the south to the north for pleasure, so why can’t today’s Chinese? They can and they did, but in juxtaposing the two they made the star, the Great Wall, into the background, which is literally behind — although above — the town itself.

Back in the town we enjoyed an excellent lunch, one of the best I’ve had of late, and one of s standard that would be hard to beat in Beijing. but the restaurant was almost empty, as were most of the others that I peered into.

My verdict. If you’re one of the lucky ones who visited Simatai in the “old days”, when you could walk there, have a beer, ‘laobing’, pork and peppers with a farming family in the village, and go back to the big city refreshed by your simple day out, then don’t bother going back. Just keep that good memory.

If you haven’t been to Simatai, then you still have to go. But you just have to accept that you came at the wrong time to a what was once a much better place.

站在明星身旁并与他们合影留念,是普天下人们的嗜好,在讲求“关系学”的中国,更是如此。与高官合影也是一样,当然官位越高越好,今后会有“绿灯”效应。

一般来说,这类“无名人”和“有名人”的照片会被“无名人”收藏。但谁知道呢?或许那些“有名人”,为了显示他们与普通民众打成一片,也会珍视这种“落地”的证据。

在刚过去不久的金秋10月的一天,我沿着京承高速驱车,满脑子里想的却是这类“有名”和“无名”关系的事情。与往常一样,我带领高端客人参观著名的长城。然而,与往常不同的是,这次安排的重点不是长城,而是她身边的“陪同”。我的目的地是离北京120公里的新开发的旅游景区,定位为“江南水乡”的古北口水镇。

北方长城的一个关口和南方水镇的“结盟”似乎非常奇特。

我和很多长城爱好者们一样,多次来到古北口。第一次登上这里的长城,是在1987年。这里的村镇边的确有一条不大的潮河,在我拍摄古北口长城时,蜿蜒盘上卧虎山的长城,这条潮河总是在照片的前面。像大多数华北地区一样,地表上的水稀少得可怜。

实际上,“古北口水镇”并不在古北口,而是离古北口直线距离约莫20公里之外的司马台。

近几年,司马台长城似乎在地图上暂时消失了。直到2010年,一个有名的徒步路线引起了人们的兴趣,它起自金山岭,止到司马台。司马台似乎在人们的视野里再次出现。

然而,有消息说“司马台”被关闭了。关闭了?一段长城怎么能关闭?怎样关闭?

后来又听说司马台长城脚下的司马台村被重新整修一新。

作为一个保护主义者,一个地理、历史和考古学者、一个热衷提问的人,这个消息对我来说并不奇怪。

在我眼里,长城真实的魅力,在于长城自身,也远远超出于她的自身。长城周边的土地、包括山坡和山谷,还有这片土地上的村庄和在这里生活的人,都是长城建造的源泉。我总认为,长城的存在与这些周边的生灵不可分割。这些地方是长城的建设者和守卫者曾经生活过的和将要生活很久的地方。他们的经验、知识、生活方式、口述史和看问题的方法都是长城景观的重要的组成部分。只有这些活着的东西能保留,长城才算得上是活着的长城。

我听说司马台的重新改造,也听说过古北口水镇,但并没有把这两个名称联系在一起,因为司马台离古北口还有20公里。

但是,后来我知道了,这两个地方其实是一回事。在南方,水镇一般是沿着大运河的古香古色的水乡。欢迎你到古北口来!这曾经是古代北方的战略关口,但披上了南方水乡的景致。

很显然,开发商们期待着大批游客的蜂拥而至;巨型停车场,五星级酒店把北京城里的豪华酒店都比得甘拜下风;售票处如同火车站,售票窗口一排就是二十几个。尽管水镇悦目可爱、古香古色、干净整洁,但在我眼里,她只是一个大而空的现代人造景观。

我们一行穿上救生衣,开始在水上漂浮。我脑子里出现的却是意大利威尼斯划船的景象。

我很好奇,我们的“船长”来自何方。因为开发商似乎应当考虑到当地人就业的问题。但有的遗憾,这位船长来自密云县城,离这里50-60公里的路程,每天坐班车上下班。

乘船穿过水镇,来到新建的高速缆车站,从这里可以上到长城。虽然长城的景色依然如故,雄浑大气。但我总是觉得欣赏司马台的最佳地点是在金山岭,或者在金山岭和司马台之间的徒步路上。

从长城回到水镇,我们享用了美味的午餐。味道之好堪比北京城的最豪华的酒店里的“作品”,但我看到的是空空如也的餐厅。

“过去”我有幸在司马台上行走,领略长城的美景之后,在山下老乡家,来一瓶凉啤酒,吃一块烙饼卷青椒肉丝,体验这种区别于城里的简单的生活方式。那,才是神仙过的日子。

如果你还没有去过司马台长城,还是值得一去。但是你得承认,如果你只是想去看长城,现在的时光已经不如以往。很简单,这里的长城已经不再是明星,她变成了一个外来物的背景。

(作者:威廉·林赛,翻译:吴琪,本文来自“林赛一家子”)


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