A railway journey that led to a lifetime story

By Bruce Connolly | chinadaily.com.cn | 2017-07-19 07:04

A railway journey that led to a lifetime story

Tiananmen Gate in Beijing in late 1990's. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]

Residential architecture showed the evolution of post-1949 socialist housing from earlier four to six floor redbrick 'walk-ups' to the 18-floor tower blocks steadily appearing through the 1980s. Modern for that time, tall commercial buildings such as the International Hotel at Jianguomen were gradually changing what had been an almost uniformly low-rise skyline. Construction had started on China World at Guomao in 1985.

Another notion quickly dispelled - most people were not dressed in conformist blue or green heavy cotton. Men generally wore white shirts, with women in light cotton summer skirts or dresses, some even in beautiful silk qipao.

I was staying at the Friendship Hotel in what was suburban Haidian, with its outdoor pool, tennis courts and a rooftop bar where the sunset over the Western Hills could be appreciated with a cold Tsingtao Beer! Outside the gates across today's busy Zhongguancun South Street was another world - bicycle carts carried melons, horse-hauled carts transported cardboard for recycling - and beyond a ditch an outdoor market had a range of vegetables quite unknown to me.

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