30 July, 2021

Winter's Tale

Winter's Tale
Though it's only the start of December, a bone-chilling breeze blows down Beijing's glistening boulevards, stripping the trees of their autumnal attire. Over the soaring skyline, reassuringly robust compared to Delhi's, a soupy smog already hovers, a reminder that in China's thrust for economic 'gianthood', the environment has become a primary casualty. My research has already shown me that China now mines and burns 2 billion tonnes of coal to meet its annual needs. Wheezing, I wonder somewhat facetiously if respiratory diseases are a more effective population check than the one-child policy.

I'm staying with old friends once posted in India, Penny and Hamish McDonald of the Sydney Morning Herald. They assure me that one fast becomes accustomed to the Beijing air. But hardly have I landed when Hamish whisks me off on a grand adventure: a trip to the Buddhist caves at Dunhuang, situated on the Silk Road in far-flung Gansu. During the Cultural Revolution, Gansu was the province dissidents...

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