Beijing Underground City

Beijing Underground City

For more than 20 years, Beijing’s Underground City, a bomb shelter just beneath the ancient capital’s downtown area, has been virtually forgotten by local citizens, despite being well-known among foreigners since it officially opened in 2000.The Underground City has also been called the Underground Great Wall, since they had the same purpose: military defense. This complex is a relic of the Sino-Soviet border conflict in 1969 over Zhenbao Island in northeast China’s Heilongjiang River, a time when chairman Mao Zedong ordered the construction of subterranean bomb shelters in case of nuclear attack.

The tunnels, built from 1969 to 1979 by more than 300,000 local citizens and even school children, wind for over 30 kilometers and cover an area of 85 square kilometers eight to eighteen meters under the surface. It includes around a thousand anti-air raid structures. To supply construction materials for the complex, centuries-old city walls and towers that once circled ancient Beijing were destroyed. The old city gates of Xizhimen, Fuchengmen, Chongwenmen and others remain in name only – only two embrasure watchtowers from Zhengyangmen and Deshengmen survived. There is no authoritative information on how far the mostly hand-dug tunnels stretch, but they supposedly link all areas of central Beijing, from Xidan and Xuanwumen to Qianmen and Chongwen districts, to as far as the Western Hills.

They were equipped with facilities such as stores, restaurants, clinics, schools, theaters, reading rooms, factories, a roller skating rink, a grain and oil warehouse as well as barber shops and a mushroom cultivation farm, for growing foods that require little light. Over 2,300 elaborate ventilation shafts were installed, and gas and waterproof hatches constructed to protect insiders from chemical attack and radioactive fallout. There are also more than 70 sites inside the tunnels to dig wells. In the event of attack, the plan was to house forty percent of the capital’s population underground and for the remainder to move to neighboring hills, and it is said that every residence once had a secret trapdoor nearby leading to the tunnels.

Mao’s slogan calling for people to dig deep, prepare provisions and not to seek hegemony is printed on the wall. Of course, the underground city was thankfully never needed for its intended purpose, but it has been maintained by city officials. Water conservancy authorities check it every year during rainy season, and it is included in anti-vermin sweeps.

The tunnels have since been used by young lovers, and by children daring each other to remain in the darkness longer than their friends. But they were largely shut off for safety reasons. On busy streets, some shelters are now used as low priced hostels, while others have been transformed into shopping and business centers, or even theaters. Despite having so many entrances, foreign visitors usually see a small approved section accessed via a small shop front in Qianmen, south of Tiananmen.                                                                                                        



Beijing Old City Wall

Beijing Old City Wall

The 3000 year old city wall is now a long through the city meandering park with the gate still intact at a number of places.

In ancient China, there were only a few cities without a city wall, the wall and the gate had everything to do with the destiny of the city, the wall of the residence enclosed was the most important part of the city.

The Beijing city wall is a first class masterpiece and the main character of the city. The huge bricks were intended not only to defend but also as a major project to enhance the beauty and appearance of Beijing to embody, it is a symbol that mankind made a step towards civilization.           

Because the felon that Beijing’s ancient capital of China, the city wall always been an issue where the dynasties have focused on, the history of the city wall dates back to a later period of the Shang dynasty between the 16th and the 11th century BC, at that time there were two kingdoms in China the Yan and the Ji. The Yan built the city wall.

The wall has a very rich look and different slopes and the bricks are stacked point trapeze, while the inside is much steeper than the outside, the wall was equipped with a horse path up to the wall and come back from there to, there is also an archery tower above the gate, there are no more intact remnants of that period. What can still be seen is built in the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasty.     

If you drive north on Anding Road you pass the wall halfway through the third and fourth ring road. Each gate had its own destiny, the Chaoyangmen was for the grain supply, Chongwenmen was the wine gate, Xuanwumen was for the prisoners and Fuchengmen was for coal and other products.

The main destination of the wall was of course the defense of the city but also to give importance to the political, economic and cultural fields.

After the emergence of the Republic of China much broken down for construction but there are a number of fortresses still open to the public and definitely worth a visit.  



Aground at Heathrow Airport

Aground at Heathrow Airport

Alaska Wilderness Trip July – August 2003.

Subject: Flight BA 049

This is the story of two travelers who think to meet a carefree holiday in the rugged Alaska but instead spent 27 hours at Heathrow airport.

Here is our story:

July 20, 2003, at 10:00 Sunday morning at Schiphol Airport, At the TQ3 desk retrieved our tickets, the employee reports yet you are lucky the previous flight is canceled, this one goes through, if he had told me about the situation at Heathrow Airport we would not have left Amsterdam.

We arrived at 12.00 noon UK time at Heathrow, and the plane waiting is 45 minutes for an available trunk, the first sign of the chaos, then off board, there are still many thousands of people, later we hear 10,000 or more at the Heathrow departure and arrival halls, sleeping over each other, with the babies and little ones in between.

Just checked a TV screen for the gate number for departure of our 14.35 hour flight to Seattle, it shows only ” please wait” and that has stood there to 16.30 hour. We ask at the information desk and there appears to be between 40 minutes and a little more delay, but they certainly will depart! Get yourself to the test , since there are 6 men or women behind computer screens and each has a row of up to 15 travelers waiting for him, however they frequently leave, saying sorry it’s my time I go, and you must line up in a different row, this is unbelievable, they should arrange a replacement!

Eventually the gate manned, and everyone goes on board at 16.45 hours, we will leave in 25 minutes was told, at 18.30 hour we are still at the gate and nothing happened, the crew does nothing, knows nothing, and It’s hot because there is also no air conditioning running anymore, than the captain speaks over the intercom and tells us that because of the waiting time plus the flying time the crew will be over the number of legal working hours and are no longer allowed to fly, he mention something about a new crew, but I do not believe in it and I seem to be right.

The Captain say’s we’re going to do food serving, and we will see how we go on with it, we cannot promise that we can arrange a hotel for all of you, so maybe tonight you remain to sleep in the plane and tomorrow continue with us, that will cause homicide! There are already people fainting! They do serve food but it is also a mess, the doors are open but they leave no one out, they say due to safety reasons.

Then we get a live action, there’s a man going ballistic, he runs past the guards down the stairs of the aircraft at the airport, where he eventually get caught by some guards and pressed flat on the ground and brought back in the plane.

It is now BA / terrorist Ltd. We are held hostage by BA, and after 5 1/2 hours negotiating with the head office, we are disposed, yes believe it or not walking down the stairs from the plane at the airport then upstairs to the departure hall, there we are told that our luggage despite earlier promises cannot get back, they do get the luggage from the aircraft, but they do not know where it ends and it is pointless to go there to search, there are now 50,000 + pieces of luggage, not registered anywhere on the airport. The staff at BA say only if you go with us tomorrow it will be put back into the plane, (if they still can find it) if you do not want that, we will get it removed before departure and we will ever look twice when we deliver and where!

I am now in contact with TQ3 in the Netherlands to see if there are other opportunities to escape or get out of here. Therefore, I demand that we get our luggage back, if TQ3 can book another flight for us as we can get out of here, but they continue to refuse to look for it.

Eventually first to the Raddison airport hotel, which is regulated by BA, and then continue to call with the TQ3 people in Holland, we would like to depart with the new flights TQ3 has reserved, by the fact that I lost faith in BA, but it will be  a) 5000 euro more expensive, b) we cannot get our luggage back and we must buy our equipment + clothing again, this is another 5000 euros, and we have longer to travel and may not even come in on time at Juneau, Alaska.

So finally I decided to continue with BA, in the hope that they do not burst it for a 2nd day, it will be pretty smelly in that airplane, because there were already many people wearing the same clothes since Friday and for us it is already the 2nd and the next day the 3rd night that we wear the same clothes. Our change is all in the suitcases that BA has confiscated.

We have already lost 1 day of our holiday, what else is going to happen? Help, we are victims of a dysfunctional BA Organization! How does this end?

Heathrow, 21 July 2003, 07.20 am At 09.00 am.

There are 300 people ready in front of the hotel because the buses should be there; BA argues that it eventually becomes 10.15 am. and then there was only 1 bus! This went on until 11.30 pm, the driver told us that the chaos at the airport was now complete and many times worse than yesterday, so it was, nobody could go inside, everyone was on the street in front of the terminal already cordoned off by police and security, there were countless ambulances and enormous first aid buses, the big radio and TV stations were present with buses and trailers with satellite antennas on the roof, there were certainly 5000-10000 people waiting outside and inside many more, so they kept us outside, there was much turmoil and strife, people become unwell etc.

We are told that the promised departure times of 11.00, 12.00, 13.15, 14.30, now again with many, many hours would be exceeded, if it would leave, and one would get the people who already waiting from Friday and Saturday, and after them it will be our turn! I found that given the obligations and booked vacation in Alaska this is not acceptable. And the risk again being abandoned by BA, I call TQ3  to definitive book the reservations, the cost should then only be charged to BA.

We go with a Taxi to London City airport, I promise him 50 pounds if he can make it on time because we have only 1 hour to go! We get there on time at KLM city hopper and at 16.00 pm. back in Amsterdam, after 30 hours back at the place where we started!

While we were traveling back to Amsterdam my Wife had already purchased new suitcases and toiletries etc. and I called the Zwerfkei (outdoor shop) already  to order our entire gear again ready to be put, (nice that they store everything in the computer ) upon arrival at Amsterdam we headed for the Zwerfkei in Woerden to pick up the new outdoor gear for our trip, 4300 Euro to new clothing, thermal underwear, shoes etc. bought because all is in our suitcases confiscated by BA’s who are somewhere in the chaos at Heathrow airport! 

In America I will buy decent clothing and shoes for the Business section of this trip, because I do not like to visit my clients as a tourist. Another problem turned out my phone, my Tri-Band is in the BA case, and my Dutch phone cannot be used in the USA, and we cannot rent a phone in the States, so I have to make all my appointments from the hotel, at a very expensive call rate.

July 22 we are finally heading to the USA. Thanks TQ3 well organized, but it was obviously the task of BA to book us on another flight, this is a very gross negligence of BA. For the service in TQ3 and the staff of Zwerfkei Outdoor sports in Woerden thousand thanks!

Eventually through KLM / NW flight had a good flight and arrived instead of Sunday night July 20 on Tuesday 22 July at 16.00 in Juneau – Alaska.

Our advice: Never fly with British Airways!



A Man of the People

A Man of the People

Arie Boevé’s love affair with China and the Chinese began 20 years ago, but the passion persists and the love has borne fruit through his book “One way Beijing”. Han Bingbin reports. One day in 1993 Arie Boevé walked out of his apartment near Beijing’s Asian Games Village. Pointing at a white guy walking past him, the Dutch man uttered something that surprised even himself: “Wow, there’s a foreigner,” he shouted. “I used to be the only foreigner in my neighborhood,” he says. That was 20 years ago, when Boevé paid his first visit to Beijing, a raw beauty of an Oriental capital. Back then the Third Ring Road had just been constructed. There were so few high ways it took him almost a day to get to the Great Wall.

But he was somehow deeply attracted to the lovable qualities of the people he met and at night, when he had a barbecue by the roadside, he was greeted with warmth. “They see you, gaze at you and say ‘hello’. I always feel safe in China, in Beijing,” he says. “I really started to love China. People are really nice.”

Thanks to his plant trade business, he then started to travel to China three to five times a year. By the early 2000s he had “traveled so often to China and loved the country so much” that he decided to settle here. The result is that he now lives for up to 50 weeks in China, taking only a couple of weeks off to visit his family back in the Netherlands.

His business has enabled him to travel around the country and the establishment of his website It attracts 5,000 visitors from about 70 countries every month and features meticulously chosen pictures from Boevé’s collection of the 100,000 pictures he took during 30 years of traveling, especially to China. For him, traveling is the best way to cultivate a respect for local people.

One of his most revealing trips, one he even now still talks about with excitement, was a boat trip on the Yangtze River from Sichuan down to Wuhan in Hubei province. After missing a luxury ferry due to a traffic delay, Boevé had to take a small and smelly boat on which local farmers travel to Wuhan to sell their agricultural products. When they arrived at almost midnight, he says, a line of people carrying their baskets of fruits and other products already waited to board the boat for a two-day trip down to Wuhan. His partner walked up to the guard saying he was accompanied by a foreigner and they were given the privilege of boarding first, while the others had to wait for two or three hours. Feeling guilty, Boevé decided to associate with these people whom he found to be “poor but happy”. When a policeman on board warned him to keep his passport with him in case he encountered problems, Boevé refused. People were so friendly, he says, that a 2-year-old girl called him “grandpa” and hugged him. “Such a trip allowed me to get in touch with the ordinary people at that time. You’re in the middle of these people. You have to walk through them. You have to sit beside them. You are part of them.”

Based on his traveling experiences, Boevé has just finished a book, in Dutch called “Enkeltje Beijing” (One way Beijing). Before translating it into English for possible publication, Boevé sent it to be read and corrected by his friend Marcel Vink, a Beijing-based Dutch reporter. “The book is written through the eyes of a foreigner who loves China, which is probably also what the reader does. So he is more standing next to the reader, instead of above – what most professional writers would do,” Vink says. One of the primary purposes of writing this book, Boevé says, is to record all the smiling faces he has seen and how happiness has been such a rich source of energy for his life in China.

“When I am on my way to the subway and pass all the local people with their small business spread out on the street or on the bridge waiting for a buyer all day and still smiling and happy it makes my heart feel warm,” he says. “Another time I saw people passing by on the street who were happily singing.

I felt so lucky to be part of the community, though the people are poor and have nothing, they still feel happy, and it’s wonderful.”

By Han Bingbin (China Daily)