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Yan'an Mini Review E-mail
Reviews - Travel
Written by Metano
I took a trip to Yan'an (延安), the birthplace of the Chinese Communist Revolution and the ultimate destination of the famed "Long March." It's in the north of Shaanxi Province (陕西), which is the same province I'm teaching in. It was about an 8 hour bus ride over tremendously bumpy roads, but well worth the trouble. Where else, for example, could you explore the building in which Mao Zedong was officially proclaimed Chairman of the CCP?

I stayed for only one day and a night, 20 yuan for the night and without having to worry about scruples like showing them our passports. The people in this city are incredibly friendly. Entrance fees for half the places we visited were waived. If there's anyone out there who really wants to get lost in a faraway corner of China to learn the language, this place would be ideal. There are a even a few universities in town. Not once were I gawked at and not once did someone yell out "HELLO!" in my face as I walked by. It's a bit of an oasis (not literally- the river running through the city was completely dried out) in the sense that everyone spoke only Chinese to me. There were no annoying repetitive quizzes or questions about what the best things in China are.

In Yan'an, of course, most tourist attractions revolve around Chairman Mao kistch, but there are some valid reasons to visit from a modern historical perspective. It is, in many ways, the spiritual source of Chinese communism. In Yan'an, the values that won the hearts of the vast majority of mainland Chinese came their closest to being put into practice.

The US sent envoys at the time who confirmed that de-centralized initiatives, self-reliance, mass mobilization and egalitarianism were not only political rhetoric, it actually was the "Yan'an Spirit." For a short time, in a very poor and backward area, people lived and defended themselves, happily overcoming first the Japanese (not on their own) and then the Nationalists whose methods were too coarse to attain popularity with the majority of Chinese. Of course, after hearing and seeing what was going on in Yan'an, the US left China high and dry, a struggling enemy for years to come.

In Yan'an, there are countless headquarters to visit as well as a pretty interesting museum. The top brass- people like Chairman Mao, Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaoqi and Zhu De- were constantly moving around to better and better, more comfortable places to live. Most of them, interestingly, were small caves dug into the hillsides (In fact, thousands of poor people still live this way today in Yan'an).

The insides were plastered while windows and doors were placed at the front, and it's thrilling to see some of these places. Some of the residences are connected by low tunnels which force you to lower your head as you walk through. The museum was good too, with lots of genuine memorabilia from the CCP's guerilla warfare days- guns, ammo belts, uniforms, boots, etc.

There aren't many tourists in Yan'an, and usually there aren't any guards watching you as you explore the caves where the country's founders once lived...Yan'an is worth a visit!

Our valuable Editor Metano has been with us since Monday, 21 January 2013.

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