Nov. 11, 1928
I have just returned from Peking, the civil center of old China.
The train service is pretty awful as troops commandeer them so often and their supply of rolling stock is practically nil.
Before the soldiers of Chang Tso-lin retreated from Peking, the service was fairly good from Tsingtao to Peking by rail, but now, the soldiers retreating from Tsinan have blown up a section of a bridge on that line and the service now runs from Tanggu through Tientsin to Peking, a distance of 185km which usually takes at least 16 hours.
Peking itself is fairly interesting though it duplicates itself innumerable times.
At this time of year Peking is very chilly and dust is commencing to settle thickly over everything. The winters here are very dry and cold with little snow but a great deal of ice.
The American people there are few but with the members of other consuls, the white population is decidedly greater than Guam.... Gossip is snatched upon and enlarged and “fast” though they are, they love to shock themselves with the supposed depredations of someone else.
The rubberneck stations of the tourists are:
1. The Lama Temple.
...The temples number 16 inner buildings, all very much on the same order. One contains a “God” 75 feet high and carved out of one solitary cypress tree....
The people worshiping...beat a drum and play a bass horn to accompany their singing. The entire place was miserably cold and very shabby. (This temple closed by order National Government on November 9, 1928.) The western hills are filled with these very same temples.
2. The Summer Palace.
A decaying witness to frivolity. $50,000,000 were given the Empress Dowager by the people to construct a Chinese Navy. Evidently in those days, to be honest was to be dishonorable for the Empress immediately drew up plans for a palace which was built about 10 miles outside the city of Peking and named the “Summer Palace.” To build it she used the money donated to build a Navy. When it was finished she had about $15,000,000 left. She used this to construct a marble ship which now floats (to all suppositions) on the surface of a lake in the palace grounds.
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