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Full Circle

Day 54: Qingdao

Michael Palin - Full CircleFrom a rough-hewn granite balcony I look out over the garden. A group of young women wearing an ensemble of black jackets, trousers and high-heels, are sweeping the lawn with besom brushes. There is something passive and docile in their attitude to this largely pointless task and it doesn't much surprise me that, according to my Insight guide, China ranks 132nd in the world in women's working conditions.

I haven't slept very well. It wasn't the maotai as much as the awareness that some of the most ruthless men of this century have slept beneath this roof and, for all I know, on my very bed. The Welcome Guest House was one of the great holiday homes for dictators. Mao Tse-Tung spent a month here in the room below mine, a year before instituting the first of his brutal experiments with the Chinese population - the Great Leap Forward. He lived on pills for insomnia and constipation. I swear I heard him pacing up and down last night. A plaque outside the room next door records the visits of Lin Biao, author of The Little Red Book and, with Mao, instigator of the savageries of the Cultural Revolution; while Ho-Chi-Minh of Vietnam, Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia, Mao's foreign minister Zhou Enlai and two general secretaries of the Albanian Communist Party all stared up at my ceiling. Though not at the same time.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 54
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Qingdao
  • Book page no: 80

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