The weather was not on our side today when we visited the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. However, even in the fog we could feel the grandeur of the great wall as well as its long history. Our guide told us that more than 50% of the Chinese population in the Qin dynasty was involved in constructing the great wall and more than a million people died over the thousands of years it took to build the wall. It is interesting that as one of the most powerful countries at that time, China chose to build a wall to keep their enemies out instead of building an army to conquer those who tried to invade them.
(The Great Wall section at Mutianyu)
After descending the Great Wall, we visited the Schoolhouse, a sustainable tourism retreat started by two couples Jim Spear & Liang Tang and Julie Upton-Wang & Peiming Wang. They leased an abandoned primary school in Mutianyu and converted it into a restaurant and an art glass studio. Their idea was to offer a unique experience near the great wall for both domestic and international tourists. The Schoolhouse has expanded into a major tourist destination, with visitors from over a hundred countries for meetings, events, sightseeing, and getaways. The dining facility has a philosophy of “Homemade from Scratch” and “Slow-eating”. They source fresh ingredients from local markets and employ local people, and food is served in a way that allows people to share food and enjoy every moment. After a great lunch, we visited the Glass Studio and watched the glass blowing demonstration by Jiang Jiamei, Glass Head Gaffer.
(Jiang Jiamei making a glass vase)
Dr Liu (barefoot doctor) sharing her story
We also met Mutianyu ’s barefoot doctor who had been serving the village for over 38 years. Barefoot doctors were farmers who received several months of basic medical training at community hospitals, then dispatched to rural villages to serve where urban-trained doctors would not settle. As the doctor told her stories, we could see how far Chinese society has advanced. The female doctor was denied entry to university even though she had placed quite well in the entrance exam because she was married and pregnant. She did not have the freedom to leave the village, which she was assigned to even though she dreamed of becoming a teacher. Today, there is gender equality in most professional settings. The Hukou system has been relaxed since the 1990’s, allowing large numbers of migrant workers from villages to move to the cities to find work. The situation is still not perfect but we can see real progress being made. However, there does not seem to be a solution to the mass exodus of young people from rural villages. The good doctor commented that just like her, her village is aging and she would keep serving as long as she can, but when she retires, the government would have to forcibly assign someone to take her place.
(Various design created by the glass studio and singing wine glass one of the key products)