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Spooky Beijing

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Mid-terms are over, thankfully… and teachers are already talking about finals! I find it amusing  that, while I’ve just finished with one set of exams, friends back in the UK are starting study leave and exams, and by the time they finish their exams, I’ll be having exams again!! Too many exams! >.<

On a brighter note, there was a slightly warm breeze in the air today, and a lot of…fluff floating around. I really don’t know how else to describe it, I’ve never seen it in London, but it’s apparently something from flowers. Light balls of cotton-woolly fluff looking stuff blowing around everywhere. A sign of Summer approaching?

I’m going to write a couple of things I learnt/heard about on a ghost tour I went on a couple of weeks ago now, courtesy of contacts of a friend. It was a trial-run for a new ghost tour that was going to start operating in Beijing, so we were the guinea pigs, essentially. Not only did I hear and learn some interesting things, I also got to walk around Beijing’s back alleys in the dark – something I don’t see myself having done if not for this tour! (Surprising, right?)

1. Considering the straightness of Beijing’s road, why do the hutongs (the narrow, back alleyways commonly associated with Beijing) not follow the same straightness?
This is actually because it was/is believed that ghosts and spirits travel in straight lines, so by not building the hutongs in totally straight fashion, they believed they were slowing a spirit down. Now that’s what’s called Feng Shui.

2. We were told the story of a princess (I think), whose favourite activity was inventing new methods of torture. She was a bit messed up in the head, to say the least. For example, upon hearing about “the hearts of good people”, she cut people open to ‘see’ their hearts, and what was different about them, as compared to others’ hearts. Also, how could people walk barefoot on ice? She cut off people’s feet so she could see their soles. (Pun intended, what with all the spirits and souls floating about here). One of her favourite torture methods was to have people dance bare-footed on a hot oil drum, surrounded by fire, so when they fell off the drum, which they inevitably would, they would fall straight into the fire and burn to death. She also really liked her snake pit; while some people collect stamps, she collected snakes. She even introduced a snake tax, which I can’t remember the details of, but possibly something along the lines of requiring every family to contribute one snake per year. For her snake pit. How weird is that? But there you have it – a snake tax.

Aaaand, I can’t seem to remember a sufficient amount of the rest of the stories we heard to fill a third point.
We were actually a little creeped out at one point, and couldn’t figure out if this was intentional on the tour guide’s part or not, but walking down one particular dark, quiet, deserted road, there was a DEAD CAT lying in the middle of the street!

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About Ibtehaal

I graduated with a degree in Chinese and Economics, which involved spending a year studying Chinese in Beijing. This turned out to be the hardest but most rewarding thing I think I have ever done. I've now returned to China for another year, to study in Shanghai and figure out my next steps.

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