Sun Bingwen, Zhu De and Liu Ding

Statues near the river side

In a previous post I mentioned the history of Zhu De and Sun Bingwen. On 21 March 2024 a ceremony was held honoring the legacies of Sun Bingwen, Zhu De and Liu Ding. Two groups of statues are located on the river side at Nanxi City.

One location is with the statues of Zhu De and Sun Bingwen, the other is the statue of Liu Ding.
Sun Bin, as the granddaughter of Sun Bingwen and myself paid respect to the grandfather.
Liu Wenshi and Liu Wenshan, sons of Liu Ding the “military industry leader and united front hero” paid respect to their father.

The museums

We visted the Nanxi Museum and then the old residence of Zhu De in Nanxi.
Some of the pictures in the museum were donated by Sun Bin. Pictures feature Zhu De, Sun Bingwen. Sun Yang and Sun Weishi.

When we left the former residence, three young pioneers greeted Sun Bin, Liu Wenshi and Liu Wenshan.
Near the museum I spotted some interesting mural decorations…

Who is Liu Ding

Liu Ding (1902 – 1986) was a native of Nanxi, an older generation revolutionary activist of the Communist Party of China, a loyal communist fighter, and a famous military industrialist. He was an expert in the machinery industry, the founder and outstanding leader of my country’s military industry, and the first president of North China University. He is known as the dean of China’s military industry. In 1924, he joined the Communist Party of China after being introduced by Sun Bingwen and Zhu De. In 1924, he went to Germany for a work-study program and served as secretary of the Youth League branch in Germany. In 1926, he went to the Soviet Union for further study. Graduated from Moscow Oriental University in 1928. In 1929, he was transferred back to China and served as deputy section chief of the Second Section of the Special Section of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. He has been engaged in underground intelligence work for a long time and made great contributions in the Xi’an Incident.

In 1952, in order to prepare for the trial production of standardized weapons he established a number of basic research institutes to serve the ordnance industry. They are the earliest technological research institutions established in New China.
His background in Chinese can be found here.
See here a transcript of the information in Chinese with partial translation: LiuDing_bio

A forest with Taxus Chinensis

On 22 March 2024 we crossed the Yabgtze River and went up to a mountain to check on the culture of a special plant called Taxus Chinensis, also called Chinese Yew.
In our delegation some participants are interested in the plant, used to produce medicines for cancer treatment, including Paclitaxel and Taxifolin. It can also be used in many other ways and is protected under Chinese and international law. Currently, the species is suffering the consequences of its economic and scientific exploitation for the production of the aforementioned anticancer drugs.

See more here: Taxus chinensis

We had a lunch with very local food on the mountain top.

Ming City Wall Ruins Park

Walking along the old city wall

As mentioned in a previous post after the Observatory talk, we had lunch and then journey south to the Ming City Wall Ruins Park and walk along the base of the walls with in-depth commentary and historical anecdotes provided by Jim Nobles. The tour of the corner tower was not possible that day due to another event. We started at the east section near the railways station where you can see the inner structure of the massive wall. We then went south turning around the corner tower.
Starting 10:30 AM the tour concluded at Chongwenmen subway station around 5:00 PM. It was another great event by The Royal Asiatic Society of Beijing.

The Beijing Ming City Wall Ruins Park is a park in Beijing with the longest and best preserved section of the Ming Dynasty city wall. The park is located 3 km from the city center and extends east from Chongwenmen to Dongbianmen and then north to near to Beijing Railway Station East Street. The park features a 1.5 km section of the Ming city wall and the Southeast Corner Tower, which are over 550 years old and surrounded by a lovely green park space to the south and east, where people gather to relax and play music.

Map of Beijing’s Ming City walls (Wikipedia)

The city wall from Chongwenmen to the Southeast Corner Tower in the early 1900s overlooking the moat and the Huashi neighborhood. The Corner Tower in 1921, after a gate was opened in the wall for railway tracks when the Beijing–Fengtian Railway was built over the moat outside the wall.

History of the wall

Preserved is a section of the Ming city wall and the Southeast Corner Tower, that once connected Chongwenmen and Dongbianmen, two city gates that have been replaced with roadway intersections. A shorter section of the eastern city wall is separated from the corner tower by a railway out of the Beijing railway station. The Beijing railway station and its rail depots occupy the area immediately north of the park.

The inner city wall was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1419. The Ming city walls stood for nearly 550 years until the early 1960s when most of the gates and walls were torn down to build the Beijing Subway, which runs underneath where the walls stood. The subway’s inner loop line turned into the Inner City at Chongwenmen to stop at the Beijing railway station, and did not need to run beneath a section of the wall at the southeast corner of the Inner City. Of the 40 km of the original wall, only this 1.5 km section was spared.

In the late 1990s, the city government decided convert the remnants of the wall into a park and relocate the small businesses and homes between the foot of the southern city wall and Chongwenmen East Avenue. Construction began in November 2001. Large trees that stood in the courtyards were preserved. To preserve the historical integrity of the fortifications, the authorities solicited donations of Ming era bricks from city residents to use in the restoration. About of one-fifth of 2,000,000 bricks used in the restoration are from the Ming-era.

The Southeast Corner Tower was built from 1436 to 1439 and is a major state-protected historical site. The tower, which rises 29 m in height with 144 archery windows, is the largest corner tower still standing in China. The tower could house 200 soldiers and has ramps for soldiers and horses. Inside the tower is an exhibit on the history of the city’s Ming-era walls. The Red Gate Gallery, a privately managed, non-profit contemporary art gallery opened in 1991 inside the tower and operated for over two decades before moving to the 798 Art Zone.

The inner city wall stood 11.4 m high and were topped with battlements that rose a further 1.9 m. The wall, lined with brick and filled with rammed earth, was 19.8 m thick at the foundation and 16 m at the top. Bastions protruding on the outside face of the wall are locally known as mamian or “horse face”. The bastions were spaced about 80 m apart, allowed archers to fire at attackers from three sides. The restored fortification has 11 bastions on the southern wall and two bastions on the shorter eastern wall. Only the battlements of the corner tower and one bastion has been fully restored.
During its history the city wall was never breached and artillery could not bring it down due to its massive construction. The city was penetrated at the gates.

Also on the park grounds is a restored signal house of the Beijing–Fengtian (Jingfeng) Railway built in 1901.

Beijing Ancient Observatory

The Royal Asiatic Society of Beijing

The Royal Asiatic Society of Beijing organized a journey back in time with a visit to the Beijing Ancient Observatory and Ming City Wall Ruins Park on 14 April 2019.
This the detailed overview as announced in my previous post.
The private tour of the Beijing Ancient Observatory was with commentary by a local expert on the history and the various astronomical devices.
This is the first part, about the observatory. Next post will be about the Ming City Wall Ruins Park.
The Beijing Ancient Observatory is located south of Jianguomen subway Exit C. See the view from the diplomatic apartments near the flyover, where I also lived for a few years in the eighties, see the red building. Some views from the observatory on the Second Ring and Chang’An Avenue.

Built in 1442 during the Ming Dynasty, this observatory is one of the oldest in the world. As the Emperor was considered the “Son of Heaven”, astronomy and the movement of the planets and stars were extremely important to Chinese cosmology. Later it was updated with the help of European Jesuits including Ferdinand Verbiest and Adam Schall von Bell.

The tour

See the pictures of the instruments with some of the explanations. We had a VIP visit to the observatory under a blue sky, followed by a tour of the exhibition halls, exhibits and statues in the courtyard. Some children were also visiting and making drawings of the instruments. See the pictures of the exhibition area.
As an engineer I was amazed by the complexity and ingenuity of the instruments. To be honest, no clue how those worked!
Our Ferdinand Verbiest is prominently displayed.

Recent book

Veerle De Vos wrote a book in Dutch about Ferdinand Verbiest “Ferdinand Verbiest en de ontdekking van China. Alles onder de hemel” published by Pelckmans.

See her interview here.
And her interview on VRT

2300 years old silk robe

The story

Full details of the 2300 years old silk robe can be found in the following articles:
China Daily 1 August 2007 – Chinese Archaeologists Make Ground-breaking Textile Discovery
and 31 July 2007 – 2,500-year-old Textiles Discovered by Chinese Archaeologists

The 2300 years old silk robe was discovered in a tomb in 1982.
Chinese archaeologists have found textiles in a mysterious tomb dating back nearly 2,500 years in eastern Jiangxi Province, the oldest to be discovered in China’s history.
The textiles, which are well-preserved and feature stunning dyeing and weaving technologies, will rewrite the history of China’s textile industry, says Wang Yarong, an archaeologist who has been following the findings in the textile sector for more than three decades.
Wang and her colleagues found more than 20 pieces of fine silk, flax and cotton cloth in 22 of a total 47 coffins unearthed from the tomb in Lijia village of Jing’an county.
“Most of them are fine fabrics and the largest piece is 130 cm long, 52 cm wide and woven with complicated techniques,” said Wang, a researcher with the textiles preservation center of the Beijing-based Capital Museum.
The tomb, 16 meters long, 11.5 meters wide and three meters deep, contained the largest group of coffins ever discovered in a single tomb and its excavation was dubbed “the most important archeological project of the year” by cultural experts and the Chinese media.
Experts had unearthed more than 200 heritage pieces from the tomb, including copperware, jade, gold and handicrafts made from bamboo: a well-preserved fan 37 cm long and 25 cm wide and a bamboo mat 180 cm long and 80 cm wide.
Seven of the coffins contained human skeletons, four of which were identified as healthy females aged around 20, said Wei Dong, an archaeologist from northeast China’s Jilin University. Wei and other members of the research team assumed the four young women were maids who had been buried alive in sacrifice alongside a dead aristocrat, as was a centuries-old custom in ancient China.

Read the full article!

At the house of our friend Mike

We welcomed Ms. Wang Yarong at the house of Mike, along with Rene and others on 28 July 2022. The CCTV crew did the shooting of the documentary.

We had the chance to look at the copy of the original silk robe, done by Ms. Wang Yarong and her team. Ms. Wang gave a detailed insight into the art work and we also looked at the 3D computer images.

The documentary

Came out in August 2023.
The movie is best seen on mobile, it needs the app.


See some screenshots from my mobile.


Isabel Crook passed away


Longtime Beijing resident Isabel Crook passed away on 20 August 2023 at the age of 107.
She was a truly remarkable lady whom I met several times. Despite her age she remained very active. The last time I met her was on 18 February 2023, the big birthday party for Mark Levine, attended by many of his friends. Isabel Crook and her two sons were the star guests, see the post here.

With Isabel and Michael Crook 20 August 2016

I also met her in 2016, as mentioned in the post “Spotlight on Mark Levine”. With pictures from 2014 (Hilton event) and 2016 (Beijing Foreign Studies University), including Isabel and Michael Crook.
Another key event was on 20 August 2019 when I attended the launch of the movie featuring Isabel Crook, in The Bookworm, with a performance by Mark Levine. Fu Han did a remarkable job!

I was with Michael Crook (in the middle, white jacket) on the float during the parade of 1 October 2009.

All over the media

See here some of the media announcements.

China Daily
20 August 2023 – Pioneering educator, researcher Isabel Crook dies at 107 in Beijing
By Zou Shuo in China Daily

Isabel Crook

Canadian educator and anthropologist Isabel Crook, who pioneered English language teaching in New China and was a recipient of the Friendship Medal, China’s highest honor for foreigners, died on Sunday in Beijing at the age of 107.
Crook, who lived and worked in China for more than 90 years, witnessed and participated in the development of China’s foreign language education, according to a eulogy released by Beijing Foreign Studies University, where she taught English for more than 70 years.

In New York Times
26 August 2023 – Isabel Crook, 107, Dies; Her Life in China Spanned a Century of Change
Read the full article here.
A noted educator and anthropologist, she spent almost her entire life in China, where she was a committed friend of the Communist government.
Isabel Crook, a China-born daughter of Canadian missionaries who became one of her adopted country’s most celebrated foreign residents, beloved as an educator, anthropologist and articulate advocate for the Communist state, died on Sunday in Beijing. She was 107.
Her son Carl Crook said the cause of death, in a hospital, was pneumonia.
Mrs. Crook was among the last of a generation of Westerners born to missionaries in China in the decades before the Japanese invasion, World War II and the subsequent Communist revolution.
See the PDF: 230826 NYTIsabelCrook.

In theBeijinger:
Remembering Isabel Crook, Canadian Expat and Educator, 1915-2023
22 August 2023 – Irene Li – theBeijinger
Canadian educator, anthropologist, Friendship Medal recipient, and longtime Beijing resident Isabel Crook passed away on Aug 20 at the age of 107.
Born to missionary parents in Chengdu in 1915, Crook earned her master’s degree from the University of Toronto in 1938, before returning to China for anthropological study.
See the PDF230822 theBeijingerIsabelCrook