Sun Yat Sen is the father of modern China.

I had no idea.

He died in 1925 and they decided to raise a mausoleum for him on top of Purple Mountain in Nanjing.

At the time China had about 39.2 million people, so the guy who designed the memorial got the bright idea there should be 392 steps up to his mausoleum.

Remember that scene in Kung Fu Panda where Poh’s chest is heaving and gasping as he gets to the top of the steps to see the festival and to fight the Snow Leopard foe?

Well that’s me after climbing 392 steps to the top of the memorial of Dr. Sun Yat Sen.

I’m absolutely positive that the folks at Dreamworks climbed those steps!

See that structure at the tippy top? That’s the Mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, and those are all the stairs I had to climb.

Honestly the only reason I bothered was because the tour guide said that a Ming Emperor was buried up there too, but getting to the top I saw no evidence of a Ming tomb, just the mausoleum.

View from the top of the Mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat Sen

One thing that is cool is that you can’t see the stairs from the top, just the square tiles of all the landings. It’s a neat architectural feature.

It’s one of those sites that really doesn’t ‘translate’ well if you know what I mean.

I mean it was important to the Chinese people, but for me it was like, ‘meh’.

About as interesting to them as seeing John A. MacDonald’s house in Kingston. (I did find that interesting as he’s the first prime minister of Canada and considered the father of Confederation but I wouldn’t expect Chinese tourists to find it interesting.)

But that’s what I found with a number of things. I think we western tourists wanted to see the ‘old’ China. The one we’d grown up with, but everywhere we looked we saw a society that was built pretty much on western models.

The people all wore western clothes!

And the buildings, especially in Shanghai, were copycats of western glass and steel highrises.

It was like what happened later. We were to be treated to a dinner of ‘hairy’ crab.

All the Chinese people in the group were so excited!

Apparently it was the quite the delicacy!

To get to the place where the hairy crab was served we had to take a water taxi.

Talk about scary!

Eleven people crammed into a motor boat! Racing across the water in the dark, to a platform/island in the middle of a large lake that actually farmed the hairy crabs.

You walked past areas to the right which had tanks submerged in the lake that contained great vats of hairy crabs, many of them trying to climb out.

Then they brought them to the table, a huge stack of them, about fifteen to twenty. One of the tour guides was sitting with us–we were the vegetarian/Muslim table, remember?

The vegetarians wouldn’t touch them. The uncle who didn’t eat seafood wouldn’t touch them. My husband wouldn’t touch them. I felt bad so I picked one up and tried my hand at it.

One of the other tour guides showed me how to take out the heart. “You shouldn’t eat the heart. It’s no good.” Reminded me of that Simpsons episode with the guy making the sushi out of that spiny fish and how treacherous it was. I asked, “What’ll happen if you eat it? Will I die?”

He answered, “No. It just doesn’t taste good.”

So he showed me how to crack the crab open from the back, kind of prying it open like a tightly sealed book or something, then he  took one of the spiny things off the crab’s back and showed me how to fish in the crab’s chest and pull out the ‘star’ shaped heart.

As an anatomy lesson it was fascinating! The heart was teeny tiny! About the size of half a thumbtack, and it was star-shaped but kind of like it had been squished.

Then we had to remove the gills/lungs, greyish coloured structures that looked obvious, and the rest was good to go.

They gave us some vinegar with soy sauce and ginger to dip it in.

It was funny, the tour guide was a very petite pretty lady but watching her cracking the crab legs with her teeth and sucking the meat out was ahem, strange. “Eat up!” She told us.

I tried.

I did fish out some crab meat and dip it into the vinegar mixture and it was interesting tasting, but hardly worth the effort.

Apparently the dish was super expensive!

A male and female hairy crab (both had beards and hair on their legs so it was hard to tell which was masculine and which was feminine except that the girls were smaller) together cost about 150 yuan a pair!

And there were like fifteen crabs on the table! They looked like this:

And here’s a full frontal close up:

Doesn’t it look mean? Even in death?

When the waitress came to get the three that I had tackled, she looked at the pile of barely touched crab body parts and asked the tour guide if I was done. I nodded.

Yup. I was done.

I had given it my best, but some things really don’t translate well.

Anyway, if I thought the stairs at the memorial were hard, it was to be nothing compared to the ordeal at Yellow Mountain!

After we left Nanjing, we drove a number of hours to get to Yellow Mountain.

Having grown up with a Dad who liked driving and drove us all the way to Alaska, I actually don’t mind long bus rides.

I find something soothing in watching the scenery go by, besides, to me this was the *real* China.

Cities are one thing, but what about the countryside?

And all of a sudden we could see real houses and honest to goodness, they didn’t look much different from farm houses here in Ontario!

Except they were always white with black roofs. Not pagoda type roofs, mostly just regular roofs though there was a little curl at the corners and sometimes on top of the roof, where the two angles met, there was a statue of a dragon.

And I saw workers in the fields, men and women, sometimes they even wore those conical Chinese hats, but always they were tilling the soil by hand, hacking at it with hoes that looked like they were made of bamboo.

And speaking of bamboo, it was everywhere! But despite that the trees really didn’t look that different from those in Canada.

I saw fields of what looked like rice.

And corn that was withering in their stocks.

And grain that had been bundled in conical structures.

And areas where the farmers had lit fires on their fields to clear away the rubble. A type of agriculture I remember learning about in social studies called slash and burn.

You know what I didn’t see?


Not one tractor.

But I did see water buffalo. Big black water buffalo, often grazing along grassy stream beds.

Yellow Mountain turned out to be the toughest part of the whole trip!

And I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!