I had a coffee and pie in Starbucks then wandered off to the Sichuan Provincial museum. The taxi driver took me to the museum and ‘discovered’ it had been pulled down a few months previously. To be exact he said that he didn’t realize I wanted to go to the museum itself, and thought I said ‘museum’ but was really going to do something nearby. Perhaps he was for real. He did tell me straight up that he could take me to the location the museum had moved to, but that he was 90% certain nothing had opened there yet. I asked him to take me anyway. As expected the museum was closed, until next year. I seemed to be having bad luck with museums on this holiday. Who rips a museum down and puts the stuff in storage before building a new museum anyway? The way they do things in China can sometimes be bizarre.
All was not lost though because the site of the new museum happened to be very close to the Qing Yang Gong (é’ç¾Šå®«) Daoist temple, one of the main Daoist centers in China. It was a beautiful temple set in a serious of lush green courtyards. I ended up spending a least a couple of hours there since the place was just so relaxing. The monks were a friendlier lot than average too, stopping their sweeping up of the courtyard to offer to help me take photos.
In the teahouse I chatted with a young Daoist priestess (or maybe it should be nun – I’m not really sure). She was interesting to chat to. As so often seems to happen the conversation got onto Taiwan after she found I had lived there, and things got a little complicated. It wasn’t that she was some chauvinist advocate of reunification at any cost; it was just that she was completely unaware that the Chinese government regularly threatened Taiwan militarily and interfered in its affairs in other ways. She seemed appalled (though still somewhat doubting) when I told her how the Chinese government had behaved during the aftermath of the 921 Earthquake in 1999, interfering with the rescue effort by requesting that other nations coordinate their aid efforts through Beijing rather than dealing directly with Taipei. Specialist teams of sniffer dogs trained to locate casualties in rubble sat stranded at European airports, their coordinators unsure of what to do, while people who just might have been saved died instead. It was a bit much for her and she retreated for a while and left me drinking my tea alone. When she came back we avoided revisiting the topic and talked about lighter stuff.
I dropped by the police station to see if I could extend my visa for a few more days beyond the 18th but had no luck, so I guess my trip will finish in Chongqing.
I tried some more Sichuan food for dinner, getting some stir fried beef in a chili sauce (far too hot to enjoy) and a dish of beans stir fried with garlic, chili, Sichuan peppercorns and garlic (very good).