Reading through my Insider's Guide to Beijing, a feature on the Underground City caught my eye one Saturday. Anna and I decided to abandon our lesson planning and grading for the day and we set out to find it. We weren't able to find it on our first try, but we did find this Catholic Church, built during the Qing Dynasty.
Second try: Qing Ming. We made our second attempt today two weeks later, but this time we brought Andy (a teacher at Renmin University) and Mark with us... and found it! If you didn't know it was there, you would never find it. After walking through hutongs and wondering if we were desperately lost, we entered through what looked like a storefront and descended through tunnels similar to the subway. Here we are, elated to find it at last:
Built during the Cold War and Sino-Soviet conflict in the 50's and 60's, the Underground City is 85 square kilometers. It has passages to the Western Hills and Tianjin and could accommodate 40% of the city's population in case of Soviet nuclear attack. Before it fell into disuse in the 70's, it had cinemas, hospitals, and libraries. There was also a silk factory, mushroom harvesting, and an underground chicken farm.
We took some students from China's Xinjiang Province out for their first T.G.I. Friday's experience later this evening.