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BEIJING: Underground City
October 2005

Through a little doorway in a hutong, there lies an entrance to Beijing’s Underground City. The project was started in 1969 and took ten years to build.  In reality, it is not a city but a series of damp tunnels constructed under Mao’s orders, to serve as a shelter should there be a Soviet invasion or nuclear attack.  Our tour guide claimed the city could hold 300,000 people, with tunnels connecting to the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and even Shanghai.  Skeptic that I am, I doubt these claims in their entirety.  After touring the “city” Zac said, “I’d rather be captured by Russians than live down here.”  The tour guide also claimed that the people who lived down there would have bedding made from silk worms’ double cocoons.  He really harped on this point, and we soon found at why.  The tour concluded in a large store where our guide, megaphone still at his lips, went behind the counter of the shop and, as if it were still the tour, began explaining the costs of the different silk cocoon blankets we were encouraged to buy.  All of the store attendants wore camouflaged army garb.

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