Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tricky Dick and Pat on the Li River

Richard Nixon pointing out a crag for Pat, Li River ©Photographer?

Every time I visit Yangshuo in Guangxi Province I seek out this photograph in the lobby of the Paradise Resort Hotel. Former President Nixon is pointing out some interesting detail of the Li River topography to his wife Pat. There are several photographs of famous VIPs visiting Yangshuo displayed. Ho Chi Minh grinning ear to ear as he is wading through some water in a cave, his pants rolled up to his knees. Zhou En Lai sitting in a pavilion that is still located down by the Li River today. Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn sporting conical straw peasant hats and looking appropriately dorky and sweaty on their bicycles. Clinton and Hillary (she looking bored, "what AM I doing here?"). 

Nixon - the man who supposedly said this about the Great Wall: "This is a GREAT wall, and only a great people with a great past could have such a great wall " - had this to say about the local scenery in northern Guangxi: 

"I have visited more than 80 countries and over 100 cities. I have found that no city can surpass the beauty of Guilin. Guilin is really a bright pearl in China."

Another tourist, writer Han Yu, acting here perhaps as a kind of Tang-dynasty travel journalist, visited the area over a thousand years before Nixon and put it more eloquently:

"The river forms a green gauze belt, the mountains are like blue jade hairpins."

Nixon's visit to the now world famous Crescent Moon Hill outside of Yangshuo precipitated construction of the steps that lead up to the natural arch that gives the hill its name. I can't really see Nixon (or Pat for that matter) trudging up to the top but maybe he was more physically active than his reputation suggests. Nixon first visited China in February 1972 but this picture couldn't have been taken then as he only toured Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou during that historic visit. I'm guessing that the image was taken on his second visit, this time as ex-President, in February of 1976, by invitation of Mao Zedong, the same year that the Chairman would die. Nixon would later visit China several more times as a private citizen and former president. No matter what I personally think of Nixon and what he did as leader of the USA and as a politician, I will be forever grateful that he (and Mao) opened up China.

But come on Pat, did you really have to wear the fur coat in the 1970s?

#37 Today's picture 090307

Guard, Forbidden City Feb 2005 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn