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3GBGC Reports - Wednesday 18th April

Day Tripper

Day three of the congress saw delegates rising early to be whisked on a magical mystery tour of Wuhan city. Grant, our jovial and informative guide, made the perfect host for the day's events. Hubei Provincial Museum, a huge concrete edifice in the centre of Wuhan, is home to an extraordinary collection of ancient musical instruments. These objects, nearly 2500 years old, were uncovered in a flooded tomb, everything perfectly preserved due to the constant temperatures and lack of disturbance. The contents included the Marquis, his 15 musicians, their instruments, 8 concubines, ceremonial dishes, a huge wine storage jar, an ancient bar-b-que and his favourite pet dog. The most famous of the tomb's contents were the Chime Bells, a series of 80 bells, each perfectly crafted to compliment the others. These bells were played at the 1997 return of Hong Kong to China.

A performance of Wuhan’s famous Chime Bells

The ethereal performance the delegates were treated to was performed on one of three sets of replica chime bells, accompanied by an extraordinary stone glockenspiel, flutes, pipes and guzheng (Chinese zither). The performance ended with a pleasingly surreal version of Ode to Joy.

The beautiful Wuhan Botanic Garden

The next stop was the Wuhan Botanic Garden, resplendent in the morning sunshine, with the rhododendrons in full bloom. The fascinating medicinal garden, complete with aesthetically - pleasing backdrop of bridge, waterfall and wooded hillside is presided over by a statue of a famous Chinese apothecary, and rather terrifying interpretation panels on the dangers of illegal drug use. A display of native water plants and an exceptional example of a Chinese vine with waxy purple flowers attracted the delegates attention.

The final stop was to the Yellow Crane Tower, a modern replacement for a legendary series of towers, initially built 1500 years ago by a wine seller who was blessed by an immortal with a dancing crane to attract customers. The classic pagoda-style lines of the tower, and the views it affords over the surrounding city and Yangzte river made it a very pleasant stop, complete with a good luck bell - one strike (three strikes for only 10 Yuan) promises good luck for 1000 years. The tower also overlooks the first bridge built crossing the Yangtze, in the 1950's. This allowed travellers to move by train from north to south China non-stop for the first time, and is thought o have been a major aid for Chinese development.

Lunching at a restaurant of truly industrial preparations, the vegetarian option included a delicious mushroom soup - biodiversity in a bowl, and a local 8% proof beer, perfect for those lunchtime meetings!

BGCI staff enjoying the Congress banquet

The event highlight of the week was the lavish and elaborate congress banquet, within the palatial Shangri-la hotel. There was a rumour going around that the banqueting room was larger in area that the Chelsea Physic Garden, this claim had been dismissed by Sarah and Cristel, the Chelsea representatives. As dish upon dish was loaded on the delegate's tables, the Chinese shorghum-based spirit Erguotou , flowed as freely as the conservation. The fish and bean curd were particularly delicious, the jellyfish was enjoyed by selective palates.

Hardly had the last speech been conclude, the efficient delegate moving system rolled into play once more for the acrobatic display, at the invitation of the Communist party of China. Truly edge-of -seat performances by the young acrobats defined gravity and other major laws of physics, to the delight of the audience. Had I not seen it myself I would have believed that 9 chairs could be stacked at an angle, each with a handstand acrobat atop. Diabolos, spinning plates, juggling hats, contortionists and mean who jump really high, performing somersaults with pogosticks attached were all part of the fun.

A late night, but a great end to a day of culture and excitement, personally rounded off by some whiskey tasting with members of a particular Scottish Royal institute.

Sarah Kneebone
Congress Correspondent



Read Sarah's other reports from the Congress: Sunday - Monday - Tuesday - Thursday - Friday - Summary