It had been a splendid morning. My friend Yiyi had asked me if I wanted to go Dragon Boating. Being the sedentary kind of guy I am, I had assumed I’d be standing by the side of a lake watching the boats go by. Only when I saw her in her workout shorts did the penny finally drop. I’d be expected to use my rippling muscles to best effect and propel the boat forward with a team of other crazy people. I felt kind of over-dressed in my white trousers, new trainers and chequered shirt. But never being one to pass by an opportunity I added yet another new experience to my adventure-filled life and got pretty well soaked along with everyone else.
Afterwards, it wasn’t long before the inevitable question of lunch worked its way into the conversation. As we were at BayiHu in Yuyuantan Park over in west Beijing, the sight of the old CCTV Tower beckoned like a siren. I’d always wanted to visit, and had never had the opportunity. We made a bee-line towards it.
Of course, we had left our wallets in the car for safety, but that kind of minor detail doesn’t stop the likes of Yiyi from negotiating payment through some app I’d never heard of, and soon we were the proud owners of tickets allowing us entrance to the revolving restaurant at the top of the tower, along with a museum or two thrown in for good measure.
But despite what the ticket appeared to promise, skydiving was definitely off the menu!
The restaurant is a mere 221 metres above the ground, with a so-called culture hall four metres higher, and an open-air observatory another 13 metres above that. The overall height right up to the topmost point of the spire is 405 metres, which is dwarfed in comparison by the TV towers at Tianjin (415m), Shanghai (468m) and Guangzhou (600m) – as a series of cardboard cut-outs attempts to tell us.
The view from the top is pretty impressive, albeit that the air isn’t that clear.
Fifteen kms over to the east I can spy the new CCTV tower block …
There are a few telescopes scattered around the viewing gallery, all with warnings not to look at the sun, as this may seriousl damage your eyes.
Pretty well down below, where the Jingmiyinshui Canal meets the Yongdinghe Diversion Channel, is what looks like an old lighthouse that has been puzzling me for ages. Why would anyone want to build a lighthouse on a canal? If anyone knows the answer, PLEASE tell me. It’s been driving me crazy for far too long!
The powers that be have done their best to make things as interesting as possible – even going so far as to mark on the windows the interesting buildings in the distance. Only problem is that unless you are of exactly the same height as the original observer who mapped out the buildings, and you are standing at exactly the same spot as he did, will you be able to benefit from this. No-one appears to have thought about parallax. The result is that I am led to believe that the Olympic Stadium is situated slap bang in the middle of a housing estate! Errrr… I don’t think so guys!
It being a weekend, the place is packed. Though lunch only officially started 20 minutes ago we are told by a table organiser that sorry, we might have to wait half an hour for a table. (Her expression of sorrow is well rehearsed, but it does not equate to the expression of sorrow from our stomachs.)
To try to take our minds off the wait, the organisers have laid on a clown making up balloon animals for the kids. But it appears I’m too old to get a free duck or poodle or whatever it is he is crafting with such dextrous ability.
Around the waiting area is an exhibition, explaining to the masses everything they didn’t really want to know about broadcasting.
This 8mm camera, for instance, gets no admirers, albeit that there is an explanation below telling us that In the beginning of Chinese Television the video cassette camera has not been introduced. The movie camera was the only one that Chinese TV journalists could use at that time to record the moving pictures. The equipment was used by TV journalists to record "the ceremony for the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China."
Meanwhile, this camera (dating from 2003) was used in CCTV and recorded lots of important news in China. (Still zero interest from the would-be diners as they push their way forward to the afore-mentioned clown.)
I guess it would really be stretching things to think that anyone would be interested in these two vacuum tubes, or valves as we tend to call them back in blighty. Tube is the signal amplifier, which are widely used in the early days of radio and television transmitter, for internal vacuum has four electrodes: cathode, grid, screen grid and anode. Tube takes big power, can reach hundreds of kilowatts, high frequency working, at the same time volume larger, high calorific value, but service life is limited. Well, that clears up that then, I guess.
As for this station timer – used for the early launch machine room to countdown remind the airtime, to ensure that the radio signal launch on time – I guess I could really do with one of these in my kitchen…
That’s about all the equipment that the gallery’s curators have been able to purloin from the studios. But we are treated to a display of old photographs to somehow bring alive the early days of broadcasting…
Zhao Zhong-xiang was China's first TV announcer way back in… oh, 1965.
Here’s the first China-made TV car, though we are not told the year that the pic was taken.
Likewise, the first time to broadcast the great ceremony of National Day in China is bereft of a date…
as is the first TV transmitter in China, not to mention its location either.
The first appreeiation program of Current Affairs has also been photographed, but again there is no further information to hand. Well I hope the audience appreeiated it, is all I can say LOL.
Not that anyone really cares. Not a single person stops to inspect the photographs either. All they want is their lunch! (I know how they feel.)
After a 40 minutes wait we are told it shouldn’t be long now. Maybe another 20 minutes???
We go to the open-air viewing gallery on the next floor. Careful now…
And tossers beware! Don’t use your mobiles in stormy weather, just in case the lightning rod you are standing in doesn’t conduct the lightning away as it should do?
But it’s good to know that visitors are well taken care of. Yes, there is a fire eseape maak on display just to reassure us. I guess the idea is that everyone takes it in turns to use it as we make our way down the emergency stairs to safety? Apparently it is effective for 30 minutes.
But let’s not get over-excited. And whatever else we do, we mustn’t trample the scenic chair…
… even if shouting will make us happily.
Around the outside gallery there are brass plaques in the floor showing us what we can look out for. Oh look… in that direction is the new CCTV building.
... whereas over there The Coke Peasant Household Tunnel Warfare Loses a Toe. (Could they be referring to the Jiaozhuanghu Tunnel Warfare Site?)
Back inside, once again, it’s good to know that CCTV takes media literacy seriously.
At last, our number is called. We descend a floor to the restaurant, which is made up of central serving areas, with a moving section in the middle, and a stationary row of tables on the outside nearest the window.
I have to say that the quality of food on offer appears pretty good. As much as you can eat, with a good choice of Chinese, Japanese, Western, all kinds of seafood you never knew existed, limitless beer… I could go on…
I start off with some sea food, wondering what some of it is that I’m eating (probably best not to ask) …
… though I guess if I had paid more attention to the notices at the serving area, I wouldn’t have to ask.
I guess there is only so much room in your favourite blogger’s stomach; and eventually we stagger up from our chairs and make our way down to the second floor where a “culture corridor” awaits us.
They are the mainstay of the Chinese nation, vanguards of the era and outstaning role models in carrying forward sociast core values. They cary o universal love and pass on positive energy. In order to give full play the exemplary role of the famous heroes and role models of new China forcefully activate energy of the society and provide mighty driving force for the realization of Chinese Dream we have eleborately selected over one hundred famous heroes and role models from all walks of life for this collection. (sic) Ah I get it now.
Wow. Did you know that China has produced tens of thousands of heroes in the past six decades? Well, you do now!
Take these two Santa’s helpers look-alikes, for instance… Yiyi tells me they are pretty famous in China. They are known as the ‘heroine sisters on the grassland’. The story is basically about how the two girls sacrificed their lives to save their sheep in icy cold weather. And the most famous line is when one of the sisters woke up in hospital, she found one of her legs had been amputated. Apparently she said nothing except to ask about the welfare of the community's sheep. (Wow, talk about how dumb one can get!) I’ll bet that gave the community something to think about when they tucked into their roast leg of lamb!
We head off for the exit, only to be told there is yet another museum display included in the price of the ticket. Just to make sure there is no cheating, though, we are asked to have our mug shots taken as we are issued with new tickets.
Outside there is a pair of dragons that I hadn’t admired on our way in. An explanatory notice tells us all…The Chinese dragon of vital energy is shaped by integrating the totems and logos of ancient tribes and nations of China. Viewing the dragon body,all the mighty fire veins of the dragon eyebrows,lofty cloud veins of the dragon whiskers,powerful life veins of the dragon cheeks and the simple andunsohisticated bronze ware veins of the dragon claws are expressing that the battlement-veined dragon fins imply 56 nations,and are in shape of the Great Wall,symbolize the uniform motherland,united nations,noble spirit,and a nation growing in prosperity.
We follow the sign for the Underwater World…
… staying ever alert for hidden dangers…
When we finally enter, we are greeted by the sight of a bored looking pirate – complete with eye patch, of course!
There’s a tank ahead of us full of sea lions – well, two to be precise.
And if we fancy doling out yet another 20 kwai, we can watch them later on jumping through hoops, as opposed to swimming round and round in bored circles.
A dirty glass cabinet holds a model of a ‘porupine’ fish…
At least, I assume it’s a model, though to be honest the lighting is so bad and the glass is so dirty that you can’t really tell what you’re looking at…
In another tank there are sharks swimming around menacingly.
Just in case they aren’t scary enough, half a plastic shark appears to be jumping out of the wall at us. Whoahhh…
There’s also a small selection of fish tanks with tropical fish just like I used to have in my living room many aeons ago…
For a small consideration you can get to feed the fish too… well, these koi carp anyway.
And with suitably coloured lighting, these gouramis can look pretty attractive too.
If you thought the sharks and sea lions looked bored, you really do have to feel for these poor penguins, though.
And again, just on the off chance that they aren’t cute enough, the management has placed some plastic penguins beside them for you to take a selfie with…
In another tank is a group of Longhorn Cowfish otherwise known to the intelligentsia as Lactoria Cornuta.
But who wants to peer into small tanks when you can experience an under-sea tunnel? I mean wow! Let’s not overdose on fun!
Beside us and above us, some giant fish swim past for our edification and delight. Of course, it’s the curvature of the glass that makes them appear so big; but let’s not worry about that!
There are also sting rays and turtles gliding over us not to mention various other fish that would prefer, it appears, to remain incognito.
At the far end of the tunnel is a section devoted to jelly fish. And once again it’s amazing what a little application of coloured lighting can do to a boring blob of jelly…
I’ve always wondered, if a goldfish has an attention span of five seconds (how on earth did they ever measure that?) how long is the equivalent of a jellyfish’s attention span? One of life’s greatest mysteries, I’ll bet you are now thinking to yourself…
Here are some more pretty jellyfish – or rather, here are some more jellyfish with pretty lighting. Lovely!
And that… is it. We turn a corner and find ourselves blinking once more in the daylight.
Yes, it’s been a pleasant day out. Good old Central Chinglish Television Tower!
Subway Line 6 to Huayuanqiao, exit D2; walk due south for 15 minutes