Also known as Peking, Beijing is the capital of The People's Republic of China as well as its political, educational and cultural center. Both names are the transliteration of the sound of the Mandarin name, meaning "northern capital," which sounds something like "pay-cheeng" or "bey-jing." As of February 2010, the combined population of permanent and non-permanent residents exceeds 22 million. Here Ellie lives on coffee, beer and dumplings, and gets abducted by Creepy John while at a party on the Simatia portion of the Great Wall, on the outskirts of urban Beijing.
Ellie takes a train to China's coal mining capital to get away from some nasty American security agents. No Starbucks there, so she has to subsist on Nescafe, and hangs out in an Internet café looking for clues. Taiyuan is considered to be one of the world's most polluted cities, though the air has improved somewhat in recent years with the closure of some factories due to the economy.
Harassed by China's Public Security Bureau agents, Ellie heads for Xi'an, one of the oldest cities in Chinese history, and one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China along with Beijing, Nanjing, Luoyang (though historical discoveries have expanded the traditional list to include seven cities). While posing as a tourist, Ellie has a local brew at a beer garden in the shadow of the Drum Tower.
Heading ever westward, she takes a train to Chengdu in Sichuan Province, the ancient center of Taoism in China. Called The Hibiscus City, it was the site of an earthquake in 2008, which killed tens of thousands of people. Ellie's quest leads her to the Taoist sacred site of Changqing Shan.
This article was originally published in August 2010, and has been updated for the
June 2011 paperback release.
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