We spent most of Saturday in transit, first from our Beijing hotel to the Great Wall at Badaling, then to the Beijing Olympics construction, and finally to the airport and our flight to Xi’an.

On the way to the Great Wall, we stopped at a museum honoring Zhan Tianyou, a class of 1881 Yale graduate who is considered to be the “father of Chinese railroads.” For those already homesick for the Elm City, the exhibit offered early photographs of Old Campus from the 19th century, when it was strikingly similar its appearance today. But a photograph of the stained-glass windows in LC 102 showed that the room used to be a library, not a lecture hall. The exhibit also contained Zhan’s senior essay on engineering for the Sheffield Scientific School, which housed Yale’s science departments before its merger with Yale College.


Trip participants were treated to a guided tour of a museum honoring Zhan Tianyou, a class of 1881 Yale graduate and the “father of Chinese railroads.” (Michael Blank/YDN)

From the railroad museum, we walked up to the Badaling entrance to the Great Wall, where we had about 2 hours to climb and enjoy the views. The sides of the wall were lined with vendors selling T-shirts, hats, postcards and various other tchotchkes, offering the Yale 100 its first major souvenir-buying opportunities.

Great Wall 2

The Great Wall at Badaling, which is over seven meters high and five meters wide, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. (Michael Blank/YDN)


After climbing the Great Wall, a majority of the trip participants gathered for a photo op. (Michael Blank/YDN)

After the Great Wall, we piled back on the buses and headed to a restaurant, where we had the first health scare of the trip. Excited at the first sight of fresh greens this trip, many of us — including myself — eagerly piled our plates with salad. In our eagerness, we had forgotten the warning we received several weeks ago not to eat salad in China because of the possibility of bacteria or pesticides. We were reminded of the guideline only once we’d gotten back on the buses, so it’s now a waiting game — will we get sick, and when?

After lunch, the buses continued on to the construction sites for the 2008 Olympic stadiums. We were able to drive onto the site to get a closer look at both the Bird’s Nest — the primary venue for the Olympics and the site of the Opening Ceremonies — and the oddly bubbly Aquatics Center.

Olympic Site

The group got to make a rare closeup visit to the construction sites for the 2008 Olympic stadiums. (Michael Blank/YDN)

The deputy general manager for the Bird’s Nest construction outlined the estimated costs of the project — $400 million USD — and explained that the stadium is the first public-private partnership in China. To recoup the investment, he said, planners are considering prospects for commercial development at the site, including athletics, a supermarket, restaurants and a hotel.

The visit to the Olympics site was also a photo opportunity for every possible permutation of the Yale 100: students, faculty, administrators, undergraduates, the Medical School, and so on.


Students, faculty, administrators, etc, used the Olympic stadium as the background for group photos. The undergraduate students on the trip are pictured above. (Courtesy Helaine Klasky)

Then it was on to the Beijing airport for a flight to Xi’an, where we will be until Tuesday. But President and Mrs. Levin will be leaving the delegation tomorrow to go to Hong Kong, where President Levin will speak at the Asia Society on Wednesday. The invitation to speak came from Ronnie Chan, who sponsored last night’s visit to the garden in the Forbidden City.


Students sit on the airport floor while they wait for their luggage to be checked for their flight to Xi’an. (Michael Blank/YDN)