On this year’s eve of Christmas Eve, we run in honor of pioneering railway engineer, and hero of Chinese modernization, Zhan Tianyou.

“我国地大物博,而于一路之工,必须借重外人,引以为耻。” – 詹天佑

“Our country has vast territory and abundant resources, but we have to rely on foreigners to build a railway. That is shameful.” – Zhan Tianyou

Father of Chinese Railways

Between 1905 and 1909, Zhan built the first railway in China to be completed without outside help. His route started at Xizhimen and finished in Zhangjiakou in Hebei province.

Importantly, he was among a minority of Qing Dynasty civil servants to “smell the coffee”, meaning wake up to the urgency of embracing Western technology and the ideas that underpinned it.

We Don’t Need Your Coffee

In 1793, the Emperor Qianlong famously told a British delegation led by ambassador George Macartney that his country had no need of anything Britain had to offer and, by implication, nothing to learn from it. This paved the way for the “Century of Humiliation”, in which a technologically backward China was bullied and colonized by Western powers.

Zhan was among 30 students sent to study in the US. When he and his classmates started playing baseball and wearing pants instead of robes, however, their behavior was deemed “un- Chinese” and they were recalled. Only Zhan and one other Chinese student were able to complete their degrees.

Zhan interned with the British railway engineer Claude W Kinder. In 1876 the British built the first railway in China, although a year later the Qing Empress Dowager Cixi had it dismantled. It wasn’t until three decades later that Zhan was able to realize his dream of a fully Chinese railroad.

Railway Remnants

Zhan’s historic railway was dismantled to make way for a new high speed replacement line linking the capital with Winter Olympics host Zhangjiakou, opened in 2019.

At Qinghe on subway Line 13 there’s an old station building. It’s good to sit in and drink beer, but you have to climb over a fence to get to it. The old terminal of Zhan’s railway can also be seen from the platforms of Beijing North Station at Xizhimen.

Our run will focus on the section of the old route south of Wudaokou, which is now a historic railway park. (The new high- speed line runs underground here.)

Hares: Pickle Boy, Little Red Shittinghood, Another Dick in the Wall

What: A to A with bag drop at the restaurant.

When: Saturday 23rd December. Meet at 1:30pm for 2:00pm start.

Where: Richang Restaurant, Wudaokou branch. (日昌餐馆, 五 道口店). Walk 50m east of Exit A of Wudaokou Station on Line 13. The restaurant is upstairs.

Hash Cash: 30 RMB for beer and circle, 105 RMB for beer, circle and dinner afterwards.