We were hit by the sudden cold and absolute blackness. The only light came from our torches. Not a drop of sunlight penetrated the silt and algae above us. It was like entering another world, with all our senses altered -- until we spotted the Wall.
If you ever want to understand what it means to live in China -- "real China," as some are fond of saying -- head out to one of the popular tourist sites this week. It doesn't matter which -- may as well be the Great Wall, shown above, or Xiangshan, or Jiuzhaigou, whatever. Advance warning: you'll need to prepare heavy doses of perspective and patience, and master a few advanced breathing techniques, because what you'll deal with will shock and anger you, and seriously test your resolve to be a compassionate, courteous human being.