by Dan Brown
The release of the controversial new film, The Da Vinci Code, has long been awaited by supporters and critics alike, the picture being something to talk about for both groups. Gou-rou.com, with its usual neutrality, managed to convince visiting author Dan Brown (in Beijing for the big, sparsely attended premiere) to provide us with a "celebri-cab" special. Which he did in exchange for the film rights to whatever he wrote.
Beijing, an ancient city. It is different to America. The buildings, the people, really different. I leave the airport and am struck by the wave of heat that meets me outside. I am trapped, and abandoned in a strange country. The signs are no help, consisting of bizarre pictograms, similar to the hieroglyphs used by ancient Egyptians, hundreds of years ago. It is the end, surely there is no way I can escape, I feel the presence of death around me, getting closer, now, I prepare for my last breath...
I am saved. I spot a taxi rank and spend only a few minutes queuing. As I get into the vehicle, a man in uniform, possibly a spy or a defector from this country, hands me a coded message on paper. As the car moves forward, I study it, desperately trying to solve this riddle so that I can progress on my journey.
Above: Dan "Mendacious" Brown relaxes in the Forbidden City.
The paper contains the same pictographs that seem to be everywhere in this country. A code. If only someone could crack it, then my journey would be nearly complete. The taxi passes the great hall of the people and passes within the third ring road for the first time. Unable to solve the riddle, I shut my eyes to rest, knowing how important it is that I understand the secret message, and how impossible my situation is...
When I awake the taxi is on the second ring road, which forms a figure of eight pattern together with the first ring road. Eight is an ancient sacred number - many churches have octagonal towers. This is no coincidence. My companion has taken the coded message in her hand, she was provided to me as a guide and translator, although I may have forgotten to mention this earlier. Luckily, she turns out to be an expert cryptographer too, as she quickly works out the code and explains that it is the address of some sort of ancient, half ruined building.
We arrive there soon after sundown, it is a hotel. Already the city has taken on a menacing darkness. The hotel bellboy asks me in English how it is that the hotel was built. I can tell that we won't get a room until his macabre request is fulfilled. Luckily I am an expert architect, and had recently written a thesis on this very building, I knew this before of course, although I didn't bother to tell you readers until it became relevant. You should thank me really.
Later that night we finish dinner in the San Li Tun district of Beijing. One of the most ancient parts of the city, it was originally established as a summer retreat for the Imperial Family. Suddenly, I hear strange words being spoken behind me. Almost inconceivably, this alien language is being spoken by a group of three tall blond men following me. They are speaking in German, a language I also understand, by the way. I realise that these men have been sent to stop me - but I must find the secret resting place of Chairman Mao, which is why I am here also, by the way.
Only one day left in Beijing now. Just hours to find the last resting place of the remains of Chairman Mao. A cleaner in the hotel, (probably a member of the secret society trying to protect the body) has given me a 3-pictograph coded message to try and help me. Can I uncover the secret of the Committee of Tokyo? The Committee was founded by the secret secretary of Chairman Mao shortly after his death in 1982. The Communists want everyone to believe that Mao was a follower of Marxism with "Chinese characteristics", but the truth is different. In several sources written by people who had never met Mao but knew him better than anyone else, it is explained that Mao was actually an ardent capitalist, and the Cultural Revolution was his attempt to set up a Chinese stock exchange. These sources include Mao: the Unknown Story and several rightist texts (the Rightists were the true successors of Mao but were suppressed at a meeting of the National Council in 1997) which I am sadly unable to produce.
I circle Tiananmen Square looking for any clues. I can feel the presence of the body nearby, but am unable to find it. Perhaps it is best left unsolved; maybe none of us should ever find the location of Chairman Mao's body. I fall to my knees...