Search for the Missing Peking Man
. . . . .
Gunny sat up front with Joe. Once we passed through the city wall gate and the last guards, both U.S. Marines and Nationalist soldiers, Gunny opened the pack he kept at his feet and took out three .45s in their holsters and three duty belts. He gave Joe and me each a weapon. We would be traveling into communist-held territory, but fortunately the reports were that there were no troops in the area. “Just to be safe,” Gunny said. I had a hard time concentrating on what he was saying while trying to enjoy the journey. I did find it exciting to be on the move again, with a new adventure ahead.
I wished we could continue driving, right on into Tibet. But there are no roads to Tibet, I heard.
Nevertheless, Gunny talked on. He explained a few more things about Valentine. The former Marine was an amateur anthropologist, and he alone, among the Marines in charge of the bones, knew their value. Did he take them with him into the Japanese POW camp, succeed in keeping them throughout his imprisonment, and then take them to London after the war? Why did he change his name?
Gunny told me of another report made by Dr. Franz Weidenreich. The professor had left Germany because of the radical policies of the Nazi regime, and in 1935 he was appointed as visiting professor of anatomy at the Peking Union Medical College. As relations between China and Japan deteriorated, he decided he had better move the fossils from Peking to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Japanese. He left Peking, taking much of his material with him. According to him, after he left, the bones were packed in locker boxes in November, 1941, and arrangements were made for the US Marine Corps to take them when they left Peking for the United States. That was all he could report.
“You are not getting bored?” Gunny asked after he had been ranting for more than two hours, but before I could answer he continued. “The Pope is involved too.”
“The Pope! What does the Pope have to do with the missing bones?” I asked.
“Well, I’ll tell you. It seems the Pope died and arrived at the pearly gates,” he said.
Joe and I both laughed. “Okay,” I said, “the Pope arrived at the pearly gates. Then what happened?”
“Now this is serious,” Gunny said. “He arrived and the guard said, ‘There must be some mistake. You’re not on the manifest.’ ‘Do you know who I am?’ the Pope demanded. ‘I’ve been in the service of the Lord for sixty years’ ‘Yea, you say you are the Pope but I don’t know. I’ll tell you what. It’s late and you can sleep here in the guard shack for the night. The place is full so there’s only a top bunk left.’ There wasn’t much the Pope could do, so he found a top bunk and tried to get some sleep. When dawn came there was a hell of a racket outside, and when he looked out there was a Marine gunny sergeant riding in a bright yellow convertible. In his right hand he clutched a bottle of Bourbon, and sitting next to him was this luscious blonde. The Pope rushed up to the guard and said, ‘What this all about? I am the Pope and I get a top bunk to sleep in, and this guy gets all this attention. I did sixty years of good work for the Lord, and I demand to know what this is all about.’ ‘I’ll tell you,’ the guard said. ‘We get a Pope up here every 40 or 50 years. This is the first time we ever got a Marine Corps Gunny Sergeant.’?’
By late afternoon we had reached Dragon Bones Hill in Zhoukoudian Township. The drive is less than 50 miles but we drove almost 200 following along the Great Wall. Unfortunately we couldn’t get near the wall, as there were no roads, not even trails, but nevertheless it was always in the far distance for us to see. I vowed I would one day return and hike the length of that wall.
The Zhoukoudian site was screened by rolling mountains and ridges on the northwest and adjoined a vast fertile land to the southwest under a boundless blue sky. The Zhoukou River rushed down the mountain valley and zigzagged its way south and emptied into the Glass River.
All work on the excavations had stopped years before. Mud and clay walls on the open pits had collapsed into piles of rubble. Our report said that Dragon Bones Hill was formed by limestone in the Ordovician period. It rises nearly 300 feet above the Zhoukou River. Since 1926, 23 fossils and cultural relics have been found within a relatively small area. It is estimated that Peking Man lived in a big cave on the northern slope of the Dragon Bones Hill about 500,000-600,000 years ago.
The first complete skull of Peking Man was discovered in 1926. Bone fossils of over forty individuals of different ages and sex, some one hundred thousand pieces of stone instruments and a large number of animal fossils, were unearthed in the same area. It was interesting poking around in the ashes but other than that, there was little that we could report. We camped that night on Dragon Bone Hill, under a star-filled sky, with a sliver of a moon on the horizon. We felt affinity with our early ancestors who must have sat on the same spot a half a million years before. And most likely they too looked up at the same stars and the same moon and wondered what it was all about. We lingered at the site the next morning, and by nightfall were back in Peking. As I laid in my bunk that night in Hostel No. 3, I wondered how great it must be to be an anthropologist. A year before, that thought would never have entered my mind.
And so it was back to my studies. The students were becoming more outspoken with each passing day. When we first arrived in China, we were welcomed with open arms; we were their liberators. Now our presence was more like their conquerors. Students clamored that new traditions had to replace old traditions. They no longer revered or respected the West. They now insisted it was the Chinese who were the great technological innovators and not the Westerners. “The West stole from China,” Lee Ann, the antagonist, argued with me. “That’s why in the 15th century we isolated ourselves from the rest of the world. We saw that our true interests lay inside our own borders. It was you in the West that had the compulsive desire to invade other people’s space, and have refused to accept your own limits.”
Lee Ann shouted that we Western barbarians have a grim look about ourselves; we keep ourselves untidy, have an unpleasant smell, are liars and are arrogant. We conquer countries by fraud and force, ingratiate ourselves in a friendly way, and then oppress the masses. At the heart of our conduct is violence.
The Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, British, French and later the Americans, all came bearing Chinese inventions, gun powder, the magnetic compass, the stern rudder. We came not just to sell, but to impose, our goods, our ideas, our religion, and our will. We set up great trading colonies, lorded over them from grand mansions, paid for by illicit trade in goods like opium.
“For more than a century white men have looked down on the peoples of Asia,” Su Fung said, “classifying us in the status of second-class human beings. You think you won the war. The Japanese won the war. They have driven the white man from his lofty status. The struggle is not over. China today has almost succeeded in freeing herself from the yoke of the foreigner.”
It was getting too heavy. How had they developed all this hatred? It was their new ideology. “The Chinese will free themselves from the white man, a fight that China has already started. Tomorrow the peasants of Asian dominated countries will be fighting against their own native overlords for a share in the new freedom that the struggle of all has brought.”
The revolution was coming. There was no stopping it. Katarina above all began to feel the agony of change. She found herself becoming isolated from the few Chinese friends she had. “I cannot stay any longer in north China,” she said one day when we were having coffee.
“What about your school?” I asked. She grew quiet. She had thoughts she wasn’t about to share with me.
I finally had a telegram from Ming-Lee. She announced that she would be arriving by train over the weekend. I immediately began to make plans, but it was awkward.
Do I invite her to stay with me in my room, or do we move into a hotel? Maybe this was being presumptuous. I didn’t even know if she planned to share a bed with me. The very thought made me a nervous wreck. The first question was solved when I learned that I was not allowed to take women to my room. The next question, that of a hotel, would have to wait until she arrived and we would play it by ear, so to speak. Now I had to tell Katarina. I had told her before about Ming-Lee, and admitted we had never been lovers. She listened with interest but had no comments to make. But now when I told her Ming-Lee was coming to Peking, I saw a side of her I didn’t know existed before.
“A Chinese girl,” she cried. “How could you? How could you do this? I’ve listened to you all these months. What fulfillment can a Chinese girl give you?”
She refused to listen to what I had to say and in anger stormed out of the coffee shop. Was I misunderstanding women? Did I not realize she had feelings for me? I suddenly found myself tom between two worlds, between two women. Okinawa was easier.
That evening I went to Mamma Georgia’s and learned that Melanowski and Monique had a room together in the back of the compound. I expected to find Melanowski morose but he was quite happy. He even admitted he was finally learning Chinese. “What happens when we go back to Tsingtao?” I asked. “Monique will come with me,” he replied. It sounded so simple. Maybe it was, and it was I who was making an issue of things.