About 350 kilometers north of Beijing lies the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Xanadu.
The site is also known as the ruins of Yuan Shangdu, the northern capital of the Mongol Empire ruled by Kublai Khan. The grandson of legendary conqueror Genghis used Xanadu as the summer base for the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), a place where he escaped the stifling heat of Beijing and presided over one of the world”s largest empires.
English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge immortalized Xanadu in his opium-induced work Kubla Khan, with visions of a “stately pleasure-dome”:
“With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.”
When I visited Xanadu a few years ago in the early hours of a summer morning, I realized…