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An Easter basket in China

Before we dive into the post-Easter period of burgeoning springtime, I feel I should record the fact that five years ago we spent Easter in China, in Dunhuang, a town far in the western desert. Dunhuang is famous for its Buddhist caves, from which the Russians, English, Americans, and Japanese (if I recall the four nationalities correctly) looted vast numbers of ancient manuscripts and other relics. I think that’s the experience that led Rachel to say of the British Museum, as we headed there six weeks ago, “It has everything, Mum, because they stole everything from everywhere.”

We loved the desert and the caves, with their hundreds–or thousands–of Buddhas. At one cave Tom and Rachel, who had run ahead, made me close my eyes and swear not to open them as they led me inside. “Okay, now you can look!” they said excitedly, and I opened my eyes to a hundred-foot Buddha, constructed and painted inside a cave in the remote desert of China.

At Easter I got out the chocolate eggs I’d packed, and a carton of sugar eggs, those pastel creations with a hard sugar case and a hollow interior, with tiny bunnies or chicks bedded on icing. We’d had our meals in the hotel restaurant, where the Uighur girls waiting on us were no older than Tom (then 15) and perhaps even closer to Rachel’s age (12). I suggested they take the eggs to the girls at the restaurant, who had smiled so sweetly and been so helpful. That’s what they did, and Easter always reminds us of that cross-cultural gesture–though we all wonder what on earth they did with the strange, pretty mock eggs.

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