Don’t Sleep in the Shade

Last week the staff of the organization that I work with decamped for a couple of days for a “qiu-you” (fall trip) to Qing Long Gorge, a gorgeous reservoir/tourist area just north of Beijing.  One of the great things about this place is that there a few un-restored sections of the Great Wall.  It makes for great hiking.  One day a colleague and I took the chairlift up to the top of the mountain to get to a section.  Now there are few things in the world that I hate more than dangling 500 feet above ravines filled with thorn bushes and boulders the size of school buses.  But I closed my eyes, grabbed the bar, and breathed deeply for the 11 minutes of terror to get to the top.  Fortunately, I was rewarded by some fantastic views and some great hikes—downward, of course.

We finally ended up in the shadow of a tower that was perched on the edge of a giant rock that jutted out over a cliff.  It seemed like a great place for us to sit down and enjoy the view.  We hadn’t been there very long when a man wearing a little badge appeared and started chatting with us.  He too sought shelter in the shade of the tower.  His job was to go up and down the trail a few times a day making sure that people were being safe and staying out of the towers.  We had a nice chat, and learned a bit about the area.  After awhile, he took his leave and moved to another rock out in the sunshine.

Awhile later, I decided to do the same, leaving my friend reading in the shade.  She must have gotten a bit tired, so just laid down on the rock, whereupon the following interesting conversation ensued between me and the man:

He (seeing my friend lie down):  Tell your friend not to sleep in the shade.
Me:  Come again!
He:  Tell you friend not to sleep in the shade.
Me (not comprehending why there might be a regulation forbidding her from sleeping in the shade):  Why shouldn’t she sleep in the shade?
He:  It’s not good for her health.
Me:  Huh?
He:  It’s not good for her health.
Me:  In what way is it not good for her health to sleep in the shade?
He:  The cool mountain breezes will make her sick.
Me:  Really?
He:  Yes.
Friend (who was sort of listening in on this conversation):  Ask him if it’s OK for me to  just read in the shade.
Me:  Is it OK if she is just reading, not sleeping?
He:  Yes, that’s fine.  Reading in the shade is fine.  Sleeping in the shade is not.  If she wants to sleep, she should come out here on this rock in the sun.
Me:  Wait a minute!  I thought Chinese people were afraid of the sunshine and always prefer the shade.
He:  That’s mostly to protect the skin.  But to protect your health, don’t sleep in the shade!

He was very emphatic.  We thanked him for his concern, and promised that we wouldn’t sleep in the shade.  Satisfied that these two foreigners would now be safe on the mountain, he took his leave and continued hiking up the mountain.  We continued to enjoy the view.