Postings by Alan Baumler
Contact: alan [at] froginawell.net
Using only their hands, they erected 289 bridges, including two big suspension bridges with a load bearing capacity of 10 to 15 tons, and 1,959 culverts. The road-bed is sixteen feet wide, has a maximum grade of eight in a hundred and a minimum curve radius of fifty feet. ((p.85))As if that's not enough, we also get pictures of Natives in Native dress and a scathing portrait of Mr. Wood and Mr. Coward, an English and American journalist who make up stories about Old Lo that will better fit the ideas westerners already have about China. The pictures of natives seem to be the author buying into stereotypes about minority nationalities, and the journalist parts seem like a sophisticated critique of just those sorts of stereotypes. I doubt there will ever be a critical edition of this book, but if it ever goes up on Google books, you could cover almost everything you need to cover in a Modern China class through this.
Ge Hong "ON PRONUNCIATION AND SPEECH" (YINCI) (EXCERPT) People of the Nine Provinces speak in different dialects. This has been the norm since the beginning of mankind. [ ... ] The land and waters of the South are mild and gentle; [thus] the sound [of Southern speech] is bright and crisp. The shortcoming is its shallowness. Its expressions are mostly vulgar. The mountains and rivers in the North are solemn and deep; [thus] the sound (of Northern speech] is baritone and rotund, taking after the simplicity and ruggedness [of the landscape]. The expressions contain many ancient terms. However, Southern [speech] is finer when spoken by nobles and gentlemen; Northern [speech] is better when spoken by villagers and peasants. One could distinguish in a few words a Southern gentleman from a commoner, even if they exchanged clothes. One would have difficulty differentiating between a Northern courtier and a countryman even after listening [to them] all day from behind a wall. Moreover, Southern speech has been influenced by [the dialects of] Wu and Yue; Northern speech has [the languages of] barbarians and captives mixed into it. Both have deep flaws that cannot be discussed in detail here.[ ... ] Since I arrived at Ye, I find only Cui Ziyue and his nephew Cui Zhan Li Zuren and his younger brother, Li Wei to be knowledgeable in speech and slightly more accurate [in pronunciation]. Resolving Doubts About Sounds and Rhymes composed by Li Jijie [lived during Northern Qi], contains many mistakes. The Classification of Rhymes, devised by Yang Xiuzhi is perfunctory. The [pronunciation of the] children of my house, since their childhood, has been watched and corrected. I take any mispronunciation of a character as my own fault. When determining what an object should be called, I dare not utter its name without first consulting books and records-this you know well. [Yanshi jiaxun jijie, 529-45]On the other hand they also have all sorts of things that don't fit the traditional picture of the period as well. Shu Xi's “Rhapsody on Pasta” is a good example.
...At the beginning of the three spring months When yin and yang begin to converge, And the chilly air has dispersed, When it is warm but not sweltering, At this time for feasts and banquets It is best to serve mantou. 32 When Wu Hui governs the land,33 And the pure yang spreads and diffuses, We dress in ramie and drink water, Cool ourselves in the shade. If in this season we make pasta, There is nothing better than bozhuang. 34 When the autumn wind blows fierce, 35 And the great Fire Star moves west,36 When sleek down appears on birds and beasts, And barren branches appear on trees, Dainties and delicacies must be eaten warm. Thus, leavened bread may be served.37 In dark winter's savage cold, At early-morning gatherings, Snot freezes in the nose, Frost forms around the mouth, For filling empty stomachs and relieving chills, Boiled noodles are best. Thus, each kind is used in a particular season, Depending on what is apt and suitable for the time. If one errs in the proper sequence, The result will not be good.Ok, so just like in the ancient texts, you need to adopt your foods to the season. Obviously if one does not the results for your health and the balance of the universe will not be good. Is there anything that, like chicken soup with rice, is good all times of the year? Yes, there is.
That which Through winter, into summer, Can be served all year round, And in all four seasons freely used, In no respect unsuitable, Can only be the boiled dumpling. 38 And then, twice-sifted flour, 39 Flying like dust, white as snow, Sticky as glue, stringy as tendons, Becomes moist and glistening, soft and lustrous. For meat There are mutton shoulders and pork ribs, Half fat, half skin. It is chopped fine as fly heads, And strung together like pearls, strewn like pebbles. Ginger stalks and onion bulbs, Into azure threads are sliced and split. Pungent cinnamon is ground into powder, Fagara and thoroughwort are sprinkled on. Blending in salt, steeping black beans, They stir and mix all into a gluey mash. And then, when the fire is blazing and the hot water is bubbling, Savage fumes rise as steam. Pushing up his sleeves, dusting off his coat, The cook grasps and presses, pats and pounds. Flour is webbed to his finger tips, And his hands whirl and twirl, crossing back and forth. In a flurrying frenzy, in a motley mixture, The dumplings scatter like stars, pelt like hail. Meat does not burst into the steamer, And there is no loose flour on the dumplings. Lovely and pleasing, mouthwatering, The wrapper is thin, but it does not burst. Rich flavors are blended within, A plump aspect appears without. They are as tender as spring floss, As white as autumn silk. Steam, swirling and swelling, wafts upward, The aroma swiftly spreads far and wide.So now you have a recipe to try. Thoroughwort is, I think, Bone-set, and I would not use it in food, but the rest should be easy enough to find. There are also readings on topics that have always been aspects of the Great Tradition, but have gotten less attention in the past. Thus we have a whole section on Auto-cremation. If you have been wondering how immolation fits into the Buddhist tradition there are readings here for you.
THE SONG MONK HUIYI (D. 463) OF ZHULIN SI IN THE CAPITAL Huiyi was from Guangling. When he was young, he left home and followed his master to Shouchun During the Xiaojian period of the Song [454-456] he arrived in the capital [Jiankang] and resided at Zhulin si. He diligently practiced austerities, and he vowed to burn his body. When his fellow monks heard of this, some castigated him while others praised him. In the fourth year of Daming , he began by abstaining from cereals and ate only sesame and wheat. In the sixth year, he stopped eating wheat and consumed only oil of thyme.17 Sometimes he also cut out the oil and ate only pills made of incense. Although the four gross elements [of his body] became feeble, his spirit was clear and his judgment was sound. Emperor Xiaowu [r. 454-464] had a profound regard for Huiyi and respectfully inquired [as to his intentions]. He dispatched his Chief Minister Yigong, Prince of Jiangxia. [413-465], to the monastery to reason with him. But [Hui] yi would not go back on his vow. On the eighth day of the fourth month of the seventh year of the Darning reign period [May 11, 463], he prepared to burn himself. He set up a cauldron full of oil on the southern slope of Zhong shan That morning, he mounted an oxcart drawn by humans and was going from the monastery to the mountain. But then he realized that the emperor was not only the foundation of the people but also the patron of the three jewels He wanted to enter the palace under his own strength, but when he reached the Yunlong gate he could no longer proceed on foot. He sent a messenger to say, "The man of the Way, Huiyi, who is about to abandon his body, is at the gate and presents his farewells. He profoundly hopes that the Buddha dharma may be entrusted [to his majesty]." When the emperor heard his message, he was upset and immediately came out to meet him at the Yunlong gate. When [Hui]yi saw the emperor, he earnestly entrusted the Buddha dharma to his care, then he took his leave. The emperor followed him. Princes, concubines, empresses, religious, laity, and officials flooded into the valley. The robes that they offered and the treasures that they donated were incalculable. Huiyi now entered the cauldron, lay down on a little bed within it, and wrapped himself in cloth. On his head he added a long cap, which he saturated with oil. As he was about to apply the flame to it, the emperor ordered his chief minister to approach the cauldron and to try to dissuade him. (Yigong pleaded], "There are many ways to practice the path; why must you end your life? I wish you would think again and try a different track." But Huiyi's resolve was unshakable and he showed no remorse. He replied, "This feeble body and this wretched life, how do they deserve to be retained? If the mind of Heaven and the compassion of the sage [i.e., the emperor] are infinite, then my wish is merely that twenty people [be allowed to] leave home." An edict ordering these ordinations was immediately issued. [Hui]yi took up the torch in his own hand and ignited the cap. With the cap ablaze, he cast away the torch, put his palms together, and chanted the "Chapter on the Medicine King." As the flames reached his eyebrows, the sound of his recitation could still be clearly discerned. Reaching his eyes, it became indistinct. The cries of pity from the rich and poor echoed in the dark valley. They all clicked their fingers [in approval]; they intoned the name of the Buddha and cried, full of sorrow. The fire did not die down until the next morning. At that moment, the emperor heard the sound of pipes in the air and smelled a strange perfume that was remarkably fragrant. He did not return to the palace until the end of that day. In the night he dreamed that he saw Huiyi, who came striking a bell. Again [the monk] entrusted to him the Buddha dharma. The next day, the emperor held an ordination ceremony. He ordered the Master of Ceremonies to give a eulogy for the funeral service. At the place of the autocremation was built Yaowang si in an allusion to [Huiyi's recitation of] the “Original Acts.”As I said above, I can't imagine teaching a class where I would be able to assign this to students, but it is a great beach read.
The third volume of Understanding China Through Comics is out, and it is good. In my previous reviews I talked about how well the books explained Chinese history and how well they worked visually. As before, the answer to both is pretty well, and they are getting better.
This volume goes from 907-1368, so we get the Song and the Yuan. This is a tricky period to deal with visually. There are a lot of foreigners around, and it is hard to distinguish them. Different hats will help.
Unlike western writers, Liu is committed to explaining all the political ins and outs of this period, and he does a pretty good job of sorting out the constant political shifts, although reading this also helps explain why so may other authors don't bother with all this.
As in the earlier volumes there is a lot of stuff explaining the past in terms of the present, so Song commercialization/technical advances is done through by having Malcom Gladwell drop by to discuss rice paddies.
The Song is actually a pretty interesting test case for Liu's central thesis, that Chinese history is a 5,000 year quest to create a middle-class society, given that this is the time of the birth of an early modern commercial society and a time of great technological advance. Most importantly, this was the time of Wang Anshi. Wang's reforms have garnered a lot of attention in the 20th century, since he is the Chinese official who's policies can be most easily linked to the present. If you want to find signs of modern administration, the welfare state, democracy, or incipient Communists totalitarianism in traditional China, Wang's reforms are where you look. Liu is clearly a member of Team Wang, presenting him as an upright technocrat who should have been listened to. The Song is also portrayed as the age when the "scholar-officials" came fully into power, and the idea that these upright technocrats were admirable and sacrosanct came from here. No more executing those who speak truth to power!While all the above is both pretty good history and also clearly has modern resonances, Liu does point out that you can't read Chinese nationalism back into the past. Here we have peasants telling each other that it does not much matter who they are paying taxes to. This makes the books quite different from a lot of the Chinese history you see in China, where all of China's 56 ethnic groups have always been modern nationalists. Unfortunately, Liu does gloss over some of the more bothersome aspects of China's past. Footbinding is a good example. In this book it is presented as a way of protecting Chinese women from being carried off by barbarians.
Nobody has a really good explanation for why footbinding spread, but needless to say this is not one of the possible explanations. More importantly, this page reconciles me to the fact that Liu is not planning to go past 1911 in his history. If you won't look at the uglier part of your history, what can you do with those who rebel against it? If you leave out what footbinding really was you can't do Joe Hill or MLK, or Lu Xun or Liang Qichao. I guess they are just nagging troublemakers, rather than the best of what you are.
At the same time the new, re-drawn and expanded revised edition of Volume One is out. (( Jing Liu claimed he "fixed some of the problems you pointed out.", and while I doubt I had much influence on what he did, it is nice to think that this is a blog that Gets Results. )) Liu seems to be warming to his task, and in this new world of publish on demand he can re-work his stuff as much as he wants. Here is China surrounded by foes in the introduction to the old Volume 1
And here it is on p.13 of the new version
Not only are the drawings more detailed, they are better in that they convey more. You can loose yourself in the second one in a way you can't in the first version.
Here is the new.
He has also expanded some parts. In the last version I mentioned that this was about as well as you could explain Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism in one page,
but also pointed out that it might be o.k to use more than one page. Here is (part of) the new version.
We also get a bit more history of technology, and also a tendency to have characters leap out of the page to explain things to us.
It is still pretty much the same book, only better.
Perhaps the best answer to the propaganda which the Japanese put out to India and other places is simple the three words LOOK AT CHINA. And since I am now bringing these weekly commentaries to an end I believe those three words LOOK AT CHINA are the best final message I can deliver to India. (( W.J. West ed. Orwell: The War Commentaries New York: Pantheon, 1985 p.219))The post also talks a bit about Orwell's enlightened ideas about the colonized as people. It is one of my regrets as a teacher that I can't really ask students to read "Not Counting Niggers" since they always give me a funny look when I suggest they read it. Ibisbill goes on to talk about Chinese translations of 1984, Despite what he says, I struggle to think about how this book might be relevant to China today.
"To love the country one must first know its history" (( Ok.a better translation of would be "To love the country one must first know the country" History as such is only mentioned in the book title. ))This would look perfect in the hallway of every History Department in the world. We may think that historical study is more than just training in patriotism, but we know that a -lot- of the funding for historical stuff comes from just that. For a reminder of how important history is, and some of its implications you can't beat this. Would you buy a copy?