Perfect Enlightenment

I learned  25 years ago and have relearned on this trip that perfect enlightenment with respect to Asia comes only in the understanding that you will never really understand.  Actually, Churchill said it first and said it best in referring to Russia.  It is “…a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.  I’m now convinced, again, that his insight applies perfectly to China as well. I probably should have waited for a little soak time after the trip before opining as I’m now getting ready to do.  Maybe my views would have mellowed a bit, but events have overcome me, and I can wait no longer. The trigger event was a trip out of Xian to see the Terra...

The Long River

S. and I are now comfortably ensconced in the Jade Suite of the MV Yangzi Explorer with the intention of cruising the four hundred miles or so between Yichang (population circa four million) and Chongqing (population seven million).  Yichang I’m sure you’ve never heard of, but Chongqing you may know as Chunking which it used to be before the Chicoms started tinkering with the names of their towns.  I also remember Chunking as the only Chinese food ever to cross our family table.  It was the name brand of the boxed chow mein that my mom got at the local grocery. Let’s deal with the name thing first.  When the first missionaries arrived in the area about five...

What’s Past Is Prologue

The words in the title of this blog are inscribed on the facade of the National Archives in Washington, DC, but actually they are a corruption of the Bard’s words in The Tempest Act II, Scene I wherein he wrote “ whereof what’s past is just prologue of what’s to come, that is, the future”.  If China’s past is just prologue of it’s future, we’re in trouble; but I don’t think so. What I’m going to say is not likely to square with any history you’ve read about China, if you’ve ever read any.  China’s history, it’s prologue, if you will, is really pretty simple.  It, like Caesar said of Gaul, can be divided into three parts.  First, there is the dynastic part. ...

Dallas to Beijing

In 1850 it took three to six months to sail from the US to China.  In 1937 the Pan Am Clipper Transpacific service could get you to China in five to seven days.  On October the 9th, 2010 we made it from Dallas to Beijing (Peking) door to door in twenty hours.  At that trajectory, how long will it take in another generation or two?  Hell, I’m still trying to figure out how the international date line thing works, and I have to refer to my iPhone to calculate if it’s 11:00 am in New York, what time is it in Shanghai. Suffice it to say, good old AA got us there in fine fettle even though for the fourth consecutive international flight, we had ground delays caused...