China has been an area of intense study for me recently, so I thought I should share some of my discoveries and realizations.
One is that some of the coolest blogs ever deal with China. Maybe it’s because it’s such a country of secrets, with a simultaneously ancient and powerful, yet almost completely buried and lost, traditional culture. Maybe it’s because of the mind-boggling dichotomies that one runs up against continually in talking about it: the startling beauty and rampant neglect, the highly advanced art and severely retarded politics, the graceful, intelligent mysticism and clunky, often clueless social mores.
But for whatever reason, I think I could read myself sick on China-related blogs and still want more (shut up, that wasn’t meant to be a Chinese-food joke! ;) …Here are a few I’m liking now:
Manyul Im’s Chinese Philosophy — May not fascinate you as much as me, since it’s a philosophy prof’s blog, but I love reading his reports on how academia is discovering, and in many ways catching up to, ancient Chinese philosophy.
The Useless Tree — Also a philosopher’s blog, but this one’s much less academically-oriented and more about comparing Eastern and Western wisdom and teachings. Very cool.
The China Beat — Full of history, politics, essays, book recommendations, and all kinds of mind-boggling stuff. I always find myself wanting an extra day in my life just to follow their links!
Meiguozi — talk about creative; the author of this one is designing new Chinese characters for modern concepts. This was the first one I saw, and it dropped my jaw:
It’s a character to represent Sierpinski Triangle. IS THAT NOT FREAKING AMAZING. I think I want a tattoo of it! ;)
Besides blogs, there’ve been some great books — most notably The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices, which is an obsessively-compelling and truly heartbreaking look at what life was like for Chinese women, in all different walks of life, in the ancient and far-away years of the 1990’s. The combination of the content and the publication date ought to be enough to give a feminist a heart-attack at half a mile; and any human being worth their salt, at a hundred paces. But it’s amazing stuff, stuff you never hear about even today, and which will totally change your view of the world — and not necessarily for the worse. It’s a very compassionate, sympathetic detailing of what are often shocking inequalities and injustices, and how they arise, not usually from malice, but from ignorance, long-embedded teachings, political manipulation and simple fear.
I’ve also been poking at the language a lot, wishing I could learn it, but pretty sure I can’t do it on my own. I’m not terrible with languages, but self-teaching oneself Mandarin is pretty damn tall order! Gah, it’d be worth it, though, just to be able to translate some of the poetry with even a few of the proper connotations intact. I’ve bought a few books — an old-old volume on Chinese Calligraphy that I’m supplementing my clumsy attempts-from-cheap-how-to-books with, and a cute kid’s book called The Pet Dragon, which is a really cute introduction to the basic letters, and which my daughter absorbed completely in less than a week. (Did I also mention she can count to ten in Chinese? That’s my girl. ;)
Also, as often happens to people who start reading about China, I got sucked into reading more about Pingfang and Unit 731. Which you really can’t avoid, any more than you can avoid reading about the Holocaust if you study Israel. Unlike the Holocaust, though, this crime against humanity (also of nearly unbelievable scope and cruelty) was never admitted to or apologized for by the country that committed it, and America has been actively complicit in its cover-up. Moreover, due to the nature of Chinese citizens, especially rural and recently-rural ones, many people have allowed themselves to be convinced that it’s best just to let it go and pretend it didn’t happen. o.O
DUH WARNING: Follow links to info about Unit 731 at your own risk and preferably not right before bedtime.
What a paradox is China!
I love it, but I don’t think I want to go there. (At least, not without insider help.)
I adore reading about it, but it gives me nightmares regularly.
I’m horrified by the politics of cruelty, bald-faced lies and corruption, yet every time I look hard, I see the same things at work in my own backyard.
(Want an example? The American government put together a series of meetings about health care reform that included a) people who want to keep the Insurance Industry in power, and b) people who want it to share power with the government. When a Doctor’s group and others went to a meeting and protested the lack of even a single advocate to speak for the idea of a Universal, single-payer, non-Industry system, they were jailed and silenced. The government never addressed their concern except with thinly-disguised pro-Industry propaganda.)
Oh, also, funny fact? I’m actually related to someone who’s a noted Sinologist, specializing in the subject of women in China. Needless to say, I’m trying hard to re-establish contact with him — I’ve never even read his book!