I drift like a cloud,Across these venerable eastern lands,A journey of unfathomable distances,An endless scroll of experiences...Lady Zhejiang here we must part,For the next province awaits my embrace.Sad wanderer, once you conquer the East,Where do you go?
People wonder why so many writers come to live in Paris. I’ve been living ten years in Paris and the answer seems simple to me: because it’s the best place to pick ideas. Just like Italy, Spain.. or Iran are the best places to pick saffron. If you want to pick opium poppies you go to Burma or South-East Asia. And if you want to pick novel ideas, you go to Paris.
No, I am not imagining a book-burning, warmongering, anti-intellectual fascist regime – in my plan, there is no place for re ghters who light up the Homers and Lady Murasakis and Cao Xueqins stashed under your bed – because, for starters, I’m not banning literature per se. I’m banning the reading of literature. Purchasing and collecting books and other forms of literature remains perfectly legitimate as long as you don’t peruse the literature at hand.
Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act which deprived a whole nation of arms as the blackest.
...the modern bias in contemporary Western scholarship (which has spread to the rest of the world as well) insists upon focusing all attention on the formation of the modern world and ‘‘modernity.’’ By directing attention to a time period rather than to a region, Western scholars can place the West at the center of any discussion, and subordinate backward Asia to Western history, without explicitly condemning Asian cultures and polities or arguing for a narrowly Eurocentric view of the world. Nevertheless, modern history is effectively a racist pursuit that not only elevates white Westerners above all others, but also actively denigrates Asian history.
Perhaps the strangest manifestation of the Eurocentric approach to the history of military technology is ... the attempt to discern fundamental cultural roots in the distant past that have resulted in the perceived current Western dominance of the world. This essentialism attempts to contrast ancient Greek logic and philosophy with the less rationally minded philosophies of the non-West. Modern science and technology, in this view, is a simple jump from ancient Greece to early modern Europe.
Technology has become the West’s main prop to its claims of inherent superiority over the non-West, and the reason why the non-West should adopt Western culture. If advanced technology is particular to Western culture, then it is only by Westernizing that the non-West can obtain it. This argument collapses if Western technology can be adopted in isolation from the broader culture, or if other cultures can generate significant technology independently.
... the very appearance of the word ‘‘oriental’’ as a serious geographic or cultural term triggers alarm bells for any American academic. The late Edward Said’s Orientalism argued that the word ‘‘oriental’’ is a fundamentally pejorative term for certain parts of the non-Western world, not only indicating that they are inferior but also justifying Western colonization or domination of them.
China failed to maintain its technological lead, and a similar failure throughout Asia to take advantage of the early exposure to that head start transformed precocity into a false dawn. Perversely, Asian improvements and adaptations of current (twentieth- to twenty-first-century) Western-developed technology are taken as further signs of lack of creativity.
It is a truism, easily forgotten, that the West, in its modern phase, has not stood still. Also easily forgotten is the fact that the West is a relative concept only. Without an East or a non-West to compare it with, it would quite simply not exist; there would be no word for it in our vocabulary. If the concept of the West did not exist, of course, the spatial variations within the geographical area now subsumed under the West would loom larger in our minds. The difference between France and America might seem just as great as those between China and the West.
The only difference between having an affair here and having an affair there was that the American men would always ended up losing half of his estates over a woman he was infatuated just as much as the next tramp who would come his way, while Japanese men would only earn more respect from their subordinates through the possession of much younger women, as a sign of prowess and affluence, while their wives at home, as if there were rule books distributed nationally on the “proper” marriage etiquette for all young Japanese women to read before they enter into the matrimony, would turn a blind eye on their disloyalty quietly.
Mee and Ow sat in the shade of a mango tree and were doing their make-up. Both of them wore gloves that reached all the way up to their elbows, to keep the tropical sun off their skins. They looked briefly at Maier, with the curiosity usually reserved for a passing dog. It was too early for professional enthusiasm.
No wonder prostitution is so rampant in China, I mused as I watched the four girls watch us: why stand on your feet all day for slave wages when you can get rich on your back?
Never forget,' says Sugar Daddy, 'we are a nation built on sugar. It is our history and it is the source of our prosperity, now and in the future.'This is true. Our entire nation sits on reclaimed land made from sugar. Ours is an island that rose out of the sea, built on a hard core of toffee.
She pulls me further down. More trapped souls reach out to us, dressed in clothes from decades past. The girl ignores them as we descend along the timeline – decade by decade – towards the birth of the island.
Never Underestimate. Just as in any other negotiation, watching before acting is as important as listening before speaking. It's doubly important in China, however, where customs are time-honored and breaches of protocol not so quickly forgiven.
We'd incorporated Asia into our bones - its colours and laughter, its smells, its rhythms, its tolerance and patience, its compassion, its lack of ageism.
Meandering cows, tenacious bicyclers, belching taxis, rickshaws, fearless pedestrians and the occasional mobile ‘cigarette and sweets’ stand all fought our taxi for room on the narrow two-lane road turned local byway.
I ended up in the back seat of a chicken truck’s cab heading through beautiful scenery and disastrous roads to my hotel. About an hour later, we stopped to sell a few hundred of the chickens to a butcher shop.
Faxian and Xuanzang might have been the first Chinese to travel to India, but sometimes it felt like I was the first.
I’d learned so much from traveling to familiar places that I figured I’d learn twice as much by going to a place I knew nothing about.
And so we went. And so it went. And, slowly, I began to learn: speaking in the same language does not equal communication, especially when there is a cultural divide.
I looked out again at the rising moon and I let the weight of my day, my week, lift away with the rushing wind as I was blown into the depths of myself.
Somehow, we were passing the boundaries of language and finding clarity in shared thought, even if we were just talking about beer!
My professional life had started and here I was at a professional dinner full of uninhibited drinking.
There were signs everywhere but none that I could read or even hope to decipher. These multi-lined symbols unhinged my familiar world.
As the silence returned, I sat back and felt the tension ease away; I hadn’t even known I was tense. A few moments passed and once again the cycling fan laced in with the clanging chains and mixed with the rumbling mower and the buzzing insects.
Is China a drug? Like any drug, it depends entirely on the user’s own state of mind. If we’re making metaphors, for old China hands I’d imagine their time here draws parallels with the soaring euphoria and bleak depths of smoking opium, while China for the uninitiated is probably a bit like bath salts: the constantly convulsing nervous system, the paranoia, the god-complex, the rage. I’d liken my own China experience to a decade-long acid trip. It began with liberating my mind from the restraints of Western society. Then I departed on an odyssey that took me tens of thousands of miles across China, experiencing various metaphysical and spiritual states as my journey progressed, punctuated by periods of intense creativity due to my heightened sensory perceptions. To a background score of warped erhu and guzheng, and the looped calls of sidewalk vendors echoing into the void, the kaleidoscopic chaos of this culture surged around me like the Yangtze river – in outer space. Now I’m one with China’s cosmic consciousness. I want to reeducate the communists with love. Or maybe I’m not even here. Maybe I really did perish during my kora around Mount Kailash and none of this ever happened...
We'd never seen anything as green as these rice paddies. It was not just the paddies themselves: the surrounding vegetation - foliage so dense the trees lost track of whose leaves were whose - was a rainbow coalition of one colour: green. There was an infinity of greens, rendered all the greener by splashes of red hibiscus and the herons floating past, so white and big it seemed as if sheets hung out to dry had suddenly taken wing. All other colours - even purple and black - were shades of green. Light and shade were degrees of green. Greenness, here, was less a colour than a colonising impulse. Everything was either already green - like a snake, bright as a blade of grass, sidling across the footpath - or in the process of becoming so. Statues of the Buddha were mossy, furred with green.