Thursday, 28 January 2016

The China Connection.

I want to talk about China, only I can’t quite make sense of my feelings about the place, much less express them adequately in a post. I just watched the first of a series of documentaries called The Story of China presented by Michael Wood, whose sensitive and intelligent insights always impress me.

I got that old déjà vu thing again when he showed images of what you might call a shanty town in the suburbs of Xi’an, the first of the ancient capitals of China. It looked oh so familiar; it felt homely. I get the same feeling when I see those fat lions, and fierce dragons, and oversize goldfish, and pink lotus flowers, and bright red wall hangings, and Chinese characters on banners.

I used to get the same feeling when I was a kid growing up in a grimy industrial city in the English Midlands. And when I was around thirty I saw a photograph of a mountain range in China and thought: ‘I know this place. I’ve been there. How can that be?’ All of which leads me to feel that I really must go to China before I die. But maybe I was already there before I was born and don't need to. How can one know?

And here’s an interesting thought: Let’s suppose that reincarnation is true; and let’s suppose that I had a previous life in China; and let’s suppose that I do go there before I die. I might meet my own descendants; I might even accidentally tread on my own grave. And then some grizzled old man struggling under the draconian social rules imposed by the Tang emperors might shudder and exclaim: ‘Somebody just walked over my grave.’ What a lot of fun that would be.

There’s just one problem with all this: I could never for the life of me (this life, that is) get on with chopsticks.

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