Monday, 7 November 2016

Chinese Notes.

My choice for a random Google search last night was: When does the peach blossom bloom in China? I learned that it never freezes in Guilin (which isn’t true according to the climate stats on Wiki), that’s it’s very cold in Beijing in January (what has that got to do with anything?), that the Li River scenery is where those mountains that look like salt shakers are (fond memories of The Water Margin), and that the Li River is so full of cruise ships these days that the cormorants have developed a taste for burgers and changed their allegiance. Oh, and the peach blossom in that part of China blooms in March.

It’s also gratifying to note that I seem to be becoming habituated to Chinese music. Last night – for the first time – I recognised a fragment of melody being given one treatment as having the same base as something I heard in a completely different piece about a year ago. I assume it must come from a traditional source, which means that Chinese music is not so much a foreign language to me as it used to be. 

It’s also interesting to note that Chinese musicians – especially the women for some reason – are in the habit of using facial expressions and subtle nuances of body language to compliment the music. You might say that they play the instrument as much with their eyes as they do with their fingers. (Or you might not, I suppose, but I do.) So are there still those over here who claim that the Chinese are inscrutable? They’re not; it’s a silly old prejudice.

And on the subject of prejudice, this is what Sax Rohmer, the British author of the Fu Manchu novels, said of his arch villain:

"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, ... one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present ... Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man."
- The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu

Yellow peril incarnate? ‘The yellow peril’ is one of those sad little pejorative soubriquets (like ‘the white man’s burden’) that the colonial British Establishment liked to insinuate into the minds of the British public so as to condition them to notions of superiority. As far as I’m aware, the Chinese have never shown the slightest inclination to go empire-building overseas, so I wonder just how they were supposed to be such a peril. (Apart, that is, from kicking the British butt when we behaved high-handedly in their country, for which I think they might be forgiven.)

And for further amusement, here’s a poster for a Fu Manchu movie which demonstrates just how perilous the fictional yellow person can be. (And did you know that he studied for one of his four doctorates at Edinburgh University? What an interesting choice.)

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