Saturday, August 2, 2008

Two Pictures You May Like

The skies have been clearer lately in Beijing, thanks to a shutdown of industry around the city and the halving of cars on the roads. For the first time ever in this city, I saw a wonderful sunset last night. As a young westerner I was taught to thank God for such things; here at least credit goes to the Communist Party. For most people in Beijing it is an established fact that the party can control the weather, either by controlling the amounts of pollutants or by seeding rainclouds. These days they've proved they can provide blue skies and wonderful sunsets; but what will people here think after the Olympics if the party turns the smog back on? For the past few years, China has been preparing for the next few weeks. Every aspect of government policy has been designed to fit in with this country's Olympic plans: after the Olympics, China's future is an absolute cipher.

I went to the famous market at Panjiayuan today and entertained myself by arguing with shopkeepers on behalf of the Americans they were trying to cheat. Some of the American members of the Olympic Orchestra (there's an Olympic everything, more or less), just arrived in Beijing with their families, were touring the market, and I was able to prevent a few of them from paying ten times what they should have for what they bought. As a foreigner I got ripped off as well; but at least not as badly as those unfortunate musicians. Among other purchases, I had this piece of calligraphy made for next year's dorm room:

It's not a masterpiece of calligraphy, but it's done in a fairly standard modern interpretation of the Small Seal script, a bit more whimsical than the sort you'd stamp on a document; which I think is very pleasing and apt, given the meaning of the characters. The characters are drawn from the Chinese language's vast archive of four-character descriptive phrases, referring to——

But why would one have something written up in Chinese, and in the Small Seal script to boot, if he wanted everyone to know what it meant?

No comments: