#10: Yak Yak Yak

I’m giving a talk this week, so most of my time has been preparing for that. Details about all of that will be the topic of next week’s entry. Since that entry will be mostly words, this entry is mostly pictures of the few things I managed to do, with captions. (My apologies if some of these pictures load slowly. Blame Emma.)

As usual, a lot of walking and exploring; these are some lovely potatoes, with an even lovelier sauce, from the famous (and touristy) Pingjang Road. If you want to see 老外,this is the place.

Undoubtedly the distinction between “philosophy” and “ideological training” is a delicate one. Fortunately, both can be found in my building at Soochow University.
This is a good zone in which to find oneself.

The excitement of the week was to take another “Walk with Stephen”—Stephen Koss, author of Beautiful Su: A Social and Cultural History of Suzhou, China. Last week’s walk was on Guanqian Street, and while I learned some new details about the area, this part of Suzhou was quite familiar. Our walk this week was all completely new, in an area of Suzhou I had not been in and looking at things I’d never seen. It was 六六六。

The tomb—supposedly—of 孙武. Nice juxtaposition of the old (he died somewhere around 500 bc/pce [?] ) and the new. This juxtaposition is pretty much a constant in China.

First up was a site dedicated to Sun Wu (Sunzi), famous as the author of The Art of War (孙子兵法).

Inside the small museum, where many, many versions of The Art of War (and books about The Art of War) have been collected.

The walking group in front of a statue of the man himself. There was much discussion about just how high this statue is. No definitive conclusion was reached, since we did not really adopt sound empirical principles to determine the answer.

Next up was the Suzhou Museum of Imperial Brick. Indeed, this is a museum devoted to bricks. But these suckers are special bricks. Before the end of the Imperial Era, these were the only bricks (known as “Golden Bricks”) that could be used in the Forbidden City in Beijing (and possibly a couple of other sites special to the Emperors). Hence the process is very precise, and as we learned, out of the bricks produced, only about 20% were good enough to be shipped to Beijing for the emperor. There was a lot of detail about mud, how the mud was treated, formed, cured, baked, shipped: about everything you would ever want to know about Imperial Bricks. While one might say “Brick Museum? When I could go to a toaster museum, or maybe a museum devoted to watching paint dry?,” it was very interesting and fun to see.

Entrance. Read about bricks.

See bricks. There were a lot of bricks in the brick museum. This may not be surprising.

Buy bricks. You can even buy a brick if you have 块38,000 (that’s about $5,425 US). There was a cuter, much smaller one for only 块1,800. The first one seemed a bit extravagant; the second seemed like it would not be that easy to take back on the subway.

Last stop was the tomb of Wen Zhengming (文征明), one of the four great Southern painters of the Ming Dynasty. Steve had some good stories about Wen that brought him to life. He was a bit . . . idiosyncratic, which is surprising, since famous painters are always so stable and predictable.

Wen Zhengming’s tomb.

One of Wen Zhengming’s paintings. The other three great Southern Ming painters—you were wondering, weren’t you?—were Tang Yin, Shenzhou and Qiu Ying

And I shall close with a little non-Chinese weirdness. My daughter Emma, for reasons that are complex and, indeed, a bit mysterious when seen from a cosmic perspective, lived for a year in Slovakia, and speaks Slovak. It would be a bit of an understatement to say that she has a great deal of affection for Slovakia. This may explain the following picture.

Emma with Zuzana Čaputová, President of Slovakia (and the first female President of Slovakia).

Published by Kurt's Fulbright

B.A (English, History, Philosophy), SMU (Dallas TX); MA, PhD (Philosophy), The University of Chicago. Author of "Necessity and Possibility: The Logical Strategy of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason."

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