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