The Seventieth Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China was this week (October 1, for those keeping score at home.) Lots of businesses close, people travel; there is a big parade in Beijing although, from what I understand, the proletariat generally has to watch it on TV.
Most people I know just like having the week off. I know I did; I spent most of the time reading (in English) Outlaws of the Marsh/Water Margin/水浒传. It is a lot like the Robin Hood stories Westerners are familar with: the good guys whuppin’ up on the bad guys, often corrupt government officials. The Outlaws of the Marsh, however, has way more alcohol consumption, quite a bit more craziness, and a lot more heads being detached from one’s opponents’ bodies. (Just imagine Friar Tuck after a couple of bottles of mezcal, with substantial anger management issues and a propensity to extreme violence.) Fortunately, Song Jiang, their leader, keeps them in control, for the most part. No Maid Marian figure, however, and it is five volumes (1500 pages) long. I have five more chapters (out of 100), and then it is on to The Scholars/儒林外史. Only 600 pages!
Other than that, I got ready to give a second talk. This is a philosophy talk, on Rousseau’s influence on Kant. It’s a paper I’ve been kicking around for quite awhile (and if Kristen Oganowski is reading, she is snickering), but I don’t have access to the kind of library I need (and my Internet access these days, possibly because of the holiday, has been—at best—sporadic). So we shall see how it goes.
I did try to go on another “Walk with Steve,” this one exploring the city walls and gates (or at least half of them). It started raining hard, I guessed it would continue for the rest of the day, and left. I guessed wrong. My loss, to be sure.
In general, an uneventful week. But a good one for nerding out, playing guitar (working on Blind Blake and Blind Boy Fuller, currently) and mandolin, and walking around Suzhou. So I shall close with my pictures from Panmen—”Panmen Scenic Area”—one of Suzhou’s old gates, where there is some pretty seriously old stuff. It is also beautiful although, due to the holiday and the nice weather, pretty crowded.
For those who have heard the story—and those who haven’t—last time I was here I climbed up the pagoda (a very good view of this part of Suzhou). A woman and her daughter were trying to get past me on the stairs (I was coming down, they were going up) and were yelling at me in Chinese. I yelled back “I don’t speak Chinese!” (in my best Chinese) and they both gave me the oddest looks. As I left the pagoda and reflected on the encounter, I realized I had been saying (in my best Chinese) “I don’t speak English!”