Tag Archives: China

Around and up and also down

Some time ago I posted an article on my liking for random walks, in which I outlined an insanely complicated method to get to places you weren’t planning to see. Recently I found another way to go to randomly explore the world, without getting up from my chair.

A few days ago, as I was preparing to leave for Prague, I tried to find some information on the city’s railway station. I can’t remember why, I have been to so many places (at least virtually) since then. I happened on a page with a 360 degree spherical picture of Fantova kavárna or Fanta’s Café, originally the main hall of the station as it was built in 1871 by the architect Josef Fanta. The picture was on a website called 360cities.net which, I have discovered, is a wonderful tool for random travelling.

I soon ended up in other places in Prague, my favourites I think being the Bethlehem Chapel, a medieval crane and the wonderful Strahov library, where the picture is so detailed that I am quite confident that I will one day spot a bookworm about to take a bite out of one of the ancient volumes.  Read more…

The Heart of Chinese Poetry

Quatrain_on_Heavenly_Mountain I remember clearly the first time I managed to understand a poem in classical Chinese. It was like seeing someone perform an unexpected conjuring trick, shaking out a piece of rope and then tossing it up into the air to make it stand stiffly like a stick . Then back again.

There was certainly some kind of alternation between states which I couldn’t quite understand. How could twenty simple syllables also produce some kind of shimmering complexity. Where was this chemical reaction taking place?

Another way I think of these poems is as of  magic seeds. Hold them in your hands and you see a whole tree, press them tight and they are simple seeds again.
Read more…

Lu Xun – Hope

Hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually the earth had no roads to begin with, but when many pass one way, a road is made.



Lu Xun – My Old Home (January 1921)


(You can read the story this quotation is taken from as well as others by Lu Xun on this page. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no really good translation of his work into English available. In my opinion Lu Xun was from the same family of writers as Orwell. He thought things out acutely and honestly for himself however  uncomfortable the conclusions he came to were. Lu Xun died in 1936. I doubt, despite claims you may read to the contrary, that he would have accepted to be the mouthpiece of anybody had he lived longer.)

Old Shanghai and Three Places in New England

olive seller

Cantonese Olive Seller

In old Shanghai, not only could one find all kinds of delicacies on the streets but the countless vendors all had their own special local colour. The ones from Shandong sold steamed buns, those from Northern Jiangsu “tiger paws” and “sesame seed rolls”,  the locals plied sugar plums and the Cantonese olives and water chestnut flour cakes or linggao. Of all these hawkers the ones which stood out most were the olive sellers. They wore a big bag across their shoulders, which in itself was nothing special, but on the other hand the Erhu they played was very peculiar. Why? The belly of the instrument was twice as big as normal Erhu. It was made from a petrol can. Because of this, the seller could not get any complex sounds out of his instrument but only a KANG KANG LI KE KANG KANG sound. The monotonous music was certainly not easy on the ears, but it had a distinct flavour of the Yue country. Read more…

The Poemarium (2)


Which of you owns that red moon, children ?

That is the entirety of a poem by Kobayashi Issa. It has the magic of successful haiku. It makes a pinpoint in the wall surrounding us and lets in a flood of surprising images and thoughts.  I by now have my own story sprung by these few words. Issa reaches a village at twilight, sits near the well to drink and wash, the children gather at a safe distance to watch the stranger. There is a tree nearby and a hill, and following it rising up the slope with one’s glance one finds the red rusty moon in the sky to which he points and asks the children whose toy is that ? Read more…

Children Brand Children



It’s true that the fireworks the Children Brand children are playing with look like sparklers. But there still seems to be a bit of a discrepancy between what the wording on the label says (Do not hold in hand after lighting) and what the picture  is suggesting. I suppose that if you are a Children Brand child and live inside the label then there is really no way you can read what is written on the outside of the label. I sometimes wonder whether I too have instructions which I can’t read just out of sight beneath the floor.