Edgar Snow comes to Kansas City

Living up to its reputation for insightful, intelligent, beautifully written posts, Mark’s China Blog offers us a treat with its description of the Edgar Snow Symposium held this week in Kansas City. (h/t Danwei.) Why don’t things like this come to Phoenix?

He described taking the train from Beijing to Xi’an and then heading into northern Shaanxi Province to find the mythical communist stronghold (some people, apparently, didn’t even believe the place existed). This was probably my favorite part of the conversation last night. It is also probably my favorite aspect of Edgar Snow’s life. I appreciate the story of a KC boy going to Xi’an and Shaanxi Province for the adventure of a lifetime (even if his story and mine are completely different in just about every way imaginable).

A beautiful description of Bao’an, the lush, low-lying valley where the communists had settled, was painted. Snow recounted meeting Mao and the subtle details of the man that would fifteen years later become the leader of China. He also talked about the general sense of camaraderie and excitement that one felt being at the camp.

The Symposium did not ignore the dark side of Snow’s legacy, which has become all but a dictionary definition of apologism.

Kemper [an interviewer] asked Snow to explain himself – “How did you not see this famine that historians estimate killed 35 million people?” The actor playing Snow did a wonderful job here. One could see the pain, embarrassment, and anguish on his face. He couldn’t come up with a good explanation. He knew that this mistake was one of the defining moments of his career and that history had punished him for it. After stammering a bit, Snow conceded that he’d been betrayed.

Oh well, we all screw up sometimes.

Read the entire post. I especially enjoyed the description of the Red-Color News Soldier exhibit; the book by the same name is one of my all-time favorites. Please read the entire post.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 4 Comments

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October 23, 2010 @ 9:58 am | Pingback

I also own a copy of RCNS, and often find it an unvaluable resource…

October 23, 2010 @ 4:15 pm | Comment

Thanks so much for the kind words, Richard. Look forward to picking up the book of RCNS.

It’s pretty amazing how many people from the midwest US have been influential journalists and writers in China. There’s Snow and the “Missouri mafia” I mentioned in my post as well as Peter Hessler, who is from Columbia, MO.

October 24, 2010 @ 3:22 am | Comment

I also own a copy of RCNS, and often find it an unvaluable resource…

November 20, 2010 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

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