The glorious beauty of Dali

Please take a look through the set of photos my friend Ben took on his recent trip to Dali, one of my favorite cities in all China. What is it about Yunnan that makes life so peaceful?

This is an open thread.


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: 100 Comments

I’ve almost never complained about HH — I think I’ve mentioned them two or three times. I did one post on their “media bias” rants, and I think I’ve mentioned them in a few (very few) comments, and that’s all.

That said, I agree that some of these comments here are offensive or at least annoying. I cannot police every one of them every day.

KT, I really don’t like the “Name me 100…” Most Americans can’t name 100 great literary figures, and your comment sound quite disparaging of China, which has some of the greatest writers and artists of all time.

I just finished volume one of Hong Lou Meng last night. There is nothing better in English.

February 2, 2012 @ 7:57 am | Comment

Pls read and note. *Literary* figures ie writers of significance in the modern world, not some obscure rhyming fossils of questionable provenance. As I say to friends, if you want to read the English greats, go to China. You can pick up a copy of Charles Dickens/Charlotte Bronte anywhere.

Always get an uplift when I get a dose of HH wisdom.

I would take you a lot more seriously if you addressed the question I posed about the inherent linguistic constraints (limits on meaning and imagination) built into classical Chinese writing. Living languages evolve, shed words and develop new ones which reflect new circumstances and human aspirations, English being a good example.

Aspects of Chinese culture do not exist in calendrical time.

February 2, 2012 @ 8:17 am | Comment

I’ll not probe too deeply into this Culture Top Trumps 😉
However, the Chinese do have quite a bit – though it’ll be akin to describing European culture, don’t you think? This’ll put the argument into what landmass has done the most – and then we can all indulge into pushing back the boundaries by cherry picking. I dare say we can go from Skara Brae architecture to Greek philosophy to Cretan culture to Catal Huyuk in one breath as Europeans, only to be countered by someone doing the same for China, SE Asia, India and even the African continent.

End result is….who cares. Hoi polloi tend to not know anything outside television or cheap newspapers or government propaganda (this from east and west, north and south). Most people in Europe might know Homer (in the US he’s the fat yellow guy, mind….though cultured people might remember some movie starring Brad Pitt…though that was by some bloke called Troy, wasn’t it? ;-P)

China and Europe have great architecture, most of it roughly contemporary. Oddly, South America did too – and not only Mayans, Olmecs, Aztecs et al. Seems the Amazon was teeming with civilisations before in pre-Colombia times. India has some of the oldest civilisations in history that are still extant – but in the grand scheme of things, who gives a toss? Everything is decided now, not then. History is history – it merely colours and influences today but it isn’t the be all and end all. Mao thought so – technically, mainland Chinese history is only about 60 years old. Technically, Saudi Arabian history is only about 1400 years old – the rest, the stuff before, was whitewashed and altered to fit today.

Besides, all history is influenced by the people on the fringes. China had it’s “barbarians” who made China what it is today, as did Europe. Since the barbarians were not of the civilisations we boast about directly, then we can’t use our histories as examples of how good “our” civilisations were compared to one another. They’re all just hybrids.

Hope that makes sense 😉

February 2, 2012 @ 9:24 am | Comment

I would agree with Jxie insofar as we needn’t really mention a certain blog at all. Why give the zealots in the asylum any more air play than is necessary, eh? On some level, the same could be said regarding certain writers at Forbes…

I too would move away from the “name 100 of this” or “name 100 of that” tendency. Besides, I think it’s better to focus on quality rather than sheer quantity anyway.

And on the one hand, the CM’s of the world would diminish the culture of African nations for no apparent reason than to reaffirm his own narrow-minded notion that Chinese culture is best. Then on the other hand, KT is on assault mode over Chinese culture, which may not be his cup of tea but certainly has substantial appeal to a substantial number of people. To each his own, as I always say. But I think remaining open-minded, whether it be about your own culture or someone else’s, is best.

February 2, 2012 @ 10:08 am | Comment

Check out this CNN article about an ad in a HK newspaper:

Can’t blame the HK authorities for trying to keep out pregnant mainlanders.

February 2, 2012 @ 1:49 pm | Comment

@SKC. Two points.

1) Absolutely no one has addressed the linguistic point I raised.

And I know you view yourself as an intelligent commenter.

2) I’m sick and tired of the scumbag anti-African drivel eminating from the HH set on this site and elsewhere.

I don’t mind if Richard moderates off his site/lounge room, as long as it is done publicly and reasons are provided.

Democracy is a good thing, since it is supposed to be transparent and upfront.

After accepting CMs comments, that is a hard gig.

February 2, 2012 @ 1:54 pm | Comment

To KT,
absolutely agree with point #2. But the way to counter that sort of drivel is to mock them for what it is, rather than to sink to their level and engage in the same thing by merely exchanging “China” for “Africa”. You’re better than that. Tit for tat is not an intellectually stimulating pursuit, nor a very worthy one.

This is RIchard’s house. He can police it as he pleases. I don’t think “democracy” applies here. Rather, he can be as dictatorial as he likes…and if we don’t like it, the onus is on us to take it elsewhere. Sounds to me like he’s weighed in, in disapproval of the tone of some of those racist remarks. He has a high threshold for deletion, and usually reserves it for the likes of the Wayner. That’s his call, and we can like it or lump it.

As for number 1, I can no sooner name 100 Canadian authors as I can Chinese ones. But I’m hardly a literary expert. The fact that I can’t name 100 Canadian authors hardly diminishes the quality of Canadian literature, just as an inability to name 100 Chinese ones does not diminish the quality of Chinese literature. I don’t think your point confronts, addresses, or disproves WKL’s suggestion that China has “one of the largest literature canons of the world”.

February 2, 2012 @ 2:29 pm | Comment

SKC. Nobody can name 100 Canadian writers. 100 US writers is easy peasy, however.

My linguistic point was about the constrained nature of classical Mandarin, and not about the hot 100.

Somebody, pls pick up on my point even if you think it is garbage.

That means KT, you are scribbling linguistic rubbish.

February 2, 2012 @ 2:42 pm | Comment

To KT,
I don’t speak Mandarin (classical or otherwise), so I’m definitely not the guy to wax poetic about the constraints thereof.

February 2, 2012 @ 2:56 pm | Comment

Africa has given nothing to the world.

You forgot Homo sapiens. Apparently they’ve caused something of a stir on the world stage.

February 2, 2012 @ 9:01 pm | Comment

As someone who has struggled to write the Great American Novel in classical Chinese, I get where King Tubby is coming from. 😉 But I do think the Chinese modernizers of 100120 years ago did consider many aspects of Chinese antiquity to be a dead hand holding China back, and probably the writers of that period are on record with views similar to KT’s.

Meanwhile, since his doubles as an open thread, look at this Orwellian howler that slipped through at the Christian Science Monitor:

February 2, 2012 @ 10:46 pm | Comment

Guys, how am I being “dictatorial”? I didn’t delete anything. I simply said I wasn’t delighted with the tone of KT’s challenge. I don’t like the one of daring someone to prove China has culture. And yet I let it stand, unedited.

KT I don’t mind if Richard moderates off his site/lounge room, as long as it is done publicly and reasons are provided.

Wrong. As SKC says, this is not a democracy. It would be if you all payed me taxes, in which case you would have a right to representation, As it is, this is my site for me to write posts; comments are a courtesy and I can delete or ban someone or turn comments off or take down entire posts at any time, I practically never do this. If I did the site wouldn’t be much fun.

I almost always let people know if I’ve removed a comment, but I have no obligation to do this on terms dictated by anyone but myself. Some comments are too disgusting for me to allow an open discussion about them; I’ve been receiving personal threats but don’t feel they should stay on my site. This blog has had open comments with very little moderation from day one, so if you find it too oppressive there are many other delightful bogs to hang out at. It is bizarre, because I hardly moderate these comments at all, as all of you regular commenters know. In fact, I often take heat for not moderating enough. So I can’t really win.

February 3, 2012 @ 12:00 am | Comment

they will probably also do well with the Sino-sisters while cleaning up financially. Enjoy.

I highly, highly doubt it. East Asian women generally find Africans to be repulsive, even more so than Europeans.

My linguistic point was about the constrained nature of classical Mandarin, and not about the hot 100.

Your linguistic point is pure shit, as per your typical faux philosopher posturing. I don’t even think “classical Mandarin” is a valid category of Chinese. Do you mean Middle Chinese? Or are you even aware that the widespread adoption of Mandarin is a relatively novel thing?

Quite obviously you are no musicologist

Any idiot can get a degree in musicology. Is this how you try to make it “pay”? I am trained as a musician but that’s not my major. I suppose you want us to believe you’re an economist, literary scholar, historian and anthropologist, too? I hate to break it to you, but you’re not nearly intelligent enough to qualify.

Mike Goldthorpe
Catal Huyuk in one breath as Europeans,

Catal Huyuk is probably not European. The European neolithic is remarkably pathetic, especially considering how good the land and climate is.

SK Cheung
And on the one hand, the CM’s of the world would diminish the culture of African nations for no apparent reason than to reaffirm his own narrow-minded notion that Chinese culture is best.

Wrong. I am merely stating the painful truth. I’m not even going to bother refuting KT’s points since he simply regurgitates them from other non-Chinese speaking imbeciles.

Atticus Dogsbody
You forgot Homo sapiens. Apparently they’ve caused something of a stir on the world stage.

Doesn’t count. All of the people who went on later to accomplish something left. So yes, you can say the modern day descendants of the people who stayed made it such an intolerable cesspool that everyone packed their bags for Eurasia.

February 3, 2012 @ 12:17 am | Comment

Modern day Africans are descendents of people who made it such an intolerable cesspool *

February 3, 2012 @ 12:19 am | Comment

First, apology for me being cross-eyed, and seeing a “r” as a “c” on the small screen of my ultrabook.

KT, at the risk of sounding condescending, it may be fruitful for you to reveal your Chinese language skill first, in a 0 to 10 scale — 0 being no skill at all, 2 being able to carry an accent-free basic conversation that if on the phone, the other side wouldn’t think you are not a native speaker. On a good day, I consider myself a solid 7; and on a bad day, a weak 5.

Unlike in English typically a word is added when there is a new concept, far more often than not a new phrase in Chinese is added. For example, pneumonia in Chinese literally means lung inflammation – no new word is needed. The major con of the Chinese language in terms of education is that it takes a longer time for a Chinese student to be basically literate. The major pro is it’s much easier to guess the meanings of new phrases hence easier to learn new concepts, after one reaches basic literacy. For example, a HS graduate English-speaker will be hopeless to read an advanced microelectronic research paper, but a Chinese-speaking peer should come away with some decent amount of knowledge after reading it.

I take it that it’s not what you meant, otherwise we’re both wasting our times. Your question is how you would be able to express the ideas of say a medical journal paper in classic Chinese writing (words/phrases and style)? With the latest words and phrases, you actually can write in classical Chinese style but that’s another story. It’s the same reason you can’t write a medical paper in Elizabethan. Language is an evolving thing. BTW, the “classical” Chinese writing style differs quite drastically from an era to another, but let’s not get into that now.

Then why even learn classical Chinese? Because in it, it encapsulates the philosophy, human emotions, social norms and narratives, etc., everything collectively called a culture. Or, if you want to carry a conversation at a level higher than 2, you are expected to use and understand a lot of phrases and verses in classical Chinese. Moreover, let’s look at this 骈体 style 1300+ year old verse: 落霞与孤鹜齐飞,秋水共长天一色, it has so much expansive beauty in it, for me at least it actually gives me a sense of inner peace. That’s culture, pal. Paintings of Zhang Daqian now are sold at higher prices than Picasso’s in hundreds of millions. Sure you can argue Zhang’s or Picasso’s paintings are no more than a bunch of scribbling on canvas, that any decent art school students can do a better job. Since the judgment of the quality of art, culture and even language is so subjective, conceptually you are not wrong per se – just that methinks you have no idea of what you are talking about, and quite likely knowledge-wise far from at a level that you can make an informed judgment.

February 3, 2012 @ 1:23 am | Comment

Ha! “classical Mandarin”? Mandarin is a dialect initially being spoken by Hans living in Liaoning in late Ming from whom the Manchus learned Hanyu. It became the “official dialect” (官话) of Qing. In Ming the official dialect was close to what is spoken today in northern Anhui to middle Jiangsu. The migration and evolution pattern of various dialects is a fascinating topic. But please, don’t use “classical Mandarin”.

February 3, 2012 @ 1:37 am | Comment

To CM,
there you go again with your “truths”. What you’ve done is taken your narrow-minded notion, and simply said it out loud. Sometimes, some of your “truths” should be kept to the confines of your “inside” voice. And sometimes, some of your “truths” shouldn’t be kept at all. But you do what you gotta do.

February 3, 2012 @ 1:44 am | Comment

CM, please rephrase the last comment you submitted and make it a little more polite. Thanks.

February 3, 2012 @ 2:26 am | Comment

Is anyone surprised that SK Cheung, who excoriates the CCP for everything in China that doesn’t go according to his plans, is praising Africa and ignoring the fact that it’s the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster?

Its ok as long as they’re not Chinese!

February 3, 2012 @ 3:15 am | Comment

Africa’s Contribution To Civilization

I admit I laughed. Egypt was largely Semitic, not black African.

February 3, 2012 @ 3:37 am | Comment

Obviously, you failed to read the entire article. Selective reading augers well for one’s arguments… yes?

February 3, 2012 @ 4:40 am | Comment

Just for Cookie Monster


February 3, 2012 @ 5:06 am | Comment

Dear CM:
“is praising Africa and ignoring the fact that it’s the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster?”
—LOL. You’ve taken your penchant for selective and inaccurate reading to a new level today. Well done. Way to aim high. Though the ongoing racist remarks are admittedly merely par for the course for types like you.

February 3, 2012 @ 5:10 am | Comment

Oh, and I guess Egypt isn’t Africa. It’s the World of Geography According to Chinese Racists. Nice.

February 3, 2012 @ 5:13 am | Comment

It’s pretty clear we’re not talking about North Africa.

February 3, 2012 @ 5:15 am | Comment

#41 “(excluding the parts taken by Arabs)”

Reading comprehension, Cheungsie.

February 3, 2012 @ 5:16 am | Comment

“For example, pneumonia in Chinese literally means lung inflammation – no new word is needed”

Funnily enough, that’s what it means in European (Greek, in this case)

Technically, not a new word, just the usage of one European “dialect” in another, sorta kinda 🙂
Like all languages, if one word can be used instead of more, it’ll get imcorporated – especially if it sounds more important and “educated” – Latin and Greek (classical) being the languages of education in Europe at the time.
I also rather like the changes in languages through the passages of time – in Europe we can see everything happening through our writings are we got the phonetic system. Chinese would be harder due to the pictographic (is that the right word?) nature of writing – makes it more a puzzle to solve to “hear” how they spoke then (and which, I guess, is most of the fun for those researching it :-))

“Paintings of Zhang Daqian now are sold at higher prices than Picasso’s in hundreds of millions”
This might also have something to do with the wealth of the top echelons in China. Those with money spend more on that which they like and understand. It’s not a question of which is more culturally expensive, more a symptom of global economics. Put it this way, I’d spend more on a Cooper’s Sparkling Ale than I would for the finest Chinese spirit even though the latter might be “worth” more. It’s not a reflection on the quality of the liquids, just how culture has conditioned my taste buds and how I’d use my money.

February 3, 2012 @ 5:22 am | Comment

My My. What a ….storm.

@jxie. Read with interest and thanks

@CM Nicholas Amelka the soccer player joined Shanghai Shenhua for a walloping 175,000 Engish pounds per week, and Dalian Aerbin are wining and dining Didier Drogba with 200,000 English pounds per week on offer. Given the power of this sort of money, I don’t thinks these dudes will be short of conpanionship, irrespective of your prejudices.

@ William Box. Good stuff also noted by the historian Basil Davidson, but I was thinking more about Africa’s musical contribution to the world in the form of jazz, funk, gospel, motown, blues and other genres, but definitely not rap. And I won’t complicate matters by noting the great stuff coming out of Mali, Senegal, Niegeria etc today for a global audience.

@ Richard. Peace. I should have made the reasons for my listing exercise explicit. It was about soft power exercised thru literary output. And soft power of this fictional kind is not necessarily the prerogative of democratic nations. Russian literature is a case in point, being massively regarded across all cultures and languages, and this has been the case for well over 100 years.

February 3, 2012 @ 5:30 am | Comment

I wouldn’t get too bothered with Cookie’s postings – given his reading comprehension and grasp of history, it’s not worth it. What he knows appears to be minimal enough to write on the back of a postage stamp….and that after it has been stuck on the envelope 🙂 Sad thing is he’s not shy to advertise the fact 😀

February 3, 2012 @ 5:45 am | Comment

King Tubby
I don’t thinks these dudes will be short of conpanionship, irrespective of your prejudices.

Neither is a two-toothed, one shoe’d man with a $20 dollar bill in his pocket, but that’s clearly not what your racial chesthumping and obnoxious boasting was about.

You know you’ve lost when you start talking boosting the accomplishments of others in your race, and we know you’re a headcase when you start speaking in terms of their potential future “conquests”.

The mentality of your kind is put on display.

February 3, 2012 @ 6:19 am | Comment

To #76:
LOL. Give it a rest. Is “North Africa” not part of Africa? You disparage “Africa”, but when faced with an insurmountable rebuttal from William #70, then suddenly it’s the “non-Egyptian parts of Africa”. Not to mention that, as William noted, you apparently failed to read the entire link. That’s just lame. You give Chinese people a bad name…but then you’re American, I suppose…

To #77:
LOL again. You really need to grasp the concept of time. I wasn’t responding to #41, but merely to your usual racist rants starting with #63 and #64 written today. Didn’t read what you wrote yesterday. Besides, your racist rants sound the same after a while, with the occasional caveat here and there. So what you’re saying is that you have no racist gripes against Egyptians and Arab-Africans, and your racism is confined to “black Africans”, is that it? Wow, you are so evolved.

February 3, 2012 @ 6:48 am | Comment

Didn’t read

Enough yapping, then.

February 3, 2012 @ 8:24 am | Comment

Ferris Bueller sings in…Chinese? on a Super Bowl 2012 ad. (1:41-1:54)

February 3, 2012 @ 9:02 am | Comment

@CM: Doesn’t count.

Ooops! Sorry. I forgot that you set the rules.

February 3, 2012 @ 11:53 am | Comment

Atticus Dogsbody
Ooops! Sorry. I forgot that you set the rules.

That’s right, bitch.

February 3, 2012 @ 1:18 pm | Comment

Black Africa is a shit hole and the non-black parts hardly any better. Though this should hardly warrant mentioning. I feel guilty even having to state this fact because it’s akin insulting an actual retard.

King Tubby can have all the vibrant music and dancing to himself as long as I get to keep the low crime communities and functional schools.

February 3, 2012 @ 1:21 pm | Comment

I’m glad that the glorious beauty of Dali has turned into another mud sling hole.

February 3, 2012 @ 1:37 pm | Comment

To 83:
“Enough yapping, then.”
—your inability to grasp anything beyond your usual racist rhetoric is pathetic. I didn’t read it, so I wasn’t referring to it. I draw the intestines for you, and yet you’re still too dense or pig-headed to realize it. Oh, and nicely selective as always with your quoting. SOmeone (like your mother perhaps) should have taught you to respond to something in its entirety, rather than just 2 words out of more than 100. Clearly, many people must have failed in their fiduciary duty to result in you being…well, for lack of a better descriptor…you. That’s cool. More laughs for me. At least we appear to have cleared up and clarified the exact breadth of your racism, eh?

To 86:
you make a 12 year old appear mature.

And Jing should lift up his dragging knuckles and retreat to the cave wherefore he came. What is it with you people?

February 3, 2012 @ 2:39 pm | Comment

@Jing. Your sister and I have had a bit of a pillow dictionary-type chat. Apparently you escaped from the outhouse, where you had been previously banished prior to the CNY fireworks display.

Give yourself up and return to the family fold. All is forgiven.

February 3, 2012 @ 3:27 pm | Comment

Jing! Lovely to see you back. So, comment 73…What say you? Only asking because I have never seen an African woman shit in the street….

February 3, 2012 @ 5:35 pm | Comment

Somebody get Cookie some lube, I can smell the smouldering flesh from Melbourne.

February 3, 2012 @ 7:41 pm | Comment

For a moment I thought you were talking of Salvador Dali

February 3, 2012 @ 7:46 pm | Comment

A fascinating comments stream. To ask a slightly different question than those above, what is it about a bog post on the beauty of Dali that inspires racist comments and reduces otherwise intelligent commenters to discourse normally associated with a soccer riot?

February 4, 2012 @ 12:10 am | Comment

I could put up a picture of Moses or the Virgin Mary and the comments would be just as nasty, I’m afraid.

February 4, 2012 @ 12:12 am | Comment

I reject the “otherwise intelligent commenters” label when applied to the race-baiters above. EVERY thread one of those guys joins goes gutter as soon as he shows up. (CF China Geeks right now.) I’m not talking about “Cheungsie”.

February 4, 2012 @ 12:44 am | Comment

Oh yes, it’s clearly my fault, when KT and other trolls are the ones that consistently race bait – oh, but it’s fine when non-Chinese do it.

Only asking because I have never seen an African woman shit in the street….

Probably because there aren’t streets in Africa that they actually built themselves – and their poorest therefore have no way into the cities.

February 4, 2012 @ 1:11 am | Comment

Let’s assume for a second that KT was “baiting”. I wonder who he would find dangling at the end of his line, having swallowed the sinker, the hook, and several feet of fishing wire? I’m surprised CM can still talk with all that hardware in his mouth.

What KT was saying doesn’t sit well with me. And I and others have said so. That’s the adult way. The juvenile way is to start disparaging black people and Africa (or non Egyptian Africa, apparently).

February 4, 2012 @ 3:11 am | Comment

Anyway, CM gave me a good hook for a serious piece on Black American music.

I simply won’t put up with any of this anti-African racist drivel in part because of life long views on music, fullstop.

“I should have made the reasons for my listing exercise explicit. It was about soft power exercised thru literary output. And soft power of this fictional kind is not necessarily the prerogative of democratic nations. Russian literature is a case in point, being massively regarded across all cultures and languages, and this has been the case for well over 100 years.”

I am not pleased that Richard and others took offence, but at least address my point at the level at which it was posed.

We all like to troll a bit when suitable targets present themselves, but am still waiting for a decent response to my point above.

Race baiting. Definitely not.

Culture baiting. Maybe.

Jxie @ Slim addressed one of my claims, so I will put that one back in the cupboard for the time being. (Read up on structuralist linguistics.)

February 4, 2012 @ 4:07 am | Comment

If no one minds, I am closing this odious thread. I’m only sorry I haven’t had time to better police the comments.

February 4, 2012 @ 7:05 am | Comment

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