The Peking Duck is officially closed

Obviously, this blog has been “closed” for months (if not years, really). Now I simply want to make it official, and to share my final thoughts on The Peking Duck. For now, I am leaving the site up, at least temporarily. It would be too painful for me to take down; so much of my life is here in its pages.

I started this blog about 15 years ago as a way for me to jot down my thoughts and observations — for myself. I didn’t expect to have an audience, and for the first several months I didn’t even offer comments. Then, in 2003, I was in Beijing for the SARS epidemic, and I was amazed at the Chinese government’s dishonesty as they claimed the city was SARS-free. I began to blog about SARS obsessively and soon I had a bigger readership and the next thing I knew I was putting up multiple posts nearly every day and my site traffic grew. Then in 2005 I began putting up open threads, under the headline “Great Hall of the People” and hundreds of commenters participated in what at times were quite raucous conversations. (If you are new to the site, or if you feel nostalgic, go into the archives around 2005 and see how these threads started and developed.) Soon other China bloggers agreed to put up posts on my site and it became common to see five or six posts put up on any given day. I even opened a message board, The Duck Pond, for threaded conversations. Those were the golden days of blogging. I slowed it down dramatically in 2008, when I moved back to Beijing to work on the Beijing Olympics and I simply had no time to post. And for the next few years I posted less and less, and now it’s time to wrap it all up.

Before I go I’d like to call attention to a few of my favorite posts. On the left-hand sidebar on this page you’ll see the category “The Emperor’s Jewels,” a list of what I considered my best posts — this old-timer remains my favorite — but there are many others I could include. There is this post, which offers the wildest comment thread in the blog’s history. The post in which I expressed my greatest frustration with living in China was probably this one (which is also pretty funny). One post especially close to my heart is this one, which I wrote after learning that a friend of mine took his own life; people who knew him came here to share their memories of him and I found it incredibly touching. I also posted about the death of my closest friend from college, which also generated some moving comments. Another of my funnier posts is here, about a blind date I had in Singapore. (It’s funny now; it wasn’t funny in 2003.) Back in 2011 I had a feud with a China apologist named Shaun Rein; these posts, some of which were quite amusing, can be found here, and they inspired some of my best comment threads.

There are several thousand posts here (and tens of thousands of comments), and so many of them are close to my heart, I obviously can’t list all my favorites. If you have the time, scroll through some of the archives and see what a vibrant community The Peking Duck once was. But that was a long time ago. I have left China, and feel I have nothing new or revealing to add. When I do have something to say, I now turn to Facebook, as do so many former bloggers. And I simply don’t have the energy or inclination to keep the blog going as I did in years past. It was a lot of fun, and for a long time it was practically my entire life, but it was also a lot of work. So this site will join the ranks of other now-retired blogs like Imagethief, Beijing Cream, China Geeks, Chinayouren, Bokane, Mark’s China Blog, Talk Talk China, The Paper Tiger and many others. It was a thrilling ride. I used to love waking up to hundreds of new comments. It was a real community. But all good things must end, and I probably should have shut down the site a few years ago instead of allowing it to slowly die on the vine. Thanks so much for joining me here. I’ll miss all of those who contributed to The Peking Duck — the site was more about the participants here than it was about me. What a great experience it was. Thanks again.

Please feel free to use this as TPD’s final open thread.

The Discussion: 16 Comments

Dear Richard,

thanks for keeping this excellent site going for so long. It’s probably a good idea to end it, but please do keep the posts available for future reference. It would be a pity if it all got lost. This is one of the problems with the internet really: articles and content that are high-quality and have been meaningful to lots of people can all disappear in a flash.

In any case, the golden age of blogging may be dead, but I’m still keeping my China-blog going, and someone at least still seems to be reading it. I’ll keep it going as long as I have something to say, and nowhere else to say it (Facebook is no substitute for a blog).

November 18, 2017 @ 10:24 am | Comment

Everything has a season. To me, Facebook means nothing, but for now, many people really seem to enjoy it, or make good use of it.

I agree with Jixiang that keeping the Duck online for the benefit of readers (with closed comments, I guess) would be a good idea, if nothing speaks against it.

Thanks for the many years of discussions, and all the best.

November 18, 2017 @ 4:02 pm | Comment

Richard,

I started reading in 2006 and followed for many years. Thank you for many years of your life which made for engaging reading for me and many others. Your hint at the top that this may not stay around reminds me of life before internet. Let’s assume de Touqville lived in the time of internet, and his wonderful observations about America, often clearer eyed than the Americans themselves, we’re taken down a few years after he returned to France? Wouldn’t you agree that the generations that came after would lose so much of humanitys shared history? From here we can’t guess what this blog and those comments might represent to those that follow and for that reason I urge you to leave it, same as previous generations wrote their books, published them and then moved on to other things.

This is (one of) your epic novels. It deserves to be left available to those interested in the dramatic Era of change in China we lived through. Thank you again for the effort and soul you put into it.

November 18, 2017 @ 4:26 pm | Comment

Thanks for all the posts and passionate writing Richard!

November 18, 2017 @ 5:50 pm | Comment

Thanks for keeping this blog going. Please keep it accessible, if only with closed comments, as it is a record from a particular point of view of a time in China which will never come again, a time during which forces were at work to create the present reality of China under Xi.

I would say that I’m going to miss this blog, but I already have missed it since it stopped being regularly updated – particularly the community of commenters. Yes, even the trolls like Math(s).

It is true that outside of China one runs out of things to say about the country beyond what one sees in the news, and the main thing you have to contribute is “does this seem plausible given what you know about the place?”.

I keep my blog going as it is one of the few places online in which I can set down my thoughts in a context which I control. On Facebook posts are quickly lost amid chatter about less consequential (but more fun) things, and anyway my friends and relatives have done nothing to deserve having my boring thoughts inflicted on them. Twitter is a great platform for sharing and brief commentary, but not detailed analysis. Blogs also serve as a kind of diary in a way that Facebook and Twitter really don’t.

I hope also that this isn’t the last time I read you in print (virtual or paper), Richard. You’re a talented writer and I hope you’re keeping busy with that.

November 18, 2017 @ 7:23 pm | Comment

When I lived in Shanghai 2006-2010 your blog was a great source of information for me. I hope you keep it up as an archive. Thanks so much for your contribution to the wider community.

November 18, 2017 @ 7:51 pm | Comment

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments. It’s a great feeling to know that you made a mark on other people’s lives. I am keeping the site up for the foreseeable future – to close it down entirely would be too painful, like giving up a part of yourself. Thanks for reading.

November 19, 2017 @ 2:51 am | Comment

Too bad China has not become any better.

November 19, 2017 @ 7:45 am | Comment

Richard – thanks for the years of thoughtful analysis and commentary. I don’t know that I ever contributed to the community, but I certianly benefited from it.

In case it becomes needful, the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine does a reasonable job of preserving information in case this site ever has to go away. Visit http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.pekingduck.org/ if the need arises.

-Spode

November 19, 2017 @ 12:57 pm | Comment

Thank you for sharing your experiences over such a unique and eventful period in modern China. Yours was one of the first China blogs I read when I was planning a semester in Beijing in 2006. I felt much more prepared, and got much more out of the experience, thanks to your insights and those of the Pearls of the Orient your site referred me to. I am deeply indebted to you.

November 19, 2017 @ 6:06 pm | Comment

Thank you Richard – I started reading your blog as a teenager in Singapore during the SARS epidemic, and continued to follow it avidly when I studied and lived in China.

I never commented, so want to finally say that I appreciate your years of effort curating this corner of the internet and for everything you shared.

November 25, 2017 @ 2:32 pm | Comment

I read this blog very intensively around 2006, 2007. From your posts and the discussions that followed I learned a huge amount about a country that, at the time, I was absolutely fascinated by. For me and other people China perhaps represented a great hope; that there was another model of development than the flawed free market, neoliberal model. But somewhere along the line, things took a wrong turn.

Looking at China and the US today it is incredibly depressing, the way things have worked out. I agree with another commenter, that it would be sad if the site was closed down completely. It is a glympse in to a certain period of history.

December 1, 2017 @ 4:53 am | Comment

Thanks again for the latest, incredibly kind comments. For now I have no intention of deleting the site, and if/when I do, I will use a site like the one Edward mentioned above to archive it. Like Mike says above, it would be like

FOARP, I agree that there are things you can do with a blog that you can’t do with Facebook. It is a great tool for recording memories and observations that you want to keep, while everything on Facebook is ephemeral. But I just don’t have the energy to maintain the site like in the old days; I now record my thoughts and memories in an actual private journal, that’s now nearly 300 pages. The other big factor in my decision is my lack of contact with China. Obviously, China is what my blog was all about, but after nearly a decade of living far away I feel I have considerably less to say than my friends who still live there.

To my other readers, please feel free to continue commenting on this post if you’d like — we can consider it The Peking Duck’s last open thread.

Oh, and let me give one more link to one of my most heartfelt posts about a “beggar” on a Beijing bus. Writing it made me feel weak.

December 6, 2017 @ 4:23 am | Comment

Richard your website for the longest have been a real eye opener for me about the world view of the far east. I do not know what you are going through but I feel you shouldn’t leave your final note on the US. You have partly inspired me to learn Chinese or even embrace any related heritage about it. Just by reading your blog I have learned from a point of view that most will not.

In fact without this website all I can really get is just travel here and see there and the local propaganda. It fills me with so much energy to read your blog or even the times I responded.

Personally I disagree with the site layout and prefer the original layout even if that was to change peoples idea about this webpage. It has brought me joy and sorrow and a different view of the east in general.

In my opinion I feel you do not have to end your blogs and just change it around to show where your new perspective stand. You have over 300 hundred words built up. Why not post them? Are we living in such a totalitarian state of mind nowadays the internet has become an unsafe haven?

However you are not the only one. Others have changed. May it be for the worst or for the better. They have changed even if they were forced by society, there spouses, or there ability to gain income they have changed. I do not like it at all. However that is what happens to most people. They embrace the world and spend the rest of there lives hiding who they really are.

It is sad to see this nice sponge of knowledge be annihilated. With so many beautiful views and beautiful comments.

December 9, 2017 @ 10:00 am | Comment

Thanks

December 9, 2017 @ 3:05 pm | Comment

Remembering the American firebombing of Hankou, Wuhan, 1944.

December 18, 1944: hundreds of American bombers including B29, B24, and B25 started a nepalm bombing campaign over the city of Hankou. The 20th airborne squadron of B29’s, with 4 out of 5 planes carrying nepalm, flew at a low altitude of 5km, while Claire Chennault’s strategic squadrons of B24 and B25 also carried high yield explosives. The entire campaign lasted 3 hours, unopposed. A total of 84 nepalm-carrying B29’s dropped 500 tons of such explosives. The city center of Hankou, whose width spanned 2.5 kms, and whose length ran over 5 kms, was thoroughly decimated. Corpses floated across the Yangzt river.

Americans’ own post-bombing estimates put the civilian body count at 20,000.

That was simply a test run for a planned strategic bombing of Tokyo. The reason for the accuracy and success of the Tokyo bombing was that KMT boss Chiang Kai Shek let the Americans perform practice runs in China. As an ally of the Americans, KMT was utterly incompetennt in stopping the Japanese – a single battle of Xiang Yu allowed the Japs to take control of the whole transporation network over the entire continental China. The Americans had nothing but total contempt over the ‘soldiers’ and ‘army’ of the KMT under its boss Chiang Kai Shek, and basically demanded Chiang let them use the city of Hankou as the test site for the bombing. To the Americans, even if they asked to f*** Chiang’s wife, he would have to tamely disrobe her.

General LeMay, who commanded the Hankou air campaign, would replicate his success over the skies of Tokyo. Bombing of Tokyo was carried out by the 37th, 313th and 314th heavy bomber squadrons, including a total of 300 B29s flying over low altitudes. 1700 tons of nepalms and high-yield explosives were dropped, many of which were set to go off with a 1 hr to 5 hr delay, for casualty maximization over medical workers and fire fighters.

The fire caused by the nepalms led to a special phenomenon, in which a massive 12.5 m/s wind took shape in the middle of the fires, which sucked out all surrounding oxygen. Throughout the night, the city center of the Tokyo was burned to the ground and American casualty estimates put the dead at over 100,000, 40% of which are under the age of 20.

LeMay, after the Tokyo campaign, quipped: “My god, if we’d lost the war, we would all be hung as war criminals”.

The spring of 1945 was suppoesd to be a fragrant and tender season, with flower petals from cherry blossoms fondling the cheeks of the girls of Japan. Yet under American nepalms, those cheeks turned to ash. As a Chinese, everytime I read the history of that war, I was puzzled as to why I feel sympathy for Japan, despite it being the axis power. Several years later in America, I found the answer. In 2001, when the EP-2 spy plane collided with a J-8 fighter from the PLAN, and forced to land in China, John McCain was as hardline as an American senator can get, and yet, he said at the end of a speech to Congres:”We had 3 wars with asia last century, we don’t need another one.” I suddenly realized something: China, Japan, Vietnam, Koreas. We all consider ourselves to be differnet, distinct, proud, independent. But in the eyes of the West, they are just ‘Asia’. We are just ‘yellows’. If Japan gets too strong, America will just enlist the help of China to knock it down a few pegs, and if China gets too strong, it will seek help of China and S. Korea and Vietnam to put a noose around it. That’s why former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun, once said, in response to American request of increasing S. Korean defense spending to counter the Chinese: “Stop playing this triangulation and balancing act in Asia! America is the largest threat to Asia peace you fuckers!”

Starting from Hankou, the holocaust conducted by Americans against the East Asian people reached a climax in Tokyo. The days when American B29s roamed the skies of Asia unimpeded continued until Oct of 1950, when it was finally put to a stop over the skies of DPRK, by the angry fires of Mig squadrons and 23mm artilleries.

December 10, 2017 @ 10:25 pm | Comment

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