Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Near and far

Today began with おはよう and ended with à bientôt! My Japanese friend finished up her visit here just a couple of hours before a dinner for a visitor to the university from Paris. I'm happy to report that, just as my Japanese remains intact despite this Chinese adventure, I was able to follow and even contribute some to the francophone evening. Pas mal!

The middle of the day had pleasures, too. In Chinese class (where, it is true, Japanese was interfering a little) the teacher had brought me two poems which we read together. Here's the easier of the two, with my very flat-footed translation:




Far and near (Gu Cheng)
You / Look for a while at me / Look for a while at the clouds
I think / Looking at me you're far / Looking at the clouds you're near

Then I had lunch with a theater person and coffee with a young sociologist who works on gender and family in China. Good to be reminded that watching a performance in solemn silence, without refreshment or convivial conversation with friends, is a westernism. And to learn that China's new families fit neither models of nuclear nor of "stem families" but are something fragile and new? From the theater person I also learned that movies have a different legacy, as they started as propaganda demanding undivided attention. And the sociologist also opined that "familism" was the closest thing traditional China had to a faith, a faith now irrevocably lost.


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