topic: china

China’s One Child Policy

Much of the reaction to the recent change in China’s ‘one child policy’ seemed to focus on human rights: specifically the right of a woman to have as many children as she wants. A woman’s control of her own fertility has been dearly bought – for most of history women’s bodies have been controlled by men. In many places today they still are. Nevertheless, it seems to me that this issue has another side that needs […]

English spelling: unity over ease of learning

A while back I read a blog on cluborlov in which Dimitry Orlov railed against how English spelling often bears so little relation to the way its words sound that, as a consequence, it made learning to read and write the language far harder than it should be. At the time I would have liked to wade in with some opinions of my own, however, the comments on that post soon proliferated and, since I […]

a new covenant with nature

God gives the spark of life to Adam

It is no surprise that human rights as a formal system, as legislation, should have arisen from the two cataclysms of ‘civil war’ that the Europeans brought upon themselves, and into which they drew so much of the rest of the world. As a way of trying to avoid descent into the horrors of the Rape of Nanking, of the Eastern Front, and of the Holocaust, it is essential, that at the heart of our […]

the cherry on the cake

I have a notion as to why the Chinese authorities are delaying the opening of the tomb of the First Emperor, and it’s not the official reason given. I think I can also make a reasonable guess as to when it will be opened… In 221BC Qin Shi Huangdi became the first emperor of a unified China. Even though his dynasty collapsed shortly after his death, that unification has not been undone to this day. […]

a bite of the cherry

policeman in front of a picture of Mao...

It seems that those of us who live in the West may need to get used to the fact that our economies are not going to return to constant growth. The belief that things are going to always continue to get better – at least in the sense of a constantly growing GDP – has always been a fantasy: constant growth of the kind we’ve experienced, that consists of consuming the Earth’s resources, presupposes that […]

Ming vases…

Wen Zhengming painting

Even in childhood I was baffled as to why oil paintings sold in auction houses for countless millions, while equally exquisite works of art from other cultures seemed lucky if they fetched thousands. One exception is the ubiquitous ‘Ming vase’… examples of which appear in everything from Tin Tin to baroque palaces across Europe. Another are ancient artefacts, though these again seem to be valued less for their aesthetic qualities than for how close they […]

manners

Moctezuma meets Cortez

When Cortez first met Moctezuma, the emperor of the Aztecs advanced towards him half-carried by a couple of his relatives, as if he were some fragile invalid. This affectation was one that Moctezuma could allow himself, lord as he was of the conquerors of Central America that, to its inhabitants, was the navel of the Earth and the greater and best part of the world. No doubt this kind of posturing was copied by lesser […]

force majeur

Snow has fallen heavily along the coast of the British Isles – 60cm, perhaps. With our maritime climate, this kind of weather is unusual enough that it has never been worthwhile investing vast resources in proofing our infrastructure against it: but common enough that when it happens it brings chaos. From the midst of this chaos rises the usual outcry: why can’t they do something about it? The same voices would be the first to […]

sunflower seeds

Ai Weiwei's sunflower seeds...

Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds is currently showing at Tate Modern. A Chinese artist who has suffered severely for being politically outspoken, and who was the artistic consultant on the glorious Bird’s Nest Stadium at the recent Olympic Games, Ai Weiwei has produced a work that says much about China today and in the past. Consisting of 100 million sunflower seeds handmade from porcelain, fired at a high temperature, handpainted, then fired again. According to him: […]

perfume of rotting mouse

Every year we have had mice coming into out house presumably to find a place to hibernate. We would be perfectly happy to let them do so if they didn’t insist on scurrying around in the walls and invading our kitchen. Then there is the danger that they will chew through electrical cables and start a fire. They already gnawed through a water pipe and caused a flood. So, eventually, we put down poison. Now, […]