Faithful readers of this blog will note, and lament, its sad irregularity of late - a condition I blame entirely on the two dinosaur eggs, or rather hatchlings, I have acquired since accepting that cheque from that nice billionaire John Hammond at Ingen. One of my posts is almost a year overdue. It describes my most exotic Russian Studies conference yet, my trip to Xian for the April 2015 conference of the Chinese Association for Russian Literature Studies (CARLS - if only they'd called it the Chinese Union instead, it could have been CURLS). Everyone knows one thing for which Xian is celebrated: the garden gnomes, as my fellow presenter Mike Nicholson of Oxford fondly calls the terracotta army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
|Me and the garden gnomes|
|Professor Liu Wenfei at CARLS|
|A thoughtful moment with Dr Yang Li|
|A hospitality girl tweaks the PowerPoint|
|The library on Xian International Studies University campus|
Like ASEEES in the States, CARLS travels to a different Chinese city every year. I would go back - although, given the language barrier with most of the papers, probably to a city whose touristic opportunities equal those of Xian. Knowing a little about Chinese hospitality (to make sure I missed nothing during a two-day visit, a colleague once offered to drive me around Beijing's sights at 9pm), and sorely intimidated by the terrifying traffic and sprawl of the city, I was perplexed when not a single local offered to show me the terracotta warriors. Ksiusha had already done her bit by taking me for a saunter on the reconstructed city wall, but she was literally too kind: her constant concern for my health as a foreigner and as a miniature extinct reptile was all too solicitous. After the fourth day of the conference, everyone melted away, leaving me with a free 24 hours. I braved the one-hour bus journey on an overcrowded jalopy to the terminus at the foot of the city wall; walked seven kilometers, or two sides, of its massive fourfold enclosure; descended at the city train station and tracked down the authentic bus bound for the terracotta complex; two hours later, I was fighting Chinese cameras out of the way for my own selfie at the edge of that genuinely awe-inspiring pit. In the evening, I wended my way home through the city centre, catching the last bus for a chaotic but strangely satisfying ride back to the hotel past (at first) breathtaking pagodas, then endless cheap shops and restaurants, shabby garages and burgeoning tower blocks.
I will leave you with these remarkable words of wisdom by a Chinese sage, glimpsed in north-central Xian from the window of a speeding bus. "Limited youth. Do not waste waiting on that is to buy existing homes real live." Profound and mysterious; a moral for our times.
|Limited youth. Do not waste waiting on that is to buy existing homes real live.|