I spent today touring Nanjing, China, with two friends. So hot and humid. That’s normal for southern China, so I’ll not go on about the weather. We drank lots of water and fresh juices and sought shelter in an air conditioned restaurant for lunch. IÂ metÂ Xiaolong when he visited my school, EIU, for a year as a visiting scholar. Guanwei is an artist I met at Vermont Studio Center several years ago. Great companions in this amazing,Â ancientÂ city. This post will be brief because I’m on a borrowed computer using intermittent wifi.
Yesterday, I rode the hi-speed trainÂ from Wuhan to Nanjing. IÂ ate at Zijin (Purple) Mountain and then toured the Presidential Palace with Xialong. Nanjing has served as the capitol of China at several different times, most recently before WWII. The modern history of China is confusing to me–the names are hard to keep track of andÂ the geography is new. We had an elegant dinner last night (topped the lunch in Wuhan) with Xiaolong’s girlfriendÂ and his motherÂ in an area called “1912,” after the date of the new Republic’s founding. None other than Chiang Kai Shek came to visit us during dinner, delivering an incredible plate of fish and posing with us for photos.
Today, we toured the Nanjing Massacre Memorial. In 1937, Japan invaded China and attacked the capitol, Nanjing. They killed 300,000 people according to the documents at the Memorial. This number is disputed by the Japanese, who have never officially apologized for the killing (and raping) of so many Chinese. I was feeling very emotional by the end of the exhibit. Many survivors gave testimony about their experiences, which were horrific. One that really got to me was a man who had been seven at the time of the massacre. His mother was holding his baby brother when she was shot (or stabbed?) by a soldier. She refused to put down the baby, so she was shot (or stabbed)Â again. Finally, she put the baby down, fell to the ground. The soldiers left (I think) and her baby was crying. The man (then a boy) brought his brother to his mother’s breast to nurse, and then he was taken away by soldiers. Later, he heard a mother and her child had been found together, nursing, frozen to death. One of many, many stories that are documented at this incrdible museum.
At lunch, Xiaolong, Guanwei, and I talked about differences between Chinese and Americans. These men are both well-educated and well-traveled, so it was a great conversation. China is very crowded, and most people cannot afford a house or apartment. They spend most of their life trying to pay for an apartment, which sounds similar to the US, but according to Xiaolong and Guanwei, apartments in all Chnese cities (especially Beijing) are as much as or more than apartments in NYC. That is depressing. Many times since coming to China, people have mentioned how crowded it is, how there are too many people… lots of traffic, lots of construction to accommodate all of the people (but it’s not affordable), and bad air quality. The river near Nanjing was once swimmable, but according to Xiaolong, you would probably mutate if you swam in it now. Wah. I told him about the Ozarks in Missouri (oh, so far away!), and how it is different in the US because we have more land and fewer people, and our government has set aside areas for preservation. This is difficult to do in a place like China where most of the land has been under continuous cultivation for centuries. Of course, in the US we killed off or “resettled” the folks who were living there before we (Europeans, that is) came on the scene. Ugh.
After lunch and saying goodbye to Guanwei, Xiaolong and I visited the Confucius Temple and I bought and signed a prayer card and placed it along with thousands of other prayer cards on the railing of the main altar room. Confucius couldn’t read English, but maybe he’ll find it in his heart to help me finish my book-in-progress anyway.
Tonight, more yummy Chinese food. Tomorrow, back to Wuhan on the somewhat-fast train to my sweetheart.