Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Flying Tigers and Shenawlt

Before going to Chongqing, I had never heard of Chennault, despite his appearing on the cover of Time and Life during the course of the Second World War. I had heard of Four-Star General Joseph Stilwell, relieved of command by FDR in 1944, but was not familiar with Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault (September 6, 1893 – July 27, 1958). In one of the most infamous internecine debates of the war, Stilwell differed as to strategy with his subordinate, Claire Chennault, who had the ear of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. In the end, Chiang Kai-shek asked FDR to recall Stilwell and replace him with anybody else, because "Vinegar Joe", who would die of stomach cancer a couple years later, could not cooperate with his Allies or Chinese leadership. 

A contentious officer, Chennault was a fierce advocate of "pursuit" or fighter-interceptor aircraft during the 1930s when the U.S. Army Air Corps was focused primarily on high-altitude bombardment. Chennault retired in 1937, went to work as an aviation trainer and adviser in China, and commanded the "Flying Tigers" during World War II, both the volunteer group and the uniformed units that replaced it in 1942. His family name is French and is normally pronounced shen-o. However, his family being Americanized, the name was instead pronounced "shen-AWLT."

My photograph of the bust of Gen. Stilwell on a rainy Thursday morning in Chongqing.
In Chongqing, there are two museums right across from each other. The one that gets the attention and glory is the headquarters of Stilwell, but there is so little to see and I was reprimanded for taking pictures of the sparsely furnished apartments. Across the street is the gem: the museum of the Flying Tigers. Lots of fairly well-written captions and a series of photographs brought me up to speed and filled me in about the air campaign in Burma during WWII. If the two museums would combine and seek some serious donations of planes and other paraphernalia, this sleepy little street could become one of the most important tourist stops in the city.

Further down this 1.5 lane, two-way byway is the gate to the property that served as the headquarters of Stilwell.

The entrance to the Flying tigers Museum could easily be missed.

The baseball bat used by the Flying Tigers. Sooo cool!

The dining room of the Stilwell residence. The only picture I was able to capture.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

For the Gorgeous San Xia!

I bought a book: The Magnificent Three Gorges Project. It was 120RMB with ten postcards thrown in for free. It is in dreadful Chinglish and the preface, signed by "Editors", concludes with:
  • For workers of the Three Gorges Project!
  • For people move out of their hometown in reservoir area!
  • For friends who loves the Three Gorges!
  • For the originators who brought culture here!
  • For the grandness Three Gorges Project!
  • For the eternal Three Gorges!
This chant should give you a sense of the book's perspective. There is even a section on how the dam is ready for the "menace of war." The book opens with the magnificent Mao Zedong's magnificent poem, called "Swimming" scrawled in his magnificent calligraphy.

Ma Zedong's "Swimming"
In 1956, the year my nearly eighty year-old father graduated from Harvard ("tough as nails, hard a bricks"), Mao is said to have offered a blueprint for the project, but the people of the Yangtze River valley would need to wait until 1992 for the National People's Congress to resolve that it should be constructed. Even Sun Yat-sen had designs on tapping the power of China's greatest river.

Lonely Planet, among other unreliable sources, contends that it is the largest dam in the world. By only one measure is it so. It has the world's largest instantaneous generating capacity (22,500 MW), with the Itaipu dam in Brazil/Paraguay in second place (14,000 MW). The highest dam is an earthen embankment type dam of 300 M in Tajikistan. Hirakud Dam in Orissa, India, is the longest in the world. It is 26 km or 16 miles long. Also, the Afsluitdijk in the Netherlands, build between 1927 and 1932, is 30 km long [32.5 km if you take the parts on land into account]. It divides the Zuiderzee [now called IJsselmeer] and the Waddenzee so it is really a dam, not a dijk.

It is not the largest lock in the world, either. It takes about 40 minutes to go through each of the five steps. This picture shows the second set of doors closing aft of the Princess Jeannie (our cruise ship), followed by a picture taken several minutes later that shows how it drains.

Of course, the beautiful parts of the Three Gorges are what remains of the natural environment.

One of the only places in the world where water flows uphill! (Just kidding.)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ad from the Chongqing Rail Transit

For obvious reasons, I am dedicating this entry to my parents, but with the caveat that I would find this ad repulsive in the United States, but in the land of Confucian filial piety, I find it even more horrendous and distasteful. Perhaps I am giving the Lee's what they want by sharing their ad. I hope not.

China and Building an Ecological Civilization

Global Trends Informing A Twenty Year Plan for Ecological Transformation

by Roy Morrison (Director, Office for Sustainability, Southern New Hampshire University)

 "We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy – sun, wind and tide. I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Thomas Edison, 1931.

“47 days of desert sun would be equivalent to all known fossil fuel reserves, and 274 days would be the equivalent to all known and expected resources. The deserts have more potential in one year than all fossil fuels ever recoverable on the planet. Of course, that is on top of whatever solar and other renewable capacity is developed outside of the desert areas.” Gerhard Knies, 2006.

China in the 21st century is rapidly emerging as global industrial and economic leader, and faces challenges and opportunities that ultimately will be understood as representing the successful transformation from an industrial to an ecological civilization, or, alternatively, the descent into an epochal ecological crisis.

China, if it seizes the opportunity, can become the prosperous and sustainable leader of a growing global ecological civilization in the 21st century and beyond. The technology, the knowledge, the entrepreneurial energy,and the financial resources are available to accomplish this transformation. But this will require major changes in current path of economic development in China, and in the rest of industrial civilization.

(read the rest at

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Yangtze River Cruise on the Princess Jeanne

This post has some words that may not please your mother so be forewarned.

A lot has happened since I last updated you. Instead of going on the Chinese tour that left at 4PM on Saturday, I joined a 4-Star international tour which departed at 10PM after a 6:30PM boarding call. When I spoke to the necessary middleman who books tours for Tina's Hostel, I was already in the car sitting in the backseat. He did what so many of us do and started calling or texting and crashed the car! I think I am alright, but had a doozie of a headache till bedtime. We did not get hit from behind luckily, but he did serious cosmetic damage and destroyed at least a tire and probably a rim. Unfortunately, he did not know how to change a tire so yours truly did it. We hoisted the spare out of the boot and stayed in the left fucking lane, despite a municipal employee who stopped in his street-sweeper to say we should move over to the breakdown in front of two large trucks that were parked there. We were so close to the curb (perhaps a centimeter or two more than the width of the tire) that we could not turn the jack handle properly and the whole process took a long time, but just as I tightened the lug nuts, his friend showed up. He drove us to the headquarters where the bargaining commenced. I talked them down from 3000 to 2000RMB for this tour, which fulfills a life-long dream of mine, but I still think that I was ripped off.

Amusingly, aside from a group of eight German undergraduates ranging in age from 22 to 24 or so, the only other waiguoren is from Spain. Accompanying the Germans is a Swede; they are all international law students in Beijing. Mr. Sesma, the Spaniard, and Mr. Lee share a table for two (the only occupied table for two) in the dining room that is located right where everybody must parade past. It is embarrassing!

It is the Golden Week or combined holiday of Mid-Autumn Festival, which fell on September 30 this year, and National Day. Mid-Autumn Festival is a celebration of the moon commemorated by the re-telling of the story of Chang'an and by eating moon cakes. I snapped this photograph of the moon on October 1st, as it was going down in the morning.

Sunrise on National Day, taken from the deck of our cruise boat.

The meals on board ship are excellent and we even had a half mooncake each for supper last evening. (Riddle me this: Are you supposed to wait two weeks to eat half a mooncake or should it have been eaten two weeks ago?)

My cabin is lovely and bigger than the hotel room that I occupied in Narita, Japan, care of Continental Airlines. Unfortunately, the air does not turn off, but I have a port-side window on the fourth deck. The game room and bar is ten steps from my door, but the majong and smoking stops at midnight so the noise does not keep me up. My preference is to descend to the third deck and enjoy some local tea from the Three Gorges region.

We are parked in a port now so that those who want to pay 270RMB can see the White Emperor City. I debarked and bought some tea, some Sichuan spices, and a jar of red pepper for my girlfriend, having bought a grab bag of special Sichuan and Chongqing culinary delights yesterday, when I went to the China Three Gorges Museum. That museum is excellent and free with numerous, diverse exhibits!

I really enjoyed the section of the museum dedicated to the disrupted ecology of the Three Gorges region, but the signage was over the top. One wonders if Hydro-Quebec is so bold in making claims about the improvement of Cree lives from relocation.

"A Steady Trip to Getting Rich"

"Personal Sacrifice for the Public Interest"

"No matter How Hard, not Delay Resettlement"

Other parts of the museum were also interesting. I skipped only the exhibit on ancient Chinese money, because it seems to recur in various forms at all provincial museums. There were the sort of Madame Tussaud-meets-Sturbridge Village manikins engaged in all sorts of ancient crafts, which I saw in Shanghai last May. One was doing the laundry!

Ebony, which I never knew before, is not a species of wood, but a sort of version of petrified
wood from thee bottom of rivers, if you trust the sign,

Amazing helmet!
The museum is located right across from the large assembly hall for which I paid 10RMB to gain entry. One can imagine Deng Xiaoping, Zhou Enlai or even Bo Xilai striding out on to the stage to whip up a packed house. It is an amalgamation of ancient Chinese architecture and the modern penchant for making everything out of scale.