Friday, March 21, 2014

Agricultural Tour in China on the Horizon

On Monday, May 26, an old college friend of mine, who just received tenure as a professor of history at the University of Kansas, will click her heels and land in Shanghai without her dog Toto. I am honored to be her travel companion and guide. 

She is coming, eventually, to a conference in Beijing that will feature William Cronon of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The focus of her trip surrounding the conference is learning about agriculture and history so we are making plans to go to Guilin to see them fish with cormorants beneath the terraces of rice paddies, cut into the spectacular hillsides of that unique geographic region. 

We will also make a sojourn to a tea-growing region, quite possibly Huang Shan, or Yellow Mountain, which is not too far from Shanghai. I hope we get a chance to see some sericulture and aquaculture, as well. Sericulture is the making of silk. Aquaculture is the way a large percentage of the fish we consume are grown. 

I have coached her to read about Xu Guangxi and look for his Nong Zheng Quan Shu, an agricultural treatise that deals with irrigation, fertilizers, famine relief, economic crops, and empirical observation with early notions of chemistry. It is an enormous work, some 700,000 written Chinese characters. Although the final draft was not completed  by the time of his death in 1633, the famous Jiangnan scholar Chen Zilung assembled a group of scholars to edit the draft, publishing it in 1639.

The topics covered by his book are:
  • The Fundamentals of Agriculture (Nong Ben): quotations from the classics on the importance of encouraging agriculture
  • Field System (Tian Zhi): land distribution, field management
  • Agricultural Tasks (Nong Shi): clearing land, tilling; also a detailed exposition on settlement schemes
  • Water Control (Shui Li): various methods of irrigation, types of irrigation equipment, and the last two chapters devoted to new Western-style irrigation equipment
  • Illustrated Treatise on Agricultural Implements (Nong Chi Tu Pu): based largely on Wang Zhen's book of 1313 AD
  • Horticulture (Shi Yi): vegetables and fruit
  • Sericulture (Can Sang): silk production
  • Further Textile Crops (Can Sang Guang Lei): cotton, hemp, etc.
  • Silviculture (Chong Chi): forestry preservation
  • Animal Husbandry (Mu Yang)
  • Culinary Preparations (Zhi Zao)
  • Famine Control (Huang Zheng): administrative measures, famine flora

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Guiding Ladies (?): Opening or Reform?

Today's English version of China Daily features some pictures of guiding ladies. We also frequently "get to see" airline stewardesses and models at fashion shows and car shows, etc. as the pictures of the day. Nobody is disputing the beauty of Chinese women, but I think it cheapens the publication to indulge its reader's thus. Worse, it objectifies women. 

Guiding ladies wear identical red work uniforms on the opening day of the 2nd Session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 3, 2014. About 2,200 members of the CPPCC National Committee will discuss major issues concerning the country's development during the annual session scheduled to conclude on March 12.[Photo/]
"...will discuss major issues..." seems oddly juxtaposed with the chosen image.

Today, National Public Radio had the following story: Corruption Blurs the Lines of Chinese Mistress Culture.* It mentions James Palmer's article Aeon Magazine and anthropologist Tiantian Zheng, who spent two years studying sex workers in China and wrote the book Red Lights: The Lives of Sex Workers in Post-Socialist China

I am reading the Pope's first solo apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, where this celibate primate writes with compassion: 
I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour? Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone! This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.
Appearances are everything! 

*The Stitcher app, I believe, picks podcast stories that it thinks I might like to hear. How they arrived at this "suggestion" from my listening to 5 minutes of Garrison Kehler's Writer's Almanac, 59 minutes of Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!, and 4 minute hourly updates from NPR: Hourly News Summary is an open question.

Monday, March 3, 2014

When in Beijing...

The dark purple means very unhealthy and the rust color, hazardous:

On Saturday afternoon, when the weather (and the air!) was good, I took a walk and went quite far away to a big, famous plant shop that was nowhere near as large as Changchun's market. I went equipped with a list of  plants that clean indoor air, which I found on the Internet.

I ended up buying a couple of off-list items, including an orchid and a little kumquat tree like the one my paternal grandmother used to have--only mine is so small it sits on my desk now!