Monday, October 01, 2007

Cathay Yesterday... Yesteryear

It was one year ago today that I boarded a plane in Shanghai to return home from my Chinese journey. That was certainly one of the most memorable trips of my life. We don't have any trips to China scheduled for now at work, but hopefully I will get to go again. If not for work, I will certainly have to go some day on my own to revisit the friends I made there, and further explore that vast and rich culture.

Since then I've continued to study the Chinese language, but not enough to be proficient. I've actually only studied diligently for the past month or so. In November my friend Zhao Gang came to St. Louis for some training, and he and a friend found time to come to my house for tacos and ice cream, which I know they enjoyed. I wanted to serve something I did not see in China, and Mexican cuisine was not to be found anywhere, even in Shanghai.

Above is a picture of Eric, Li Jian, and me at an outstanding German restaurant called Paulaners in the Pudong New Area in Shanghai on the second night. I think I had the beef knuckle. It was delicious! We ate there on the last night too (after we had been to Wuhan and back).

If you're at all interested in how to interpret Chinese characters, I urge you to read the two sample chapters of Communicating in Chinese (Yale Press) that are provided online. This book teaches you to read Chinese by showing you how the symbols evolved from their primitive beginnings as actual pictures, to the more complex characters they've become.

After the readings, you may feel enough swagger to chance a guess at what some of the symbols on this rock behind Eric and I mean... Well, if you can read it, good one on ya, because even our friend Jarod Li, who took this picture, was having trouble deciphering it. The picture was taken at East Lake in Wuhan. It's evidently a very old script. Pretty fun to try reading it though. If I remember right, it tells the story of why a nearby bridge was finally built as a symbol of peace between two warring clans.

Sorry, but I did leave that picture at its original size, so you can click on it to see the characters at high resolution.

Another great resource, if you're interested in learning Chinese, is the MIT OpenCourseWare sight. They have posted no less than 6 Chinese language courses, plus one Chinese literature class, and a culture class online. I highly recommend you pay them a visit, and if you can, make a donation!

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