I'm back at Schipol airport, heading home after a hectic week and a half in China. I still have a few bits and pieces to write up, but I thought I'd post some images from Nanjing, where I visited the Liu Xie and Wenxin Diaolong Memorial Hall (<span class="chinese" lang="zh">刘勰与文心雕龙纪念馆</span>). I've long been an admirer of <em>The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons</em>, Liu's sixth century text on the nature and practice of writing, and as I'm writing about Liu at the moment, I thought I'd go and track him down. It proved to be more difficult than I initially thought it would. Pretty much the only information I could find on the Chinese internet was that — in accordance with the policy ‘Safety First, Prioritise Prevention’ — some months prior to my visit, the memorial hall had been fitted out with sixteen fire extinguishers (there was a photo of the top of a man’s head as he inspected a number of the new devices).
It took more than an hour of asking around, to establish that the hall was inside the site of the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum 明孝陵 . One security guard was very excited by my talking about carved dragons, and I had to physically resist his attempts to drag me in the wrong direction to a bridge somewhere of other with stone dragons on the balustrade. My protests that the carved dragons were a metaphor, and that they were part of the name of a book, were all in vain. In the end, a combination of determined wandering and sheer luck took me to the right place.
Anyway, it was worth the effort when I found it. Here are some images to give a flavour.
The hall was entirely deserted throughout the time I was there. For company, I only had the birds (a flock of them — the photo is a bit fuzzy, but let me know if you can identify them… some kind of warbler?), the insects and the statues of Liu.
I had provisioned myself with some water and strips of dried mango from the supermarket back in town, so I sat there for a long time, chewing on mango strips, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the peace. And as I listened to the sounds of the birds and watched the sun through the bamboo, I thought of the opening lines of Liu’s book. ‘Pattern is a very great power indeed. How is it not born alongside heaven and earth?’ .
You can get the full text of Liu’s work in English over on Project Gutenberg. The Chinese text is on Ctext.org.