16 November, 2009

The nine nations of China

In honor of President Obama's first trip to China, Fallows links to a helpful multimedia presentation of China's "nine nations" - the nine very, very different regions that underly the modern fiction of a culturally homogenous Han China. Check it out, its fun and informative.

My favorite section is on the South Sea region, home to the perennial Cantonese rebel, Hong Kong:

The South Sea coast is China’s Back Door, far enough from the centers of power that nobody will notice if you bend a few rules. As locals put it, “The sky is broad and the emperor is far away.” Officials who were exiled to Yueh, as this land was once known, found it a fearful place whose inhabitants spoke strange dialects—Cantonese, mainly—and feasted on snakes, cats, and monkeys. But its clan-based villages, lush jungles, and rocky inlets offered ideal shelter for smugglers and secret societies to flourish. Unlike their staid northern cousins, these freebooters learned to take risks and profit from them. Other Chinese regard southerners as clever, sharp, and a bit slippery. But as rebels and renegades, emigrants and entrepreneurs, they infuse much needed flexibility and creativity into an otherwise rigid system.

God I miss Hong Kong.

1 comment:

Cassady said...

I love all the slight shadings of Victorian-era Orientalism shot throughout the descriptions. Even the names he gives to each province or group of territories; "The Refuge," "The Frontier."

And he fills them with such mysterious and compelling "others" like Mongol nomads riding o'er the steppes, and *gasp* Muslim Uighurs.

Maybe it's not quite that bad, but Orientalism in post-modern journalism and writing could still be a compelling thesis for certain English majors...