Chinese cultural exchange

Today I went into Sydney to spend the day with Karen, who I haven’t seen since last Christmas Day when she and Nigel flew away home.

I really must say that she looked fantastic. I think Australia agrees with her…or perhaps London disagreed with her. Or, perhaps she is under less stress now. For whatever reason (and who really cares, anyway) she was radiant and happy.

One can’t say the same for the day. It was awful. I’d forgotten how humid Sydney can get; how thick with water the air can be. I’d forgotten how each step on a cloudy day in summer can produce about a gallon of perspiration. When we went back to Karen’s, she asked if I’d brought my swimmers with me as there’s a pool in the building. Oh, how I wish I had!

Still, the company was enough to make me (almost) forget my over-inflated core temperature as we tried to find our way around the maze that has been constructed at the base of the Sydney Tower, looking for a lovely French-style cafe. Which we found. And had a lovely salmon frittata.

After an exchange of news, both medical and familial, we started out for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where the terracotta warriors are being exhibited. Actually, the exhibition is called ‘The First Emperor – China’s entombed warriors’ as it deals with the guy who had the warriors created (Qin Shihuang) and the China that created him.

I missed it at the British Museum so was interested to see it. I remember Julie talking about going to a ‘do’ surrounded by them. According to Karen, who DID see it at the BM, this one is a cut down version. Still, it was very interesting although it’s difficult to gauge the scale of the burial site when looking at five soldiers and two horses, no matter how they try with audio visual trickery.

What I find more interesting, however, is the fact that this guy, who was but a child of 13 when he began his reign, was so insecure that he had all the history books burnt in order to proclaim that the history of China started with him. This is why he called himself the First Emperor. This was the idea of his prime minister, Li Si, who also convinced the emperor to have 460 scholars buried alive for using the ancient language of China. Nice guy!

In fact, looking at each of the characters highlighted by this exhibition, they were all cruel and obsessed with causing pain in as many ways as possible. We look at and admire the industry and artistry of the warriors, and yet, they were created by a culture that was cruel and blood thirsty, having no regard for anything except personal power, control and wealth.

Because it all happened so long ago (Qin lived 259-210 BC) I think we lose sight of how inhuman these people were. The Romans, Greeks and others throughout the West were all pretty bad as well but it is interesting how we still admire the art. This is something I’ll need to think about a bit more, as it’s only just occurred to me.

We admired the warrior statues then went back into the Sydney oven. We walked down via Darling Harbour to their new flat which is MASSIVE, with an interesting view from the balcony. I enjoyed a couple of Nigel’s beers and we chatted before walking back up to the bus stop.

On the way we ran into Nigel in his odd new hat and Carlos, an American guy they have befriended, who I took to instantly after he laughed at something I said. As Nigel noted, it was but a 15 second meeting, as I had a bus to catch and he a baseball to bash about.

It was a lovely day and I even convinced Karen to pose for a picture (or two). I really like this one.

A very rare photograph of Karen

Though today’s blip is quite cute too. See it here.

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