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Thursday, September 12th: Siping.

9月12日,星期四:四平。

Celebrity!

名人!

Siping is a town in northeast China. I lived and worked there for the academic year 1982-3, lecturing in English at what was then Siping Normal (i.e. teacher-training) College. Rosie (pictured right)was one of my students. Another one—a classmate of Rosie’s, now a lecturer himself—has invited us up there to look at the place 36 years on from when we knew it.

四平是中国东北的一座小城市。1982- 1983学年,我在那里工作和生活,在当时的四平师范学院教英语。罗西(图右)是我的学生。另一位是罗西的同学,现在是大学讲师,他邀请我们到36年前工作和生活过的地方看看。



If I myself stopped walking and just stood still a while, a big crowd would gather to look at me. A couple of times they blocked traffic and police were running round blowing whistles to clear the road. (Another foreign teacher joined the staff in Spring of 1983.)

如果我停下来站一会儿,一大群人就会过来围观我。有好几次围观人群甚至堵塞了交通,交警吹着口哨跑来跑去疏散交通。1983年春天,又来了一位外籍教师。

I left the college in 1983 under somewhat of a cloud, after considerable drama. Apparently nobody minds this 36 years on. If anything, it seems only to enhance my celebrity appeal.

1983年,在经历了相当多的波折后,我带着些许郁闷的心情离开了学校。不过36年过去了,已经没有人会在意了。就算有什么影响,那也是提高了我的知名度。

Now the president of the university and two of his deputies honor us with a meeting and present us with gifts. I make a short speech in my awful Chinese. They treat us to an excellent Chinese lunch.

校长和两位副校长为我们举行了见面会,并向我们赠送了礼物。我用蹩脚的中文做了简短的演讲。他们请我们吃了顿丰盛的中国大餐。

Geoffrey told us beforehand that much of the university’s rapid expansion has been accomplished just the past few years by this president, whose name is Yang Jinghai. Over lunch we ask President Yang how he raised the necessary funds. “By working my contacts nonstop,” he replied with disarming frankness. So I guess being a college president is much the same anywhere.

杰弗里事先已经告诉我们,这所大学现在能扩张到这么大规模,很大部分上都是杨景海校长过去几年完成的。吃饭的时候,我们问杨校长如何筹措到必要的资金。“一直不停地联络”杨校长回答的很坦率。我想其他地方的大学校长也差不多吧。

[Added later. Talking with Geoffrey and his colleagues, I came away much impressed with President Yang. He is handsome and dapper, quietly courteous, well into his fifties but looks twenty years younger. Everyone spoke well of him. “He gets things done and he treats people fairly,” we were told—the defining characteristics of a good boss, in China or any other country, in the 21st or any other century, in college administration or any other kind of management.]

【后加的。和杰弗里以及他的同事聊过后,我对杨校长的印象更深刻了。他英俊潇洒、精明干练、彬彬有礼,五十多岁了,看上去好像年轻了二十岁。大家对他评价挺高。“他是个干事的人,而且待人比较,”大家告诉我们,无论是中国还是外国,无论是21世纪还是其他什么时候,无论是大学管理还是其他行业,杨校长就是好老板的典型】

After lunch we take a tour of the university, trying without much success to locate what we are seeing in our mental memory-maps of the place 36 years ago. My old office is still there at least, now occupied by a Japanese lady instructor. So is the room they fixed up for me in a student dorm building, now used for storage.

吃完饭,我们参观了学校,试图找出我们脑海里36年前的地方,不过大部分地方已经面目全非了。还好我原来的办公室还在,现在里面是一位日本女教师。当时学校在学生宿舍为我准备的房间现在也成了储藏室了。



I occupied my non-working hours just walking around the town, getting a feel for the place and practicing my Chinese on the hapless townsfolk. I soon new Siping well enough to work up a decent map. I have printed off a copy of the map and brought it with me, to compare the town I knew in 1982-3 with the one I find in 2019.

不用上班的时候,我就在城市四处闲逛,感受了一下这个地方,并在那些倒霉的城里人身上练习汉语。我很快就把四平的情况弄清楚了,我自己绘出了一幅像样的地图。我打印了一份当时绘的地图,带在身边,把我1982到1983年认识的四平和2019年的四平做比较。

As with the college, the transformation is dramatic. Old Siping, east of the railroad tracks, was a chancrous slum of one-story workers’ hovels back then; now that’s all gone, replaced by decent-looking high-rise apartment blocks. The railroad station is state-of-the-art, totally unrecognizable.

和四平学院一样,四平市的变化也非常巨大。铁路东侧的老四平,曾经是贫民窟,工人居住在一层的小平房里;现在全都没有了,取而代之的是更漂亮的高层公寓楼。老火车站已经无法辨认了,现在是现代化的火车站。

The town itself has spread over what back then were open fields. The hotel is still in place, but the police station next to it has been moved elsewhere.

城镇当时散布在开阔的田野上。旅馆还在,但是隔壁的公安局已搬到别处去了。

South Lake Park is also still there, much improved, with carefully-tended flower-beds, neat lawns, and plenty of seating. This Thursday afternoon it’s full of old people. So is what used to be Children’s Park, across from the hotel—it’s now named something else.

南湖公园还在,公园设施好了很多,精心照料的花坛、整齐的草坪和大量座位。现在正是星期四,下午公园到处都是老人。旅馆对面曾经是儿童公园,现在也改名了。



China is ageing quickly, as would be expected from its falling fertility rates and lengthening life expectancy. The median Chinese citizen remained in his/her twenties throughout the first forty years or so of the People’s Republic, but in the first fifteen years of the twenty-first century the median age has risen by seven years. This is nearly three times the speed of ageing experienced in the UK and the US, and the trend will continue … Those aged over sixty as a share of the population will pass the share in the United States in around 2030.

中国正在迅速老龄化。就像我们从其下降的生育率和延长的预期寿命中所能预期的那样。中国人的年龄中位数在20世纪中期的40年中都保持在20多岁,但在21世纪的头15年中,其年龄中位数增加了7岁。这几乎是英国和美国老龄化速度的3倍,并且这种趋势还将持续。……中国60岁以上人口占比会在2030年左右超过美国。

The U.N. gives China’s total fertility rate (TFR) as 1.5, but Morland thinks 1.2 is likelier. China, like most other developed countries, is heading over the demographic cliff.

联合国的数据现实:中国总生育率是1.5,但莫兰认为更有可能是1.2。与大多数其他发达国家一样,中国也正在跌入老人悬崖。

The world’s top ten TFRs: Niger (6.35), Angola (6.09), Burundi (5.93), Chad (5.90), Mali (5.90), Somalia (5.70), Uganda (5.62), Zambia (5.58), Malawi (5.43), South Sudan (5.34).

全球总生育率前十:尼日尔(6.35)、安哥拉(6.09)、布隆迪(5.93)、乍得(5.90)、马里(5.90)、索马里(5.70)、乌干达(5.62)、赞比亚(5.58)、马拉维(5.43)、南苏丹(5.34)。

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s not economics that’s the dismal science, it’s demography.

我之前说过,我再说一遍:经济学不是一门悲观的科学,人口学才是。

Low-speed rail travel

普快列车旅行



QR-Code Nation

二维码国家

A QR code is one of those squares you see sometimes at points of sale, packed with teenier black and white squares in random-looking patterns.

二维码就是你在买东西的地方看到的那些正方形,上面布满了随机排列的黑白小方块。



I have never used a QR code. My only engagement with these beasties came when, a few months ago, Coinbase started asking for one when I tried to log in to my Bitcoin account. Clueless, I called in my tech-savvy son, who did something that fixed it.

我从来没用过二维码。我第一次遇到二维码是几个月前,当我试图登录比特币账户时,交易所要求提供二维码。弄得我一头雾水,我把精通技术的儿子叫来,他捯饬了一会就弄好了。

In China QR codes are everywhere, and have pretty much taken over from cash. You pay the taxi with a QR code. (Scanned from your smartphone, of course. You don’t have a smartphone? Say WHAT?) You buy a cup of coffee with a QR code. To raise the entry barrier to some secure compound, you lean out of your car window and show your QR code to a security camera.

在中国,二维码无处不在,并且已经完全取代了现金。坐出租车要用二维码支付。(当然是从智能手机上扫描的。没有智能手机?你说什么?),还可以用二维码买咖啡。进入安全的小区,你要想把抬起小区的横杆,就要将身体探出车窗,向安全摄像头出示二维码。

The joke we heard was that beggars in China don’t bother asking for cash. They just get a T-shirt printed up with a QR code on it and let you scan. I’m not sure it’s a joke.

我们听到一个笑话,在中国,乞丐不用费力去讨钱。只要把二维码印在T恤上就可以了。我觉得这不算笑话。



In the States there’d be an -ism there somewhere, with protest marches, support groups, and tear-jerky victim stories. In Peking no-one seems much bothered.

美国到处都是各种主义、抗议游行、支持团体、催人泪下的受害者故事。北京似乎没有这种烦恼。

Saturday, September 14th: Peking.

9月14日,周六:北京。

Breakfast treats

早餐食物

One of my subversive pleasures in China is spotting really bad Chinglish in translated signs and notices.

我在中国的破坏性乐趣是在英文标识和告示中发现很糟糕的中式英语。

At breakfast this morning I netted my first butterfly this trip. The hotel’s breakfast buffet includes a table with various kinds of rolls and buns, each with a helpful label in Chinese and Chinglish identifying the ingredients. One bears the Chinese name with, under it, the helpful legend Intestinal bag.

今天吃早饭的时候,第一次碰到了这种情况。酒店的自助早餐包括各式各样的面包卷和果子面包,每一种早点旁边都用中文和中式英语标签标明了食材。其中一个上面写着中文名,下面写着肠袋(Intestinal bag)。

Fair makes your mouth water, doesn’t it?

确实让你口水直流,不是吗?

(I’m not sure this counts as true Chinglish: The Chinese changzai bao really does mean “intestinal bag.”)

(我不确定这算不算真正的中式英语:中文的肠仔包真的是“肠袋”的意思。)

The Summer Palace

圆明园



注:后附《霸夫兵团二等兵》全文。第二次鸦片战争期间当时有一个英国的霸夫步兵团(the Buffs),其中一名二等兵约翰·莫耶斯(John Moyes),这个最低等士兵和一些随军的锡克人在护送酒时被僧格林沁俘虏,同样也让他们磕头,锡克人因磕头免于一死,但英国的二等兵拒不磕头最终被斩首。

Sunday, September 15th: Peking.

9月15日,星期天:北京。

At the White Stupa

北海白塔



Still more sightseeing, today to Beihai Park just north of the Forbidden City. This is the park with the huge white stupa on an island in a lake.

继续游览北京,今天去紫禁城北面的北海公园。这座公园的湖中小岛是有一座巨大的白塔。

The park is officially closed to the public as part of the lockdown leading up to National Day, but Uncle has found a work-around somehow, as you generally can in China (and as several hundred other people apparently also have).

因为国庆即将到来,这里也被禁止进入,公园正式对公众关闭,但姨夫不知想了个什么变通的办法,我们还是进入了公园,在中国你经常能遇到这种情况。显然公园里的其他几百人也同样做到了。

Climbing up to the base of the stupa and reading the historical plaque there, I learn that the thing was badly damaged by the dreadful 1976 Tangshan earthquake. I didn’t know that. Ten percent of Peking’s buildings were damaged, says Wikipedia, and fifty people died. Given that Peking is ninety miles from Tangshan—which was utterly wiped out with hundreds of thousands dead—that was some heck of an earthquake.

我爬到佛塔底部,阅读历史介绍板上的文字,得知这座塔在1976年唐山大地震中严重受损。我不知道唐山大地震。维基百科称,北京离唐山只有90英里,唐山大地震时,北京10%的建筑被毁,50人死亡。而唐山则被夷为平地,成千上万的人丧生,这真是场可怕的地震。

(It was also, ahem, a key plot point in Fire from the Sun, Chapter 19.)

(咳,这也是《太阳的火焰》第19章中的关键情节。)

Bilingual China

双语中国



It seems at any rate that on the cosmopolitan/communitarian issue the Chinese are aiming for a point of balance more sensible than ours: to globalize somewhat by accommodating foreigners and their main language, while maintaining secure borders, traditional folk arts, and ethnic stability in their own homeland.

无论如何,在世界主义,在一些问题上,中国人打算寻找一个比我们更明智的平衡点:通过接纳外国人和他们的主要语言,在一定程度上实现全球化,同时保持安全的边界、保护传统民间艺术和实现国家民族稳定。

A night at the Peking opera

晚上看京剧

Traditional folk arts, yes. Our hotel puts on a Peking opera show at weekends. To close out the Peking segment of our trip, I thought we should go see the Sunday performance as a tribute to the city’s very own art form.

京剧是传统民间艺术。我们居住的酒店周末上演京剧。为了给这次北京之旅来个完美的结局,我想我们应该去看周日的演出,以此向这座城市特有的艺术形式致敬。



I think we have paid full and proper respect to the nation’s capital. Tomorrow to Suzhou.

我认为我们对这个国家的首都给予了完全和特有的尊重。明天去苏州。