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Monday, September 16th: Peking to Suzhou.

9月16日,周一:北京到苏州。

Where are the roads?

路都去哪了?

Suzhou is a big city (pop. five million) 600 miles south of Peking on the eastern bulge of China, fifty miles west of Shanghai. We go there from Peking by gaotie, five hours and change.

苏州是一个大城市。位于中国东部隆起位置,北京以南600英里,上海以西50英里,大约有500万人口。从北京乘高铁五个小时就到苏州,然后再转车。



Chiqian certainly got the directive. He has arranged for—and paid for—us to stay two nights at a special and very pricey hotel, the Garden. What’s special about it is, it was once a private estate belonging to Chiang Kai-shek. (Chiang was born about a hundred miles away in the next province.)

迟前肯定也收到了指令。他为我们安排并提前支付了两晚的费用,这是一家特别的而且非常昂贵的酒店——南苑宾馆。这家酒店的特别之处在于,这里曾经是蒋介石的私人庄园。(蒋介石出生在一百英里外的浙江省。)



As well as the Chiangs, many later notables have stayed at the Garden, most notably Mao Tse-tung’s hand-picked successor (until he tried to stage a coup) Lin Biao, who loved the place. They actually keep Lin’s car in a garage here: a great behemoth of a thing, Red Flag marque, license plate E 11097, badly in need of some detailing.

除了蒋介石夫妇,后来许多名人也曾住在这里,最著名的是林彪,他很喜欢这个地方。事实上,这家宾馆现在还把林彪的车停在车库里:一辆庞然大物,红旗牌,车牌苏E11097,不过这辆车该好好清洗清洗了。

Garden Hotel is a lovely place. In the lobby where we check in there is a little stage with, sitting on a stool and dressed in traditional costume, a very pretty young girl playing Chinese music on a pipa (Chinese lute). Oh, China.

南苑宾馆真不错。办理入住手续的大厅里有个小舞台,一位非常漂亮的年轻女孩,穿着传统服装坐在凳子上用琵琶演奏中国音乐。啊,这才是中国。

Tuesday, September 17th: Peking to Suzhou.

9月17日,周二:北京到苏州。

Sightsmelling in Suzhou

观味苏州

Suzhou is famously beautiful. It is yoked with neighbor city Hangzhou in a famous old couplet: “Above there is the Hall of Heaven, below there are Suzhou and Hangzhou.” (It rhymes in Chinese.)

苏州是出了名的漂亮。苏州和隔壁城市杭州经常出现在著名的对句中:“上有天堂,下有苏杭。”(中文押韵。)

So there are a lot of tourists, including laowais, i.e. non-Chinese. We actually see a whole flock of laowais at the Netmaster’s Garden.

所以这里有很多游客,包括老外,也就是外国人。我们在网师园就看到了一群老外。

“Flock”? I wonder aloud whether there should be a collective noun for laowais, like “school” for fish or “gaggle” for geese.

“flock(一群)”?我很想知道这是不是专门用来形容“老外”的集体名词,就像scool形容一群鱼,gaggle形容一群鹅一样。



Wednesday, September 18th: Suzhou.

9月18日,周三:苏州。

The temple on Cold Mountain

寒山寺



One of the best-loved of China’s old poems is Zhang Ji’s “Night Mooring at Maple Bridge,” fully covered by me here.

中国古诗中最受欢迎的一首是张继的《枫桥夜泊》,我在中国的时候读过这首诗。

As I describe, Maple Bridge is an actual place in Suzhou. I visited it in 2001 but omitted to get a photograph taken. Hoping to rectify this, I now head for the place; but it’s having some restoration work done and is out of bounds to visitors. Apparently the poetry gods don’t want me photographed at Maple Bridge.

正像我说的,苏州确实有枫桥这个地方。2001年我去过那里,但没有拍照片。为了纠正这个错误,我马上就来到了枫桥;可惜正在进行修复工作,禁止游客进入。显然诗神不希望我在枫桥拍照。

The “temple on Cold Mountain” from which Zhang heard the midnight bell is open for business, though.

尽管如此,张继听到夜半钟声的寒山寺依然营业。

And business is definitely what they are open for. There are 1.4 billion Chinese, and every blessed one of them learned that poem in school. For the temple, it’s a gold mine. They have it carved on a big stone slab in one of the temple courtyards.

而且寒山寺营业确实是为了生意。中国有14亿人口,所有人在学校里都学过这首诗。对寺庙来说,这就相当于一座金矿。寺庙的僧人把这首诗刻在了寺庙庭院的大石碑上。

Having failed to get a photograph taken at the bridge, I thought the next best thing would be to have one taken with the poem, so to that courtyard we went.

没能在枫桥上拍照留影,我想接下来最好的办法就是和这首诗来张合影,于是我们就进了寺院。

There were a couple of hundred people there with the same idea. I got my picture at last, but it was a long wait.

有好几百人和我有同样的想法。最终我如愿以偿拍了照,但是真的等了好久。



Like everybody else we’ve met here, Chiqian is pretty content with things as they are. Most Chinese people aren’t any of those things either, though. Most shrug and get along as best they can.

和我们遇到的其他人一样,迟前对现状非常满意。不过,大多数中国人都不属于这些人。大多数人只是耸耸肩,尽量和睦相处。

Thursday, September 19th: Suzhou to Hangzhou.

9月19日,周四:苏州到杭州。

Railroad station nightmares

火车站噩梦

Off this morning on the train to Hangzhou. The personal factor here is that one of Rosie’s college classmates, and so one of my students, now has a high position in the administration of a big STEM university there. She invited us to come and visit for a couple of days, staying at the college hotel, all expenses comped.

今天早上离开苏州,坐上了去杭州的火车。我们来杭州是因为这里有罗西的大学同学,也就是我的学生,现在是杭州电子科技大学(STEM科学、技术、工程、数学)管理层身居高位。她邀请我们到杭州住几天,她把我们安排在学校的宾馆,费用全免。

Our Hangzhou visit doesn’t start well. Hangzhou railroad station is about the size of Dallas, and not well signposted. We got totally lost on arrival, and it’s half an hour before we find our hostess, who has waited patiently for us with a college car and driver.

杭州之行一开始就不顺利。杭州火车站大约有达拉斯那么大,而且路标不是很清晰。我们下了火车就不知道东南西北了,半小时后我们才找到我们的女主人,她和司机在学校的车里耐心地等着。

(Hangzhou isn’t exceptional here. At this point I’m having nightmares about Chinese railroad stations. I could swear we have clocked up more miles wandering around the damn places looking for the ticket office, information booth, restrooms, or exit than we have actually riding the trains.)

杭州也不例外。此刻,我认为中国的火车站简直是噩梦。我敢发誓,我们在这个该死的地方找售票处、问讯处、洗手间或出口的路程,比我们坐火车的路程还长。

Language learning and mimicry

语言学习和模仿

Our hostess’s duties include supervision of the university’s many foreign students. When we get there at last around 11 am she excuses herself: “I have to go expel a student.” Off she goes, leaving us to settle in to our room at the college hotel.

杭州的女主人的职责包括管理这所大学许多外国留学生。当我们终于在上午11点左右到达学校时,她有事要离开一会,她说:“我要开除一个学生。”说完她就走了,我们在学院宾馆里住下了。

Later, over lunch with her, I ask her about the student she expelled. He was one of the internationals, from Morocco. His offense? “Marijuana. He was found in possession.” How did he get his hands on mary jane in China? “Brought it in with him.”

过一会,她过来和我们一起吃午饭,我问起了她开除的那个学生。这个学生来自摩洛哥。他犯什么事了?“大麻。我们发现他持有大麻。”他怎么在中国找到大麻烟的?“他自己带进来的。”



I lived in Africa. I knew multilingual Africans. While all of them seemed fluent, none could engage in the sort of conversations you and I have had together in any language. They could not read Robert Louis Stevenson. When your entire thought universe has a vocab of a couple thousand words, I think its easier to move into new languages … Japanese people judging a foreigner’s Japanese? Well. No one is ever going to criticize a foreigner’s Japanese.

我在非洲待过。我认识会说多种语言的非洲人。虽然他们说得很流利,但没有一个人能用其他语言像你我这样交谈。他们读不懂罗伯特·路易斯·史蒂文森。当你思想世界只有几千个词汇时,我认为学习一门新语言会更容易。日本人评价外国人的日语?好吧,还没有人会批评一个外国人的日语不好。

A different friend, not a Japanese speaker but a race realist:

另一个朋友,不会说日语,不过是以为种族现实主义者说:

What West Africans tend to be good at is mimicry. A lot of black comedians work that. Mimicry will quickly get you some way into a language, but no further. Your pal in Japan is right: you won’t be reading novels.

西非人最擅长模仿。很多黑人喜剧演员都擅长模仿。通过模仿能很快地掌握一门语言,但无法更进一步了。你那个住在日本的朋友说的不错:他们看不懂小说。

That sounds right to me. The early stages of language learning are mostly mimicry. Our hostess in Hangzhou speaks excellent English; but before we got here I spent ten days among people who spoke only Chinese (not counting the Mrs, of course). Rosie tells me my Chinese has improved considerably these ten days.

我觉得说的挺对。语言学习的早期阶段主要是模仿。我们杭州的东道主英语说得很好;但在我们到这里之前,我花了十天时间和只说中文的人在一起(当然不包括我老婆)。罗西说这十天我的中文进步很大。

A mutual acquaintance

共同的熟人

Our hostess is a very busy lady. This afternoon, when she is showing us her office, two male international students come in with documents she has to sign—something to do with immigration. The students look Central Asian.

我们的女主人很忙。今天下午,当她带我们参观办公室时,两个男国际学生拿了文件来让她签字——好像与移民有关。这两个学生看起来像中亚人。

While the documents are being read, I ask the students in English where they are from.

我们的女主人看文件时,我用英语问他们来自哪里。

He: “We are from Turkmenistan.”

学生:“土库曼斯坦。”

Me: “Ah—Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov!”

我:“呃,库尔班古力·别尔德穆哈梅多夫(土库曼总统)!”

The two students look at each other, giggle nervously, then turn away.

两个学生面面相觑,紧张地笑了笑,然后转身走了。

What is socialism?

什么是社会主义?

When I first got interested in politics fifty-something years ago, I quickly learned the meaning of socialism. It was printed right there on every Labour Party membership card: “Public ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.”

五十多年前,当我第一次对政治感兴趣时,我很快就明白了社会主义的意义。就是印在每位劳工证上面的:“生产方式、分配和交换的公有制。”

The ChiComs beg to differ. They have a big public campaign going on, with posters and displays all over, promoting the Twelve Principles of Socialism.

但中国有不同意见。中国正在进行一场大型的宣传活动,到处张贴海报和展示牌,宣传社会主义的十二个价值观。



I saw a cute example of wenming promotion in a public convenience at one of the Peking parks. Set in the wall above the urinal was a card with the message: Qianjin—xiao bu; Wenming—da bu
“Advance—a small step; civility—a big step.” It’s a rough equivalent of the sign sometimes seen on American urinals: “We aim to please. You aim too, please.”

在北京的公园里,我看到了公共场所“文明”得到提升的有趣的例子。便池上方的墙上挂着一块小牌子,上面写着: “前进一小步,文明一大步。”这大致相当于有时在美国一些小便池上的标识:“我们的目标是取悦你,你要做的就是瞄准。”