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Friday, September 20th: Hangzhou.
Does he drink white liquor?
I am under the weather this morning—listless, sleepy. Too many changes of air, too many banquets.
No, this is not a hangover. Sure, we had a banquet last night with white liquor, but I didn’t get drunk. I’ve had hangovers, including white liquor hangovers; I know from hangovers; this isn’t one. I’m just under the weather.
This is a shame, as we had intended to spend today circumambulating West Lake, the most famous beauty spot in Hangzhou.
The circumambulation is about six miles. I just barely make it.
In the subway going back to our hotel I sit opposite a young male Chinese albino—the first I can recollect ever seeing.


Down the blue-red gradient
Our contact in Shaoxing is another 1983 graduate of Siping Normal College, name of Yibing. He teaches at a big private university here. (The 19th Party Congress in 2017 passed resolutions encouraging private entrepreneurs to set up institutions of higher education. Entrepreneurs have responded enthusiastically. There’s money in higher ed., and of course prestige—a grand building with your name on it.)
Shaoxing is a smaller, less touristy place than Hangzhou or Suzhou, so we have come a few steps down the cosmopolitan-communitarian (metropolitan-provincial, blue-red) gradient here. There are more guys smoking (hardly any women); there’s noticably more spitting and less orderly queueing; and perhaps private automobile ownership is less settled-in here than in the big cities; at any rate, we see our first Chinese fender-bender here this morning.


As in Hangzhou, we are put up at the university’s own hotel, staffed largely by students taking courses in hotel management.
I notice that our room number begins with the digits 85, yet it’s on the fifth floor. Our room number in the Peking hotel began with 83, but it was on the third floor. So … what’s with those superfluous eights?
I ask Rosie. She: “Eight is lucky.”


The museum—it was actually Lu’s childhood home: he was a native of Shaoxing—is very atmospheric. I mooch around happily and buy Lu Xun tchotchkes: bookmarks with Lu Xun quotes (e.g. “If you don’t explode in the dark, you will die in the dark”), a Lu Xun keychain fob, a chinese fan with another quote (“The highest felicity in human life is to find one person who understands you”).
They even have a room where you can play a Lu Xun board game, printed up on paper and trapped under transparent plastic table covers. I want to buy one but they’re not for sale. My next idea was to have Rosie distract the person supervising the room so I could slip one game out from under its plastic sheet, but Rosie wouldn’t go along.



Monday, September 23rd: Shaoxing to Hangzhou, then the overnight train to Chongqing.
Another Yellow topia
Of the roughly 300 people waiting at Shaoxing railroad station for the 14:48 train to Hangzhou on Monday afternoon, 95 percent are attending to their smartphones. One is writing in a notebook. A few others are dozing or sitting looking at nothing. Not one is reading anything printed on paper—a book, a magazine, a newspaper.
Every one but me is Chinese. (Well, East Asian. Possibly there is a Korean or Japanese in there somewhere.) Outside the colleges and some specialized zones in the biggest cities, mainland China, like Taiwan, is a Yellowtopia.