I’m back at Schipol airport, heading home after a hectic week and a half in China. I still have a few bits and pieces to write up, but I thought I’d post some images from Nanjing, where I visited the Liu Xie and Wenxin Diaolong Memorial Hall (刘勰与文心雕龙纪念馆). I’ve long been an admirer of The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, Liu’s sixth century text on the nature and practice of writing, and as I’m writing about Liu at the moment, I thought I’d go and track him down. It proved to be more difficult than I initially thought it would. Pretty much the only information I could find on the Chinese internet was that — in accordance with the policy ‘Safety First, Prioritise Prevention’ — some months prior to my visit, the memorial hall had been fitted out with sixteen fire extinguishers (there was a photo of the top of a man’s head as he inspected a number of the new devices).
It took more than an hour of asking around, to establish that the hall was inside the site of the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum 明孝陵 . One security guard was very excited by my talking about carved dragons, and I had to physically resist his attempts to drag me in the wrong direction to a bridge somewhere of other with stone dragons on the balustrade. My protests that the carved dragons were a metaphor, and that they were part of the name of a book, were all in vain. In the end, a combination of determined wandering and sheer luck took me to the right place.
Anyway, it was worth the effort when I found it. Here are some images to give a flavour.
The hall was entirely deserted throughout the time I was there. For company, I only had the birds (a flock of them — the photo is a bit fuzzy, but let me know if you can identify them… some kind of warbler?), the insects and the statues of Liu.
I had provisioned myself with some water and strips of dried mango from the supermarket back in town, so I sat there for a long time, chewing on mango strips, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the peace. And as I listened to the sounds of the birds and watched the sun through the bamboo, I thought of the opening lines of Liu’s book. ‘Pattern is a very great power indeed. How is it not born alongside heaven and earth?’ .
You can get the full text of Liu’s work in English over on Project Gutenberg. The Chinese text is on Ctext.org.