I finished reading John Pomfret’s book called Chinese Lessons. Great book and great idea and amazing experience. The book came out almost 3 years ago so I have little to say that hasn’t been said. But I found 16 interesting quotations from his book that I thought I would share. I urge you to get the book and read it. FASCINATING! (The italics after the quote are comments from me!)
1. “A doctor of herbal medicine examined her tongue, felt her pulse, and pronounced it was a boy.”
Imagine if it was that easy?!
2. “China’s college entrance process seemed designed to maximize stress.”
Isn’t that the truth. MX totally agrees.
3. “Also there was the inborn Chinese reluctance to divulge one’s plans for the future…the best policy is to keep mum about any ambitions, however humble they might be.”
Is that true? I’m not sure! What are your plans for the future?
4. “Little Guan’s worries about living with a foreigner didn’t go away immediately. Her view of non-Chinese was the standard one: they had big noses, pink skin and curvy bodies, which stank. Foreigners showered in the morning, not at night, and after lunch, they did not nap, a necessity for most Chinese.”
This is hilarious. Sums up the foreigner in a nice simple way. Not one bit offensive!5. “If China had been waking up in the early 1980s, by the late 1980s it was fully caffeinated.”
This is a great visual!
6. “The Chinese are great people watchers. 看热闹 (kan re nao or ‘watching a commotion’) is a favored pastime.”
True True True. Totally true. And if it’s too quiet they miss the “kan renao!”
7. “I had gained my first sense of personal independence in China, learning a language and living on my own. China taught me to swim with the crowd. On buses, my sharp New Yorker’s elbows had been worn down by a relentless sea of Chinese. I did not flinch when old ladies grabbed onto my coattails to hoist themselves on board. In the summer, I would roll up my pant legs and slap my calves arrhythmically, like a Chinese man. I loved the practicality of the Chinese for bringing their rattan cots onto the streets in the summer to sleep and their weirdness for walking backward in the park for exercise. In the winter, I guzzled bitter herbal concoctions that promised to beat chest colds, and I avoided ice water for fear it would damage my intestines. My Chinese friends insisted that in a previous life I must have been a Chinese. Perhaps a hog farmer in Manchuria, one friend suggested, a play on the fact that I was born in 1959, the year of the pig. The life I had constructed, centered on China, was now over.”
Nice description of what I had gone through, not every aspect, but some of that…!
8. “There are twenty-four hours in a day, she would tell her friends. Whether you spend them crying or laughing, it’s still twenty-four hours. So why not laugh?”
9. “Ye had even given the restaurant its name in English: The Lion King Dainty Community. I told him it didn’t make much sense. ‘It doesn’t matter.’ Ye laughed. ‘Diners see English and think it’s high class.'”
Finally we now know why they do it and don’t have it checked by native speakers!
10. “‘People said this is all too foreign,’ Ye said, pointing at the Light Art Tunnel twinkling behind the puffing dragon. ‘We have McDonald’s over there, so how can we have a memorial arch? We have Kentucky Fried Chicken over here, so how can we have a Chinese dragon? They said this street is like Europe and we’re in China. They said it’s like the USA but we’re in China. But I say China can be all this and more.’ Ye looked up at the dragon and sighed. ‘You know, I wanted him to breathe fire, but he only blows smoke.'”
Been there. Seen that. Exactly right… funny! Didn’t feel like I was in Nanjing that’s for sure. SEE PICTURE!
11. “For generations, Chinese had been taught that all romantic relationships had to end in marriage…”
Is that true? So sad.
12. “The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, traffic deaths in China will hit a million per year.
13. “The average traffic speed in China’s major cities declined from twenty-eight-miles per hour in 1994 to seven-and-a-half miles per hour in 2005… a pace easily matched by a bike.”
14. “‘My generation doesn’t drink tea,’ she opined with a proud smile. ‘We’re modern.'”
15. “She replied that nothing really interested her. ‘We have to study it so I study it, but my favorite hobby is sleeping,’ she said. I had heard that line from scores of young Chinese. Sleeping? A hobby?”
I’ve heard this so much too from my students in Shanghai. So unbelievable. Is it that they don’t know how to explain their hobby in English? or is it that they study so hard they HAVE no hobby!?
16. “‘We’re the most individualistic people in the world. A lone Chinese is as powerful as a dragon,’ Song had told me, quoting an old proverb, ‘but three Chinese together can’t even match a bug.'”
Wow. That explains the China Men’s Football team!