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Blog, 7/8/11


Blog, 7/8/11


Again, I open this one with big news--a lot is happening in my life these days. Our video-lecture series, A Pure and Remote View, has been posted onto a website in China! I have no idea who did this, and can only hope that it stays there--nothing in these lectures, at least so far, can be reason for the Chinese government to block them. They are on a website called Tudou, Potato; go to And please tell any friends in China about them. I hope they will be much watched there, and provide good models for my kind of visual approach to art history, and also provide viewers and students there with thousands of high-level images of Chinese paintings and related materials.


Next: We are re-working the end of my Bibliography here on my website to include recent publications, including one not by me but by Stella Lee or Li Yu, long ago my student, now a prominent literary figure; she has published in a Taiwan literary journal called Ink a kind of preview of a video-lecture that wlll appear in a later series, concerning an important event in my past. Find the reference in the Bibliography and follow it up if you are interested.


We are working to make extensive and important additions to this website in the form of illustrated essays or papers, which you will be able to read while referring to the illustrations along the way. The long writing titled “Woodblock Colorprinting in China and Japan,” now accessible only a text, will be reworked into this kind of heavily illustrated text--more like a large Photo Gallery item with accompanying essay--and others will follow. I have realized that this new form of publication permits me to indulge a long-held dream: to use as many color illustrations as I want with a piece of my writing, instead of the few that my editors and publishers have allowed in old-style publication. I think of putting on the website, before long, the chapters of my unpublished book on Chinese erotic painting (titled Scenes from the Spring Palace.) This has in fact been accepted by a publisher, has gone through readers etc., and waits only for me and the editor and others to proceed with producing the book. But in these times when academic presses are pinched for funds, I would be severely limited in the number of illustrations I can use, and half of those would have to be in black-and-white. So: watch this space for the announcement of a great wealth of paintings of a kind that mostly have never been published before.


Continuing with my series of old jokes that somehow pop out of my memory: here is another, Jewish I think:

A man visits a friend in his New York apartment, goes to the bathroom and emerges looking panicky and saying: “Do you know that there’s a dead horse in your bathtub?” The resident of the apartment quiets him down, says yes, he knows, and explains: “I have this smart-alecky brother-in-law who, whatever you say to him, he comes back with ‘So what, what else is new?’. So he’s coming here tomorrow, and he will go into the bathroom and come out, like you, saying ‘There’s a dead horse in your bathtub!’ And then I will say, “So what, what else is new?’”


Onward and upward (or downward, as you prefer): Among the little-read offerings on this website, I think, is my Ching Yuan Chai Treasury of Imperishable Ephemera; if you pull down under Writings of JC and open it, you can download it as a pdf and then open it and go down through the pages reading it--but who goes to that much trouble, with no indication of how rewarding it will be? So I think I will pull items from it and insert them into this and future blogs, in the hope that they will find more readers that way. This first time it is one of “Three Seoul Streetscenes” composed in 1947 while I was a language officer in the U.S. occupation in Korea. It can be found on pp. 61-2 of CYCTIE, along with the other two, which I will insert into future blogs. The city of Seoul had been devastated by the war, and impoverished people and beggars were everywhere. All this was new to me, a Berkeley liberal uneasy about my situation there, and especially about how oblivious others in the Occupation were to what they saw. So, with that background, here it is:

I. Flies


How very wise

Are the flies!


A Korean beggar lies in the street,

His head in the mud, mud at his feet;

And he moves not in his sleep,

Merging into the garbage heap

On which he lies.

When every motion brings him pain,

Why should he wish to move again?


And the flies

Very wise

Crawl on his mouth and nose and eyes.


The sun-broiled offal reeks and seethes;

Fearful, I wonder if he breathes—

A fevered rolling of the head

Shows that he is not yet dead.

But the flies

Very wise

Do not wait until he dies.


Now the sound of oxen hooves

Clopping by him in the street

Wakes him; woodenly he moves,

Rising stiffly to his feet.

And the flies

Also rise

Buzzing their annoyed surprise.


With delicate fingers, from the wet

He lifts the butt of a cigarette

And drops it with a crafty glance

Into the pocket of his pants

As through his rattling breath

He smiles a thin smile over the prize

Which altogether justifies

The pain of living in his eyes,

The staving off of death.


But the flies

Are more wise:

In pin-point brains they realize

How little changes when he dies.

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