Apr 21, 2012

Journeys along the Historical Stratum: "My China (我的中国)"

I've just finished reading Levy Hideo's essay " My China (我的中国)".

In the previous entry "The World in English 我的英语", I wrote about his essay "The World in Japanese 我的日本语". He is an American author who writes essays and novels in Japanese. He had lived in Taiwan when he was a child, so he also can speak Mandarin. Recently he's made journeys to China by himself and writes about his journey to China in Japanese.

I'm a Japanese and learning English and Chinese now. My English is far much worse than Levy Hideo's Japanese, but I also try to write in foreign languages like him, so I'm quite interested in his works. Today I, as a Japanese, will try to write about a journey to China in English.

At first he began to write in Japanese about Shinjuku, Tokyo in the late 1960s, and then he started visiting Korea and China. He found the "historical stratum" in Shinjuku, Korea, and China. The city Shinjuku in the late 1960s was a mixture of old and modern Japan. Now we can see ancient and post-modern societies in China at the same time.

About twenty years ago I've been to Hong Kong(香港), Kun Ming(昆明), Dali(大理), and Lijian(丽江). At that time Hong Kong was the international modern city, and Kun Ming was just starting modernizing and capitalizing. Dali and Lijian preserved their beautiful ancient towns surrounded by stone walls. I could see ancient, communist, and capitalist societies just in a week journey.

It was a really tough journey. I flew from Hong Kong to Kun Ming. The airport at Kun Ming was small and modest, and no one could speak English. At that time I could only speak a little Chinese, but I couldn't survive without speaking Chinese. I bought a bus ticket with my broken Chinese, and it took ten hours to Dali by bus. And then it took ten more hours to Lijian.

The old towns in Dali and Lijiang were really beautiful. There were many old buildings, which were built of stones several centuries ago, and Bei people (白族) with traditional fashion were walking in the towns. It was just like a time trip.

When I came back to Kun Ming, I went to Holiday Inn to eat breakfast. In Dali and Lijian, I could eat just local food, so I ate toasts with butter and drank coffee. The price of this breakfast was almost five times of the local food dinner in Kun Ming. Holiday Inn was a small island of the Western society in the huge communist ocean.

When I was back to Hong Kong, I felt relieved because I could communicate in English. It was quite exciting to travel around ancient and communist China, but it was quite tough at the same time. I realized that I was a person living in the modern city.

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