Reflections on a Wandering Life.....
Friday, November 05, 2004
I met a college kid from California at the Lush this morning. He's doing a master's degree at Qinghua University in Chinese history on an Olmsted Foundation scholarship. I told him that I also had an interest in history, and started talking with him about my attempt to get a handle on the ancient dynasties, and their relationship to present events. He said, "I'm an 1840 and after kind of guy." Well, I certainly understand that, because I myself have studied much more of what would be called the "History of Modern China," although I would date it from the Macartney mission in September of 1793. But even at that, you are really going to be handicapped if you limit your study to the history of Modern China. Not only that, but China is an intensely philosophical culture. If you study only the events without the philosophy, you will be really handicapped, because the events in isolation really have little meaning without the philosophy. The history of China in the last two hundred years is certainly interesting, if not always easy to get a grasp on. But an understanding of the persistence of dynastic evolution throughout China's history is indispensable. You can never understand the present without knowing something about the past.