George, Red, and Angie Mills in Nanjing

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The path of an empty boat: Zhou Enlai

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In The Burning Forest, a collection of articles and essays by Simon Leys, the chapter with the above title explains the metaphor.

“Twenty-three hundred years ago, Zhuang Zi, in ¬†giving advice to a king, made him observe that when a small boat drifts in the way of a huge barge, the crew of the barge will immediately shout abuse at the stray craft… if they discover that the little boat is empty, they will simply shut up and quietly steer clear of it. He concluded that a leader… should first and foremost learn how to ¬†become an empty boat.

History provides few examples of statesmen who were as successful as Zhou Enlai in mastering this subtle discipline.”

Simon says…

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Simon Leys is the pen name that a Belgian art critic and professor of Chinese literature, Pierre Ryckmans, used when writing about current affairs in China. His books and articles are imaginative, insightful, and heavily spiced with sometimes caustic epigrams: his own and many that he credits to others.

To Zhou Zuoren he attributes the capsule summation related to art: “All that can be spelled out is without importance.”

About Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), an early Jesuit missionary to China, Leyes writes: “Ricci accurately saw-and it remains his most momentous contribution-that the question of how China could become Christian was first the question of how Christianity should become Chinese.”

Writing about Jonathan Spence’s book on the same Ricci, Leyes comments: “The life of Ricci is so gripping a story… It took a very clever man to reduce it to the proportions of a mere literary game… one deplores that he wasted such noble and inspiring material in the fabrication of what is, after all, a rather quaint bibelot.”

In a chapter on Zhou Enlai: “Alone among Maoist leaders he had cosmopolitan sophistication, charm, wit, and style… He was the kind of man who could stick a knife in your back and do it with such disarming grace that you would still feel compelled to thank him for the deed.”

Your Kung Fu is not Gong Fu

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“Wushu is the Chinese word for martial arts… In the West, Chinese martial arts are called ‘kung fu’ or ‘gong fu,’ but the word gong fu actually means skill that transcends mere surface beauty. A martial artist whose technique is decorative but without power ‘has no gong fu,’ whereas, say, a calligrapher whose work is not pretty to look at but reflects a strong, austere taste ‘has gong fu.'”

Iron & Silk, Mark Salzman, 1986

1926 – University of Shanghai and family

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Planning for his successor as president, my grandfather Francis White writes:

Why didn’t you missionaries tell us about coeducation?

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A Very Unbaptistic Procedure

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