Friday, April 09, 2004

I woke up to loud thumping on the floor above me. It was 3am, and Dan Ming has apparently returned from his trip, or was that last week's schedule? The only way I can tell whether he's home or not is by the stack of takeout containers he leaves in the trash. I've learned to gather the tops of garbage bags as soon as I see any ripe trash, such as Styrofoam boxes with leftover dumplings inside -- New York roaches are relentless.

The sight that greeted me when I got to the living room was surreal by any standard, be it American or Chinese. There were about a dozen life-size terra cotta warrior statues scattered about, some of them in the traditional warrior stance, holding spears, others semi-kneeling and looking like palace guards.

Dan Ming was busy unwrapping one from its cloth covering, he looked up when he heard my footsteps, "These will make me rich!"

He was like this back in China too, always bubbling with some get-rich-quick scheme in his mind. Since I am dependent on his financial solvency at the moment, I decided to speak up.

"These are not smuggled, are they?"

"Authentic replicas, each one of them, all authorized by the Xi An Archaeological Studies Institute. Asian art is hot right now!"

I still felt dubious, these semi state-run institutes are often flexible with their permissions, all depending on the whims of a few well-bribed officials. If they ever lost their political stars though, anything they granted could be void instantly.

Ancient emperors used to have their wives, concubines, and servants buried with them when they died, so they'll not be without help even in their afterlife. Qing Shi Huang, one of the more infamous emperors, ruler of the Qing Dynasty, had thousands of these created and buried with him in this custom-designed tomb in Xi An, China. It's a popular tourist spot nowadays. This was much more humane than forcing your entourage to die with you just because the royal doctor couldn't cure your ills with 500-year-old ginseng or whatnot.

A few warrior statues ended up in the basement with me. They're lined up against the wall, like a parade of the glory that was. I don't feel afraid, they could guard me, or at least scare burglars away, I hope.

Monday, April 05, 2004

"When the cabbage flowers turn yellow, crazies abound."

Have you noticed more crazy people on the street lately? According to Dr. Zhou, that's because every year in March and April, the warmer weather exacerbates mental illnesses, as in, latent schizeophrenics become full-blown ones. There is even a proverb for it, "when the cabbage flowers turn yellow, crazies abound." Cabbage flowers traditonally blossom in early Spring in China.

Umm, come to think of it, the few people I've heard muttering on the street today were not really talking on headsets -- they were actually having imaginary conversations. I've always dreaded April myself, it's a confusing month, when everything is supposed to start but then the promise is often more alluring than the result.