Tomorrow is the thirteenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Eve Tushnet has a post on attending a vigil outside the Chinese Embassy on Saturday; a small but valiant attempt to keep alive the memory of those brief hope-filled days. Long time readers of this site (are any of you out there?) may have noticed that I occasionally post a fragment of Chinese or Japanese poetry. The abundance of good translations of classical Chinese and Japanese verse is one of the few fortunate aspects of our current literary culture. It is a great gift to be able to listen in on this interlinked web of conversations on the human condition, conducted at the highest artistic levels for over two thousand years. It is the antithesis of our contemporary "youth culture."
Thinking of Tiananmen reminds me of some lines from the T'ang Dynasty poet Tu Fu, meditating on another time of loss and change in China: "The nation shattered, mountains and rivers remain." A melancholy poem, which nonetheless takes some small comfort in the continuities of nature and landscape. One wonders what the poet would have thought of the Three Gorges Dam project. Today, the State survives, but mountains and rivers are shattered. Submerging and forever altering some of the most beautiful places in China, the only way we westerners can comprehend the impact of the project would be to imagine an Anglo-American initiative to simultaneously flood the Grand Canyon and pave over Wordsworth's Lake District.
Martin Roth also notes the Tiananmen anniversary and adds an article noting the conversion of many of the dissidents to Christianity.