Back to old Mukden of Russia and Japan’s Manchukuo, Manchuria of the old Qing Dynasty, aka, Dong Bei (literally, east north). The identification does not make the place dissimilar from the rest of the Han in Zhungguo, but for those interested in pinning down what is core “Chinese,” I locate them to peoples between the two rivers of the Huang He (Yellow) and the Chiang Jiang (Yantze).
Beijing, north of the Yellow River, and Nanjing, south of the Yantze, the nation’s old bookends, point to the core center of governance. Xi’an in Shaanxi hosts the Qin Emperor’s tomb with the terracotta soldiers. Kunming of Yunnan south down the road to Mandalay, Urumqi in Xinjiang way out west bordering the Cosacks, Lasha in southwest Xizang (Tibet) of the highland Buddha, and Harbin, Heilongjiang of the northeast Manchus, are outer lands away from the Han core.
Kong Fu Zi (Confucius) is from Shandong southeast of Hebei where the national municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin are geographically situated. (China has four; Chongqing and Shanghai are the other two.) Current CCP SG Xi Jinping and soon-to-be President hails from Shaanxi, at the core of the Han.
Let me just rehearse previous notes for newcomers to this column. “China” is the term familiar to the West as mainland Asia. The name comes from the Qin dynasty that unified China in the 3rd century BC. The Persians who flourished in trade along the Silk Road gave the name after the Han initiated the network that sold silk, tea, and porcelain. Plates and cupboard ware in Europe are referred to as “china”.
China does not refer to itself as the land of the Qin. Marco Polo popularized it in Europe after he returned from his exploits in the land of the Han. It got stuck in global discourse. Though they do refer to themselves as Chinese in English, they call themselves Zhongguoren, the people of the middle state.
The nation is officially Zhongguo, the middle realm, a term first used before the Qin emperor unified the warring states, signifying the culture’s grounding on space. (Tokyo is still referred to as Dongjing, the east city). In contrast, Europe and its progeny are preoccupied with time, journeyed into the journey of the Holy Roman Empire. Pope Gregory’s version of Anno Domini after correcting the Julian calendar in 1583 has since dominated the global timeline.
But a discourse on space and time is not our concern. Grounding of human existence in experience is. Life is neither lived in the longing of a “before” of a previous era, or an “after” in a heavenly paradise, but rather in the here-and-now, of wonder-filled mysteries and challenging ambiguities, awe-inspiring treasures and endless delights.
After the sweet-and-sour taste of our calamansi-laced papaya on our 30-day Honolulu sojourn, we anticipated the taste of the seedless orange consumed during the 15-day Lunar New Year fest, ending on the day of our return.
For awhile, the trip from Honolulu to Shenyang via Incheon was mostly sweet lychee, abundantly served by the hotel where our airline billeted us to tide us overnight before proceeding to Shenyang the following day.
Sour came when airport security would not let us through; our hand-carry weighed more than the allotted 12 lbs. We had to secure an airline tag. The line was long. Zhongguoren who missed the first day return home New Year went on the 15th day. The Incheon-Shenyang flight was full and my request for the exit door netted a first-class seat on the second floor of the 747-400 aircraft!
With long lines going through Customs on arrival, the officers decided to forgo the customary x-ray of luggage coming into the country and, dragging checked-in heavy duffel bags, the procedure was welcomed. We exited the airport before midday.
A former student who worked on network communication for 20 days during the vacation decided to take his family and some friends to dinner to celebrate his first paycheck as well as cap the season’s festivities. I had a pickup message for 4pm. Though dinner was already past midnight in my internal time, I stayed awake through the pleasantries, with many “thank you” for the uncharacteristic cloudless day, a first in a long while I was told, “brought” by my return.
Lightheaded after a bottle of Harbin beer, I took the subway with the maddening crowd just when the firework was getting intense. Transferring to a bus and a walk of five blocks to my residence, I basked in the lantern day focus of the festivities. A city brightly lit did not skimp on electricity.
I was also back in the cold with the longjohn for undies. Involuntary tear duct flow is my natural response to cold. I violently sneezed when I returned to my room’s warmth; grabbed a tissue to blow my nose. That’s when I noticed blood.
Ooops! After four vials of blood drawn for all kinds of tests in Hawaii, and an ensuing clean bill of health, it looks like I might have to see a medical practitioner again. Meanwhile, the sky firework was visual art par excellance, watched in the comfort of my 11th floor room. White stuff started descending from the sky later in the night. I peeled off a petite seedless sweet-with-a-dab-of-sour orange.
I woke up in the morning to a blanket of snow on the ground. Happy New Year!