Graceful old China:
I am way out of my comfort zone speaking of china so don’t take this to the bank.  When I was a child my mother had a little figurine from Delft in Germany.  It was a ballerina, maybe two or three inches high.  The anatomical detail was such that as I remember the knuckles were different from each other, certainly the parts of the fingers between.  The lace petticoats were detailed with little perforations smaller than those of an old fashioned window screen.  I have never seen the likes in china or, in fact, in any other medium. 

So one day I heard someone mention the Great Wall of China.  I asked my father why anyone would have built such a thing.  He said it was to hold back an army.  I thought any soldier could break anything made of china with the butt of his rife.  Of course I had confused china the ceramic with China the country and the rifle would not be introduced for thousands of years after the Great Wall was started.  It has been a long difficult time working out all the contradictions I used to believe.

At all events, during the seventeenth century Europe was importing so much ceramic tableware from China that it’s now all called china.  China was imported because Europe could produce nothing the compare.  Actually I understand dishes of wood are actually safer than dishes of metal or ceramic, but the wooden trencher of the peasant rather lacked snob appeal.  Since Europe made nothing anybody in China wanted the ceramics were paid for with silver.  That silver was mined in South America under Spanish control using conquest and slavery.

So seventeenth century Europe was as full of contradictions as my childhood mind. On the one hand it was the Age of Reason, producing John Locke, Voltaire, Baruch Spinoza (no, I haven’t studied Spinoza) and producing as well as honoring Isaac Newton.  It was a golden age of painting in the Netherlands.  And it was all paid for by the most odious crimes.

The one thing that I can hold onto is that they had really nifty china from China.  If anything can be done, China can do it well.

And now they are getting old.  (Mara Hvistendahyl Can China Age Gracefully?  A Massive Survey Aims to Find Out SCIENCE vol. 341 no. 6148 August 23, 2013 page 831)  “Aging” for a population is, of course, a euphemism for “dying.”  Young adults are declining in absolute numbers.  And what young adults there are to be found are disproportionately male.  The article quotes an expert as saying that what it took Europe 80 years to do is happening in China in 20 to 30 years.

That is written with something of an air of awe, as if it were a puzzle or something.  Of course it’s not.  The communist takeover of China was extremely disruptive.  The village system was broken up into communes and, as China tends to, they did the job with the utmost thoroughness.  It is most sad to watch.  There are a lot of old people, and they are neither happy nor well cared for.  I have no idea how to offer to help. 

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