This week on Sinica, your hosts Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn are pleased to welcome Geremie R Barmé, the well-known Chinese historian, author, filmmaker and translator, and the Director of the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University in Canberra.

And the topic for debate? Today we take a break from our usual focus on current affairs for a more wide-ranging discussion that starts with the history and constant reinvention of Hangzhou's West Lake, and moves on to the Chinese penchant for top-ten lists, the lingering importance of Southern Song general Yue Fei to Chinese patriots, and the perennial issue of history's grip on the Chinese psyche and its role in determining China's place in the modern world. We hope you enjoy the show half as much as we enjoyed recording it. Be sure to let us know whether you agree or disagree with our opinions in the comments section as well.

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 said on
March 2, 2012
Great conversation. Perhaps because I'm Chinese, I take a longer term view on the last point being discussed, that unless some basics like freedom of speech and judicial independence have been "worked out," the creative people in China will always be stuck in talking about these things, instead of moving on to creating bigger and better things. Thinkers and creators in China have always been, since more than 2,500 years ago, talking about dark political reality and the (in)ability to speak truth to power. This is the very stuff that get people's creative juice flowing since the beginning of the Chinese civilization. And the crazy thing about the Chinese civilization is that the continuity of language has allowed generations after generation of people to read the same text and echo the same sentiment and add their own to the flow. The angst of the intelligentsia vis-a-vis the state makes up a big part of Chinese literal and political tradition, and it's no different under the "red dynasty."

And the same time, that has never been a shortage of other creative endeavors, perhaps due to the sheer immensity of the place and the size of the population.

I have no doubt that over time, this "red dynasty" will become an infamous chapter in Chinese history, which is always written by Chinese intellectuals who are well-steeped in this tradition. And as for creative culture, what history judges to be worthy might be very different from what we see in 798 or what Sotheby's judges to be worthy today.
 said on
March 2, 2012
Hi Rachel, thanks for the very thoughtful comment. I'm definitely one who believes that certain forms of creativity flourish only when there's a certain amount of adversity, and I do believe that as you say the tensions between the intelligentsia and the state have been one of the great creative engines throughout Chinese history. I want to tell you that we've all very much enjoyed TeaLeafNation and we hope that you and the others involved really keep up the great work!! - Kaiser
 said on
March 4, 2012
Some links to materials mentioned this week:

On West Lake and China in the world:

1. China Heritage Quarterly: West Lake edition

2. The Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW)

3. Geremie Barmé's "In the Red" at Amazon

Geremie Barmé's recommendation:

1. The Hall of Uselessness, collected essays by Simon Leys

Jeremy Goldkorn's recommendation:

1. The azure-winged magpie (灰喜鹊), recently sighted in Ritan Park and around the old embassy area of Beijing.

Kaiser Kuo's recommendation:

1. Caixin reporter Li Xin's interview with Timothy Garton Ash

Mark Lesson Studied