Sunday, May 21, 2006

Anomalous Dimensions

I'm happy to say that having arrived in China I'm finally completely free of Big Brother!

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On the whole my life here is relatively stress free when compared to somebody stuck in an office with many duties and a hierarchy of bosses to please. I do have various duties but none of them can be called stressful. I do have pressures but they're of a rather more ethereal nature than pressing deadlines or teaching on the whole. I have to publish enough quality papers to continue in this line of work which I enjoy so much. I'm still to publish a killer paper, a paper that really makes people sit up and pay attention and perhaps most importantly move in a slightly different direction because of a result that I've discovered. I feel that I've so far been links in a series of bridges but not yet a supporting column. I hope as I build up more collaborations and get to chat more with people in my field (something that I rarely get to do in my current situation) that that day may come.

Saying all this I'm sitting in the office in Nanchang on a Sunday afternoon and being a visitor gives me even more freedom from guilt than I would normally have. I'm taking the time here simply to sit down and read a text book without the distractions I have in the ITP (not that there are too many of them). In a pleasantly air-conditioned room I'm looking out at the sweltering afternoon heat as the ground bakes and the people spend as little time in the sun as possible.

It's rather difficult to know how to set the tone for a post like this. With only a cursory glance at the place it's not easy to make insightful comments about life in Nanchang. Because life in China is alien to me in so many ways this just feels like a subtly different flavour of alien. I hope that adding some photos will fill in some of the blanks.

Though I find it difficult in such a short time to take in the full picture, I it seems am taken in by most. In a controlled set of observations it was noted that 50% of people turned around to look at me once they'd passed. Woman can be seen whispering to each other and giggling at this lanky white guy as he wonders wide-eyed around the city with some bemusement.

Anyway, yesterday was another scorcher and three of us spent the day exploring the city, so as expected there are a few photos from Nanchang as seen from the only Westerner I've seen here thus far.

We started the day driving to the new campus of the university. Nanchang University (the city's main uni but by no means its only one) has 60,000 students and over the last three years a new campus has been built. Unfortunately, though the campus is rather elegant with rolling green landscaped gardens, interesting open spaces in the concrete buildings and some exciting architectural features, the opinion is a slightly forlorn one that the speed of construction has left a thin veneer covering a rather poorly constructed set of buildings which will start to show signs of wear all too soon.

Downtown Nanchang is currently in a fast period of development and the strange shells of buildings which come with this are in evidence all over the place.

The following are a few sights from around the campus giving a bit of a feel for the place.
There are many sculptures set in the still fairly empty grounds. These same dragons can be seen adorning the CCTV tower in Beijing

With rather fine shafts of light filling the interiors of the buildings, the stairwells make for an interesting view

At the main entrance gate you are greeted by a peace statue in front of which are Bo (Professor from Nanchang) and Feng (my colleague from the ITP).

Students study using both conscious and subconscious thought processes

Leaving the campus we headed to Tengwang, one of three famous pavilions in the South of China; their fame coming mostly from their appearance in poems by some of the most famous ancient poets (Wang Bo in this case). On the way to the pavilion we passed a wedding which was being celebrated by setting off an immense volcano of firecrackers which for a good few minutes were absolutely deafening.

This is a view of the pavilion from the front, though it looks classically built, this version (the 29th in its place) was built in the last 20 years.

From one of the parapets, you get a fine view of the Yinyang on the ground at the front with the 2^3 symbols around the outside, I shall attempt to find the numerological significance of this.

Somewhat mirroring the Yinyang was this pool which at feeding time becomes a frenzied sea of gold and green.

Within the building there are various shops selling all sorts of kitsch and tat. One of the shops sells quite unbelievable miniature writing on stone, ivory and metal. On a piece of stone some 1 inch square is around 20,000 Chinese characters and I attempted to get a sense of the scale through the magnifying glass.

and at the very top is a rather fine painted wooden ceiling.

Nanchang holds great import in 20th century Chinese history, being the city of the Nanchang uprising, the first major battle in the Chinese civil war between the Kuomintang and the Communists. This was on the first of August 1927 and the central square is Ba Yi (8/1) square, with a central pillar commemorating the events. Around the square is the main shopping area where we wondered around for a couple of hours buying a few souvenirs and a couple of DVDs I've been searching for for a while (including Lady Vengeance, the final in the vengeance trilogy of which Old Boy and Sympathy for Mr Vengeance are the first parts). While walking around I took a few snaps of Nanchang street scenes.

Relaxing on a bike, listening to music this guy seemed unaware of the hustle and bustle around him.

A Jon's eye view of the Nanchang populous, a large percentage of whom use umbrellas to shield themselves in the soaring temperatures.

And finally, the third part in Jerome K Jerome's trilogy would surely have featured something of this sort:

Just a couple more days here to study in such a peaceful setting before getting back on the train for the return leg.

5 comments:

Prince Poppykins said...

I'm sure the women are just laughing at your beard....

Jonathan Shock said...

Of that I have little doubt.

Benjamin said...

Currently suffering from chronic over-exposure to blogs, I drifted through these words, maybe not taking them all in. I felt lonely and I looked at these pictures of a city far way and it seemed very pretty, and calm even. Pleasant x

Jonathan Shock said...

It's strange having only a feeble grasp of the language. The constant babble of words can at times simply turn into noise which can be tuned out, making me feel a bit like I'm watching the whole thing from a bubble, and yes, even with thousands of people around it can feel peaceful...strange.

A vacation from blogs is necessary once in a while. Such a noisy crowd of opinions is pretty tiring.

Back to the real world,

All the best,

J

Benjamin said...

Constructive advice, thank you! Be well x