For those of you who are interested in Chinese history, you might want to check out the latest episode of BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time, hosted by Melvyn Bragg: this week’s topic is the Battle of Talas in AD 751 – when the forces of the Arab Abbasid Caliphate defeated the Tang Dynasty’s army. On the panel are Hilde De Weerdt (Leiden University), Michael Höckelmann (King’s College London) and Hugh Kennedy (SOAS).
In Our Time is minimalist live talk radio – no music or edits, just a forty-minute introduction to a given topic by experts in the field. Best of all, the entire archive of this excellent radio programme is available as a free podcast (both iTunes + Android/RSS).
When I was walking around last night I came across this quote on the wall of a middle school: http://instagram.com/p/t11nXYhiID/
“Isn’t that classical Chinese? I thought Mao got rid of all that.” The quote was attributed to 《禮記·中庸》, which is the “The Doctrine of the Mean” from The Book of Rites. I had to look it up, even if I knew it wouldn’t be worthwhile; whenever there’s a quote like this, it’s invariably something that an ultra-conservative octogenarian back in the early Zhou dynasty thought would be a great way to round off a graduation speech.
And yes, that was the case this time as well. I found a decent bilingual version of “The Doctrine of the Mean” translated by A.C. Muller. It turned out the two lines are spliced together from different parts of the text. The first part, “栽者培之”：
We can also know that Heaven develops each thing according to its preparation. Thus, Heaven nourishes the growing sprout, and throws down the leaning tree.
The second part, “雖愚必明”：
If someone else gets it in one try, I will try one hundred times. If someone else gets it in ten tries, I will try one thousand times. If you are able to follow this Way, then even if you are stupid, you will become enlightened.
So basically, this is the message: ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re not the brightest crayon in the box: you’ll eventually learn something if you work hard, and those who work hard will be rewarded’.
The school, by the way, is Peiming Middle School [培明中學], founded in 1925. It’s name comes from the ‘pei’ and the ‘ming’ from the quote above.