Writing Chinese

Nicholas Quirke was challenging himself to write in Chinese characters on 2 March 2021 as he wanted to send thank you cards to his hosts at New Year and to Peng’s cousin for the gifts he had been given. The task took an inordinately long time to complete. The Hanzi which are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese are not an alphabet but a writing system in which a character generally represents one syllable of spoken Chinese and may be a word on its own or a part of a polysyllabic word. They are often composed of parts that may represent physical objects, abstract notions, or pronunciation and literacy requires the memorization of a great number of characters: even college-educated Chinese speakers only know about 4,000 of the tens of thousands, though most are graphic variants, or were used historically and passed out of use, or are of a specialized nature. It was however an interesting provocation and through the lines and marks there was a real beauty to the constructions he was making. He was reminded of they many times at home in the UK when he had started something in the belief that he could dispatch it swiftly and move onto other more pressing needs, only to discover that it required more time and diligence than expected and as a result all other plans were changed. And that was the situation he found himself in after making the tiny scratches for over two and a half hours. His plans to find the tomb of Matteo Ricci were put on hold and instead he cooked another dhal for lunch and went out for tea in the afternoon instead. Peng had a scan at the hospital and they met at another industrial art park when he was through. It was impressive how the fascinating old equipment was turned into sculptures. The mind boggling designs, rusting away had a surprising beauty to them particularly in the light of them having been functioning parts of some industrial landscape. He recalled the debris that littered the vista of Benton Gas works back in 1984 when he had been working on the film of that name, and how the haunting dystopian landscape was now destroyed rather than conserved for its imagery and historical significance in the manner that China seemed to. The tea cost the equivalent of £10, having increased in price by over 20% and he decided that his patronage of the establishment would now have to end. Aside from writing his blog and preparing for a lesson on Wednesday, the rest of the day glided routinely to bedtime with only the horror film ‘Son’ which, proved to be quite gripping to make it stand out from any other evening. He noted the arrival of two long emails from friends in the UK but sleepiness meant he would have to wait till the next day to read properly as he was too sleepy to concentrate.

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