Another post for Rambling Taoists but you can read it here first, with illustrations.
As I think of this, I do wonder if it is Taoism that has helped me understand the Chinese, or is it the other way around? (Assuming I actually understand either.) But looking back over my more than 45 years of sinophilia, even before I grappled with the notions of tao long outside a college class on comparative religion, I think it is China that has helped. But it is a western sort of prejudice to try to figure out which came first, General Tso's chicken or the thousand-year egg. (In that case, definitely the egg.)
So how to discuss China's 5,000 years of history (quite unified in the Chinese view) to shed light for readers of this and the other blog? Slowly, slowly, as my Chinese painting instructor would say.
Two examples of tao in culture, mundane not exotic, one as recent as this week, one ancient, came to my mind as I engaged in my early morning contemplation, (not meditation), a period between sleep and wakefulness, where things I have been thinking about seem to have a spontaneous clarity. The illustrations are Hong Kong politics and shoulder poles. These are ways the Chinese live tao, not just talk about it.
Hong Kong Politics. If you have been watching, you know that the the third Chief Executive of Hong Kong, since the 1997 Handover of the colony from the British to the Chinese, was recently "elected" by a committee of twelve hundred delegates representing the HK Special Administrative Region of more than seven million people. The victory of C.Y. Leung was a surprise really, because the heir- apparent, the horse-faced Henry Tang, due to scandals worthy of U.S. presidential primary campaigns, lost his front-running status because of sexual and economic indiscretions. Whatever. Since 1997, the leader (usually a well-connected businessman) has always been someone expected to kowtow to the Central Committee, under the guise of a Basic Law that was negotiated through the late '80s by Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiao Ping. (Deng Xiao Ping was the PRC's head of state and party who succeeded Mao Zedong, and who is held responsible for China's not-too-long march to unparalleled economic revival since. He is remembered for his famous statement, very un-Maoist, "To get rich is glorious.") Another curious slogan was used to prepare the way to the Handover: "One Country, Two Systems." This was to assure that Hong Kong might continue as the world's best example of a free market economy under the protection of a Central Communist regime. There was a thought that ultimately, by now, universal suffrage would be granted to the democracy-craving people of Hong Kong, (they didn't have any of it under the Brits, either) but the Committee of 1,200 suggests that that is far from ever happening (...maybe 2017).
"One Country, Two Systems." How very Chinese. The unity of tao (The One Party), expressed through socialist yin and capitalist yang. And encompassing the wuxing (five "elements" of several other "separate autonomous" regions like Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Xinjiang (China's largely Islamic northwest) and...dare we anticipate?...the "renegade province" of Taiwan. Because there is a pretty obvious trend to develop Shanghai as the new Hong Kong, I found amusing a sign on a Chinese freeway, apparently for an insurance company, illustrating the two cities, which seem to share a harbor, despite the fact that Shanghai is on the East Coast of China, and Hong Kong is in the South China Sea. If you didn't know the two skylines, you would assume it was one big metropolis. Needless to say, Shanghai somewhat overshadows Hong Kong. Shanghai is HUGE.
|Hong Kong-Shanghai Waterfront?|
|Been doing this for centuries.|
|He carried luggage up 250 stairs.|