Sunday, May 22, 2005

BEYOND THE PALE INDEED

L and I have the Sunday New York Times delivered. Often we can only skim it, but it is a nice thing to have. Today, the annoying Nicholas Kristof of the op-ed pages had a largely irrelevant piece about the fact that China is taking over the world. New York may be the capital of the world, but Kaifeng, China used to be and now it is not. BLAH BLAH BLAH. The paths of glory lead but to the grave. Same crap we heard about Japan when I was a kid (better start learning Japanese, kids), with the same breathless tone. Anyway, that was not interesting. What was interesting was something else about Kaifeng.

Kaifeng had and has a population of Chinese Jews. Not Jews that escaped Hitler in the 1930s, like Shanghai. Jews that apparently came from Persia when the Song Dynasty was ruling China. They apparently came as traders and stayed. The Chinese gave them Chinese names, which they apparently continue to use, although they seem like regular old Chinese names to me (Li, Zhao, Shi, etc.)

The more I learn about the diversity in China, the more I am surprised. I never understood why the Communists were so nationalistic. Being Chinese seemed so easily and readily defined that it seemed pointless. Besides, I knew there were a few Koreans and some Tibetans in China, but hardly enought to matter among a billion Han Chinese. I am starting to see more clearly now the many, many ways Chinese people could divide themselves were they so inclined.

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