letsprocrastinap

sixpenceee:

Qian Hongyan was just four when she lost both her legs. A speeding trucker left her for dead as she crossed the main road in her village of Zhuangshang in southern China. 

For nearly two years Qian was immobile as she didn’t even have enough of her body left to sit up in a wheelchair. Doctors said her only hope of being able to move by herself again would be extensive surgery to allow her to be fitted with prosthetic limbs.Her parents couldn’t afford this treatment. 

Qian’s granddad Yuan came up with a simple but effective treatment to get her moving again. He took a basketball the village boys had discarded and cut a hole just big enough for tiny Qian to fit into, padded the inside with stiff floor mats from his car, then propped her up inside. All of a sudden Qian was able to stabilize herself and was able to by move herself by rolling the ball in any direction she wanted. She supported herself using wooden handles. 

From that day on Qian would not be stopped by any obstacle. She went back to school, started to play with her friends again, and started to get back the life of any girl her age. She began professional swimming training in 2007 and defied the odds of her double amputation to become one of the first members of the Yunnan Youth Swimming Club.

She won three gold medals in last year’s Yunnan Para Games and took a gold and two silver medals at the National Swimming Championship for the Disabled (Under 18) in 2009 before continuing impressively at this year’s Para Games.

SOURCE

When I asked [Fang Haijun] how he was able to survive the fierce infighting of Mao’s inner circle, he told me the following stroy. In the 1930’s, he often played mah-jong with Mao Zedong, Tan Zheng, and a few other fellow Hunanese. There are many different systems for mah-jong, but people from the same place play according to the same rules: they did not need to spend a lot of time talking about it, they all understood the strategies, because they had all been raised in the earth and water of the same place.
from China Witness by Xinran
intelligibledirigible

historical-nonfiction:

Egyptian blue — a bright blue crystalline substance — is believed to be the first unnatural pigment in human history. Ancient Egyptians used a rare mineral, cuprorivaite, as inspiration for the color. Cuprorivaite was so rare searching and mining for it was impossible. Instead, using advanced chemistry for the time, Egyptians manufactured the color. It was made by mixing calcium compound (typically calcium carbonate), a copper-containing compound (metal filings or malachite), silica sand and soda or potash as a flux, then heating to between 850-950 C.

Egyptian blue was widely used in ancient times as a pigment in painting, such as in wall paintings, tombs and mummies’ coffins, and as a ceramic glaze known as Egyptian faience.  Its use spread throughout Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and the far reaches of the Roman Empire. It was often used as a substitute for lapis lazuli, an extremely expensive and rare mineral sourced in Afghanistan. After the decline of the Roman Empire, though, Egyptian Blue quickly disappeared from use.

Aaaaah, I get so excited about this ancient pigment stuff!  But we can’t talk about Egyptian Blue without also talking about Han Purple (more correctly called Chinese Purple, since its earliest occurrences predate the Han Dynasty).

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The famous Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an (which I have visited! lucky me) were originally painted a bright array of colors, including a remarkable purple - barium copper silicate.  Remarkable, because it doesn’t occur in nature, which means it was synthetically produced, which means that the Chinese were dabbling in inorganic chemistry almost three thousand years ago (most likely independent of the Egyptians).  Then it was lost somewhere in the labyrinth of history, until its rediscovery a few decades ago.  Even more remarkable, recent molecular analysis of BaCuSi2Ohas yielded unexpected results relevant to the science of superconductivity & quantum computing.

Further reading:
The Mysterious Color Purple - Cosmos magazine
Purple Reign - Archaeology magazine
Han Purple - AsianArt.org

3-D Insulator Han Purple Loses a Dimension to Enter Magnetic ‘Flatland’ - Stanford News

Beijing in the spring of 1989 was anarchist heaven. The police suddenly disappeared from the streets, and students and locals took on police duties in their place. It was a Beijing we are unlikely to see again. A common purpose and shared aspirations put a police-free city in perfect order. As you walked down the street you felt a warm, friendly atmosphere all around you. You could take the subway or a bus for free, and everyone was smiling at one another, barriers down. Hard-nosed street vendors were now handing out free refreshments to the protestors. Retirees would withdraw cash from their meager bank savings and make donations to the hunger strikers in the square. Even pickpockets issued a declaration in the name of the Thieves’ Association: as a show of support for the students, they were calling a moratorium on all forms of theft. Beijing then was a city where, you could say, “all men are brothers.” …

… “The People” [人民, renmin] is not an empty phrase, because I have seen it in the flesh, its heart thumping.

It was not the enormous rallies in Tiananmen Square that imparted this understanding, but an episode in another part of town one night in late May 1989. Martial law had been declared by that time; students and residents alike gathered spontaneously to defend every major intersection in Beijing, as well as all overpasses and subway exits, to block armed troops from entering Tiananmen Square. …

… Beijing in May can be hot at midday but cold at night. I remember I was wearing only a short-sleeved shirt when I set off after lunch, and by late that evening I was chilled to the bone. As I cycled back from the square an icy wind blew in my face, making every part of me shiver—and every part of my bicycle, too. The streetlights were dark, and only the moon pointed the way ahead. The farther I rode, the colder I felt. But as I approached Hujialou, a current of warm air suddenly swept over me, and it only got warmer as I rode on. I heard a song drifting my way, and a bit later I saw lights gleaming in the distance. Then an astonishing scene appeared before me. Now bathed in warmth, I could see the intersection flooded with light; ten thousand people must have been standing guard on the bridge and the approach roads beneath. They were fervid with passion, lustily singing the national anthem under the night sky: “With our flesh and blood we will build a new great wall! The Chinese people have reached the critical hour, compelled to give their final call! Arise, arise, arise! United we stand…”

Although unarmed, they stood steadfast, confident that with their bodies alone they could block soldiers and ward off tanks. Packed together, they gave off a blast of heat, as though every one of them was a blazing torch.

This was a key moment in my life. I had always assumed that light carries father than human voices and voices carry farther than body heat. But that night I realized it is not so, for when the people stand as one, their voices carry father than light and their heat is carried farther still. That, I discovered, is what “the people” means.

from “The People” chapter of China in Ten Words by Yu Hua

I’m fascinated by first-hand accounts of the spring & summer of 1989 in Beijing.  It was such a crucial time, yet is still a mostly forbidden topic.  That first paragraph sounds so alien, so unimaginable, compared with the China of today.  But the story about the intersection rings true, the heart in it, the harmony, the togetherness. 

dictionaryofobscuresorrows

exulansis

dictionaryofobscuresorrows:

n. the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it—whether through envy or pity or simple foreignness—which allows it to drift away from the rest of your life story, until the memory itself feels out of place, almost mythical, wandering restlessly in the fog, no longer even looking for a place to land.

thelittlewildthornberry
thelittlewildthornberry:

Sweet and sour chicken. This week I’m whizzing round all my favourite places to eat and indulging in my favourite Chinese meals for the last time..

You’re killing me.  
There are days I would give my other kidney for a bowl of mogu mian from the corner shop across from NingDa nanmen.  Or that spiral-cut special flavor fried eggplant from the restaurant at the dead end of the alley across from the chaoshi.  Or the sand pot noodles at that upstairs place behind the night market.  Or those plum sauce duck crepe things from that other place.  Or the mantou, or the savory baozi.  And all the things to drink.  I am dying.  

thelittlewildthornberry:

Sweet and sour chicken.
This week I’m whizzing round all my favourite places to eat and indulging in my favourite Chinese meals for the last time..

You’re killing me.  

There are days I would give my other kidney for a bowl of mogu mian from the corner shop across from NingDa nanmen.  Or that spiral-cut special flavor fried eggplant from the restaurant at the dead end of the alley across from the chaoshi.  Or the sand pot noodles at that upstairs place behind the night market.  Or those plum sauce duck crepe things from that other place.  Or the mantou, or the savory baozi.  And all the things to drink.  I am dying.