The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Dec 15, 2010

A Kerouac for China

Wang Shuo's Please Don't Call Me Human is an example of the stuff the Chinese government likes to ban - scurrilous, irreverent, blackly funny, deeply insurgent. Here, a peculiar outfit determined to recover China's face after the national insult of losing the 2000 Olympics to Sydney has organised a meal in honour of their champion.
Waitresses dressed as traditional serving girls entered in single file with an array of dishes as beautiful as potted flowers. The diners' eyes nearly popped out of their heads, as the fat manager stood up lethargically and described for the honored guests the name and unique qualities of each dish. 
"The core of this dish is three walnuts and a meatball. It's called, 'When three men walk along, one of them is my teacher.' The meatball is called a lion's head." 
"This one has potatoes cooked with thirty-six spices. Its name is 'Only books bring knowledge, all else is inferior.'" 
"The next dish is made of mushrooms stewed in a crock pot. It's called, 'The nation cannot survive a single day without a ruler.'" 
"This one is a thick soup consisting of a small hen, a large rooster, a small rooster, and a male crab. Its name is 'At home obey your father, after marriage obey your husband, after your husband dies, obey your son.'" 
"Next comes a simple dish - boiled eggs. Since there's no way of telling whether they are male or female, we call it, 'Seek not accomplishments, but avoid mistakes.'" 
"The next dish is steamed bear's paw and fish. When it's done, the bear's paw is removed, leaving only the fish, and it's called, 'Bear's paw or fish, one or the other.'" 
"This next one is stewed pork loin, with all the meat removed from the bone. Its name is 'The weak can travel the earth, the strong can hardly take a step.'" 
"Here we have fried lizard and earthworms, which is called 'Face the strange with no fears, and its fearfulness disappears.'" 
"This is a baked pigeon. We call it 'The bullet strikes the bird with its head up.'" 
"This is a dessert made of agar-agar, cocoa, and five duck bills. Its name is, 'Don't pursue a desperate enemy.'" 
"This is horsemeat with the hair left on. The meaning should be clear: 'When a man is poor, his aspirations are low. When a horse is scrawny, its hair is long.'" 
"This is a whole roasted pig, prettied up by the chef to give it a determined, peaceful expression, and to carry the meaning, 'Dying in glory is worse than living in ignominy.'"


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