Held back in time


Eleven days to go! The desperate state of the things to do:

Items of gathered information on ancient towns, temples, etc., along our route: 0

Visits to a fitness studio with biking machines: 0

Try-out shorter trips with the tandem and the planned amount of luggage: 0

Items of functional clothing for the kids: 0

Items of biking-friendly attire for me: 0

Children books introducing China: 0

Medicine items: 5 (this is namely the content of the kids’ first-aid kit, which is always around)

How could this happen? Already in November I was caught in travelling fever, running mental lists of what should be done, arranged, googled, bought. My journey preparations, however, were interrupted before their start by the positive answer from a publisher I have contacted for a book on an obscure topic in the even more obscure field of early medieval Chinese poetry. Wonderful as this is, I should revise the manuscript before we take off for China.  It’s a strange coincidence: the book started to take shape seven years ago, around the time we began to make first vague plans for our great bicycle trip from Europe to China. As our route was getting shorter and shorter, the book was getting longer and longer. And now the two will take place simultaneously. Which in practice means that days before the journey I am still held back in a world long gone: in the 5th and 6th centuries China. The fact that the first 2-3 weeks we will be in the region where the poetry in question was composed 1500 years ago does not really help biking there. I can tell you what a visionary named Yang Xi dreamt in the night of 9th May, 366 AD in Jiankang, but I do not know in what place we will spent the night of 9th May, 2015 AD.

While Volker piles up on the table maps and guides for the trip, on my end there grows a tower of books with enigmatic titles: Origins and development of the jueju, Courtly debates in the Yongming era, Courtly writing in the salon of Xiao Tong, Imitation poetry in early medieval China, and so on. (in case any of you becomes interested in the topics:  the titles have been slightly modified here)

Volker takes my desperate battle with the manuscript for a lack of interest in our family project and is, understandably, angry and frustrated. He feels I left him for some medieval poet.

The kids seem confused – due to the lack of children-friendly introductions, their knowledge of China is based mainly on the Mulan movies, which bear even less relation to the Chinese reality today than my medieval poetry.

As poets of old frequently cried out in their concluding couplet: Nai he 奈何!, “Alas, What shall I do!”

P.S. Since I wrote this, we made a significant step in our family collaboration- we managed to produce a logo together! Check it out! There is still a chance for us and our trip.

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