Monday, 7 February 2011

HK Day 2: Kowloon Park

Where Islam Meets Consumerism. Where Green Oasis Meets Concrete Jungle. Where Wild Life Meets Shoppers.

sunny 24 °C

While Ada looked for her shoes in Parklane Shopping Arcade, I decided to take a trip to the Kowloon Park right behind it. I went there a couple of times 2 years ago and enjoyed it. It's quiet on the weekdays that provides an green oasis in the midst of hectic Tsimshatsui. The aviary and bird park also gives you something to watch while you do your relaxing stroll. Today falls on the weekend, and the park took on a different character. It becomes very lively with crowds, and you can watch people and birds alike (or people who feed birds).

Kowloon Park, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong

Most of the crowds gathered here were Indonesian domestic workers. Like the Pinoy maids, the Indonesian counterparts gather on the weekend with their fellow country folks in parks, and sidewalks. Working far away from your homeland, the sense of isolation could be eased in the companies of your own people. I can relate to their experiences. Been there, done that. Not as maids, but as somebody who led his life away from the  world he grew up in at a young age (describing me in the 3rd person would distance my pain and makes it more bearable. I don't feel so bad anymore. Sorry, he doesn't feel so bad anymore).

Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong
Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre

Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong
Pigeons like dome

This park is a logical gathering place for the Indonesian expats because it locates right behind the biggest mosque in Kowloon (I think the biggest in HK, and I think the Pinoy tend to concentrate in HK Island, especially around the Statue Square in Central). Looking at some of the shopping bags, I guess they prayed, then shopped, then had lunch break at the park, more praying, perhaps more shopping before the day ends. An interesting alternating material and spiritual cycle being so conveniently set up with Fairlane Shopping Arcade locates next to Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre.

Indonesian workers relaxing in Kowloon Park, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong
Indonesian maids relaxing in Kowloon Park

Common shelduck, Kowloon Park, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong
Common Shelduck (Tadorna Tadorna)
You ain't see double. There's only 1 duck, just with 2 names. Many panda with names like that: Jia jia, Xin Xin, etc.

The busy dizzying shop signs all trying to vie for your attention and business.

Shop signs, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong Shop signs, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong
Shop signs, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong Shop signs, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong

Since this is the 2nd day of Chinese New Year, most of the people you see on the streets of Tsimshatsui are Indo and Pinoy domestic workers, and tourists. Of course Tsimshatsui is always filled with non-locals, but with Chinese New Year where locals aren't out doing shopping, but visiting each other, the foreigners are made up almost 90% of Tsimshatsui's faces in the streets (despite the fact that Kowloon is the most densely populated place on earth).

Just as I'm about to call a day, at the stair connecting the Parklane Arcade and Kowloon Park, a dragon dancing troupe appears. Lion dancing is usually a common sight during Chinese New Year in Chinese communities across the world, but dragon dancing isn't as commonly seen. I've seen lion dancing a few dozens of times, but dragon dancing only twice, including this time. I was lucky, I guess. Dragon dancing is less dangerous and strenuous than lion dancing, but far more people to wield it.

Dragon dancing, Kowloon Park, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong
Dragon dancing

Dragon dancing, Kowloon Park, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong Dragon dancing, Kowloon Park, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong Dragon dancing, Kowloon Park, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong

These days the biggest tourist group in HK is of course Chinese Mainlanders. Since HK has always somewhat a chaotic place, but with this additional Chinese tourists, the chaos has just increased 2 folds.

Oh, did I mention admission to Kowloon Park is free?

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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

HK - Day 4 - Hawaii-Five-O, The Fed & China

Cold War Demonised Dragon. More Ironies & Myths than You can Poke a Stick at. The Myth of Made-In-China Busted

 sunny 23 °C                       

I got back to the hotel while Atta continued her shopping (in this shoppers' paradise. Yep, she was in her heaven). By day 10 of travelling, my weary body had reached the end of its tether. Bought a coffee and some egg tarts to bring back to the hotel. Flopped my heavy body onto the bed, turned on the idiot box, and I was graced by the presence of the sideburns, wide square jawed Jack Lord. It was playing the peppy Hawaii-Five-O theme song. Flashes of collage of images of giant surfs, hip swaying hula girl, etc that capture the essence of Hawaii. If you take Jack Lord out of the picture, this opening sequence makes great promotional materials for Hawaii tourism authority. I remember I enjoyed this series when it was originally aired. The theme music was so upbeat...bub bub bah bah bah...bub bub bah bah bah...

You know you're old when you're far more interested what's coming out of the tube than spending times outside the hotel exploring. I prefer armchair travelling now (and it transported me to Hawaii, and the intrigue of international espionage). This is my heaven.

Let me just skip to the premise of this episode (this looked like an episode that was made before the late 1960s or early 1970s judging from picture quality, fashion, technology, acting, directing, etc).
Five-O's car was stopped dramatically by a couple of high ranking military uniforms (Colonel if memory serves). He was hushed into a meeting room, and was greeted by what I guess would be some CIA analyst (not important what he actually is). He explained to Five-O in dramatic fashion that the fate of the free world is rest in what they do in Hawaii. There're nuclear, and biological weapons. But these were taboo in modern warfare. What they now facing with is the economic weapon. That is, somebody is going to counterfeit US currency, flood the market with it, and cause the downfall of the US economy due to its effect of resulting rampant inflation. They went on further that there were many counterfeiting rackets before, but it hadn't been successful because the forgeries were not perfect, and were able to be detected. Until now. Somebody has finally able to produce perfect plates, and successfully produce different serial numbers. What's more they've cracked the code of the serial numbers. That somebody who is capable of all these is....drum roll please...PRC! The Russian comrades were also in cohorts, of course! This episode followed in the footstep of the long tradition of demonetisation of the commies in Hollywood during the Cold War Era.

This premise is interesting not just because of its many historical inaccuracies, and the delicious ironies in so many levels in view of what's happening in the world's economies right now.
In the Great Recession of 2008, in order to re-inflate the deflation, Big Ben (aka Ben Bernanke) decided to print money like there is no tomorrow. He's also called Helicopter Ben for this reason. It's as if he's throwing money onto America from a helicopter like confetti. The Fed dignifies this money printing by calling it Quantitative Easing, while some people call it counterfeiting of the American Dollars. Although the term 'counterfeiting' isn't entirely correct in the strictest technical sense, but the term is correct in its economic effects, and spirit, which is what matter.

While the Fed fires up all the cylinders of its money printing machine, flooding the US economy with trillion of dollars, PRC is asking the Fed to stop printing. Why? Because PRC is Uncle Sam's biggest creditor by being the biggest owners of US IOUs. So when the Fed prints money, it devalues US currency, and thus the value of the IOUs that China owns. These money printing also led to large amount of hot money flowing into the Chinese economy (and other emerging economies), creating bubbles - the type that created the Great Recession in USA in the first place.

In this episode of H5O, it accuses PRC in the devaluation of US currency by money printing. The reality in the last 2 years was that it was PRC who had been trying to stop the US government in devaluation their own currency. With US dollar being the fiat currency, this causes inflation in commodity and food prices around the world, leading to social unrest, and political instability everywhere. The fate of the free world is in peril, indeed[2]. Only it's Uncle Sam who is doing this. To put it another way, it isn't Chinese printing of US dollars that the US government has problem with, it's WHEN. If the Chinese has been doing counterfeiting in the last two years, Helicopter Ben should send the Chinese a thank-you note for doing their job and save them a bundle.
Ironic, isn't it?

The Fed is using a tool that would destroy USA economy (as espoused by the CIA analyst in this episode H5O) to save it. Ironic, isn't it?

USA accused China for currency manipulation while it's keeping its currency low by QE[3]. Ironic, isn't it? Or is it more like the pot calling the kettle black?

You want more irony?

If you look at GDP per capita in 2010, USA ranks 101, and China ranks 91. In other words, Chinese per capita income is lower than that of Thailand or Jamaica. To put it another way, the average Chinese is poorer than an average Thai or Jamaican. In fact, the Chinese are almost twice as poor as a Costa Rica. To the Yanks, Costa Rican are pretty poor. Here's the irony, these very poor Chinese is the biggest American creditor. In fact, the biggest creditor in history. This is like the household of blue collar workers and/or rural farmers lends truckful of money to the white collar middle class household. How is it possible? Well, the poor family with 4 times the size saves a lots while the middle class family spends like there's no tomorrow. Actually, they spend tomorrow's money like there's no tomorrow. The white collar family is a slave to the credit cards, while the blue collar workers/farmers household hardly use their credit cards.

Ok, this is Hollywood, and accuracy isn't their forte. Well, factual accuracies are indeed not what they interested the most, but demonising of their Cold War ideological enemy is. When you demonise somebody, facts usually get in the way. So just ignore them. Remember that H5O was made during the height of the Cold War (actual near the end of the Cold War, but Hollywood didn't see it coming. In fact, very few saw it coming).

Here are a few historical inaccuracies that this episode conveniently overlooked:
1. PRC simply didn't have the kinda technical ability that this episode accuses it had in the 1970's. Not even close.
2. PRC in this period was simply too busy destroying themselves in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Their own economy had collapsed (not caused by money printing). They didn't have the time or money or in fact interest to cause a collapse in the US economy. PRC is very much an isolationist in nature. It shut itself up for some 3 decades, and opened its door only 30 years ago. Even then, it didn't want to engage in global politics. Only in the last 10 years that it has been reluctantly engaging in global affairs because of pressure from the West, especially USA. More importantly, because China is now much more - about 10 times more - well-off than it used to be. It's thus making more sense for the PRC to get their nose into other people's business.
3. Despite being both communist countries, USSR and PRC had split up, and political tensions existed between them. It would be unlikely for them to gang up on the US economy. In fact, in the late 1970's, the diplomatic relationship between USA and PRC is far better than that of PRC and USSR (until Gorbachev popped up).

Hollywood has no respect for facts, which is ok for small things. The above 3 historical facts are no small potato. You can't just ignore these. It's equivalent of saying UK is a communist country in an episode of H5O, for example. But ignored it, Hollywood did, and it could because of the ignorance caused by the total information blackout from China before 1980s when PRC kept its door tightly shut. For the masses, this ignorance would probably persist for another few decades going from what I read in the net. There's an information/perception gap about China. No doubt the gap is wider before the Internet era. Surprisingly the gap is still quite big in the Internet age. I guess China is changing faster than the internet. If there's one thing can move faster than the internet, it's China (Dubai is the only other place that's moving as fast as China, but their size is too small to have any significant impact on the world. Dubai is similar to a typical China's 2nd tier cities, and China has 20 of such cities, and counting. Of course, China's 1st tier cities are larger than their 2nd tier cities).

Information/perception gap persists because of confirmation bias. Racists gravitate towards racism websites instead of websites that show opposite views (e.g. anti-racism websites). Otherwise, they wouldn't be racists. Or if they're, they may change their views, or at least, wouldn't be so sure about themselves. A bit of confusion can do a world of good.

This episode of H5O shows yet another example of the typical Cold War mentality that the PRC were busily plotting and scheming (along with USSR) to bring down USA, maybe the world. Ironically, it was USSR who finally brought down itself. Nobody foresaw it.

For those who's interested in reading more example of Hollywood's commendable effort on the Cold War demonising of Commies, you can read more in my previous post.

You want more irony? I'm glad you ask.

With the Great Recession of 2008, USA becomes increasingly socialistic by all the bailouts of failed large multi-nationals from banks, mortgage companies to automakers, while PRC - a socialist system - on the other becoming more and more capitalistic.

Jack Lord also appeared in "Dr. No" (1958), and this happened to be one of the Bond film in the habitual spirit of Cold War demonising of PRC (and former USSR), not in the least dissimilar to this episode of H5O at all. And Jack Lord played a CIA agent. Oh my Jack Lord! Funny that.
Yep, Uncle Sam does have a history of Sinophobia. If you're a movie buff, you can check out this history of Sinophobia in my previous series of posts "Globalisation of Hollywood", dated 31-05-2010. Especially the one titled "Globalisation of Hollywood - Part 2 (Sinicisation)".
You can't say we don't live in an interesting times...that means ironies galore.


[1] If you look at the list from Wikipedia, you can see that the 9 countries whose per capita values higher than USA are either small countries or small population, or both. This makes USA ranks number 1 in GDP per capita in a large country. Of course this figure is a slap in the face for poor folks in America, which there're many. While they can be considered the richest (large) country in the world, and yet, they also have many people live in poverty. This is yet another irony, isn't it? How come? It's because of the income disparity. The 1% richest American own something like 40% of the wealth, and leaving only 60% of wealth to be divided among 99% of the population.

[2] In fact, social and political turmoil could be seen everywhere since 2008. In between this episode of H5O was fresh breaking news about the chaos in Egypt. People took to the streets. This Arab Spring may not be caused by the financial crisis, but certainly triggered by it (the way that WW2 wasn't caused by the the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand but triggered by it). The CIA analyst in H5O is right, only it isn't caused by the PRC, but the accuser. Ironic, isn't it?

[3]  It's interesting parallel that H5O accused China of printing US currency, and today US government accuse PRC as a currency manipulator. More to the point, US government is demanding PRC to appreciate the RMB for the purpose of reducing US trade deficit. Does it work? What is the economic rationale behind it?

Here's the theory. If Chinese goods are more expensive, thus less competitive, US consumers will buy less. US trade deficit against China will be narrowed. Chinese goods will be more expensive if RMB appreciates, providing everything is being equal. Well everything is NOT being equal. When RMB appreciates, the costs to basic components that make Chinese goods will be lower.
US politicians asking another country to appreciate their currencies in order to reduce US deficit isn't new. They did it to the Japanese in 1985 in signing the Plaza Accord. The Yen appreciated something like 100%. Arguably this led to the Japanese asset bubble, and the lost decade. Did it help to reduce USA trade deficit against Japan? Not really.

Now the US government is pulling out the same old bag of tricks again (haven't been out shopping for new ones). And the US pollies are selling the idea again (can't really say 'again' if it has never stopped). They ask PRC to appreciate their currencies won't really create jobs (or reduce trade deficit), but it DOES make the pollies LOOK LIKE they're doing something useful to the US economy. It's called the art of "looking busy without actually doing anything".

Of course, PRC is now WANTING to appreciate their currencies in order to fight imported inflation (partly due to Fed's printing of money). Not because USA asks them.

So to make China's goods less competitive, costs to make Chinese goods has to be raised. This can be achieved if all the exporting countries to China that make goods to be re-exported to USA like Japan will need to appreciate their currencies as well. The question is, will all these countries do this just to reduce US trade deficit with China? Should they? Will Japanese going to kowtow to USA again, this time? Well, they were never asked, this time. China is now the new Japan, at least politically. In fact, Japan has been busily depreciating their currencies, but USA never complains, and it's obviously why for so many reasons.

US can ask all these countries to solve its unemployment problems. Use China as scapegoat for domestic politics. Why not? It's much easy to finger point than solving an actual thorny problem of economic restructure.

In fact, if you read this article, you'll realise the US trade deficit against China is much smaller than it really appears. So the whole forcing-China-to-appreciate-its-currency-to-reduce-US-trade-deficit is all a smoke screen conjured up by US pollies to divert the voters' attention away from thorny problems that should be dealt with. Either this, or the government think tank is leaking juices (nope, I don't think so. The tank is fine).

Consumers sees the Made-In-China stamp because China is the last country in the chain of the making a product. And in the final process they put a Made-in-China stamp. That's the stamp people see. But if you open up all your made-in-China products like iPhone, TVs, etc - which consumers almost never do - you'll see hundreds of microchips with stamps like Made-in-USA, Made-in-Japan, etc. How many of these are made in China? Almost none. Don't take my words for it, open up your TV or whatever electronics that has a made-in-China stamp. The more accurate stamp would be Assembled-in-China-but-actually-Made-in-mostly-Japan-and-USA-and-other-Hi-Tech-Exporting-Countries. Ok, this stamp is a bit long, and that's why they don't put it there.

Next time when you hear somebody say how crappy Chinese products are, please explain this myth to them. That Chinese don't make them, they only put them together, and their final product is only as good as their components - the weakest links, the bottle necks.

Here's another US-China trade deficit perspective. Let's now assume that RMB appreciation will solve the problem of US trade deficit against China by ignoring what I just said, just for the sake of argument. That is assuming that the Chinese goods are actually more expensive, and thus less competitive, US importers would simply buy from other countries that sell cheaper goods. So instead of a large deficit with China, USA will spread this deficit over several countries. Indeed, USA does have trade deficits with many countries other than China. It's just much easier to point out one big target as scapegoat than many small ones. It's easier in a political speech to denounce one country than several. Furthermore, it makes the politicians looks so much better to demonise a large country than small ones.

Would the politician take the troubles to explain all these? You bloody wish! They can't reveal the secrets of their trades. They can't break their codes. Dream on mate!

This concludes yet another episode of "Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed".

Please kindly substitute 'magic' with 'politic'. Now you see it, and now you...
You can trust me....I'm a doctor blogger....

Soon, the world will be under MY control! MUAHAHAHA - *cough* *retch*

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Taiwan - Day 6 - Taipei National Palace Museum

The Devil is in the Details. Devilishly Clever

semi-overcast 22 °C

If there's a good reason to visit Taiwan, our destination this morning would be it. It contains some of he finest cultural artefacts that epitomise the pinnacle of Chinese arts and crafts that are found nowhere else in the world. Not even in China. Of course, you know I'm talking about the National Palace Museum (NPM) that housed some - in fact most - of the Chinese national heirlooms when CKS (Chiang Kai-Sek) took with him when he fled to Taiwan. KMT may lose the country, but at least they got to keep this consolation prize of this priceless national cultural jewels. All is not lost.

Except for those who have zero interest in Chinese culture, anyone who takes only a casual interest shouldn't miss this museum while in Taipei. Most of the artefacts here will leave you with a mouthful of with oohs and aahs, and a small percentage will leave you speechless, dumbfounded by their sheer skills, and artistry.

Here're some of my favourites in my must-see list that I'm aware of long before this trip. So I made a special effort to seek them out (by the way, no photography is allowed. You can keep your bags and cameras in the cloak room).

All the headings in the following exhibits are hyperlinks to the artefacts pages in the official website.

Along the Road on Qingming Festival
This painting Can be found on the ground floor. This is probably the most famous painting in Chinese history. The West called it the Chinese "Mona Lisa", which is quite silly. There's nothing common between the two, except for their fame. For one thing, one is in the portrait orientation, while the other is in the landscape orientation. See? no similarity!

Painted in the Song Dynasty (circa 12th century). Its dimension is 24.8 cm × 528.7 cm showing detailed daily activities in Kaifeng (開封, while in TW, use the Taiwanese Chinese writing), then the ancient capital city of the Song Dynasty (and 6 other ancient dynasties). You can buy the various reproductions from the souvenir shop if you lucky enough to own a house with a long enough wall to hang it. Alternatively, buy a smaller scroll.

China Pavilion in the Shanghai World Expo showed this famous painting with a small twist. The people engaging in their daily activities (and animals) in this painting came alive with movements, thanks to computer animation. No, I didn't get to see this animated version if you read my entries on Shanghai Expo, you know I had never set foot into the China Pavilion. I'd seen it a few times on TV. Quite an interesting effect especially after you have familiar with the original static version. The digital version in fact shows this scene from dawn to dusk.

Jade Cabbage
This piece is located in Hall 302 on 3F. The hall is almost devoted to this sculpture and only a few others in it. The special quality of this object d'art lies not just in its technical skills - as impressive as this is - but in the ingenuity of the jade sculptor to turn this piece of low quality jade and its impurities and flaws into its features. The jade piece is part green and part white. This is considered not pure and therefore, not so valuable. But the sculptor had the genius to carve this stone into a Chinese cabbage (pok choy to some of you), which has white stems and green leaves, making full use of these two colours in their right places in the jade. Different imperfections and impurities of the jades were also eliminated or hidden by the shapes of the final piece. If you look closely at the exquisitely carved leaf foliage, you will spot an insect resting on the leaves. The insect is a grasshopper, which is of course, green. Admire its delicate features like legs, and antennae.

This is a bit like Blair Witch Project the movie, where the innovative use of the handheld jerky camera works that are viewed as amateurish in general turns into strength in the movie. This are two examples of how artists turn trash into treasures. Or to put it more elegantly, but less accurately, transmuting lead into gold.

NPM puts a spot light on this one sculpture, literally and figuratively speaking. A casual browse in the souvenir shop will confirm this from the many incarnations of plastic reproductions of this star piece, and on the cover feature of the NPM guidebook.

Meat Shape Stone
Nearby is this piece of stone that if I didn't see it in a museum, I swear it was a piece fatty pork (not the type of meat I like to eat though, but quite a feast for my eyes). Like the Jadeite Chinese cabbage above, the texture of the stone lends itself to what its final shape would be.

Walnut and Olive Pit
Most of my must-see objects are located in Hall 304. A walnut is carved into an elaborate art piece, something reminds me of a Faberge egg, except it's much smaller. The display case next to it contains a boat that was carved from a olive kernel, which is smaller than my thumb.  If you look at this photo, it's quite unbelievable that it's smaller than a thumb (what big is an olive pit?). It was elaborately carved with several windows, doors, 8 people and a table in it! The magnifying glass fail to shed too much light into this miniature boat as it has something like a x2 magnification. There's a large poster just outside the hall, which reveals a bit more of the details of this mini Tom Thumb sculpture. Tom Thumb won't be able to get into this boat. He's too big for the boat.

Miniature sculpture has a long tradition in Chinese art, especially in Guangzhou province. In Jan 2009, we visited Atta's dad in Guangzhou, he took us to Baomo Garden ("宝墨园"), built in the late Qing dynasty. This garden is located in Panyu (番禺) district of Guangzhou where her dad lives, and is very popular with locals (the Garden, not her dad's place). A young girl has a stall that offered to carve your name on a grain of rice. She did it in a jiffy 3 minutes, and then put the carved rice into a liquid capsule that supposed to keep it for many years to come. I had my full name carved on the rice grain for a fee of a grand total of 10 Yuans (about $1.3 SGD/AUD) included labour and parts. When asked, she told us she had taken 3 years of training in the "Art of the Rice" (her stall's name).


It's a tough job. Look closely at her fingers - they're full of cuts and calluses, never mind the tan (Chinese prefer fair skin).

Oh, the not so well known artisan, who crafted the famous olive pit of the boat of the famous poet Su Dongpo was in fact a Guangzhou local worked in the Qing imperial court. All the olive pits came from olive trees that were locally grown in Guangdong.

The same miniature arts are now adapted to the Chinese industrialisation to produce miniaturised electronics, soldering microchips onto circuit boards with the same nimble, deft hands to create iPhones, iPads, Canon DSLR cameras, etc. So every time you buy these consumer products, spare a thought to those (usually young female) hands - not unlike the girl who carved my name onto a grain of rice - that charge only a small sums for making such amazing electronic appliances. Most of these factories are located in the Special Economic Zones of Shenzhen, which isn't far from Guangzhou, situated somewhere between here and HK.

Concentric Ivory Balls
According to the audio guide, some ancients believed that this piece was materialised by the devil because no human is capable of such creation. The craft was made with witchcraft. It consists of 21 intricately carved spheres one inside of another, and freely rotate, all 21 concentric balls were carved from a SINGLE piece of ivory. Archaeologists have now cracked the mystery of how the Egyptian pyramid was built without resorting to explanation of anti gravity devices supplied by ETs. All you need is a very long ramp that they built alongside the pyramid. But nobody on earth has yet been able to supply a satisfactory answer on how this 'Demonic Spheres' (my nickname for it) were made. In Winston Churchill's words, "It's a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma", and repeat this saying 6 more times to get the 21 layers of mind-boggling puzzles. For now, let's stick with the explanation that it's either made by demons, or ETs (not necessary the same ones who made the Egyptian pyramids).

All these silly resorts to ETs is indications that we under-estimate our ancestors' ability. Way under. They maybe technologically[1] behind us, but they made up for this with innovation, resourcefulness, and brilliance. Their superstitions also made us think that they were feeble minded. While the Roman invented things like concrete, built amazing structures, organised huge armies, etc, but still made their nation altering decision by looking into the entrails of birds. They were anything but dumb. Look at Pythagoras's Theorem, this isn't the work of the devil or ET, but our ingenious ancestors. To me, many of the ancient mathematical discoveries were as 'impossible' as the buildings of pyramids, and yet nobody say they're helped by the aliens. The building of The Great Wall of China is just as impressive, but since their buildings were recorded, no flight of the fancy were necessary - in fact allowed - to explain its creation. If they weren't recorded, you can let your imagination run wild.
Next to the Demonic Spheres is another exquisitely engraved Chinese food basket or stacked 'lunch boxes'. Although it's not as baffling as its neighbouring piece, but its mastery of the craft is sublimely stunning.

I didn't spend too much time on gawking in the painting and calligraphy galleries. I do enjoy looking at them, but I don't have the breadth and depth of knowledge to truly appreciate them (never mind the cultural refinement and sensitivity). With limited time, and even more limited supply of energy, I spent most of my time on 3F, looking at artefacts that I guess would be best described as 3D. I like 3D arts as I lack the depth in understanding the 2D painting and calligraphy (if you know what I mean). If you're in the minority who admire Chinese paintings and calligraphy, then you're in luck, as those galleries are usually much more empty.

I'm always interested in learning about the evolution of Chinese China (where it has bored the name of the country) that traces from primitive ceramic, celadon, to reach a peak of porcelain of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Unlike painting and calligraphy, ceramic objects aren't just functional, but it embodies the accomplishments in arts, science and technology. And what's more many ceramic pieces contain both paintings and calligraphy, no wonder why ceramics earn such well deserved popularity.

One impression I have left while walking out of the NPM is that there are very few materials that the ancient Chinese didn't use to make their arts from the humble bamboo, gourd, wood, to the traditional bronzes, clay, paper, to precious gems like jade and ivory, and the more exotic like walnut and olive pit.

These artefacts I highlighted are jaw-dropping, and eye-popping, but most of the collections in this museum would be able to wow you sufficiently with their command of the skills and ingenuity of the ancient Chinese artisans. Some of these skills, unfortunately, lost in time. Like the arts in creating the Demonic Spheres leaving us with many question marks floating above our head, but also leave us for more respects for the ancients.

I only spent 3/4 of a day in this museum. Not all the 70,000 items are on displayed any one time. The different artefacts are rotated regularly, although I think the must-see list I mentioned are permanent display items because of their popularity. To see them all, one may have to spend about 30 years, as I was told. Well, my return ticket is for tomorrow. So I needed to end the museum trip 3/4 of day instead of 30 years.

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[1]  Are the ancients so technologically primitive? What about the Parthian battery discovered in modern day Iraq that dated circa 250BC to 250AD? The fun thing is to speculate what it was for? Powering a toy monkey? What about the technology of coating copper swords with chromium oxide to avoid rusting. These swords were found in the tomb of Qin Emperor in Xi'an (alongside the terracotta warriors) and were made circa 200 BC? Was rust-free when they were unearthed. This technology was 'discovered' or 'invented' in USA in the 1930's. Ancient Greek invented an analogue computer circa 150BC, and a vending machine circa 1BC, and various steam engines. The ancients were quite technologically advanced. I think they just didn't have a big enough population to support these technological inventions.

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