It will not have escaped your notice that I’ve been away recently, traveling in the Middle Kingdom. Here are the bald facts about my visit. Being, as I am, a longtime scientific editor whose journal has published many scientific papers from China over the past twenty years, I’d been invited by the Chinese Academy of Science to visit various institutions in Beijing, Nanjing and Xian; to meet scientists, and to give lectures about being a scientific editor. I’d also get a chance to go into the countryside to view various fossil localities.
My relationship with China has been rather special, you see. As the editor into whose bailiwick falls palaeontology, I’d seen Chinese palaeontology go from almost nothing to world-beating, while entirely on my watch as editor. Many scientists I’d known as graduates are now distinguished authorities in their subjects. Therefore it came to many as a surprise that I had never been to China before – none more so than me.
But wait, there’s more. I got in a lot of sightseeing,
and ate a remarkable diversity of food.
Over the course of ten days, I visited six cities, gave three lectures, and saw the stamp made on this vast country of the first Emperors, and the last. And for the first time (with the arguable exception of a visit to Israel in 1983) I was in a country in which I was completely ignorant not only of the language, but of the system of notation in which it is written.
(although many signs had helpful English translations).
This post is, therefore, something of a taster. I hope to tell you about some of my adventures in the next few days and weeks. But before I go, can you identify the edible item on the right of the following picture?