Nostradamus Made Me Do It 明代法国预言家迫使我学习中文
I am often asked “Why are you learning Chinese?” It’s not an easy question to answer as there is no single straightforward reason. There must be up to around eight reasons, but there’s not the time to go into them all now, so here now I can only briefly explain three of the reasons. Firstly there’s money.
Before starting university I was a variety entertainer. After eight years of following that line of business I decided there was not enough money in it, and so felt a need to acquire a new money-making skill. I’d been hearing that western companies were eyeing up China as a huge new market for their products, so I reasoned, given the scarcity of westerners with expertise in Chinese, were I to knuckle down and get to grips with the language, I could land myself some lucrative commissions. Generally I’m not that pushed about earning serious money, but now and then it occurs to me that were I to marry and have kids, lack of funds would be a problem. Most of the time, however, I feel it’s pretty good not having wife and kids – there’s just yourself, no need to earn money to provide for others, far more scope for doing exactly as you like.
One activity I enjoy is studying Eastern philosophy, especially the wisdom of the Book of Changes by King Wen, the Duke of Zhou and Confucius. I have long been interested in this book, it being twenty-four years since I began reading an English translation of this ancient Chinese tome. The Book of Changes is a divination manual. In times of doubt advice can be obtained from those sections of the book indicated through manipulation of a set of divination sticks. I feel that whenever I have used the Book of Changes this way I have invariably got helpful information. Naturally I found the book very interesting, and thought it would be ideal to be able to read the book in its original language, and so I took up Chinese.
These two reasons for studying Chinese perhaps sound a bit pedestrian, so to spice things up a touch, I have a third, more colourful reason.
Five hundred years ago there was a French fortune-teller named Nostradamus. He said that early in the twenty-first century yellow people would invade Europe. The majority of yellow-skinned people speak Mandarin, so I reasoned that if I were able to converse with them, and say for instance “You and I are good friends. Come in! Come in! Have a cup of tea.” then they wouldn’t kill me.
(More on the life of Chris in the ‘Personal‘ posts.)