Friday, April 5, 2013

A Chinese Monument to Progress

If you want to see a picture of what defying progress as defined in the modern sense looks like, see the picture above. I came across it today as I'm reading the classic Farmers of Forty Centuries by the American agronomist F.H.King.

Published in 1911, King travelled to a China before petroleum powered agricultural machinery and artificial fertilizers. It's quite an amazing book, and in it he details all the ingenious methods that Chinese farmers used to enrich the soil and continue the traditions of forty centuries. The book is a cross between a travel journal and a permaculture handbook - my kind of book!

But the copy I have seems to be a bit of a dud - all the illustrations are missing! I was reading about King's fascination with Chinese burial mounds- or 'graves of the fathers' - of which he saw many thousands as he sailed up the Hwangpoo River towards Shanghai. These burial mounds were sacrosanct; nobody was allowed to plant crops on them but shallow burials meant that the nutrients of the corpses didn't go to waste. He writes:

"These grave lands are not altogether unproductive for they are generally overgrown with herbage of one or another kind and used as pastures for geese, sheep, goats and cattle, and it is not at all uncommon, when riding along a canal, to see a huge water buffalo projected against  the sky from the summit of one of the largest and highest grave mounds within reach."

Intrigued, I Googled the subject to see if any of these grave mounds were still there, which yielded the above picture. So, yes, at least one of them remains, although in this case it is only there because some elderly and traditional Chinese person didn't grant permission for the development company to build a condominium complex on it!

1 comment:

  1. I have always thought that being composted would be ideal.

    But being the foundation of a compound, or maybe a multi-plex would have some interesting points to as well.


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