The windows here in Xiamen all have decorative bars–even when they’re way too high to pose a security risk. One could read this as a metaphor for voluntary psychological incarceration (within the firewall, etc.) but I think this is too simple. Fujian has been beset by well-organized bandits since the 17th century, and many architectural features and city planning decisions are a legacy of the need for protection. For instance, the narrow, snaking streets enabled gates to be closed at both ends, cutting off entrances for marauders and pirates (and later, Japanese occupiers). Often it seems that Westerners compare China to the US or Europe, rather than thinking diachronically about how and why China has evolved its own cultural norms. Also, it’s nice that the kids can climb around the drying porch without tumbling to the ground–or play ball in the courtyard without smashing windows, which is more than can be said for our yard at home. They’re out there right now with the replacement volleyball (#1 is still in the palm tree), blowing off steam after another inexplicable day of Chinese school. All they told me about their day was that they were given grape tomatoes.
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