Each time I go to China I enjoy it all the more, so much so that it is one of the places in the world where I can easily imagine living

This time we received something of a rock-star welcome to the Nishan Forum at Confucius’ home town:

The nuance was perhaps not clear to all … but more was to come:

When one drew near, they ushered one in:

At a few moments, I was able to catch the excited teenagers beneath:

Being the official Australian VIP representative at an event that was as political as it was intellectual, I made a mental note to let Julia G know I had not put in one good word for her.

Which means:

But after a few days of rubbing shoulders with former presidents, advisers, ambassadors and communist government officials, of police escorts and road closures wherever we went, of a massive press battery filming and snapping, of being mobbed for endless photos with students (I kid you not), I had had enough.

I was keen on more ordinary life, whether with a group of old musos in a park at night:

Some local Shandong food from around the lake::

A lift in a beaten up motorised tricycle (the only suspension on them is what flesh you might have on your bum, although they will soon be a thing of the past):

Or indeed a glorious squat toilet on the slow overnight train I took from Jinan to Xi’an:

I was after some decent Chinglish:

The more esoteric, the better:

At one moment I realised I could no longer rely on pinyin, for in a quiet corner I found a toilet and stood bamboozled. No pinyin, no symbol for male and female; only Chinese characters. I guess you always have a 50% chance of being right, but I’d prefer to be able to read that script.

I must admit that I pondered whether the chubby ruling class women of the Tang Dynasty of 618-907 (for that was the aesthetic then) had very flat ears after sleeping on pillows like this:

By this time I was in the old imperial city of Xi’an, where I had to sing for my supper and accommodation at Shaanxi Normal University:

Supper consisted of a comprehensive walk along the endless ‘snack street’ – street food steaming, boiling, frying in all manner of fashions. Hadn’t dared until now, but my hosts tucked in. So I did too.

Finally I met an old friend who reassured me it was all perfectly good for you:

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