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Map of Crows
Transcript of Map of Crows
The ruins of Gaochang. One of the hilltop towns along the Silk Road in Xinjiang, abandoned thousands of years ago. It is at a mountain outpost like this that the girls are kept in The Whorehouse of a Thousand Sighs.
This is not actually a shot of Lanzhou (I lost my photos from that trip when my old computer died).
However, it does show a fairly 'typical' poorer area of a modern industrial city. This is what I pictured when writing about Jawbone Hills in 'A Delicate Matter of Phrasing'. As you can see, it is a far cry from the glitz and gloss of a modern downtown business district.
This is the "poet's house", an old part of Xi'an, which was the capital of China in the Tang Dynasty. At that time the city was called Changan, and it was here that Bai Juyi wrote most of his famous poems, including 'Rain at Night'.
The section called 'Fish and Bird' was influenced by my visit to the giant Buddha of Leshan, pictured here, and also to some Tibetan monastaries in western Yunnan.
When I travelled to the 'Little Potala Monastery' in the mountain city of Zhongdian on the border with Tibet, the city's water supply was frozen, and so no taps would run for the 3 days I stayed there.
The Great Wall, to the north of Beijing, was built to keep out invaders. But the Mongol army broke through in the 13th century and soon invaded not only China, but much of Asia and beyond. The section 'On the Principles of Nature' describes an equally difficult journey to and from the new capital of Beijing.
The idea of Italian monks travelling to China around this time is not unrealistic. According to legend, it was Christian monks who had smuggled the secret of silk (otherwise known as silkworms) out of China and back to the west centuries before, while of course the most famous travellers of the 13th century, Marco Polo and his family, also made arduous journeys between Italy and the court of Kublai Khan.