Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chinese Wind In The Willows

Tony heads to Cambridge to see the most famous tree in China, by Tony Wheeler Most Traveled Man who can’t stop exploring, executive summary by darmansjah

Want to see the most famous willow tree in China? It’s only a 45-minute train ride from London’s King’s Cross to Cambridge, where that famous tree stands on the banks of the River Cam, right behind King’s College. Few punters, wrestling to propel those uncooperative flat –bottomed boats, realise they’re passing a tree which is a must-see destination for Chinese visitors to England.

Tourist attractions can be like that. Do you think John Keat’s former home, beside the Spanish Steps in Rome, has the same importance to Italians as it does to English Romantic poetry enthusiasts?

The willow tree has a starring role in a poem by Xu Zhimo, one of China’s most important literary figures, who studied at Cambridge in the 1920s. he had everything required for artistic fame: a colourful love life and dramatic early death in a plane crash in 1931. Today, the first and last two lines of Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again, his much-loved poem featuring the willow, appear on a memorial stone by the tree. Since it is written in Chinese, few non-Chinese visitors would recognise its significance.  Xu Zhimo, however, would certainly have appreciated the Spanish Steps – his poetry was heavily influenced by English Romantics such as Keats and Shelley.

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