Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Book Review: 大理外传：一个英国人的大理速写本
I was sent a copy of this delightful book by my GR friend Jason Pym, a British artist living in Dali, Yunnan, who wrote it entirely in Simplified Chinese. Usually I would decline reading anything written in Simplified Chinese, as I think it mutilates and degrades the beautiful Chinese language. But I made an exception in this case, not least because it was written by a native British, knowing how hard Chinese language writing is for Westerners. Another major reason is that I wanted to learn about the ancient history of beautiful Dali.
I was not disappointed. A portion of the book is dedicated to relating the early history of Yunnan's "white tribe" 白族, which can be traced back all the way to the times of the Three Kingdoms 三國. In the 8th century, this ethnic tribe came under the rule of Nanzhao 南詔 and became a tributary state annexed to the Tang dynasty. Due to subsequent disputes with Tang, Nanzhao 南詔 was annihilated after a period of prosperity. By the 10th century, the Duan family 段氏家族 established the Kingdom of Dali 大理國, which carried the tradition of Buddhism and ruled in peace for 300 years until its conquest by the Mongols.
Other portions offer interesting information about the landscape, flora and fauna, tribal customs and other cultural tidbits of Dali 大理.