Friday, August 8, 2008

OC Countdown III: We Need Now the ‘East Wind’

Less than 2 hours to the OC of the XXIX Olympiad. The palpable excitement this morning has abated a bit in the languid heat of this Friday afternoon. Probably my adrenaline is running low after weeks and weeks of anticipation. I’m sure the humidity and the heat also have something to do with it. It’s been foggy most of the day, visibility very limited. By 9 this morning, a long taxi line had formed outside our apartment complex; on any normal work day morning, you would be hard pressed to find any taxis at 9 around here. Most people have taken the day off. My wife left her mobile phone charger at work and so we had to make our way into the traffic restricted section right next to the Olympic Park. (A new campus of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is on the west side of the Olympics complex, directly across Beicheng West Road, i.e., North Star West Road).

Our attempt to use the Datun Road tunnel going underneath the Olympics complex was foiled. Our taxi was not allowed through (for the first time this week). We got on a bus and managed to make it to the CAS campus without trouble. My wife picked up her charger and we’re off the 798 arts areas to meet Alice for lunch. On the way back across the tunnel, the bus driver kept reminding us (and other riders) that traffic restrictions were about to start (11:30), and there would be no traffic going to or from the area immediate to the Olympic site. No matter, we were through the tunnel with minutes to spare. The rest of the trip around town was smooth. Very light traffic everywhere. Our taxi drivers kept telling us that they were not doing much business and plan to pack it in for the day right after lunch time. After all, just about everybody will be in front of the TV; except the lucky few (90,000), like Alice, who get to go to the OC.

Recently I have been repeated reminded of the “Three Kingdoms.” Not because of the blockbluster film “Red Cliff” (the most famous battle from ‘The Romance of the Three Kingdoms’) that came out recently. And not because the media attention that it had garnered --- quite a few TV programs on the historical “facts” behind the fictional version of the Battle of the Red Cliff. And no, Peter, it is not the tale of Kong Ming ‘borrowing’ arrows, which I will return to in a future blog. (Even though heavy fog does appear now in Beijing and then at Red Cliff.) But it’s the more famous tale of Kong Ming borrowing the East Wind. Here’s how the story goes.

Zhou Yu, the commander of the Wu forces, was inspecting troops one morning and noticed that the strong west wind had tore up some flag poles. It immediately brought trouble to his mind. He coughed up blood and fainted right in front of the troops. Lu Su, one of the consigliore of the commander, started to panic over this and expressed doubt in front of Kong Ming about the upcoming battle. Kong Ming told Lu Su not to worry and that he knew exactly what ailed commander Zhou and how to cure him.

That night, Kong Ming made it to Zhou’s tent and asked to see him. Kong Ming said that he knew what caused Zhou’s ailments and how to cure him. Zhou wouldn’t believe him at first, so Kong Ming offered his prescription of the ‘East Wind.’

[Earlier, Kong Ming and Zhou Yu had agreed to use fire as the main weapon against Cao Cao’s forces. Unfortunately, the prevailing winters winds were from the west and the Wu forces needed a southeast wind to stay upwind of the Cao forces.]

So Kong Ming asked Zhou to set up a temple for prayer and promised to deliver the East Wind on the morning of the battle. And so off he went, prayed night and day for 3 days, with no palpable result. That is, until the morning of the battle. Kong Ming’s prayers were answered by a strong southeast wind. Zhou was astounded and feared so much Kong Ming’s apparent prowess (he could conjure the wind, seemingly) that he sent troops to behead Kong Ming right away. But, of course, Kong Ming, always a step ahead of Zhou, had arranged and managed a quick getaway.

The last 8 words of Kong Ming’s prescription were


(a rough, literal, translation, “Everything is ready, except for the east wind!”)

Anyway, everything is good to go. Now if only we had the winds to clear Beijing of this ‘fog’…

No comments: