March 11th, 2008

I don’t mean to demean or belittle anything George Hogg did. The man made a huge contribution to China during the war against Japan. But this article has me, well, irritated to put it mildly.

We’ll start with the irritating little things:

  1. Spelling. First of all, choose one: Wade-Giles (or Yale or whatever it was he was trying to use) or Pinyin. Preferably Pinyin, but it doesn’t matter, so long as you’re consistent. But then, get it right: ” Here, at the crossroads of the Tsin-gling mountains in Shanxi province, he found his destiny.” “Tsin-gling”? I hope that’s the subeditor’s fault. Somebody whose relationship with China seems to go as far back as 1984, at least, should not be making a mistake like that. Fortunately, later on he gets the Pinyin right: “Qingling”.
  2. Basic fact checking: To get from Shuangshipu to Shandan, George Hogg did not pass the western end of the Great Wall. To do so would require one hell of a detour, and a very stupid detour too. I mean, either he goes from Lanzhou up into Qinghai and along to Golmud then down to Dunhuang, Jiayuguan and back down the Hexi Corridor to Shandan, or something equivalent and even stupider but going northwards through Inner Mongolia, or he goes up the Hexi Corridor past Jiayuguan, then turns around and goes back the way he came. The third one makes the most sense, considering the Hexi Corridor marks the old Silk Road and was used as the Silk Road because it’s the only sensible way westwards from Lanzhou. But it’s only sensible for a modern-day tourist, and a bloody stupid thing to do if you have a school-load of young boys and all your school’s equipment on a mixture of donkey carts and old trucks to take care of. Oh, and there were the Ma warlords out there, too. So no, he did not go past the western end of the Great Wall, he went straight from Lanzhou to Shandan, which is roughly halfway between Lanzhou and Jiayuguan.

But what’s got me so fired up to be writing this at such a ridiculously early hour is this: Where in this story is Rewi Alley?  Alley played a huge role in the CIC and was the driving force behind the schools at Shuangshipu and Shandan. Sure, in the early days Alley spent  a lot of his time travelling around China, often on foot or by bicycle, on CIC work, leaving Hogg to take care of the school, but still: Alley and Hogg built those schools together. Alley was there when Hogg died of tetanus in Shandan, lead Hogg’s funeral, and took over the running of the school. And yet this man, so important to the story of Hogg’s life in China, is not mentioned at all in the article.

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