09 December 2010

"Xanadu in New York"

This is the opening paragraph of an essay by Eliot Weinberger (you really should read his work) in the NYRB concerning "The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty." I just wanted to share it as I found it immensely evocative and very well-written (unexceptional for Weinberger).

The Mongols inhabited a vast, featureless grass plain where the soil was too thin for crops. They raised horses, cattle, yaks, sheep, and goats, and subsisted almost entirely on meat and milk and milk products. The women milked the cows and the men milked the mares. They had no fixed houses and lived in yurts made of greased felt that they hauled on ox-drawn carts. Inside the yurts, hunks of meat hung on the horns of goats. They never washed their clothes or washed their vessels; bathing in running water was punishable by death. The women were excellent equestrians and archers, but female corpulence was prized and the wealthiest among them became too obese to ride. They had no written language and only rudimentary skills in metallurgy; unlike the Crusaders, they never made horseshoes. Their human genius was in military organization and tactics, and in politics as war by other means.

1 comment:

  1. If you insist--the link: