To focus my thoughts on the China book project, for the last several weeks I've been watching Chinese-centric films.
I started with Curse of the Golden Flower, which is supposedly set in the Tang Dynasty. I have to admit that when I first watched it, I found it a bit odd but the themes now make a lot more sense to me - both in terms of its ending and also the time in which it was set.
Jumping ahead in history, the next film in the sequence was 55 Days in Peking, which is about the Boxer Rebellion and stars Charleton Heston as, well, himself. I suppose it's biased against the Boxers, but then again, they were trying to kill all the diplomats and their families which was not very nice.
Props to Flora Robeson as the Empress Dowager. Ah, for the days when people were allowed to play folks from other races and cultures. I'm old enough to remember when our betters told us that race was only skin deep, not the defining human characteristic.
After that, I watched The Last Emperor, Super-Long Director's Cut Edition. Whew! This should have been a miniseries. I get why the guy wanted all the extra footage added in, but he should have also included an intermission. Ah, for the days when data compression required two disks for a movie of this length.
The big takeaway for me was how deeply weird late Imperial China was and Henry Puyi was also a bit off.
For a change of pace, we jumped to the 1920s for The Sand Pebbles, a movie that got Steve McQueen and Best Actor nomination. It's a good film, well done, and covers the forgotten topic of US gunboats sailing around in China. Hard to believe that Candace Bergen was once mild-mannered and sweet rather than middle-aged and caustic.
Closing out my journey was Love Is a Many Splendored Thing, which is set in Hong Kong as the Chinese Civil War comes to a close. It's a fascinating snap-shot of Hong Kong before it was entirely paved over with skyscrapers and run by the Chi-Coms. Jennifer Jones does a great job of being a half-Chinese doctor (or as she insists, "Eurasian"). William Holden plays his usual lecherous self. Funny how that guy so often ended up portraying a writer on the take.
Anyway, I think the "off duty" attention paid to China kept me motivated to hit my goal of 40,000 words by the end of March. I am definitely over the hump on this book. Going forward, the sources are more plentiful, clearer and the lessons of military operations become far more clear.
I've set a very ambitious goal of having 60,000 words by the end of April and a draft done by the end of May, so we'll see how that goes.