July 8, 2000
Years ago, around 700 CE, a great dynasty ruled all of China. It was called the T'ang Dynasty. The area where we are now, in the Yunnan Province, flourished under the T'ang rulers... for a while.
Not quite so many years ago, say around 1996, I had long hair, beautiful curly hair. It flourished under my love and care... for a while. (See. Isn't this comparison helpful?... Well, OK, it's fun, anyway.)
In 755, a viceroy named An Lu-shan led a huge and bloody rebellion against the uncaring emperor. The Chinese Empire, riddled with dissension, was plunged into civil war for eight years. It emerged peaceful, but divided into many smaller regions.
In 1997, I was living the chaotic lifestyle of a traveler and activist -- and my hair was riddled with knots. It emerged peaceful, but divided into many nappy dreadlocks. ("Why on earth is Abeja telling us all this?" you ask. Hang in there.)
In the mountainous Yunnan Province, far from the center of the T'ang Dynasty in Xi'an (where we'll be headed soon) the local people started their own dynasty. Ruled by the Bai, this new dynasty, the Nanzhao Dynasty, encompassed the whole area of Yunnan, and all the many different ethnic groups in the area.
But, like all dynasties, the Nanzhao fell apart, was overthrown, and was replaced by the kingdom of Dali in the 10th century.
Like all great dreadlocks, they eventually got chopped off. They were just too hard to care for, and that look was replaced by something more manageable. So, when I started the World Trek, I had super-short curls. You can see the pictures in the "meet Abeja" section if you don't believe me. (The parallels between my hair and ancient Chinese history are uncanny, aren't they?)
From the very beginning of civilization, China has had to defend itself from invasions by nomadic tribes from the North. These nomads wandered -- hunting, gathering, and herding animals in the less hospitable Mongolian Plateau. Needless to say, they were a bit jealous of the cultured, settled people around them. And they were mean. And ugly... well, ok, I don't really know what they looked like, but history paints a pretty bleak picture of the "Mongol hoards." Led by Genghis Khan, they occupied land all the way from Europe, across northern China, and into Korea. That's a lot of land.
And that's where we come to the evil parallel. Just as China has always feared invaders from the North (which is why they built the Great Wall, of course), my hair has always feared invasion, too. Never in my life, even when I was a kid, has my head succumbed to the nasty little beasties that lurk in all corners of the planet. Lice want to rule the world too, you know.
Trying to get a little lice comb through my thick hair would be impossible. I hate toxic sludge, so I didn't want to try the sometimes-successful option of using medicated shampoo for many days. The tragic ending to this strange story was inevitable, and a lesson to you about the down side of budget travel.
Unlike the Sung Dynasty and the Kingdom of Dali, I succeeded in defeating the evil invaders. But the price was high.
Abeja, the bald one
p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...firstname.lastname@example.org
Yang-Yang - MAD About Air Pollution in China's Big Cities
Time Machine | Multimedia and Special Guests
Home | Search | Teacher Zone | Odyssey Info