Fleshing out history

March 17, 2012

I’m reading Susan Wise Bauer’s roll call of Chinese rulers in The History of the Medieval World. Not having ever studied Chinese history before, there are too many names, not enough flesh. In the midst of one such list at a one-ruler-per-paragraph rate, I thought of Annie Dillard:

“There are 1,198,500,000 people alive now in China. To get a feel for what this means, simply take yourself–in all your singularity, importance, complexity, and love–and multiply by 1,198,500,000. See? Nothing to it.”

                                                          —For the Time Being

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