Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Man Must Conquer Nature: 人定胜天

Man Must Conquer Nature: Ren Ding Sheng Tian
Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.

The tourist material at the Three Gorges Dam--the parks, monuments, and signage--are filled with the sort of pro-industry rhetoric one associates with the Mao era. I didn't realize how much of an atavism the place was, though, until I saw this sign, at Scenic Spot 82, which repeats one of Mao's slogans most profoundly associated with the environmental destruction of that era: "Man must conquer nature." The sign itself offered a slightly different translation:


Judith Shapiro makes a lot of this kind of rhetoric in Mao's War Against Nature. The slogan is even more hubristic in the original, because the word for "nature" is actually 天, which is more commonly translated "heaven, as I discuss below.

In fact, with this slogan, Mao announced his domination over reality itself, much like the anonymous Bush administration official who derided the "reality based community"

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