Hi there readers, today’s post is a short one. I had a fancy introduction written, but it gave the game away from the offset. Today I want to share a tale of the last Chinese Emperor, a man known simply as Puyi. Puyi came to power just shy of his third birthday in 1908, and would find himself deposed following a revolution starting in Wuhan just four years later. He would enjoy an occasional, brief reign later in life as a useful idiot – first as a figurehead for the warlord Zhang Xun in 1917 – then the Japanese in the 2nd Sino Japanese war/ World War Two (1934-1945). For most of his life he was kept like a bird in a gilded cage. Kept in luxury in palatial surroundings, but without the freedom to go where he chose.
Puyi had a learned tutor named Reginald Johnston. Johnston would, later in his life, write a book. That book would be adapted into a movie. Peter O’Toole would play him on the big screen. He taught the captive emperor a great many things about the world, but the one thing which most enraptured the adolescent aristocrat was the telephone. We currently live in a world where new technology has an increasingly fast uptake. In 1921 telephones were largely a newfangled device owned by few– in spite of the first telephone exchanges going in from the late 1870s. The phone would, rightly have been seen as a modern wonder in Puyi’s age. As with many teens, the last emperor insisted he must have the shiny new toy – to the consternation of his handlers.
“But, your majesty, the palace has never had a telephone before” they said. “Bringing in such Western technology will upset the celestial balance” they pleaded, un-ironically, while surrounded by Swiss cuckoo clocks. Puyi would have none of their complaining, a phone line was going in. So it was the last emperor ended his splendid isolation with the world.
But, what did he do with his new found freedom? Did he place diplomatic phone calls to world leaders, find a long lost love, or even negotiate a book deal? Not on your life. He made countless prank phone calls to other Chinese citizens unlucky enough to also own a phone.
Hello all, welcome to my new project – my ‘Moonlight Disquisitions’ blog. If you’re curious about the discordant name, a disquisition is a detailed examination of a subject. One of those archaic words you rarely see in this day and age; till you’re delving into old essays on Immanuel Kant or Adam Smith and someone wants to put across how detailed, complex and thorough their work is – but say that in one word…. One long single word sure … that the writer in question is anything but sparing in their own prose.
Ironically, my intent on this blog is to do the opposite as much as possible. Another way you can use the word is to state one is disquisitive – one who examines, who probes. This carries more weight on the act of study and reflection than of producing long dissertations. I think I have a disquisitive mind, I hope I can keep the entries here valuable and insightful – but succinct.
Why the moonlight? Because I am a lifelong insomniac. I’m not one for nightmares and such, but I do have a hyperactive mind, and a day job which doesn’t challenge me nearly enough. Over the last few years I have done well in getting an average 6 to 7 hours a night’s sleep through taking a shower before bed, drinking less alcohol than I once did – and employing rain sounds or sleep hypnosis tapes over my smart devices. I also try to get in regular exercise. If I didn’t have these coping mechanisms I would likely run on four hours a night fairly regularly, and would feel all the worse for it. The essays I’m intending to fill this site with are ‘Moonlight disquisitions’ as they’re often the result of the thoughts that come to me at night. While I have no doubt there will be a certain family resemblance to my other child, Tales of History and Imagination – plenty of historical allusions, a leaning towards literary quotes. Occasionally some reference to some economic or scientific knowledge that found me at 2am one morning when, try as I might, I just can’t drift back off to sleep, yet. I intend to make this collection more personal, and generally more grounded in the here and now. If anything is likely to get a disquisition perhaps the subject, ultimately, is me?