It is a flaw of these Essays in Idleness, that I try to say too much in each Idlepost. Just now, I tried to dock yesterday’s prolixities, when I realized that covering the Pacific Ocean with discarded plastic drinking bottles was not actually germane to the issue of poverty in the slums of São Paulo, and that I should have been content with getting the tilde right. Often, like a Democrat, I am guilty of exactly what I accuse others of doing.

So today I turn over a new leaf, yet again, as I do every day. I will try to make a simple point, then give up.

This point will be about the Chinese, whom I very much admired for three thousand years, but have been down on since the ‘forties. Note, this is not entirely their fault, but I was just looking at some stock footage, of vast numbers in the PRC, marching lockstep in expensive gear, with tanks, missile carriers, and other vehicles that (were I a superpower) I would be more discreet about advertising. On the instructions of a certain Mao Tse-tung — a gentleman who outdid Stalin and Hitler if we rank by body count — they bought into the postmodern in a crass and vulgar way.

On their good days, Trump and the Yankees are much more spiritual, and only the Batflu Stasi go about closing churches. But now I’m getting into the weeds, and will be mentioning “Fang Fang” if I’m not careful.

What impressed me about the Chinese, and satellite cultures of the Orient, was their genius for material simplicity. No matter how extensive their Forbidden Quarters and Palaces, or long their Great Walls and Canals, everything would have clarity from close up, and use goods and ingredients chastely, without the slightest aggravating hint of overkill.

The sails on a Chinese junk will be my example. Rather than burden them with over-heavy cloth, against the fearsome gusts of the oceanic breezes, they simply made them easy to patch. Their fully-battened balanced lugsails hung one sail to a mast, which leaned forward so they would not snag. Should the wind be fully howling, they could be taken right off and rolled securely. Those masts being set centre-deck, the rudders were to starboard, and could be raised in chocks when the vessel came ashore. The flat-bottomed hulls were divided into compartments so they wouldn’t fill with water all at one time, and the boat needed no keel, let alone a false one. These holds separated incompatible cargoes. The family who owned the junk could live permanently aboard, in cabins to the more tranquil aft, above deck.

But now they have replaced them all, with our awkward oversized metal clunkers, that require noisy smoking oil-sucking engines and might sink if they are violated with a single hole.

I could go on. Don’t get me started on the extraordinary peace embodied in the shapes of Song dynasty clay pots, or the purity conducted through ancient Chinese brush strokes. We were Promethean, they were not; but now they have come over to our darkest side.