“In Xanadu”

There’s no better time to finish “In Xanadu” than right now, when I am eager to escape to another world, if not physically at least mentally, away from the depressing virus news and the seemingly never ending lockdown. Yet I’m not able to proceed from the 27% mark of the book which I had forced myself to go through about two months ago. Too many exotic names of places and events in Middle East and Turkey. My initial appetite turns into indigestion. What is supposed to be a book about Mongolia ends up with almost 30% description of the Middle East. The author is now in Pakistan and at this pace there’s no knowing when he would ever get to Mongolia, which is thousands and thousands miles away.

My little obsession with Mongolia started as a child when my father told me that he’s half Mongolian, whom I can relate through Kung Fu books, always with description of the steppe serving as backdrops for the horse riding, acrobatic, immodest Kung Fu ladies. I never thought about traveling to the place though. It’s beyond my family’s economic means. Now to think of it, it could be a good thing since reality often disappoints while imagination enchants. In addition, my quiet disposition and my dislike of physical exertions will lead to my complaint of the most fascinating places on earth, whenever I set my foot on.

I’m interested in Mongolia, not because it’s once an empire. If anything, empire is probably one of the most ridiculous forms of political existence–too big, too unwieldy, too cumbersome, too cruel, too many absurd leaders. One would more likely to aspire to write a satire than a praise. And there are so many things to be sarcastic about the Mongolia empire–the laughable caste system which is hastily enacted and is known for its breach and is rarely observed; its messy religious debates; the life of a herder and a soldier being quite astonishingly different from those of agrarian people; their ludicrous beauty standard, which is the most interesting as it makes one think that all beauty standard is ludicrous.

My goal of reading all the books about Mongolia has materialized into reading three books by Jack Weatherford. That’s all the passion I can muster for a dream of mine. Then I bought two other books on the same topic but never read a page. After that, I skimmed through the introduction of “Hearing Birds Fly” but lay the book aside in the middle of the first paragraph. It decorated my bedside for two months, during which my conscience told me to read five pages every night but my indolence told me not to. Afterwards it was shelved and has stayed shelved ever since.

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