12 March 2007

One phenomenon I’ve stumbled onto in the Chinese internetz is a particular form of nationalism: the map of China revealed in nature phenomenon. It’s as simple as flipping through a baidu search for “Chinese maps” - numerous people and news sources post articles and pictures of rocks, trees and even clouds that look, at least to them, like China’s current territory. Sometimes they even have the appropriately sized pebbles for Taiwan and Hainan, like this one on sale at Taobao for an asking price of a modest 1,000,000 RMB (roughly $130,000 USD). Various stone collectors have rocks with markings that resemble China, depending on which historical period you’re thinking of, how patriotic you’re feeling at the moment, and perhaps how much you squint:

“Rock found resembling China” seems to also be a perennial news story as well, offering more examples:

Of course, there are also those that people have made as well from natural materials, such as tree roots, forests, and DNA:

But mostly I’ve come across pictures that are like some sort Rorschach test, where netizens have posted and shared photos of things in which they see China. In previous dynasties, the legitimacy of the Emperor was said to derive from the stars. Some Chinese netizens seem to see China reflected back in other parts of nature, but some even see it in the sky.
Frankly, I think it looks more like North America. Perhaps the poster would say “Naturally - you’re an American! As a Chinese, I see China!” Perhaps, but after searching Google I have yet to so easily find even one example on the web of an American saying “Look! That cloud looks like the US mainland!”, let alone “And those little ones to the left are Hawaii!” No, in America, as well as Europe and Latin America, it is not the outlines of nations that appear to us in fuzzy shapes. No, these Rorschach tests reveal a different priority:

Shrine to the Cookie Sheet Virgin Mary that appeared in Houston 3 weeks ago
The Glasgow Jesus Ultrasound

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