To prep for my trip to Guangzhou and Shenzhen next month (more on that later now at Writer, editor, pajama model), a friend and client suggested I read Tim Clissold’s “Mr. China.” It’s an interesting firsthand account of the business climate and culture in China when it was opening up to trade with the west in the 1990s.
Perhaps the most fascinating passage in the book, however, was this blurb on Chinese not changing verbs based on time (p. 132):
The link in China between daily language and the past is strengthened further by a lack of senses. In Chinese, there is no verb change depending on time. “Mao Zedong is a good leader” and “Mao Zedong was a good leader” are not distinguished in Chinese. Things that in our language are extinct remain alive in Chinese. Without the separation in language or thought between what “was” and what “is,” China’s past seems to merge into its present.
Confusing? Sure. But there’s something beautiful about a language allowing timelessness and immortality.