Wednesday 31 August 2022

Deng Xiaoping’s Camphor-wood tree, Xiamen, 24 June 2014

Camphor-wood tree in Xiamen park with inscription
(Random photo thrown up daily by Google)
A lovely park. This was my 2014 trip to Xiamen just to look around for a weekend. As one used to, pre Covid. Just hop on a plane or bullet train and you’re there. 

The inscription says

“Comrade Deng Xiaoping planted this Camphor-wood tree on 10 February 1984”

I imagine the diminutive Deng back then, in 1984, just shy of his 80th birthday, clutching a silver-plated spade, earnestly tossing a few spadefuls of dirt on the camphor sapling, perhaps then as bedraggled as this tree seems now, thirty years later. For he was never a fussy dresser, Deng, and neither, now, is this tree, naked, as those around are well-clothed in leaves. They can live to 1,000 years, these camphors, but will this one? If it sickens and dies, will they surreptitiously replace it, in the dead of night, with another of the same size? They could do that, in China. But it depends on what they think of Deng at the time. For now, he’s fine, though nowhere near as venerated as that wily and murderous reprobate Mao. And the tree? Who knows and I’ll likely never.

BTW : Camphor-wood tree, aka Camphor tree, aka Camphor Laurel, Cinnamomum camphora.

Talking of camphor-wood, below is a carved camphor-wood chest that my parents bought in Tokyo in 1948. Last I saw it, it was filled with hand-brushed Japanese Kanji characters on flash cards, teaching aids for my father who had been an interpreter on Japanese for the Australian Army intelligence fighting Japanese troops on the Kokoda Trail in New Guinea. 

By 1946 he was posted to the Australian embassy, Tokyo, where he met our mother who was with the New Zealand legation to the War Crimes Tribunal. The cards were to help him improve his already interpreter-level Japanese. Alas, they are now lost.