6:30 am, Chang An Avenue, Beijing. © The Inge Morath Foundation

China (1978 – 83)

Inge Morath: China (1978 – 83)

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Introduction by Arthur Miller

This is not about the Cultural Revolution and its consequences, which, like the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, will be sifted by generations of scholars and made to confirm a thousand different conclusions. It is a witness, neither more nor less, of two people encountering the collapse of an orthodoxy at the very time when the faithful were emerging from the fallen temple with blinking eyes, trying to make out ordinary objects in the no longer charmed, unearthly light of ordinary days.

It is the moment when the great choirs of worshipers are stilled, when the mountains have ceased to dance (as some insist they did), and Necessity once again is deaf to all rhapsodic persuasions and will yield only to accountants and engineers, and the kind of people who may get things done but can never believe in what they cannot touch and see. And this too will pass into yet other permutations.

Here, then, is a bit of how it was for two people, well disposed and trying to see and listen, at the particular moment when the dust of the temple began to settle.

© Arthur Miller, from Chinese Encounters, New York: Farrar Straus Girous, 1979.