Archive for November 1st, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lights for the Memories

Night falls early now, and lasts for many hours. Once in a while, on my way to or from work, I’m passing by a graveyard next to the road. There’s an air of solitude around it, as it lies outside the residential areas, the next street lamps are several hundred meters behind or ahead, and only few cars are passing through.

But no matter if the nightly skies are cobalt-blue and the moon is shining, or if it is overcast or rainy, there is that one light between the tombstones. It’s an old pagan, i. e. Catholic tradition, and in this Lutheran area, you won’t see it very often. They call it “ewiges Licht” or eternal light – in English, it would be sanctuary lamp. To people who believe in it, it may symbolize the eternal life or lives of departed souls. To me, it symbolizes the memories of the survivors.

Once in a while, I dismount and watch the light for a while. It flickers when the wind is blowing across the void place, and it shines silently under the cold and peaceful light of the moon. But it is always there. It isn’t eternal by itself – it only is because someone comes there once in a while and keeps it going. And it isn’t really eternal. Sooner or later, maybe when the bereaved themselves are dead, their light will go out.

But it’s both a sad and a comforting custom. Sanctuary lamps are sanctuaries for the survivors.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Qian Xuesen dies at 98

Chinese scientist Qian Xuesen (钱学森), who is known as the father of China’s space technology program, and arguably its first atomic bomb, died in Beijing yesterday, aged 98. The Voice of America (VoA) also notes the pre-pinyin Latin spelling of his name, which used to be Tsien Hsue-shen, and gives a short biography of his life.
Chinese Chief State Councillor Wen Jiabao (温家宝) had paid a visit to Qian in August. At the time, Qian was apparently at reasonably good health for his age, and in a good mood (Jiefang Daily, first photo).

His life was closely connected with Shanghai’s Jiaotong University (交通大学), writes Jiefang Daily. He studied at the university’s faculty of mechanical engineering from 1929 to 1934, and was awarded a Outstanding Friends of the University Lifetime Achievement Reward (杰出校友终身成就奖) in April this year, as Jiaotong University celebrated the 113th anniversary of its foundation.

From 1935, Qian studied mathematics and aviation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology. According to a Wikipedia entry, he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1949, but decided to return to China after being suspected of being a communist. After five years of arrests and house arrests in America, he was deported to China in 1955. In 1958, he joined the CCP, and was put in charge of developing ballistic missiles.

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