The second Asian journey — some eighteen months in duration and well off the tourist track — commenced in the spring of 1928, or not long after Ron’s seventeenth birthday. In contrast to the first, he traveled alone, or in the company of such extraordinary figures as the last in the line of Royal Magicians from the court of Kubla Kahn, and the regional head of the Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Also in contrast to the first, he traveled very deep, effectively to the heart of a genuinely startling China. From his intermittent journal, much of it literally penned at sea or on the road, come his notes in the wake of a high winds on the China Sea, impressions from Peking and the fabled Great Wall.
While by way of supplementary notes, let us add the following: He actually reached the China coast after signing aboard a working schooner bound for the Malay Peninsula; hence, the description of a wind-sheared mast in typhoon weather. From the coast, he moved inland by military transport with a rail-pass secured from a nameless American quartermaster. If his notes on local tourist attractions strike us as somewhat caustic, we must understand what China suffered for those monuments to royal frivolity. Then, too, this was all the China the typical tourist ever saw and he felt it a pity.
His notes from beyond the “rubberneck stations” are likewise significant. Those left to die from exposure on the platforms, for example, were most probably from Nationalist regiments then at war with both Soviet-backed Communists and Japanese-backed warlords. In reference to the Communists, comes his very pointed observation regarding the principal target of Communist propaganda, i.e., the coolie who wishes only a full belly “that he may sleep comfortably all night.” In reference to collaborating warlords, comes his comment regarding Chang-Tao-Lin, blown to bits in a railway carriage when his Japanese masters no longer found him useful. Chen Shek is, of course, Chiang Kai-shek, eventual rival of Communist demagogue Mao Zedong and myopic leader of the Kuomintang or Nationalist contingent. LRH references to Japanese brutality are also well taken, and all the more so given what China would further endure through the Second World War.
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