As a young boy, I only had two ambitions. The first was of being a cowboy in the Wild West, riding lonely mountain trails, eating peyote, consulting Navajo shamans, and pilfering forgotten ghost towns. The other was to go to China like Marco Polo exploring its wilds and cities along the Silk Road in search of the real General Tso, the great Qing Dynasty soldier-statesman made famous by Chinese takeout menus the world over. But never in my wildest, childish hallucinations could I have imagined that I would discover an amalgam of these in reality, as if a chapter in the story of my life became a chimerical tale of…
In this literature class I help Chinese university students decipher passages in Thoreau’s essay, “Reading,” pointing out that it may take multiple visits to his works — a journey over a span of years — to gain more understanding. I also answer a student’s question into why Thoreau thought reading the classics, preferably in the original Greek and Roman, was so important.