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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Heaven is high and the emperor is far away

By Sean Corrigan

Imagine, if you will, a small, isolated hamlet where the daily round proceeds in harmony with the gentle rhythm of agriculture. Ground is tilled, seed is sown, crops are harvested, dried, threshed, and milled, each in their due season. In the lush, green meadows a little higher up the valley cows are impregnated before their calves are led docilely off to slaughter – both for their meat and for their cheese-making stomach enzymes. The kine turn the sweet grass which covers the pasture into much-needed fertilizer for the arable lands and, twice daily, milking takes place according to its own timeless routine.

Into this bucolic idyll now intrudes an ambitious village headman who has heard that he can further his own lot in life if he erects a series of shrines to the glory of the Emperor who is honourably busying himself with the mandate of heaven, far away in the stately pleasure dome of his Celestial Palace. Work begins at once, employing both those locals who have too little to do and, in due course, attracting itinerant labourers to the village.

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