Younger only by the many frosts,
the new beginnings,
repeated transfers of the vital juices
to new trunks;
That is the age-old European tree.
In the transfers something was filtered
and made fit for all humanity.
Greece was not defined by blood
But by the thoughts, commitments shared.
Europe was not a cozy kinship
but named after a maiden riding a divine bull
through heavy seas to unknown land.
Yes we have it in our very blood
beautifully organized Egypt,
calculating Sumerians, Arabs, strong
in reasoning; stubbornly faithful
Hebrew herdsmen, world wise
Greek tragedians with pungent insights,
Pontiffs and their librarians,
daredivil trading nations,
knightly orders carousing at different inns
yet somehow bound together.
Achievements were constantly challenged,
checked, contested and revised.
China is more a single family.
The tribulations it went through
were mostly within the same courtyard.
Kinship remained the touchstone of its heart.
The capital could move, the mandate shift
but always to the Yellow Emperor
the family harked back.
If then so strongly differently old
are China and Europe,
let’s celebrate symposium nights
and alternate under this tree
planted by Hippocrates
twenty-five centuries ago;
And then again in Qufu, where its brother tree
two and one half millennium old
recalls the voice of Master Kung
and of his followers as they conversed.
Anton Smitsendonk at the time in Beijing