Prologue to Part I

An-Yi: Isn't it arrogant for non-Chinese to write about China?
Bhäraté: If you think of writing as a way of exploring an issue instead of a final pronouncement, then writing is never arrogant . . . it's simply an ongoing enquiry.
An-Yi: Well, how much does the author really know about China?
Bhäraté: How much can anyone know about a nation with over a billion people, five thousand years of recorded history, and so many ethnic groups? Our understanding is inherently imperfect.
Chariya: Yeah, our knowledge is like a spider's web: a flimsy construction the breeze. Still, it's worth spinning if we remember conjectures are merely conjectures . . .
An-Yi: Enough talk . . . I'll give this a few minutes of attention.
Daiki: [sucking in air] I don't know if I'm that patient . . . .