Boundary marker in north-west Cao Bang.

Boundaries the sky there is no distinction of east and west. People create such distinctions and then believe them to be true.

Katinka Hesselink (2008)

Boundaries well exemplify distinctions. Distinctions sit at the heart of our thinking: we cannot think at all without making distinctions. The boundary in the picture between China and Vietnam is deep in the jungle, only the concrete post attests to the divide which has been fought over for 2,000 years. A line, entirely in the human mind, which kills people. We fight and die for a boundary between our countries, it becomes a mental, cultural and geographic reality of greater value than our life. Expunging misleading mental divisions seems a worthy aim. We find biologists soften the divide between prey and predator, Buddhists seek to blend self with others, and Brahmins may elide god and man. Distinctions inhere in us, not outside us, but what can morality really gain if its advance is at the expense of thought?


In Vietnam’s northern province of Cao Bằng the border with China wanders through the jungle along an arbitrary line, at kilometre intervals stand these markers. On one side there is an inscription in Chinese and on the other it is in Vietnamese naming, for the viewer, the country beyond. Katinka Hesselink is one person among many on the internet who use this quote, its origins seem unclear, although it is Buddhist in conception.


Saturday 26th
January 2019

Murphy on duty

Details of the
Greeting Card

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