Beijing Standard Time
By Tammy Ho Lai-Ming

Beijing Standard Time is used across 9.6 million square metres. The sun rises around 10am in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost province.

‘And thought is as free as the sun[.]’ — Louis MacNeice

Do you own the sun?
Perhaps you do—you do dictate time.
Everywhere across this vast land,
your time is the time.

People so often discuss
how Chinese written characters
were simplified by Mao.
Do they know time, too,

was simplified?
Five zones reduced to one.
One time for ‘national unity’
One zone for ‘everyone’.

Little sacrifice, or inconvenience
for those in Beijing,
a city which imagines
that others orbit it, day in, day out.

But in some areas
the sun sets at midnight,
and only appears
again at ten.

No wonder those distanced
from the capital
perceive time their own way—
independent of Beijing Standard Time.

Can you blame them? Following
nature’s law is only natural.
And besides, the day is long,
and the emperor is already asleep.

Tammy Ho Lai-Ming is the founding co-editor of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and an assistant professor of literature at Hong Kong Baptist University.