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Thomas Jefferson and the Chinese Gong

While Richard Nixon's diplomatic visit to China may have created a minor thaw in Sino-US relations, he was not the first President to try to get in sync with the Chinese. Thomas Jefferson preceded him by close to two centuries.

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, happened to be (in contrast to the current US President) an intelligent man, amazing inventor and, as DNA tests have shown, most likely a randy advocate of miscegenation. We now may envision that when the Continental Congress celebrated Thanksgiving together, which type of meat - light or dark - Jefferson put on his plate.

Now if you look at the tails side of a nickel, you can see a picture of TJ's Monticello home. But what the nickel doesn't show us is the unique interior of his Virginia manse. The inside of Monticello is much more eclectic: animal skins, Native American artifacts, painted floors the color of green grass. I'm certain that the "design team" of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition would appreciate it.

But the specific objet d'Jefferson that is of interest to the Gong Aficionado is "The Great Clock."

Originally Jefferson designed it for a home in Philadelphia, but the ropes on the large weights that drive the clock were much too long for the client's home. So TJ brought it to Monticello and created a clock that could mark time across the entire plantation.

Now to fit this Great Clock and its lengthy ropes into his home, TJ did what any man would do who wasn't worried about selling his home in two years when interest rates went up, he cut a big hole in the floor, so the ropes could hang down into the basement.

So how does this all relate to Gongs? Well, the chimes of this clock were made from a large Chinese Gong! And according to his 'employees of enforced servitude,' the chimes could be heard over three miles away. I am certain many a slave work song was sung to coincide with the hourly gonging. "Go down Moses, way down in Egypt land?Tell Ol' Pharoah, to let my people Gong. Let my people Gong!"

The clock still tells time, and the Chinese Gong still rings. Here's to solid manufacturing!

Thankfully, there are no slaves using it to tell time anymore. In 1967 the Supreme Court ruled on Loving vs. Virginia and forced all states to allow interracial marriage. Too little, too late for Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.

Andrew Borakove is a media writer and the proprietor of Gongs Unlimited, the only internet store devoted solely to gongs.


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