We are accustomed to hearing stories about how a certain thing was always invented by a sage of ancient times. Naturally, we would ask the same question about the written word. At once, there is an answer from some forgotten source: writing was invented by Cang Jie. I have even seen a portrait of this Cang Jie. He was a monkish 11 old man with four eyes.
It would seem that, if one is going to create writing, he'd first off better have an unusual visage. Those of us who have just two eyes are not only insufficiently talented; even our features are unsuited for the task. However, the author of the Book of Changes [original note:] I don't know who he was was rather more intelligent. He said, "In high antiquity, government was carried out with knotted cords 12 [to make records].
The sages of subsequent ages substituted [written] documents and contracts for these. And he does not mention "invented" but only speaks of an exchange. He was really being very cautious. Perhaps, without thinking about it, he did not believe that in antiquity there could have been a person who created a large number of graphs all by himself so he just gives us this one vague sentence.
But what sort of figure was responsible for replacing knotted cords with documents and contracts? Was he a writer? That's not a bad answer, judged from the current reality of the so-called "writers" who are most fond of flaunting their writing skills but utterly inept when their pens are snatched away from them. Indeed, one must first think of them, and, indeed, they ought to expend a bit of effort on behalf of their own bread-winning tool.
Yet this is not true. Although people in prehistoric times sang songs when they worked and sang songs when they were wooing, by no means did they make drafts of their songs or keep manuscripts of them. This is because, even in their dreams, they wouldn't have been able to conceive of selling manuscripts of their poems or of compiling their collected works. Furthermore, in the society of that time, there were no newspaper publishers and bookstores, so writing was of no utility whatsoever.
According to what some scholars tell us, it would appear that those who devoted their labors to script must have been the historians. In primitive society, at first there were probably only mages 13 [who were in charge of spiritual and ritual matters]. It was not until after a period of gradual evolution when things became complicated that there was a need to record such matters as sacrifice, hunting, war, and so forth. The mages were then forced to think of a way to make records in addition to carrying out their basic duty of "inviting the spirits to descend.
Consequently, they likewise had to write compositions, although this was probably something that occurred subsequently. Still later, duties were divided up even more clearly, whereupon there came into being the historian, who specialized in keeping records of things. Script is an indispensable instrument for the historian. Some ancient has said, "Cang Jie was the Yellow Emperor's historian. As for the later "men of letters" who used script to write such fine lines as "Oh, my love! Ah, I am dying! According to the Book of Changes, before there were documents and contracts, there clearly were knotted cords.
Whenever the country-folk where I'm from have something important they want to do the next day and are afraid of forgetting it, they often say, "Tie a knot in your belt! I'm afraid this wouldn't work. If there were only a few knots you could still remember [what they signified], but once there were many it would be hopeless. Or perhaps that was precisely something like the eight trigrams 18 of Emperor Fuxi, 19 with three cords in each unit. If all were unknotted that would be qian male, Heaven , but if all three had a knot in the center that would be kun female, Earth.
I'm afraid this isn't right either. If there were only eight units, you still might be able [to get by], but if there were sixty-four units, it would be difficult to remember [what they all stood for], much less if there were units! Although it looks like a net without really being one, it seems as though it could actually be used to represent a relatively large amount of ideas.
I suspect that the knotted cords of our prehistoric ancestors were like this. However, since they were replaced by documents and contracts and were not the direct ancestors of the latter, there's no harm setting them aside for the moment. The oldest characters that we can see on genuine artifacts are the oracle-bone inscriptions and bronze inscriptions of the Shang dynasty.
Occasionally, however, one can glimpse a small amount of realistic pictography, for example a deer or an elephant. From these pictographic shapes, one can discover clues related to script: the Chinese script is founded on pictography. The buffalo painted in the Altamira Caves 25 of Spain are famous remains of primitive man, and many art historians say that this is truly "art for art's sake," that primitive man painted them for amusement. But this explanation cannot escape from being overly "modern," 26 because primitive man did not have as much leisure as nineteenth-century 27 artists.
He had a reason for painting each buffalo, something that had to do with buffalo, whether it was hunting the buffalo or casting a spell on them. Even now people gawk at the advertisements for cigarettes and movies [posted] on walls in Shanghai. One can imagine what a commotion such an extraordinary sight must have caused in unsophisticated, primitive society! As they looked at [the paintings], they would come to know that this thing [called] a buffalo could, after all, be drawn on a flat surface with lines. At the same time, it seems as though they came to recognize [the drawing as a graph representing the word] "buffalo.
However, there was more than one Cang Jie in [ancient] society. Some of them carved designs on sword hilts; others drew pictures on doors. I suspect that the origins of Chinese writing are to be found within this sort of process. Naturally, later on there must have been a continual increase in the number of characters, but this is something that the scribes could have managed by themselves. By inserting the new characters — which, moreover, were pictographic — among the familiar characters, others would have easily guessed what they signified.
However, if anyone is intent on being a new Cang Jie, they will surely fail. Zhu Yu 29 of [the southern kingdom of] Wu and Wu Zetian 30 of the Tang [dynasty] both created bizarre characters, but all their efforts were wasted. Nowadays, it is Chinese chemists who are the best at creating characters. To tell the truth, whenever I see [such characters] I get a headache.
I feel that it would be far better and more straightforward to use the Latin names current in all other nations. If you are incapable of recognizing the twenty-some letters [of the Roman alphabet] — please pardon me for speaking bluntly — then you probably won't be able to learn chemistry very well either.
In both the Rites of Zhou Zhouli 31 and the Explanation of Simple and Compound Graphs Shuo wen jie zi , 32 it is said that there are six different methods for forming characters. Pictographs may be "based upon the body which is close at hand or on objects that are far away. Of course, that is very clear and convenient.
But sometimes you hit a brick wall. For example, if you want to draw the edge of a knife blade, how do you go about it? If you don't draw the back of the knife blade, you can't depict the edge of the blade. This is already getting to seem a bit troublesome to handle, and it is all the more so when you have something that has no form to represent.
In such cases, all you can do is come up with an "ideational" graph, which may also be called a "conjunct" graph. Conjunct graphs are more troublesome than pictographs, since you have to draw at least two components. It looks to me as though the character for "jar" is actually a combination of the two forms for mortar and pestle, so all together there are five components. But [even this method] won't [always] work, because there are some things that cannot be depicted and other things that one does not know how to depict.
For example, the leaves of the pine and the cypress are of different types, and it is possible to distinguish them. But writing, after all, is writing; it cannot be as refined as painting. When you come right down to it, you just have to stick it out. To get us out of this sticky situation, along comes [the principle of character formation called] xiesheng symphonetic 36 in which meaning and shape part company.
Therefore, some people say that this was [further] progress for Chinese writing. They're right. We may indeed call this progress, yet the foundation is still that of drawing pictures. To sum up, if you want to write [Chinese] characters, you are forever compelled to draw pictures. But the ancients were by no means stupid. They had long since simplified the pictographs so that they became distanced from realistic representations. Seal 42 characters with their curved lines still bear the traces of picture-drawing. But with the development of the clerical script 43 up to the standard script 44 of today, [the characters have grown] poles apart from [the archaic] pictographs.
However, the foundation has by no means changed. Even after [the characters had grown] poles apart [from their archaic ancestral forms], they became pictographs that no longer bore a resemblance to the objects they represented. Although [the characters were now] simpler to write, they were exceedingly difficult to recognize. Furthermore, there are still some characters that even today are by no means simple. Another complication is that, due to sound changes that have occurred between antiquity and the present, there are many symphonetic xiesheng graphs whose phonophores have gotten quite out of tune.
The ancients handed down writing to us. Admittedly, this is a tremendous heritage for which we should be thankful. However, at the present time, when pictographs no longer resemble the objects they are supposed to represent, and when symphonetic graphs have gotten out of tune, our thanks cannot but be a bit hesitant.
Having reached this point, I would like to speculate a bit on the question of whether or not language and script coincided in ancient times. With regard to this question, although modern scholars have by no means come to a clear conclusion, it seems from listening to their manner of speaking that they probably consider them to have coincided, and the further back we go the more closely they coincided. Nonetheless, I'm rather doubtful of that, because the easier a script is to write, the easier it is to make what one writes coincide with speech.
But the Chinese pictographs are so hard to draw that I suspect that our forefathers all along stripped away unimportant words. The Book of Documents Shujing 47 is so hard to read that it would seem it might well serve as evidence that it was based on spoken language. But research has not yet precisely revealed the spoken language of the Shang and Zhou people [whom it purports to be about].
Perhaps it was more prolix [than the terse written language of the Book of Documents ]. As for the ancient books of the Zhou and Qin, although their authors used a small amount of their local topolects, the writing was roughly the same [regardless of what part of China and which speech community they hailed from]. And, even if it was fairly close to the spoken language, what they were using was a standardized Zhou-Qin vernacular, not at all a Zhou-Qin colloquial.
Jottings under Lamplight
All the more it goes without saying for the Han dynasty that, although Sima Qian 48 d. Well, then, shouldn't the children's rhymes, the proverbs, and the folk songs quoted in ancient books be authentic popular language of the time? In my estimation that's hard to say too. Chinese men of letters, by temperament, were quite fond of rewriting the compositions of others.
The most obvious example of this is that "The Song of the Prince of Huainan," 51 though it was the same Han-period folk song from the same place, is recorded in two different versions in the History of the Han Hanshu and in the Annals of the Former Han Qian Han ji. A foot of cloth can yet be sewn, A peck of grain can yet be husked, But these two brothers cannot countenance each other.
A foot of cloth will make you snuggly warm, A peck of rice will stuff your tummy, But these two brothers do not countenance each other. If we compare [these two versions], it seems as though the latter is [closer to] the original, yet it's possible that even [in this version] some things have been omitted and that it is merely a summary. Later, the recorded sayings 53 and the storyteller's scripts 54 of the Song period, [as well as] the spoken portions of Yuan drama 55 and southern plays, 56 are also summaries.
It's just that the language they used was relatively common and that the words they omitted were relatively few, so that people felt they were "clear as speech. My surmise is that Chinese language and script all along have not at all coincided. The main reason for this is that the characters are difficult to write, so that the only recourse is to abbreviate somewhat. The writing of the ancients was [thus] a digest of the spoken language of the time. Therefore, when we write Classical Chinese, 57 we are using pictographs that no longer bear a resemblance to the objects they are supposed to represent and symphonetic graphs that are not necessarily in tune to limn on paper a digest of the spoken language of the ancients that no modern person would say and that few can understand.
Just think! Wouldn't it be difficult? Writing had its inception among the people, but later it became the exclusive possession of the privileged. According to the surmise of the author of the Book of Changes, "In high antiquity, government was carried out with knotted cords [to make records]. By the time [writing] fell into the hands of the mages and scribes, it was even more so, inasmuch as they served under the chieftains and over the populace. As society evolved, the scope of those individuals who learned to write expanded, but [writing] was largely still restricted to the privileged.
As for the common people, they were illiterate not because they lacked the tuition fees, but simply because they were considered unfit since [writing] was restricted only to those who qualified. Furthermore, they were not even permitted to look at books. Before woodblock printing developed in China, a good book would invariably be hidden away in the imperial libraries and depositories, so that not even scholars knew its contents. Since writing belonged to the privileged, it was something dignified and mysterious. Still today, Chinese characters are very dignified. We often see hanging on the wall baskets with the maxim "Cherish paper that has characters on it.
Since writing possesses dignity, then whoever knows how to write will be dignified by his association with it. It has altogether lyrics in three genres of Feng ballads , Ya courtly songs and Song hymns , concerning a wide scope of topics. The songs are divided into three artistic forms Fu rhyme prose , Bi analogy and Xing evocation. They are beautiful and harmonious, simple and natural.
The author of this book made the excellent, representative songs into many lively stories, enabling today's readers to have a certain understanding of the Book of Songs. ISBN This is the first collection of essay by the late expert of ancient Chinese architecture, gardening artist Chen Congzhou. This book's title was the handwriting of Ye Shengtao , a famous educator and writer , and Yu Pingbo , a famous Chinese writer and researcher of Chinese classics wrote the preface for the book.
Under its chief Song Jiang, they robbed the rich to help the poor, fought ag ainst the cruel suppression of the feudal empire, and finally accepted amnesty and pledged loyalty to the ruler. ISBN In this love story the kidnapped female protagonist is the male protagonist's lover. The story is intricate and worth reading. ISBN This is a women's psychological history, a long-lasting fight between women and men, a sexy but bizarre life drama and a wonder of women's growth. This is a personalized classical novel. Unlike other avant-garde novels, it sells very well.
Two volumes; pages. With the Anti-Japanese War as the background, focusing on the four generations of the Qi family, it vents the ancient Beijing people's grievance of losing the country and the city and praises the unconquerable national spirit. This book collates three versions of Ci of the Song Dynasty and gives simple annotations and rich citations and the brief introductions to the ci writers. It is a good collection for today's readers. ISBN It is a collection of classical poems with the most individual characteristics so far. The compiler is the world-famous scholar of Chinese national culture Qian Zhongshu.
This book is special in its selection of poems, fine annotations, resourceful citations and humorous writing.
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It is an excellent Song Dynasty poem selection. It also can be read as a criticism on the history of the Song Dynasty poems. ISBN This is a large selection of classical ci poetry of the Song Dynasty, with over ci , covering representative pieces of all famous writers of different schools. It comprehensively shows the meaning, charm and diversity of styles of ci poetry of the Song Dynasty. The annotations include titles, original meanings, implications and artistic appreciation, which are written in simple language.
It is an excellent reading book suitable for both highbrows and lowbrows. Hardcover; two volumes; pages. It has stories in original text, modern Chinese and English. Ba Jin is therefore reputed to be the "conscience of modern Chinese intellectuals. The circulation totaled over ,, and it won the first prize of the first National Book Award in , exerting far-reaching influence in the circles of ideology and among readers. In the year of Mr. ISBN This book tells stories of a group of writers, poets and artists, and vividly depicts all phenomena of the art circle around the western border.
The language is humorous, relaxing and easy to read. ISBN This book has very rich content, including the poet's life experience, temperament, creation, popular poetry, schools, phenomena and origins of poetry…It draws a lot of materials, carefully uses citations, which can be very helpful to the readers and researchers of the poetry of Tang and Song dynasties. Explanations are given by professionals to children. The language is beautiful and easy to understand. Famous storybook painter Zhou Shen was specially invited to draw pictures for the book.
Combining classical and modern styles, this book is suitable for children. ISBN This book carefully selects over poems of the Tang Dynasty that represent the highest achievement of the ancient Chinese poetry. It also has detailed annotations and authors' biographies. The annotations pay special attention to the difficult questions and key words. Author's biographies accurately explicate each poet's characteristics of creation in concise language. It is one of the most popular books of the Tang poems in China. ISBN The compiler of this book is a famous modern Chinese writer and researcher of ci poetry.
This book carefully selects ci and has easy-to-understand annotations. It is an influential, classical selection of ci of the Tang and Song dynasties. There is a saying about it which goes like this "if you read Poems of the Tang Dynasty over and over again, you can recite them even if you can't compose poems. With rich citations and brief introductions to the poets, this book is excellent reading material for today's readers.
ISBN This is a collection of classical poetry of a year-old teenager. ISBN Chess is a competitive sport, a game and an art. It is a way between right and wrong, clouds in the sky and dirt on the ground. It is black characters on white paper, a box of books that contains the past, an enlightenment about life, or you can say, it is about life. They reach life in every corner of city and countryside and are full of lively atmosphere and humor.
The book also contains some ancient novels about thieves and robbers. ISBN The female writer Lin Bai changed her usual style of writing in this book which tells the story of grass-roots people in a place called Wang Zha. It shows Li Ao's extraordinary, dramatic life. They cover the topics of art, literary creation, basic problems of language, his own experience of writing and comments on Shen Congwen and other writers.
Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, In fact, these events were so important that many of them have given rise to household proverbs and become an organic part of the culture of the nation. The eleven stories introduced in this book are, undoubtedly, the most representative of warfare in ancient China, including the earliest and largest wars and those that led to the fall of empires and dynasties. This book also has a version in German. The writer described the difficulties contemporary China encountered in the process of development in a sharp and humorous language.
His thinking of life, understanding of social development, analysis of living situation are expressed through his own experience. ISBN This book collects 55 mini-stories of Zhang Weiming and other authors, reflecting the reality of contemporary China from different angles. ISBN: This book collects 56 prose and jottings about the culture of Chinese cuisine written by 49 famous contemporary writers and scholars.
It consists of five sections. Section one talks about the history and culture of Chinese cuisine; section two talks about the different styles of local cuisines all over China; section three lists typical snacks; section four explains the culture of Chinese alcohol and section five talks about the function of tea in Chinese cuisine. It has a lot of precious material on modern Chinese literature and tales of the literary circle.
It reserves the on-the-spot atmosphere and lively features of spoken language. It is more attractive than academic monograph and more inspiring than various lecture books. This book is based on the recorded lectures of elective course in literature at Peking University. At the same time, he explores the core of the economic life for the first time, discovering the secrets of capital and capital operation and the relation between market economy and power economy. The book successfully depicts several artistic images, such as businessman Bai Yuanwei and corrupted Qian Huiren.
It scrutinized China's reform for the past 25 years. The story is thrilling; it alerts and stirs people. ISBN This book carefully selects 11 of Lao She's novellas and short stories that depict common people's life in old Beijing. Jenner Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, It was written during the Ming Dynasty based on traditional folktales.
It was put into present form by Wu Cheng'en. This lively fantasy first recounts the birth of the Monkey King. He learnt 72 transformations from a master and got his Buddhist monastic name Sun Wukong. But after he knew the real meaning of Bi Ma Wen horse tender , he was very unhappy.
The Heavenly Court sent many gods to subdue him. Finally he was caught and was pressed under a mountain by Buddha. Monk Xuan Zang went to the west in search of Buddhist sutras and accepted Sun Wukong as his disciple on the way. On their journey to the West, they vanquished demons and monsters, overcame many dangers, and finally found the sutra. ISBN This is a common country clinic where most farmers go to see doctors.
They suffer from various diseases. There is an extraordinary doctor here who cured many chronic diseases. As a onlooker, Xie Hongjun truly records the grass-roots farmers' pain and depicts a kind-hearted, upright and skilled country doctor. Her interest in traditional Chinese culture, especially that of the ancient capital of Beijing, has taken her on frequent bicycle tours of Beijing's streets and lanes in her leisure time, and on drives to the suburbs to see and photograph ancient temples.
The book's text and photographs tell of her experiences in Beijing. ISBN In a hunter's small wooden house, the tailless wolf found a beautiful fox tail.
From then on, the wolf has a tail and is called wolf fox. The wolf did a lot of bad things at the instigation of the wolf fox and got punishments. The fox tail didn't give the wolf happiness but made her feel worse and worse. The wolf finally gave up the beautiful fox tail and returned to the mountains and started a new life.
However, there is a wandering dog and cat that often roam around. The noble Persian cat falls in love with the chivalrous wandering cat. The beautiful Xishi dog falls in love with the chivalrous and fearless roving dog. The owner of the Xishi dog takes it as a tool of making money and tries all efforts to separate it from the roving dog. In order to save the Xishi dog, the roaming cat sacrificed its own life; finally the roving dog and Xishi cat live together happily. ISBN The clumsy pig is very stupid but he lives more happily than anyone else. At little bear's birthday party, he ate all poisonous mushrooms because of his big appetite, but he saved all other animals at the party.
His snores were so loud that they even scared away the big gray wolf which wanted to eat the rabbit. He saw the salty eggs sell well at the market, so he asked the duck mother to drink salty water. As a result, his bottom was pecked swollen by the duck mother. In order to change the mouse's lazy habit, he instigated it to eat books, and the theories in the books filled up the mouse's brain and changed his brain easily…. She met a woman who was willing to be a maid of her family at the bank of the mysterious Fairy Lady Lake.
This mysterious woman is Mi'er. The appearance of Mi'er made the life of Meng Xiaoqiao's family mysterious and lively. When she saw Meng Xiaoqiao always busy at homework, she brought her to the forest and made friends with playful little human spirit. At the end of the semester, Mi'er made the teacher wear the magnifier of merits, as a result, the picky teacher gave every student a very good comment….
Meng Xiaoqiao studies at a beautiful boarding school known as Honggong School in her new semester of Grade Six.
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One day, after a gust of wind, a new female teacher comes with a scarf and a purple umbrella. Her teaching method is joyful to the students. She brings students to the wild outskirts to hold a funeral to their "unhappiness. At night classes, she takes them to the "children's castle" to find their own childhood…. It has unique conception, varied forms, profound metaphors and strong passion. Zhao Yannian brings the images of the articles to life with his graver. After she dies, he makes Zhou Ehuang's younger sister Zhou Yiyi as the empress. Their love is very complicated.
They have experienced the decline of the Southern Tang Dynasty, imprisonment of Li Yu, abduction of Yiyi by the new emperor, and so on. But they never change their love to each other, and finally they died after drinking poison together. ISBN This is a book of prose of reminiscence. The people in the memories include senior scholars, writers, poets, painters and editors. The author recounts his contact and friendship with them. From it, readers can clearly feel the characters' personalities and appearances.
For hundreds of years, people have been using this special literary form to convey emotions, express aspirations, alert the later generations, recall the past and recount the present and celebrate happy events and express sadness. In history, there are numerous scholars and writers who left myriads of excellent couplets. Even today, couplet is still a literary form loved by people. This book contains essays that introduce the history, characteristics, knowledge and experts of couplets.
The essays have simple explanations, detailed annotations, sources and examples, which are easy to understand. Besides giving the readers knowledge about couplets, the book is useful and fun to read. ISBN This book collects over 10, poems of Wang Meng, which shows the writer's style of poetry writing and his talent in this genre. ISBN Plays of the Yuan Dynasty play an important role not only in the history of Chinese plays but also in the history of Chinese literature.
Like poetry of the Han, Tang and Song dynasties, it represents the highest literary achievement of that time. This book selects 14 representative plays of the Yuan Dynasty and rewrites them into stories. The 14 plays include the works of writers throughout the Yuan Dynasty, such as plays of criminal cases, stories of outlaws, love and history.
The writers include the famous four dramatists Guan Hanqing, Ma Zhiyuan, Zheng Guangzu and Bai Pu, and other writers like Wang Shifu as well as a small number of ethnic writers and some anonymous writers. It collects many of his prose about travel experience, life and friends. This is Han Dong's first novel and has rich historical awareness and high literary value. ISBN This book writes about the transition from war concept to tactics to training experienced by the marine corps as the state's emergency force according to the need of the modern warfare in the preparatory stage of future military campaigns.
Lu Xun in The whole book consists of 12 short essays, mostly about his childhood and early youth. This book recalls her China experience, especially her friendship with Chinese people. The book has Chinese, English and French editions. I daresay they were weighed with fourteen-ounce scales. Like his father before him he worked on a boat which left Luzhen every morning for the town, return- ing to Luzhen in the evening.
Sevenpounder had finish- ed three bowls of rice when she happened to look up At once her heart started pounding. Through the tallow leaves she could see the short plump figure of Seventh Master Zhao approaching from the one-plank bridge And he was wearing his long sapphire-blue glazed cotton gown Seventh Master Zhao was the owner of Abundance Tavern in the next village, the only notable within a radius of thirty li who also had some learning And be- cause of this learning there was about him a whiff of the musty odour of a departed age.
After the Revolutiont he had coiled his queue on the top of his head like a Taoist priest, and he often remarked with a sigh that if only Zhao Yun were still alive the empire would not be in such a bad way. The old Long Hairs wore red satin turbans with one end hanging down, right down to their heels. The prince wore a yel- low satin turban with one end hanging down.
Sevenpounder, standing up. Beside herself with anxiety, she felt a sudden fresh hatred for Seven- pounder. Widow Ba Yi had the kindest heart of all the onlookers there. The Imperial Army will be here any time now. Who can stand against him? And since Sevenpounder had broken the imperial law he should not, they felt, have adopted that lordly air, smokmg that long pipe of his, when he told them the news from town So the thought that he had broken the law gave them a certain pleasure.
They would have liked to air their views, but did not know what to say. An eighteen-foot lance Each gen- eration is worse than the last' An emperor is on the Dragon Throne. The broken bowl will have to be taken to town to be riveted. Early the next day, as usual, Sevenpounder went with the boat to town, coming back to Luzhen towards evening with his six-foot speckled bamboo pipe and the rice bowl At supper he told Old Mrs Ninepounder that he had had the bowl riveted in town Because it was such a large break, sixteen copper clamps had been needed, each costing three cash, making the total cost forty-eight cash.
The clamps we had.
Full text of "Lu Xun Selected Works Vol.i"
October MY OLD HOME Braving the bitter cold, I travelled more than two thousand li back to the old home I had left over twenty years ago It was late winter As we drew near my former home the day became overcast and a cold wind blew into the cabin of our boat, while all one could see through the chinks in our bamboo awning were a few desolate vil- lages, void of any sign of life, scattered far and near under the sombre yellow sky. I could not help feeling depressed.
The old home I remembered was not m the least like this. My old home was much better But if you asked me to recall its peculiar charm or describe its beauties, I had no clear impression, no words to describe it. This time I had come with the sole object of saying goodbye. But finally we had to talk about the removal. I said that rooms had already been rented elsewhere, and I had bought a little furniture; in addition it would be neces- sary to sell all the furniture in the house in order to buy more things Mother agreed, saying that the luggage was nearly all packed, and about half the furniture that could not be easily moved had already been sold Only It was difficult to get people to pay up.
In the first month the ancestral images were presented and offerings made, and since the sacrificial vessels were very fine and there was such a crowd of worshippers, it was necessary to guard against theft Our family had only one part-time servant In our district we divide servants into three classes those who work all the year for one family are called full- timers, those who are hired by the day are called dailies; and those who farm their own land and only work for one family at New Year, during festivals or when rents are being collected are called part-timers.
And since there was so much to be done, he told my father that he would send for his son Runtu to look after the sacrificial vessels. He could set traps and catch small birds. At last the end of the year came, and one day Mother told me that Runtu had come, and I flew to see him He was standing in the kitchen. On our sands, after it snows, I sweep clear a patch of ground, prop up a big threshing basket with a short stick, and scatter husks of grain beneath; then when I see the birds coming to eat, from a distance I give a tug to the string tied to the stick, and the birds are caught in the basket There are all kinds, wild pheasants, woodcocks, woodpigeons, bluebacks.
Later he sent me by his father a packet of shells and a few very beautiful feathers, and I sent him presents once or twice, but we never saw each other again. And he — how is he? I must go and watch them. Yang from across the road. Yang who used to sit nearly all day long in the beancurd shop across the road, and every- body used to call her Beancurd Beauty But she used to powder herself, and her cheekbones were not so prom- inent then nor her lips so thin; moreover she remained seated all the time, so that I had never noticed this resem- blance to a compass.
But naturally I must be beneath your notice. After this a number of relatives in the neighbourhood came to call. In the intervals between entertaining them I did some packmg, and so three or four days passed. One very cold afternoon, I was sitting drinking tea after lunch when I was aware of someone coming in, and turned my head to see who it was. At the first glance I gave an involuntary start, and hastily stood up and went over to welcome him. The newcomer was Runtu. But although I knew at a glance that this was Runtu, it was not the Runtu I re- mmnbered.
He had grown to twice his former size. But I was tongue-tied, unable to put all I was thinking into words He stood there, mixed j'oy and sadness showing on his face His lips moved, but not a sound did he utter. I felt a shiver run through me; for I knew then what a lamentably thick wall had grown up between us Yet I could not say anything.
Your fifth? No doubt he felt intensely bitter, but could not express himself. After a pause he took up his pipe and began to smoke in silence. Prom her chat with him, Mother learned that he was busy at home and had to go back the next day; and since he had had no lunch, she told him to go to the kitchen and fry some rice for himself. After another nine days it was time for us to leave. Runtu came in the morning Shuisheng had not come with him — he had just brought a little girl of five to watch the boat.
We were very busy all day, and had no time to talk We also had quite a number of visitors, some to see us off, some to fetch things, and some to do both. He opened wide his black eyes in anxious thought. Mother said that ever since our family STOKIES started packing up, Mrs Yang from the beancurd shop had come over every day, and the day before in the ash- heap she had unearthed a dozen bowls and plates, which after some discussion she insisted must have been buried there by Runtu, so that when he came to remove the ashes he could take them home at the same time After making this discovery Mrs Yang was very pleased with ' herself, and flew off taking the dog-teaser with her.
The dog-teaser is used by poultry keepers m our part. It is a wooden cage inside which food is put, so that hens can stretch their necks in to eat but dogs can only look on furiously. And it was a marvel, considering the size of her feet, how fast she could run. I was leaving the old house farther and farther behind, while the hills and rivers of my old home were also re- ceding gradually ever farther m the distance But I felt no regret I only felt that all round me was an invisible high wall, cutting me off from my fellows, and this de- pressed me thoroughly.
The vision of that small hero with the silver necklet among the watermelons had formerly been as clear as day, but now it had suddenly blurred, adding to my depression. I hope they will not be like us, that they will not allow a barrier to grow up between them. But again I wo'uld not like them, because they want to be one, to have a treadmill existence like mine, nor to -suffer like Runtu until they become stupefied, nor yet, like others, to devote all their energies to dissipation They should have a new life, a life we have never experienced.
The access of hope made me suddenly afraid. When Runtu had asked for the incense burner and candlesticks my old home I had laughed up my sleeve at him, to think that he was still worshipping idols and would never put them out of his mind. Yet what I now called hope was no more than an idol I had created myself The only difference was that what he desired was close at hand, while what I desired was less easily realized As I dozed, a stretch of jade-green seashore spread itself before my eyes, and above a round golden moon hung from a deep blue sky.
I thought hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist It is 3 ust like roads across the earth. For actually the earth had no roads to begin with, but when many men pass one way, a road is made. But in the end, as though possessed by some fiend, I always came back to the idea of writing the story of Ah Q, And yet no sooner had I taken up my pen than I be- came conscious of tremendous difficulties in writing this far-from-unmortal work.
The first was the question of what to call it. There are many types of biography, official biographies, autobiographies, un- authorized biographies, legends, supplementary biogra- phies, family histories, sketches. This account will obviously not be included with those of many eminent people in some authentic history. But I am obviously not Ah Q. So I will take as my title the last two words of a stock phrase of the novelists, who are not reckoned among the Three Cults and Nine Schools.
Once, he seemed to be named Zhao, but the next day there was some confusion about the matter again. This was after Mr. Ah Q, who had ]ust drunk two bowls of yellow wine, began to prance about declaring that this reflected credit on him too, since he belonged to the same clan as Mr Zhao and by an exact reckoning was three generations senior to the successful candidate. At the time several bystanders even began to stand slightly in awe of Ah Q.
Did you say I belonged to the same clan as you? Zhao darted forward and gave him a slap on the face. Are you worthy of the name Zhao? All who heard this said Ah Q was a great fool to ask for a beating like that. Zhao living in the village. Hence I am con- fronted with this difficulty at the outset. I have given the question careful thought. All the other, unusual characters with the sound gut are even less suitable. I once put this question to Mr.
It would, in fact, amount to a distortion of history. This is definitely not the result of false analogy, and is well able to stand the test of scholarly criticism. As for the other problems, it is not for such unlearned people as myself to solve them, and I can only hope that disciples of Dr.
Who do you think you ar. He had no regular work either, being simply an odd-job man for others: when there was wheat to be cut he would cut it, when there was rice to be hulled he would hull it, when there was a boat to be punted he would punt it If the work lasted for any length of time he might stay in the house of his tem- porary employer, but as soon as it was finished he would leave.
Ah Q, again, had a very high opinion of himself. Zhao and Mr. He would look over the offender, and if it were someone weak in repartee he would curse him, while if it were a poor fighter he would hit him. It so happened, however, that after Ah Q had taken to using this furious glare, the idlers in Weizhuang grew even more fond of making jokes at his expense. Whatever Ah Q thought he was sure to tell people later; thus almost all who made fun of Ah Q knew that he had this means of winning a psychological victory.
I am an insect — now will you let me go? In less than ten seconds, however. A group of men would squat on the ground. No stakes on Popularity Passage! Curses, blows and footsteps formed a confused medley of sound in his head, and by the time he clamber- ed to his feet the gambling tables had vanished and so had the gamblers.
Several parts of his body seemed to be aching as if he had been kicked and knocked about, while a number of people were lookmg at him m astonish- ment. So white and glittering a pile of silver' All of it his. Even to consider this tan- tamount to being robbed by his son did not comfort him. To consider himself as an insect did not comfort him either. This time he really tasted something of the bitter- ness of defeat But presently he changed defeat mto victory. After this slapping his heart felt lighter, for it seemed as if the one who had given the slap was himself, the one slapped some other self, and soon it was ]ust as if he had beaten someone else — in spite of the fact that his face was still tingling.
Zhao was a cut above most people After this incident, strange to relate, it was true that everybody seemed to pay him unusual respect. He prob- ably attributed this to the fact that he was Mr. In Weizhuang, as a rule, if the seventh child hit the eighth child or Li So-and-so hit Zhang So-and-so, it was not taken serious- ly. A beating had to be connected with some important personage like Mr. Zhao before the villagers thought it worth talking about. Zhao; thus, although he had been beaten, people were still afraid there might be some truth in his assertion and therefore thought it safer to treat him more respectfully.
Or, alternatively, it may have been like the case of the sacrificial beef in the Confucian temple' although the beef was in the same category as the pork and mutton, being of animal origin just as they were, later Confucians did not dare touch it since the sage had enjoyed it. To Ah Q, while scabs were nothing to take exception to, such hairy cheeks were really too outlandish and could excite nothing but scorn. So Ah Q sat down by his side. Had it been any other idler. Ah Q would never have dared sit down so casually, but what had he to fear by the side of Whiskers Wang?
In fact, his willingness to sit down was doing the fellow an honour. Ah Q took off his tattered Imed jacket and turned it inside out; but either because he had washed it recently or because he was too clumsy, a long search yielded only three or four lice. He saw that Whiskere Wang, on the other hand, was catching first one and then another in STORIES swift succession, cracking them between his teeth with a popping sound. Ah Q felt first disappointed, then resentful the des- picable Whiskers Wang had so many, he himself so few — what a great loss of face! But today he was feeling exceptionally pugna- cious.
How dare a hairy-cheeked creature like this insult him? But before his fist reached the target, his opponent seized him and gave him a tug which sent him staggering. Ah Q stood there irresolutely. Sure enough. As far as Ah Q could remember, this was the second humiliation of his life Fortunately after the thwacking stopped it seemed to him that the matter was closed, and he even felt somewhat relieved.
He walked slowly away and by the time he approached the tavern door he was quite cheerful agam. Just then, however, a little nun from the Convent of Quiet Self-Improvement came walking towards him. The sight of a nun always made Ah Q swear; how much more so, then, after these humiliations? When he recalled what had happened, his anger flared up again. Going towards her he spat noisily. CHAPTER 4 The Tragedy of Love There are said to be some victors who take no pleasure in a victory unless their opponents are as fierce as tigers or eagles: in the case of foes as timid as sheep or chickens they find their triumph empty.
There are other victors who, having carried all before them, with the enemy slam or surrendered, uttery cowed, reahze that now no foe, no rival, no friend is left — none but themselves, supreme, lonely, lost, and forlorn. Then they find their triumph a tragedy. But not so our hero: he was always exultant. This may be a proof of the moral supremacy of China over the rest of the world. Look at Ah Q, elated as if he were walking on air! The monk paws. Woman, woman'. From this we can see that woman is a menace to man- kind. If a woman walks alone on the street, she must want to seduce bad men When a man and a woman talk together, it must be to arrange to meet.
Such light-headedness, according to the classical canons, is most reprehensible; thus women certainly are hateful creatures. This was simply another example of the odiousness of women: they all assumed a false modesty. Although it was the rule that you must not light a lamp but go to bed after eating, there were occasional exdeptions to the rule. Because of this latter exception to the rule. Amah Wu. He put down his pipe and stood up. In fact, by this time he was in rather a nervous state hun- self In a flurry, he stuck his pipe into his belt and de- cided to go back to grind rice But — Bang' — a heavy blow landed on his head, and he spun round to see the successful county candidate standing before him brandish- ing a big bamboo pole.
This made it the more alarming, the more impressive. After this cursing and beating it seemed as if something were done with, and quite light-heartedly he began to grind rice again. Soon this made him hot, and he stopped to take off his shirt. While taking off his shirt he heard an uproar outside, and since Ah Q was all for excitement he went out in search of the sound.
Step by step he traced it into Mr. Although it was dusk he could see many people there- aU the Zhao family including the mistress who had not eaten for two days. In addition. After Ah Q had been sitting down for a time, he broke out in goose-flesh and felt cold, because although it was spring the nights were still chilly and not suited to bare backs. Then the bailiff came in. The next morning Ah Q must take a pair of red candles, weighing one pound each, and a bundle of in- cense sticks to the Zhao family to atone for his misdeeds 2.
Ah Q must pay for the Taoist priests whom the Zhao family had called to exorcize evil spirits 3 Ah Q must never again set foot in the Zhao house- hold. After kowtowing with bare back he still had a few cash left, but instead of using these to redeem his felt hat from the bailiff, he spent them all on drink Actually, the Zhao family burned neither the incense nor the candles, because these could be used when the mistress worshipped Buddha and were put aside for that purpose Most of the ragged shirt was made into diapers for the baby which was born to the young mistress m the eighth moon, while the tattered remainder was used by Amah Wu to make shoe-soles.
Zou who was nearing fifty retreated in confusion with the rest, calling her eleven-year-old daughter to go inside. This struck Ah Q as very strange. The two combatants turned deaf ears to them all, how- ever If Ah Q advanced three paces. But still not a soul came to hire Ah Q for odd jobs. One warm day, when a balmy breeze seemed to give some foretaste of summer, Ah Q actually felt cold; but he could put up with this — his greatest worry was an empty stomach His cotton quilt, felt hat, and shirt had long since disappeared, and after that he had sold his padded jacket.
Now nothing was left but his trousers, and these of course he could not take off He had a ragged lined jacket, it is true; but this was certainly worthless, unless he gave it away to be made into shoe-soles. It was not these he was look- ing for, although what exactly he was looking for he did not know himself Since Weizhuang was not a big place, he soon left it behind Most of the country outside the village consisted of paddy fields, green as far as the eye could see with the tender shoots of young rice, dotted here and there with round black, movmg objects — peasants cultivating their fields.
The convent too was surrounded by paddy fields, its white walls standing out sharply in the fresh green, and mside the low earthern wall at the back was a vegetable garden. Ah Q hesitated for a time, looking around him. Since there was no one in sight he scrambled on to the low wall, holding on to some milkwort. The mud wall started crumbling, and Ah Q shook with fear; however, by clutching at the branch of a mulberry tree he managed to jump over it. Within was a wild profusion of vegeta- tion, but no sign of yellow wine, steamed bread, or any- thing edible.
A clump of bamboos by the west wall had put forth many young shoots, but unfortunately these were not cooked There was also rape which had long since gone to seed, mustard already about to fiower, and some tough old cabbages. Resentful as a scholar who has failed the examinations. Ah Q walked slowly towards the gate of the garden. Suddenly, however, he gave a start of joy, for what did he see there but a patch of turnips!
Ah Q' How dare you climb into our garden to steal turnips! Mercy on us, what a wicked thing to do! Aiya, Buddha preserve us! Ah Q took to his heels as fast as he could, followed by a huge fat black dog Originally this dog had been at the front gate, and how it reached the back garden was a mystery.
He left the black dog still barking by the mulberry tree, and the old nun saying her prayers. Fearing that the nun would let the black dog out again. Ah Q gathered together his turnips and ran, picking up a few small stones as he went. But the black dog did not reappear. Everybody was surprised to hear of his return, and this made them think back and wonder where he had been all that time In the past Ah Q had usually taken great pleasure m announcing his few visits to town; but since he had not done so this time, his going had passed unnoticed He may have told the old man in charge of the Tutelary.
Zhao, Mr. Qian, or the successful county candidate counted as important. The day was growing dark when he showed up, bleary-eyed, at the tavern door, walked up to the counter, and tossed down on it a handful of silver and coppers produced from his belt. It was the custom in Weizhuang that anyone m any way unusual should be treated with respect rather than disregarded, and now, although they knew quite well that this was Ah Q, still he was very different from the Ah Q of the ragged coat. And since everybody wanted to hear the success story of this Ah Q of the ready money and the new lined jacket, in the tavern, teahouse, and under the temple eaves, the villagers gradually ferreted out the news.
The result was that they began to treat Ah Q with a new deference. According to Ah Q, he had been a servant in the house of a successful provincial candidate This part of the story filled all who heard it with awe This successful provincial candidate was named Bai, but because he was the only successful provincial candidate in the whole town there was no need to use his surname: whenever anyone spoke of the successful provincial candidate, it meant him. When they execute the revolu- tionaries.
He shook his head, sending his spittle fiying on to the face of Zhao Sichen who was standing opposite him This part of the story made all who heard it tremble Then with a glance around, he suddenly raised his right hand and dropped it on the neck of Whiskers Wang who, craning forward, was listenmg with rapt attention.
Not long after. Zou bought a blue silk skirt from Ah Q. Although it was old, it only cost ninety cents. We want foreign calico too. Zhao told Mr. Zhao, speaking very highly of it. Mr Zhao discussed the matter that evening at dinner with his son the successful county candidate, suggesting that there was certainly something strange about Ah Q and that they should be more careful about their doors and windows They did not know, though, what if any- thing Ah Q had left — he might still have something good.
Since Mrs. Zhao happened to want a good cheap fur jacket, after a family council it was decided to ask Mrs. Zou to find Ah Q for them at once. Zou for not mak- ing a greater effort. Zhao was afraid that Ah Q dared not come because of the terms agreed upon that spring, but Mr. Zhao proved himself a man of insight, for Ah Q finally arrived with Mrs. Zhao, going up to him and looking him over carefully. Bring them all here for us to look at. This is simply because I happen to want. His wife shot a hasty glance at Ah Q to see his reaction.
Although Ah Q agreed, he slouched out so carelessly that they did not know whether he had taken their in- structions to heart or not. This so disappointed, annoyed and worried Mr Zhao that he even stopped yawnmg. In the first place, the bailifi appeared at his door and took away the door curtain. Although Ah Q protested that Mrs Zhao wanted to see it, the bailiff would not give it back and even demanded monthly hush money. One night he had just received a package and his chief had gone in again, when he heard a great uproar inside and took to his heels as fast as. He fied from the town that same night, back to Weizhuang, and after this he dared not return to do any more thieving This story, however, was even more damaging to Ah Q, smce the villagers had been keeping a respectful distance be- cause they did not want to incur his enmity; for who could have guessed that he was only a thief who dared THE TRUE STORY OF AH Q not steal again Now they knew he was really too low to inspire fear.
Investigation revealed that this boat actually belonged to the successful provincial can- didate! This incident caused great uneasiness in Weizhuang, and before midday the hearts of all the villagers were beating faster The Zhao family kept very quiet about the errand of the boat, but according to gossip in the teahouse and tavern, the revolutionaries were going to enter the town and the successful provincial candidate had come to the country to take refuge Mrs. Zou alone thought otherwise, maintaining that the successful can- didate merely wanted to deposit a few battered cases in Weizhuang, but that Mr.
Zhao had sent them back. Actually the successful provincial candidate and the suc- cessful county candidate in the Zhao family were not on good terms, so that it was scarcely logical to expect them to prove friends in adversity; moreover, since Mrs. But since it had occured to him that the revolu- tionaries were rebels and that a rebellion would make things difficult for him, he had always detested and kept away from them Who could have guessed that they could strike such fear into a successful provincial can- didate renowned for a hundred li around"?
In consequence. Alas, in my cups I have slam my sworn brother Zheng, Alas, ya-ya-ya. Tra la, tra la, turn ti turn turn! Of course. I get what I want. Back home that evening Mr. That evening the old man in charge of the temple was also unexpectedly friendly and offered him tea. Then Ah Q asked him for two flat cakes, and after eating these demanded a four-ounce candle that had been lighted once and a candlestick.
It would be fine. Zhao, then the successful county candidate and the Bogus Foreign Devil. But per- haps I would spare a few. I would go straight in and open the cases: silver ingots, foreign corns, foreign calico jackets. In a few years Mrs. At last he heard someone coming to open up. Clutching a brick. Ah Q straddled there prepared to do battle with the black dog. The convent gate opened a crack, but no black dog rushed out. When he looked in all he could see was the old nun. It had happened that morning. The successful county candidate in the Zhao family was quick to learn the news As soon as he heard that the revolutionaries had entered the town that night, he wound his queue up on his head and went out first thing to call on the Bogus Foreign Devil in the Qian family, with whom he had never been on very good terms.
Because this was a time for all to work for reforms, they had a most satisfactory talk and on the spot became comrades who saw eye to eye and pledged themselves to make revolution. Thereupon they lost no time in going to the convent to carry out their revolutionary activities. Because the old nun tried to stop them and passed a few remarks, they considered her as the Qing government and gave her quite a few knocks on the head with a stick and with their knuckles. The nun, pulling herself together after they had gone, made an inspection Naturally the imperial tablet had been smashed into fragments on the THE THUE STORY OP AH Q ground and the valuable Xuan De censer'' before the shrine of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy, had also dis- appeared Ah Q only learned this later He deeply regretted having been asleep at the time, and resented the fact that they had not come to call him.
It was said that the boatman Sevenpounder from the next village had fallen into their clutches, and that he no longer looked presentable. Here comes a revolutionary! Al- though he had long since heard how the successful coun- ty candidate had coiled his queue on his head, it had never occurred to him to do the same Only now when he saw that Zhao Sichen had followed suit was he struck with the idea of doing the same himself.
He made up his mind to copy them. He used a bamboo chopstick to twist his queue up on his head, and after some hesitation eventually summoned up the courage to go out. As he walked along the street people looked at him, but without any comment. Ah Q, disgruntled at first, soon waxed indignant. Recently he had been losing his temper very easfiy. As a matter of fact he was no worse off than before the revolution, people treated him polite- ly, and the shops no longer demanded payment in cash, yet Ah Q stiU felt dissatisfied.
A revolution, he thought, should mean more than this When he saw Young D, his anger boiled over. Who was Young D any- way? He was greatly tempted to seize him then and there, break his bamboo chopstick, let down his queue and slap his face several times mto the bargain to punish him for forgetting his place and for his presumption in becoming a revolutionary.
The successful county candi- date in the Zhao family had thought of using the depos- ited cases as a pretext to call on the successful provincial candidate, but the danger that he might have his queue cut off had made him defer his visit He had written an extremely formal letter, and asked the Bogus Foreign Devil to take it to town; he had also asked the latter to introduce him to the Freedom Party When the Bogus Foreign Devil came back he collected four dollars from the successful county candidate, after which the latter wore a silver peach on his chest.
In all his life he had known only two revolutionaries, one of whom had already lost his head in town, leaving only the Bogus Foreign Devil His only course was to go at once to talk things over with the Bogus Foreign Devil.