White Tiger 8.9分
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Yang Xianyi (simplified Chinese: 杨宪益; traditional Chinese: 楊憲益; pinyin: Yáng Xiànyì, Wade Giles: Yang Hsien-i, born at Tianjin, January 10, 1915; died November 23, 2009) was a Chinese translator, known for rendering many ancient and a few modern Chinese classics into English, including Dream of the Red Chamber. (Wikipedia) It is hard not to say anything about a book that kept me awake till four o’clock in the morning, a book that depicts a young intellectual’s life against the backdrop of the World War II, that offers a glimpse into what happened to some ordinary people in the history of the People’s Republic of China, particularly between the years of 1966 and 1976, and in the year of 1989, the very number of which is very much a taboo word in itself, the elephant in the room. It’s a story Hollywood should consider, and a thought some Chinese filmmakers might entertain for a meer fleeting moment, against their better judgement. Excerpts: 1 Fortune-teller’s prophecy. 1915 “My mom told me that before she gave birth she had a dream, and saw a white tiger leap into her lap. That, according to the fortune teller, was an auspicious as well as unlucky sign: the boy would grow up with no brothers and his father’s health would be endangered by this birth, but he would have a distinguished career after going through many misfortunes and dangers.” 2 To Journey Abroad (World Fair, Chicago) “I specially enjoyed walking by myself in the Grand Canyon, taking in all the magnificent scenery. After three or four days in Yellowstone Park, we travelled east to Chicago, where the World’s Fair was to be held that year. … We spent nearly a week at the World’s Fair, visiting pavilions organized by Eastern European and Islamic countries and eating strange Greek and Spanish foods. I especially remember spending one evening in an open-air theatre, listening to the famous Italian conductor Toscanini giving his interpretation of a Beethoven symphony, whether the Fourth or the Fifth, I do not now remember. “ 3 Oxford. After working hard at Greek and Latin for five months, in the spring of 1935 I went up to Oxford for the entrance examination. At that time it was difficult for an Asian or African student to enter Oxford. There were only one or two vacancies for them in certain colleges. … I passed the written test without too much difficulty, and then I had to have an interview. The Dean or Examiner who interviewed me asked me: “How long have been studying Greek and Latin?” “I have studied them for five months under a private tutor in London.” “What? Only five months? Then it must be a fluke…Well, Mr. Yang, you know our English boys have usually had seven or eight years of Latin and Greek before they enter the college. …We strongly advise you to postpone entering college for another year. … We shall accept you for 1936 Michaelmas Term (i.e. Autumn).” 4 An Excursion in Europe 1935 “In the summer of 1935, I decided to go on an organized Mediterranean cruise. I made my booking with a London travel agent. I booked a first-class ticket, which was unnecessarily extravagant, but at that time I felt I had plenty of money to burn and wanted to make the pleasure cruise as comfortable as possible. The cruise included Gibraltar, Algiers, Lisbon, Sicily, Malta, Greece, and the Aegean, Istanbul, and Egypt, lasting nearly a month all together. As a first-class passenger, I had to dress properly every night for dinner. “ 5 Summer 1937 Adolf Hitler We noticed when staying in various small hotels that Adolf Hitler’s portrait was hanging in most places. This manifestation of the cult of the individual left me with a strong impression. It was the first time I had seen a living person worshipped as ancestor or god. Of course after Liberation I got used to seeing Chairman Mao’s portrait hung up everywhere in China, but at that time I felt it was a bizarre idea. … this time in Germany there was already a feeling of lawlessness in the air. In Heidelberg I enjoyed visiting that ancient university, which looked in many ways like Oxford. But in Heidelberg, too, the young German students also began to look unruly. One evening I bought a ticket which cost only one Reichmark to watch a pageant in an open-air theatre. The pageant itself was nothing interesting, just something legendary and historical glorifying the German nation…. But just as the show was about to begin, there was a stir near the entrance and some people came in. I saw a little man looking rather huddled up in a dark brownish raincoat and walking a little jerkily, like Charlie Chaplin. He was surrounded by some bodyguards and going to the front seats. As soon as he came in, many people in the audience stood up, some even giving the Nazi salute. Some of my neighbours were obviously tourists from England. They either stood up hesitatingly, thinking it the polite thing to do, or remained seated. I remained seated too. This was the one and only occasion on which I saw Adolf Hitler at a fairly close distance. …He left soon after seeing a bit of the show, and his entourage went with him. He probably only went there to make a public appearance.” 6 Yorkshire pub 1937 “I remember one evening while playing a dart game with the local workers, I hit the bull’s eye several times. The locals were really amazed. They made me stand on a table and shouted that if I wanted to go back to fight the Japanese, they would follow me and join my guerrilla army. It was a very moving occasion. “ 7 Gladys 1937 “It was during this brief period studying medieval French, that I met Gladys, my future wife, who was studying French too. We attended a few lectures together. Later when I changed to English literature, she also decided to give up studying French and took Chinese literature instead. At that time Oxford had just started an Honours School in Chinese literature and she was the first student to enrol in that school.” 8 The Transition 1949 “A few days after Liberation, a new Communist mayor was appointed in Nanjing. He was a middle-aged veteran named Ke Qingshi. He invited me to lunch and for a chat several times. In those days Communist Party officials were very frugal and did not spend time or money on lavish banquets like nowadays. We would eat only four small simple dishes and a soup each time. Mayor Ke was very friendly and we got on well, without ceremony. … This new mayor did not have a car, but went about riding a bicycle or on foot, as did all the other city officials. Such things made a very good impression on me. Later I also had dinner with Dong Biwu, who was elected Vice-President of the People’s Republic, Marshal Chen Yi, who was in command of the Fourth Army, and several other leading Communist comrades. I liked and respected them all. None of these veteran Communist leaders assumed any official air, but behaved like ordinary citizens. It is a pity that later Chinese Communist officials did not keep up the good tradition.” 9 Meeting Chairman Mao 1953 In 1953 or early 1954 I was invited to go with about twenty other intellectuals, including scientists and writers and artists, to meet Chairman Mao. … By that time China’s leader, Chairman Mao Zedong, who used to meet and chat with intellectuals freely in the Yan’an days, had already been elevated to a deified, august position and was seldom seen by the average individual. Following in the footsteps of China’s long feudal history, Chairman Mao had become like an emperor, and to have an audience with him was considered a great honour. I still remember that scene quite vividly. We were all ushered into a hall and waited there with bated breath for the great man to arrive. First Premier Zhou Enlai came out and chatted freely with us. Zhou Enlai was always like that, behaving like an ordinary citizen and never putting on airs. It was a quality which the Chinese people, and especially intellectuals, loved in him. Then it was announced that Mao Zedong was coming. We all stood in a row waiting for the audience. Chairman Mao entered from a door to the front of us. He walked slowly towards us, smiling and looking rather shy. He was already rather plump but looked very healthy. He came and shook hands with us in turn, with Zhou Enlai by his side introducing us one by one. When he came to me, Premier Zhou introduced me as the translator who had translated “Li Sao” into English. Chairman Mao loved Chinese classical poetry and “Li Sao” , an ancient poem from the south of China, was one of his favourite poems. He shook my hand warmly, with a sweaty palm, and said: “So you think ‘Li Sao’ can be translated, eh?” “Chairman, surely all works of literature can be translated?” I replied, without thinking. He halted as if he wanted to discuss this matter further. But after a short hesitation he just beamed and shook hands with me again, then went on to greet the others. Later I thought that obviously he doubted that great poetry like “Li Sao” could be translated into another language, and he certainly had reasons for his doubts. I myself wonder whether one can ever do justice when translating poetry – despite my own efforts with “Li Sao”. Chairman Mao himself wrote poetry and he was no fool. It was a pity that he did not elaborate on his idea further on that occasion. After he had shaken hands with all of us, he left and I did not have a chance to discuss the matter with him. Later I saw Chairman Mao two or three more times on different occasions. Once he invited a number of writers and others to a meal. We were all sitting at different tables and he was at a small table with Premier Zhou Enlai, Marshal Zhu De, commander of the armed forces, and Vice-President Dong Biwu. I was sitting with the group of writers. During dinner, after drinking several cups of Chinese liquor with my colleagues at the table, I asked the writer sitting next to me, a novelist named Du Pengcheng, who had written a novel about the defence of Yan’an, whether he would join me in going to Chairman Mao’s table to offer him a toast. He agreed and we went over. Chairman Mao looked a little surprised, since so far nobody from the other tables had ventured to ask him to drink. Premier Zhou Enlai, always the suave and astute diplomat, immediately stood up with cup in hand and said: “The Chairman nowadays doesn’t drink liquor. I’ll drink a cup with you two.” We drank up and left without saying another word to Chairman Mao. He just sat there and smiled and nodded to us. …” 10 The struggle meetings 1966, the auditory hallucination “During that August of 1966 and afterwards, the struggle meetings and the loud speakers blaring denunciations of people day and night worked on the nerves. I felt I had suddenly become a social outcast. This was the beginning of the period of auditory hallucination brought on by my nervous tension and fear. While picking coal cinders, I often thought about the fairy tale of Cinderella, and I wondered when a fairy godmother would turn up to put me in a pumpkin carriage and take me to the palace. However it turned out that this Cinderella never had the chance of going to a palace. I was sent to prison instead. Now a prison is not as comfortable as a palace, but it was not as frightening as people think. Lots of my colleagues later were beaten and quite a few were killed or forced to commit suicide the? next few years. Being in prison I was spared all that. Perhaps prison was not such a bad place after all. “ 11 Four Years in Prison 1968-1972 “I myself witnessed two or three people in my cell who were told to go out with their belongings to another destination. Later I heard from latecomers that they were given a summary sentence and executed publicly. The prisoners who were sentenced to death were taken by soldiers to a district outside the east city which was called Jiuxianqiao (“Wine God’s Bridge). The culprit would be wrapped up in straw matting to be collected by his relatives. If nobody came for the corpse, the body would be buried near that place, with no sign on the grave. That district in those days was desolate, isolated so as not to disturb Beijing citizens. When relatives came to collect the corpse, they had to pay forty Chinese cents for the cost of the bullet. I heard all this from a fellow prisoner who had himself witnessed such a scene. He was threatened with the same fate if he failed to confess his crime. So they took him there to see the whole execution to frighten him into confession. I proposed to him that he must have confessed, that was why he was still alive. “ … “Actually after I left prison in 1972, I heard that my son, who had graduated from university and been assigned as a young engineer to a factory in Hubei province, had not got on too well with his outfit and had become mentally unbalanced. My two daughters were left without anybody to look after them and they were sent to the countryside. They too had a hard time those four years. If I had known that in prison I would have been more worried. “ 12 the children “Then we found that our son’s mental illness was getting worse. He kept hallucinating that he was an English boy and making a lot of trouble gatecrashing the British Embassy. We wanted to take him to a mental hospital, but the hospital felt that since Gladys was a foreigner they could not take the responsibility. Finally we decided to take him to England for treatment. He stayed some time in the house of an English friend Felix Greene, then moved to stay with Gladys’ sister Hilda. Unfortunately, when Hilda was away visiting relatives during the Christmas holidays, he bought some petrol and set fire to himself, dying in the blaze. This happened after he was already in England a couple of ears. We had thought he was recovering. Our son’s death was our saddest loss, especially for Gladys, and her health deteriorated soon after that. Our two daughters both married, but later found their husbands unsatisfactory and divorced. Both went to the United States for advanced study, one in Seattle and the other in Chicago. Ying changed from engineering to studying linguistics, while Zhi studied Assyriology. Ying is now teaching Chinese in Harvard. Zhi came back to China and is now teaching in Changchun in a university there. She has married again, to a Canadian husband whom she met while studying in Chicago.” 13 Tiananmen “Armoured cars and tanks started to move towards the square, followed by soldiers. The civilians of Beijing, never before confronted with so many armed troops, showed extraordinary courage. They put up temporary barricades and tried to stop the army’s advance with their unarmed bodies. Some old men and women even lay down on the streets to stop the trucks and tanks. They were the true heroes. The soldiers first tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas, but failed. Finally some soldiers fired real bullets at the crowd and the massacre began. It is impossible even now to give an accurate number of the people killed on the streets leading to the Tiananmen Square. Perhaps it was a few thousand, perhaps less. But this was a cold-blooded massacre of innocent, defenceless people by an army which had called itself the”People’s Army”. The event will go down in history as the most heinous crime committed by the Communist Party of China.” “At dawn the firing gradually died down, with only sporadic sounds of shooting heard in different parts of the city. Then various people came to report that lots of people were killed on the main street leading to the square and that the soldiers were patrolling the streets and shooting people at random if they dared venture out of doors. Some soldiers were even shooting at windows if they saw people peeping out, and some innocent people, including children, were shot and killed as they peered out of their homes. I heard of several such cases. Early that morning a young friend of mine, also named Yang, dashed into my sitting room wild-eyed with grief,pale and dishevelled…. He told me he had gone into the city the night before to see the student demonstration. He had not gone as far as Tiananmen Square when the massacre began, but he had seen people shot and lying by the roadside. He had seen a girl student shot point-blank in the eye. …” 14 the Choice made in 1940 “In the spring of 1940 I was invited to go to the United States to continue my study of classics. I received a letter from an scholar named Barlett from Harvard University. …, knowing I would graduate that summer, saying that if I wanted to continue my studies, Harvard University could invite me to come and work as an assistant. It was very kind of him, but I wrote back thanking him and saying that I had stayed abroad long enough and felt I had to return to China to work.” … “As a Chinese, I knew I had to return to China to serve my country. I would feel very ashamed of myself if I were to abandon my country and live abroad. “ … 15 final remark “If I could live my life all over again, I would still behave as I did before. “

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