Chinese Stories in English
8. Accepting a Bribe
9. Painstaking Effort
10. Note in the File
3. Orating (雄辩)
Anthem Zhong’s writings can be said to be must-reads. Many of my friends praise them non-stop and have repeatedly recommended them to me.
Actually, people who depend on writing for a living are disgusted by others’ writings. Except for materials I have to read on pain of having my salary docked, I never let my eyes linger over the written word during my spare time. Nevertheless, unable to withstand my friends’ nagging, I reluctantly opened one of Mr. Anthem Zhong’s masterpieces.
Wow, it was wonderful! Usually I’m no good at staying up late – after nine o'clock, even torture can’t make me keep my eyes open. But the first time I read his work, I still had the energy to keep reading when the eastern sky was turning fish-belly white (in the country that would be when the rooster crowed thrice)! It was genius, a unique genius. The article was written so well it would make people stand and cheer.
Mr. Zhong’s literary style is one of a kind and his word usage is absolutely unique. Onomatopoeia appears frequently and is strongly personal. For example, "the wind blows dang-dang", "the rain bang-bangs on the ground" and "the snow drifts with a peng". Firecrackers go “zi-liu” and thunder sounds like "glug-glug”. It lets people hear things in refreshing ways, strange ways. Really strange.
Master Zhong’s works have the flavor of a debate. Multiple opinions can appear in one text. The structure is compound. It feels like two skilled debaters are going at it tit for tat in a battle of words, eloquent and garrulous. I imagine the author must have been a star in the debating arenas and won repeated championships when he was in college.
The pleasant sensations, as well as curiosity, prompted me to decide to go see this orator for myself. Finding him wasn’t easy, though. I called in a lot of favors from people in my circle of acquaintances, but to no avail. They all said Mr. Zhong was too busy. I figured he’s often out of the country giving speeches or leading symposiums and wasn’t able to squeeze me in. But I refused to give up and kept asking people to me get in touch with him.
Hard work pays off, and last week I finally got my wish. At three o'clock in the afternoon on the dot, the time we’d agreed to meet, I knocked on Mr. Zhong's door.
Mr. Zhong was a man of extraordinary presence. He was all smiles as he shook hands with me. I handed him my card and he sat down after looking it over. I took out my notebook and read him the questions I’d drafted that I wanted to seek his advice about. He squinted at me and smiled all the way through, nodding from time to time. His mouth twitched a few times as though he wanted to say something, but then he hesitated. On several occasions I observed his Adam’s apple move upwards as he moistened his lips in preparation to speak, but I grabbed the opportunity to interrupt him. He pursed his lips politely and had to swallow his words along with his saliva. After two and a half hours of our meeting, I held the superior position. That was the first day I felt that the flaw I’d developed during childhood had recurred – the "orator’s disease", also called "blabbing" – that is, the feeling of accomplishment you get as long as you can satisfy your “mouth addiction”, regardless of how the other party or anyone else feels about it.
I didn’t realize how despicable I'd been until I was leaving Mr. Zhong’s home. I’d said I was asking for advice, but I’d had an ulterior motive: dog-fart orator that I am, I’d felt self-satisfied when he was dumbstruck and at a loss for words in front of me. I noted clearly that Mr. Zhong hadn’t uttered a word that day. However, his politeness and modesty made me feel unbearably stifled. "Silent is golden, oratory is silver." I don't know what bastard said that as self-justification.
I called the friends who worshiped Mr. Anthem Zhong and had them over for a get-together. I started to brag about how I’d conferred with Mr. Zhong and we’d had a mutual exchange of ideas.
Before I’d finished, everyone was rolling in the aisle. They all shouted at me, each with their own expression and accent, "What kind of story is that? Mr. Zhong's deaf, after all!"
4. Luck (运气)
This punk Sharp Egg was very clever. He wasn’t considered lazy, either. It’s just that he liked to play mind games and loved to mess with people. His foibles were limited to taking advantage of people’s weaknesses and dallying with women, though. To tell the truth, he wouldn’t have dared pull off a bank heist even if they left the door open for him. He was a petty thief at most.
When he was in grade school, he snuck a snake he’d caught into the teacher's chalk box. This rash act scared the youngest and most beautiful female teacher in the village so much that her face was twisted in terror and didn’t straighten out for more than twenty years. He also dug a hole with a knife in a watermelon being grown by the village accountant’s family, and shit into it. Then he put the melon back where it had been and hid nearby to watch his joke unfold.
Sharp Egg married a really good-looking woman and they went off together to work in the city. They hauled produce that people were growing under a huge canopy to a farmers’ market on a small donkey cart. They worked from dawn to dark and it was really bitter toil, but their hard-earned money was barely enough to maintain the two of them.
Usually Sharp Egg didn’t have any particular vices. He was so tight-fisted he couldn’t part with the money to buy a drink. One of the guys he worked with laughed at him for being afraid of his wife. He stiffened right up and said, “You’re the one afraid of being nagged. If that’s not so, why aren’t you married already?”
He did have one bad habit that he couldn’t break. Namely, whenever he had the time, he’d go rub the mahjong tiles. He played for money. The people he played with weren’t moneybags, so the stakes they played for were small. Win or lose, not a lot of money was involved. But Sharp Egg wasn’t very lucky and lost more often than he won. Over time the small amounts he lost added up to a not inconsiderable sum.
Losers always think they’ll win next time, and winners always think they’ll keep on winning. A gambler's psychology is generally like that. Sharp Egg kept at it for several years, filled with high hopes, but the miracle he longed for never materialized. As time went by, when the opportunity presented, he couldn't help but steal some things to convert to cash to pay back the ill-tempered fellows he owed money to. Any money he had left he'd take home to assuage his wife's anger.
One night last summer, he pulled the wool over his wife's eyes and went to his regular place to gamble the night away with his mahjong buddies. Just before dawn, he hit a lucky streak and won several rounds with ease. He hadn’t won so delightfully in years and was so excited that his eyes seemed electrified. His only worry was that the sun would come up before long and break his streak.
Counting up at the end of the session, he really had won a lot of money that night. One of the guys didn't have but a few yuan with him and wanted to give Sharp Egg a marker. Sharp Egg didn't like the idea and wanted to peel off the guy's jacket for security. The guy took some football lottery tickets from his pocket and wanted to use them to pay off his debt. Sharp Egg adamantly refused to accept them, but as he was taking the guy's jacket, the lottery tickets fell to the floor. On the spur of the moment, Sharp Egg reached out and picked them up.
With any luck no one, not even the cops, would be able to stop him. He didn't really count on the tickets bringing in anything, though. He'd bet on the stupid lottery before and never got more than a "thank you" for his money. This time, however, things really turned out different. The God of Wealth looked favorably on him and every single ticket won a prize. The total was exactly thirty thousand yuan. God! Sharp Egg knelt down on the ground and kowtowed so deep he almost ate two mouthfuls of dirt.
He stuffed the money into his waistcoat pocket and found a hemp rope to tie around the outside of his robe. Then he hauled a load of produce to the market, sold it off at bargain prices and rushed home on his donkey cart.
The little donkey had gone down this road innumerable times and could find its way home blindfolded. Sharp Egg usually lay in the back of the cart and let the donkey walk on its own, and it had never made a mistake. That day especially he was so happy he couldn't hold himself upright, and after just a few steps, he was lying comfortably in the back of the cart just like usual. He was humming a popular tune and wondering what kind of reward he'd get from his wife.
The donkey stopped after a while and Sharp Egg thought they were home. He sat up, eager to tell his wife the good news. Hey, where were they? Wasn't it the damn crematorium? Sharp Egg's head was buzzing. He rolled over and got out of the cart, picked up his whip and thrashed the animal viciously. The donkey was startled and began to run and buck wildly. Sharp Egg got angrier and angrier as he chased it down. No, there was no way he could spare the animal now. What rotten luck.
He was afraid the donkey would run again, so he unhitched it from the cart and tied it to a tree by the side of the road. Then he took a pole and beat the donkey savagely, cursing all the while. The donkey was scared and ran around the tree, jumping and bucking. Sharp Egg wouldn't stop swinging the pole and followed the animal around the tree, jumping and hopping along with it. As luck would have it, the donkey suddenly kicked out and struck Sharp Egg in the temple. He cried out, fell down, and never got up again.
5. Insurance (保险)
While I often pretend to understand many things that I really don’t, I’ve got to admit that today’s highly developed insurance industry completely mystifies me.
"Insurance is to protect you from risks and dangers." One of my weak-minded friends once explained the essence of insurance to me with a serious look on his face. If any insurance company found out he’d said that kind of thing, its employees would’ve beaten him senseless. I’m more refined than this friend, but actually my understanding of insurance was at one time similar to his. It’s just that I protected against the "verbal risk" and didn't blab about it all over the place like he does.
Although I don't know anything about the profound theories and significant ideas of insurance, I have seen a lot of insurance salesmen. This does not include those insurance agents who are concealed among my friends and at present have not yet revealed their status.
Really, avoiding the nagging and attentions of insurance salesmen and propagandists is harder than climbing to the heavens.
When you’re walking along the street and are stopped in your tracks by a young lady with a charming smile, that smile may be a "sign of danger." If someone takes the initiative to greet you and offers to help you with your parcels while you’re taking an airplane, train or boat, it’s an eighty or ninety percent certainty that the person is a high-powered insurance peddler. If you’re lying in bed at home, about to take a nap, and are startled into wakefulness by an urgent pounding on the door, it’s most likely a sales agent specializing in theft insurance who’s knocking. Whether you’re in a restaurant, cafeteria, hotel, shower or toilet, you need only yell "I want to buy insurance", and by God, the ones that come swarming to you are all people with a single-minded desire to do what's best for you.
Intuition tells me that insurance is definitely a great thing for the country, for the people and for myself. It’s not just me who dares say this. Even Big Melon, my closest and most trusted buddy, held this view.
Big Melon was my classmate from elementary school through college. We were so close that we often wore the same suit – I mean swimming suit. He was honest to the max. Sometimes, if I said something and someone didn't believe it, I’d guarantee it in the name of Big Melon and the other person wouldn’t have any more doubts. He was a bit silly, but almost everyone who knew him regarded him as the incarnation of honesty.
The first time I bought insurance was at Big Melon’s suggestion.
He said a buddy of his in my company was really lucky. He’d just bought an accidental injury policy a couple of days previously, then after a day or two got hit by a car and died. He made a fortune.
I almost died from envy, so I also got accident insurance.
He also said that one of my neighbors hadn’t had fire insurance for even a month when his home caught fire and burned to the ground. He was so fucking lucky, he now lives in a new house with all imported furniture.
I was terribly jealous, so I bought fire insurance, too.
He also said.... Anyway, he often told me some exciting stories, and with each one, I bought more insurance. So far I’ve bought property and life insurance, insured my wife and children, my left hand, right hand, neck, thigh, teeth, eyes, prostate and more. As long as it’s insurable, I’ve bought the insurance. Big Melon told me that he was like me and insured everything. Oh, right, he did have one more policy than me, namely, on his ex-wife.
My luck isn’t as good as Big Melon’s. I’ve been waiting for several years and have never had an accident worth filing a claim with the insurance company. I haven't been hit by a car, haven't had a fire, haven’t lost anything, haven’t even had a toothache. The insurance I bought has gone to waste. Big Melon, though, got the compensation he expected. He went swimming and drowned the day before yesterday. I’m truly happy for him. He’d long looked forward to this day.
Except, the unfortunate thing is, Big Melon never bought any insurance. He lied to me. Another classmate told me that Big Melon had been working for the insurance company for several years. I really didn't know. I always thought he was working for a welfare agency. I remember him telling me that. I feel sorry for him.
The good thing is, the insurance company compensated me with a brand new pair of swimming trunks. Because the trunks Big Melon was wearing when he went swimming had been borrowed from me.
7. Looking to Die (寻死)
Old Zhang’s wife didn’t want to live.
Anyone would be startled the moment they heard that. You’d be startled even if you weren’t friends with Old Zhang, and even if you didn’t necessarily know his wife.
Who was Old Zhang? Who was Old Zhang’s wife? Why was she fed up with living? These mysteries are connected.
Old Zhang was a long-time day laborer with the school’s General Affairs Office. He'd moved to the city from the countryside more than ten years before. Some of the high- and mid-level guys in charge of Service and Supplies at the school were the beneficiaries of "Replace Cadres with Workers" programs, and they often recruited some farmers from the folks back home to do odd jobs serving the intellectuals at the university. It was a common thing there. Old Zhang was one of those fellows.
Everyone with some status at the university, other than the Dean, was a highly experienced professor and an expert in his or her field. Old Zhang had been kept busy there for more than ten years, but except for some people in the General Affairs Office who called him "Old Zhang", most people didn't know his last name. But Old Zhang’s status grew because of his wife.
Two years ago, his wife was able to move on campus because of her connection to her husband. Old Zhang worked at the school but wasn't entitled to a housing allocation – he only had a bed. Most of the time, he didn't have a fixed, skilled laborer's job. Winters he tended the boilers and hauled off the cinders. Summers he swept the streets and watered the landscaping.
There were lots of abandoned tables, chairs, doors and windows at the school, and piles of wood and steel bars on campus construction sites. When he didn't have anything else to do, Old Zhang would pick through and take things until he'd accumulated a small mountain of stuff. He was reluctant to give any of it away, but he secretly sold off a bit of the junk.
Old Zhang was an honest sort and didn't have the courage to do anything major. He was different from Little Jiao, who'd come to the school with him. That guy was bold and courageous. He took more than a few vehicles that the school had written off as scrap and peddled them off back in his hometown. Also, he was responsible for taking care of a row of houses facing the street at the school, and he was rash enough to rent them out to people to open shops. He'd collected over a hundred thousand yuan in rents. It was a big school with lots going on, and the teachers were always busy teaching and educating people, so they didn't have the time or inclination to pay attention to such trifling matters.
Old Zhang didn't dare do anything major, and watched numbly as the pile of junk copper, iron and reinforced concrete grew bigger and bigger. Then one night, on a whim, he took it on himself to go ahead and erect a small apartment. There was a lot of private construction on campus and no one cared about such minor infrastructure projects. The place Old Zhang built on the east end of a garden between two buildings really looked good. Whose home it was, no one could say, because Old Zhang didn't have a name at the time. His wife came to the city from the countryside and moved into the new house, and that's when he began to get a name.
His wife didn't know what a city looked like, and knew still less about the idiocy that goes on at a university. Her first day there, Old Zhang brought a large washbasin full of food from the school cafeteria. Every kind of dish was there, chicken, duck, fish, and pork, red and green, some cool and some hot. There was even a variety of staples foods like noodles and rice wrapped in plastic bags. As soon as she saw all that food, her inner tiger burst forth and she wanted to bite Old Zhang in two.
"How much did all this cost? Did someone hold a knife to your throat to make you buy it?"
She was about to pass out from anger. Old Zhang's face turned white and he hurried over to massage her back. "These things didn't cost any money at all," he told her. "Leftover Dog from our village sells food in the cafeteria and I can take whatever I want to eat."
His wife burst into tears: "I don't want to live! I don't want to live!" Earth shaking sobs came one after the other.
It was a quiet campus, probably the quietest place in the world, and her heartbreaking sobs alarmed half of the school. At the sound of someone wanting to end their life, heads appeared in the windows of the buildings on each side of their small house. Intellectuals have to come investigate when they can't understand the hows and whys of something. As the woman’s crying continued, the crowd of onlookers increased.
The reasons for her crying gradually became clear. “You're a man without a conscience! I don’t want to live! The Communist Party is really unfair! You're here eating rice and noodles all day long, and piles of fish and pork, and you don’t spend any money, while I'm home working myself to death and don't get to eat such good things even during the Spring Festival! I don't want to live!"
Anyone else would have already beaten his wife mute, but Old Zhang was a straight arrow. He just sat there eating quietly and allowed her to enjoy her cry. After quite some time, she ended her complaints with a final nasty comment. "I don't want to live, I'm going to eat these things until my stomach bursts and I die."
For the next several days, Old Zhang’s wife would first cry for a while and then promise to eat herself to death.
More and more people got to know Old Zhang as the "unobtrusive and humble old fellow, Old Zhang". The faculty's analysis was that his wife's "I don't want to live" statement was actually born from happiness – more like "I could just die" – equivalent to the shouts of joy of women in ancient erotic novels when they were about to climax.
After some time, Old Zhang’s wife began to reenact her little show every once in a while. She'd again get the idea that she didn't want to live, but people said it wasn't because she was treated to such wasteful eating. At least once it was because she found a thick wad of money in Old Zhang's tattered clothing, supposedly tens of thousands of yuan. Old Zhang explained it clearly to her: He never had to appropriate any of his monthly salary and sent it all home. The wad of money was his normal earnings from selling "scrap metal".
8. Accepting a Bribe (受贿)
It was hard to believe, but someone reported that Bureau Chief Tao had been accepting bribes.
Mr. Tao was one of the youngest bureau-level cadres in the ministry. He was strongly motivated. Over the years, he'd continued his studies while working and had earned a master's and a doctorate. He usually didn't go out socially and he lived simply. Even small, commonplace things like eating and drinking touched his life only lightly. His wife was a deputy general manager in a foreign company with a substantial income. They were a well-to-do family, but definitely not the kind that spends a lot of money.
The report filed against him was written very simply. It said only that Mr. XX Tao had been bribed and should be investigated and dealt with earnestly, things like that. It provided no details such as the time or place the bribery had occurred, how the bribery had been accomplished or the amount of money involved. It also didn't state the reporter's name, workplace or contact information, which led the Committee for Discipline and Inspection to speculate that it was most likely false. The Committee's understanding of Chief Tao, based on daily interactions with him, led them to believe that the possibility of his accepting bribes was extremely small.
After some time, the Committee received another report letter accusing Chief Tao of accepting bribes. The contents of this letter were slightly more specific than the first one. Basically it said that Mr. XX Tao had received two bribes from a certain university over the past six years, of an odious nature and serious circumstances, and requested that the committee deal with it earnestly. The university mentioned in the letter happened to be the school that had awarded Chief Tao his master's degree, and it was puzzling that a college would pay bribes to its students. The Committee nevertheless began an investigation.
Chief Tao's section had no authority over the university or relationship with its leaders. The Committee spoke with Director Tao and did not find him evasive. Seeing that he was mystified by the allegations, the Committee's leaders even got totally embarrassed and, when the interrogation was completed, they stated on his behalf that he'd been wronged.
They also found nothing when they went to the university to investigate. There wasn't even a wisp of suspicion of any giving or taking of bribes. On the contrary, not one of the school's leaders failed to praise Chief Tao. They told how he'd built bridges between the school and a business enterprise; and how he’d gotten sponsorships from the enterprise to build a multimedia classroom building, expand the library, establish scholarships and so on. Chief Tao had done so much for the school, but never taken anything in return, not even a free meal. The school's financial management was very strict and its accounts were absolutely clear. The allegations of taking or giving bribes were pure nonsense.
The same conclusion was reached after contacting the relevant enterprise involved in the matter. There was no evidence to lead one to suspect Chief Tao of bribery.
The Committee discussed the matter repeatedly and agreed that the reports had been filed by someone jealous of Chief Tao's talent. It was because there'd been proposals recently to promote young cadres, and Chief Tao's leverage and competitive advantage in the areas of age and academic qualifications were quite obvious.
The third report letter was written in detail. The so-called "acceptance of bribes" referred to Chief Tao twice accepting degrees issued by the school, the master's and the doctorate. Investigation revealed that he was originally a junior college student who had studied on his own to take the college entrance examination. He basically did not have the ability to test into graduate school. During his tenure as a deputy director, he was fully aware that he lacked both the background and the backing for advancement, and he could never hope to be promoted in his career as an official based solely on his insignificant junior college degree.
He'd therefore used his contacts with an enterprise to have the company frequently provide appropriate financial support to the university. At the same time, he never missed an opportunity to let the school know about his keen desire for further study. The school got the hint and found someone to take exams and write papers for him. This is how he'd put on a master's cap and then a doctor's gown in the past few years. And he hadn't been mistaken about the relationship between his studies and his work – with each advanced degree, his career also advanced. But he never took a penny from either the enterprise or the school.
Director Tao was punished for this, but was it bribery? His colleagues in the unit have discussed it and they each have their own opinion, not all of which are consistent.
9. Painstaking Effort (苦心)
Professor Moorage Tan had been working hard at the task of admitting doctoral students. He’d rushed all over fighting to add one more to his quota – he’d gone to see his department head, the dean of the graduate school, and finally the dean of the university.
"If I take on another doctoral student I’ll be training a high-level talent for the nation and will bring honor to our school. Moreover, many of my seniors have applied this year and their grades are all pretty good. Who would you have me eliminate? Each faculty advisor is only allowed to take on one new grad student. How can we be so egalitarian? Some on the faculty are less capable but still take on a doctoral student. Doesn’t this hamper the student? Taking on an extra student wouldn’t be too much for me. That’s obvious, isn’t it? Who doesn’t want a light load? Why would I do this stupid thing, trying to add to my responsibilities, if I wasn’t thinking about the school and the country?”
Starting during the “Cultural Revolution”, Professor Tan had learned that the rhetorical question style of making a point has the greatest power to convince. Therefore, his lectures and even his conversation were always formed as a series of questions.
The dean of the university politely interrupted his counter-questioning. "Won't you have some water?"
"No, I don't have the habit of drinking water. I lecture for four hours straight without taking a drop. If I drink water my speech gets watery. What do you think?”
“Oh, is that so? I can’t do without water. If I don’t drink some, my voice gets dry and scratchy. It’s true that the most capable people, like you, my friend, do the most work. I’ve heard the honorable Professor Tan has had five doctoral students a year in recent years. Can you handle being so busy? Our rule is that each faculty member can only take on one new doctoral student per year.”
Professor Tan couldn’t tell whether the dean was praising or ridiculing him, but he continued trying to surmount the distracted-looking obstacle standing erect in front of him. "Who made my reputation grow bigger and bigger? You know how influential I am both in China and elsewhere. How could I not keep doing more? Doesn’t my academic discipline depend on me to prop it up? If I don't recruit more students who have bright futures and develop new talent as soon as possible, won’t the entire discipline fall apart? Are you still unclear about that, Honorable Dean? Look at my former students, they all have bright futures. There’s a deputy general manager and an assistant to the provincial governor, as well as a mayor, a bank president and a planning committee director. As for bureau-level cadres, there’re more than it’d be worth mentioning...."
The Dean raised his hand to look at his watch and interrupted Professor Tan’s endless flaunting. "Let’s do this, Old Tan. Wait until I discuss it with the relevant departments and then we'll see. My individual opinion doesn’t count in deciding whether you can expand your recruiting. Go back to your office and wait for a message.” Professor Tan had no choice but to leave.
Professor Tan didn’t get his extra quota, which would have given him five current grad students, but he still had the most doctoral candidates of any professor. His four current candidates were the boss of a private enterprise, a French exchange student, the director of tourism for a certain province, and the director of an economic development zone, but he hadn't selected the graduating senior with the highest test scores. He was criticized for that from various sides, and counter-attacked forcefully: "The key to selecting doctoral students lies in whether they have practical experience and potential that can be developed. The decision cannot be based solely on test scores. The doctoral candidates' advisors have the right to make their own choices. Are you saying this violates the rules for admissions?"
Professor Tan’s name recognition has indeed been getting greater and greater in recent years. Students have flocked to his door like there was no tomorrow to pay their respects to their teacher. His business card was filled with densely printed, respectful comments from his disciples: government consultants, special-hire experts, head professors and senior planners, plus countless presidents, chairpersons and directors of various types of associations, societies, research groups, committees and councils. He gave lectures domestically and took junkets abroad, and got more invitations for summer vacations, sightseeing and sabbatical activities than he could accommodate. As soon as one group of students graduated, another came along. Professor Tan enjoyed this and never seemed to tire.
The director of tourism, who was the one admitted this year, has already beaten his chest and proclaimed, "Honored sir, when you find it convenient, your student will take you on a tour of the fatherland." The development zone director set up a small villa for the old fellow to use when grading papers. The entrepreneur came up with a million yuan to create a research fund for his teacher, and also paid for a Volkswagen Santana for the man's daughter. As for the foreign student, it isn't known what promises he made to his teacher. No one could ask him because of the language barrier.
Since the school didn't increase Professor Tan's quota, and also because the professor's wife intervened, the female host at a TV station could not be accepted as a candidate. Although Professor Tan was indignant about this, he had no choice but to part with her. He did vow that this beautiful lady with her strong desire to learn could have her dream of a doctorate come true next year.
10. Note in the File (记过)
Even if there were no exams, college life could still be tolerable. This isn’t just my personal thought. Many people around me agree with this point of view.
College students are born test animals as well as the biggest beneficiaries of the "brutally inhuman" test system. Although we often secretly gnash our teeth and bemoan the various types of test methods and the perverted, ruthless instructors who administer them, in the bottom of our hearts we’re grateful to the inventors of the examination system – it was the fifth great human invention after the first four.
If the college entrance examinations had been cancelled, at least one of the six people in our dorm room would’ve spent his life tending sheep on the loess slopes; another would’ve been planting soybeans in the black soil; one would’ve herded horses on the grasslands in Inner Mongolia; one would’ve strained his voice chanting work tunes along the Yangtze River; and the city dude might have sat on a bus all day long, laughing open-mouthed while he collected fares. As for me, maybe I could’ve come up with a business to run, like raising chickens.
Things in this world are tough to figure out. Good things are often the same as bad things. When you have cars, you start having car accidents. When you have airplanes, some people want to hijack them. Cops and thieves provide each other with guaranteed jobs, but thieves are more easygoing: if it weren’t for cops, everyone would be a thief, and then what would happen to our businesses? The same is true for exams. Cheating and exams are simply two sides of the same coin.
Before going to college, those guys in our dorm room never had such a shameful thought. Absolutely none of them had a record of cheating. It was only after coming through the gates of the university that they somehow acquired a criminal motive.
First I'll talk about girls. Surprisingly, they'll write answers on their milky thighs and cover them with their skirts. During the test they'll look down like they're lost in thought and get help from their skirts. Boys don't have the privilege of wearing skirts, so they rely on the small area in the palms of their hands to get an advantage. It's quite risky.
Such methods show a lack of self-respect, and to be honest, the vast majority of students, whether boy or girl, don't have to use them to pass their tests. Bottom line, the cheating is motivated by profit. Everyone wants to get a college scholarship, but without high test scores, you can only gaze at the money and lament your inadequacy. In addition, when you graduate and are looking for a job, people will want to see your scores. Thus begins the natural desire to do whatever possible to gain an advantage.
The school began to "come down hard". Multiple ghastly-looking slogans about cleaning up discipline in the exam rooms were pasted on the fronts of the classroom buildings. The teachers stared fiercely at the students and shouted, "Cheating is stealing! Cheating is a crime!" The teachers who normally gave the most putrid lectures posed harder exam questions and were more irate than ever. In fact, law students said that this type of testing, using people's ignorance intentionally to harm them, would be considered in the nature of fraud.
Three in our dormitory were "put down" in this "come down hard" struggle. In the exam for the elective "Music Appreciation" course, "Shepherd Boy", who normally "never sang a tune", was beside himself with smugness as he hummed a few lines of "Orchid Flowers" like a mosquito. The exam proctor tore his test paper up on the spot.
When "Little Black Bean" encountered a difficult test question, he kept rubbing his ears and scratching his head, accompanied by incessant hiccoughing. This aroused the attention of the other students and the teacher. He was later judged to have been cheating because he "demonstrated a string of abnormal behaviors in the examination room, obviously passing some kind of information related to the content of the exam."
The greatest injustice was "Spicy Chick". This guy was born wall-eyed. No one wanted to sit next to him at family style meals because he'd gobble up all the food from the platter in front of you, but leave the food right in front of his own place alone. During the exam the proctor insisted that that he'd been sneaking looks at other people's papers.
All three of these dear friends were punished by a "note in the file". Under the school's rules, those who had received such a "notation" could not receive scholarships, would not get a high ranking upon graduating, and were not permitted to apply for the graduate school admissions test. The students had no right to defend themselves. Those without the proper attitude (that is, those who did not “admit their guilt”) would be forced to quit school.
When it came time to graduate, everyone evaluated “Military Policeman” as the one they felt was the most vicious exam proctor. They said this "Gestapo Lieutenant" would catch around ten cheaters during each exam, and that the school gave him no small honor for it, awarding him bonuses and merit certificates.
We left the campus very depressed and embarked on our careers. A year later that proctor, “Military Policeman”, was disqualified from promotion for a year for cheating on a foreign language test. It’s said that, later, he was diverted to Teaching Assistant duties because his lecturing was so deficient.
The files of my three roommates still include the "note in the file" decision. The wall-eyed "Spicy Chick" had to start his own company because he couldn’t find a suitable job. After he made a fortune he went for corrective eye surgery.
[Fannyi — This story is a parody of the typical pseudo-intellectual essay. It is crammed full of hackneyed idioms, which accounts for some of the non-sequiturs. You'll have to read the Chinese text to fully appreciate the humor.]
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6. See Lao Ma D #5
7. Looking to Die