1. A Warm Song (暖暖的歌)

            A cloud flies up from the path, and love is a warm song. May the stars in Heaven illuminate us with radiant blessings, and may the sun and moon guide us with joyful brightness. I gaze in your direction from the eaves. I’ve seen mountains high and broad, and eternal waves on the water, but your smile ferments in my soul and in my blood and enraptures me. I’ll give you my left hand, I’ll give you my right hand, I’ll give my everything. They’ll be yours forever, I tell you.
            Over the years I’ve come to feel that true love’s preciousness isn’t created in a breakthrough moment. It’s only truly precious when it can be nurtured mutually in serenity. This way of thinking may be somewhat old-fashioned, but I only want to go toward the future step by step, not to rush forward in expectation. That’s because I know that “remaining tranquil” isn’t only for love – it’s the highest mental disposition of one’s life. The feeling is like gradually sailing into a safe harbor after a perilous voyage through countless hardships and innumerable difficulties; even if one has a love that can never be eroded, one eventually becomes fatigued by wandering and drifting about!
            I’m frequently aware that this is my initial wandering and my final destination, but I only wish to be at the bottom of a lake, which has become clarified by settling, in this small vessel where my spirit floats lightly. Beyond the lake are mountains, beyond the mountains is a sea, and beyond the sea a clamorous world, but I’m unwilling to go take note of it because there is tranquility in the continuous ripples of this place. I can lie enchanted, brightening every star into a torch and congealing every wisp of air into a harmonious breeze. All the luxuries are hidden beyond the cloudy mountains and sea. True purity, then, is floating up in dimness from the bottom of the lake when there is moonlight.
            I emerged from the immaturity and bashfulness of first love, and from the soaring romance of passionate love, and from the lack of boundaries of ardent tenderness, only because the thousands of expressions and thousands of languages and thousands of longings could never express the softness and perfection of the fragrance in my heart and soul. Then I suddenly entered a world without dust, where the flowers on the cool and mellow road were all fragrant and the trees all bore fruit. Each flower bud and every piece of fruit exemplified two lives, two infinite perfections.
            I really couldn't hope for more, and I also didn't want to hope for more. Having one flower outpaces an entire season of flowers. It’s filled with the serenity of being content with one’s lot, and reveals a long-standing and resolute conviction. Your smile is written into my history, and your voice is sculpted into my life. Many withered trees grow new leaves in that world, and many beautiful legends become new stories. Many, many love experiences are only in the telling, but a loving spirit does not die. One morning like that, I had an unexpected awakening in the midst of a beautiful dream. I no longer yearned for high-rise buildings, live performances or dance pavilions, and only wanted a hut with red walls and green tiles. I no longer wished for the heated radiance of summer, as long as I had the warmth of the springtime sun. What underlay this sort of mindset? It seemed I had originally loved garish colors, red, green, yellow and purple, then suddenly preferred the luster of pure white. Who knew what sort of change had come about? In short, it was an entrance into the pure innocence of childhood.
            Why would I have the thought processes of childhood, visualizing winter and summer as spring, and imagining that a smile could collapse the sky and rend the clouds? I myself don’t know. I only remember that, when I was a child, I could live or die for something, but later not care a whit. Now I can live or die for love, in the abstract, and go so far as to experiment with ways of talking about it as though it were a return to innocence. I don’t need to worry about it or recollect it, I just become purely obstinate, just plant my roots and go deep. As for the splendid joys of climbing from one tree to another, I’ll leave it to the squirrels!
            I’ve always been unhappy when seeking, to the point that truth dawning like the light of early morning awakens me in melancholy. I only become happy when the first ray of sunshine gleams on me and my own soul glows. It’s like the green of life only blossoms on the grey-yellow of an arid prairie when the name of my beloved pierces my heart. I should be grateful, but in those times when I can’t say thank you, a river flows quietly into my blood and becomes my life, my history, my immortal belief. A song is in that river, and a poem, and a hope, and I know I no longer need to express my gratitude. My life is a sincere response to this gratitude. I’ve gone through so many changes and now come to this unchanging world. I want to moor here and use my oars to weave a blue sky and splendid starlight.
            Let the world's noises inundate themselves! Let the scenic lakes and mountains beautify themselves! Let the crowds come from afar, mayhap to rub by me! I want only that our four palms circle around and form a small vale, adulterated only by the storms and sunshine of our own love. Even through a night of falling snow, let the zero-degree cold condense in the boundless darkness, while in our world we sing a song of warmth.
            Good articles should be read with the heart. Every one you’ve read will have a different feeling and flavor, and the passing years will turn what you’ve read into a kind of insight. Feel distress and heartache for the memories that have been lost and the emotions that have touched you. Send this essay in all sincerity to those who deserve to be cherished by you with all your heart, to those who understand love!

Recommended for translation by Paul Farrelly (https://twitter.com/paul_farrelly)
Translated from wwwei 的博客 at
2. A Mother Bathed in Radiance (浴着光辉的母亲)

            On a bus, I saw a mother constantly pampering and tending to her mentally challenged son. She was worried that her son was frightened by riding on a bus for the first time.
            "Don't be afraid, Baby, don't be afraid. Riding on bussy-bus is very safe." – The child she referred to as “baby” looked to be well over ten years old.
            She was bathed in the radiance of love, and the other passengers watched her with a good deal of respect in their eyes.
            It would be great, I thought, if everyone could regard their own mothers with such high esteem. Unfortunately, the average person often ignores their own mother’s abundant radiance.
            The bus was silent when the mother and child got off. The driver, a gentleman, also showed rare patience. He waited until they were properly off the bus before starting off slowly and driving away.
            The other passengers also watched the pair with respectful attention until they disappeared around a corner.
            Why do we show such reverential silence toward a person bathed in selfless love for another? The reason is that we usually find it difficult to attain complete immersion in such a dignified state.
            Complete immersion is selfless and egoless, and without pretention. Just like the tungsten wire in a lightbulb suddenly connecting, it lights up and spreads its radiance.
            Take the way we treat children! In that mother’s eyes, her mentally challenged child was so guileless and innocent, so worthy of her love and pity. Our own treatment of normal, healthy children is so strict, so fraught with conditions, and is in no way whole-hearted love.
            I just wish the expression in our eyes when we look at our own children could be like that mother’s, so completely selfless and absorbed, and with a stately beauty filled with the radiance of love.

3. A Nighttime Talk with Father (与父亲的夜谈)

            My father and I felt that we understood and were close to each other. That was when I was in the second year of high school.
            Once I went to stay with father at our forest farm. I slept with him and we had a candlelit talk one night. He talked about how he’d been filled with ideals in his youth, and how he’d only brought himself to the mountains to open up four hundred and seventy units of hilly ground. "Right under this bed where we’re sleeping,” he said, “lots of snakes would crawl in to coil up and hibernate for the winter. If I got up in the middle of the night to pee, I had to tiptoe to keep from stepping on them."
            He told me: "The most important things for young people are hard work and courage."
            I talked with him for a long time that night before falling into a deep sleep.
            I was very moved when I woke up because, from the time I was little until I was grown, I’d never talked alone with my father for more than an hour, let alone slept with him.
            People in our parents’ generation weren’t good at expressing their feelings because they didn’t have much education, and because both Chinese tradition and Japanese education made them somber. This created a generation gap more often than not, so we couldn’t understand or get close to one another.
            After three or four decades of hard work, the current generation of parents is able to get close to their children. On the other hand, because of life’s hustle and bustle, there’s less time.
            It’s been more than twenty years since my high school days. I often reminisce about that candlelit talk with my father that night. He’s passed away, unfortunately, and I’ll never have that kind of happiness again.
            We should always cherish the times when parents get close to their sons and daughters, because good times are so transient and fleeting!

4. Receiving Precious Mother (分到最宝贵的妈妈)

            A friend came back from abroad in a hurry to attend his father’s funeral. He arrived too late, and the family property had already been divided up by his brothers.
            "Before I got home,” he told me, “my brothers split all the family’s property among themselves. They left nothing for me but our only mother.”
            He talked on and on, and then, there in that darkened room, he started to sob. He has a successful career overseas, so he wasn’t crying over the lost property. He was hurt by his brothers’ lack of familial affection.
            "Getting your only mother as your share was the greatest blessing!” I said to console him. “Many, many people in this world would be willing to give up all their wealth to have their mother back, but they can’t have her!” He smiled happily at the thought.
            I continued, “If your brothers had taken your only mother, too, and not left her with you, you really would be miserable!"

5. News about the Sea (海上的消息)

            I ran into an old man in a park in Fishing Harbor. He was wearing a Walkman with headphones while he played chess. It aroused my curiosity.
            The man playing chess with him, another old guy, told me he was listening to news about the sea – to learn how strong the winds and waves were, and their direction, that sort of thing – because his son and grandson were way out at sea fishing; and farther out a typhoon was forming.
            I watched the old man's expression as he concentrated on listening to the weather. I was deeply touched and thought about parents’ relationship with their sons and daughters. Although their children waft far away, the parents' hearts are always tied to them by a line, like kites, swaying in the wind.
            I used to get the fishing weather accidently when I listened to the radio. I always changed the station right away, thinking that it wasn’t interesting. Now I know that what was just talk about the strength of the wind and waves carried with it a very profound meaning.
            I’ve been away from the old man’s Fishing Harbor for many years, but during these years, when I’ve occasionally passed by the place, the old man's face has floated before my eyes. When I happen to hear the fishing weather, I listen attentively and think of how focused he was, and how full of care and love his expression was.
            I would very much like to describe the old man’s face and expression to people. Unfortunately, though, a face full of love defies description by words. Love, it can only be experienced and is difficult to describe.

6. Unfilial Children (不孝的孩子)

            I came across an old gentleman at the airport. He told me he was going to move to the mainland to settle down.
            He explained that he had two sons and a daughter in Taiwan. They all used to be great, but since he’d found his son on the mainland, they’d become very unfilial.
            "Because they’re worried that my mainland son will come and make a grab for their inheritance! In fact I’m not dead yet, so how can they have any inheritance?!"
            As I watched the old gentleman totter onto the plane, I thought, does that mean all we think about is what we can get from our parents, even after we’ve grown up and become adults? We don’t think about what we can give to the old folks?
            Then I thought about the son on the mainland, the oldest brother of the kids on Taiwan. What about giving him a share of his father’s property? Even if the father isn’t dead, doesn’t he know how he’s going to split up his assets?
            While the old man was lamenting his children’s lack of filial piety, he’d told me, “Sometimes I think they’re so unfilial that I won’t even leave them a dime.” Then he’d smiled and said, "I wouldn't really do that. They’ll always be my children!”
            He was fleeing to live on the mainland only because he hoped to avoid stirring up resentment in his kids on Taiwan every time he saw them.
            Jeez! How I wish that the children of this world could be considerate of their parents’ hearts!

7. Going Hungry in Taipei (台北闹饥荒)

            Every time I’m about to return to Taipei after I’ve been visiting our old family home in the countryside, my mother always stuffs a lot of things into my suitcase, right up to the point where she can’t stuff any more in. This makes it seem like there’s a famine in Taipei
            "Mom, I don't have to take anything,” I tell her. “Taipei has everything."
            She always replies like this: "They’ve lied to you! ‘Taipei has everything’, ha! Taipei isn’t a very happy place."
            This time I took the guavas, tangerines and honey melons out of the suitcase and said, "At least they have all these fruits."
            She put them back in for me. "The ones from here in the countryside taste better, and they’re cheaper, too."
            I took out the large bags of jerky, dried shredded pork and dried sliced pork. "We have a New Eastern Sun store downstairs where we live!"
            Once again she put them back in for me. "What do you know? I wanted to buy these for my grandson, not for you. Besides, these are all done by hand!”
            I realized it was useless arguing with her and put my last hope on the six cans of sodas and colas in the suitcase. “I can do without these sodas!” I said.
            "These are ones I bought at the welfare center, ten yuan less per can than other places. Take them, take them. You can drink them if you get thirsty on the road.”
            "They make my bag so heavy!"
            Her eyes lit up. “You really liked to drink sodas when you were a kid. You’d sneak them out from under the table and drink them....”
            I interrupted her right away. "I’ll take them, I’ll take them." Because I knew she’d keep on bringing up embarrassing stories from my childhood, one after another until I capitulated.
            That’s when she saw I was no longer resisting. She finally patted my suitcase with satisfaction and said, with a far-away look in her eyes, “You can carry it. It’s ours.”
            We fell into silence after that, because “You can carry it, it’s ours” is something my father used to say before he died, a mantra if you will. When Mom said it, it got both of us to thinking about him.
            On the train headed back to Taipei, it occurred to me that since father passed away, mom had put all her love on us. She didn't care how many decades old we were – she thought of us all as children in need of her care.
            I thought of my father's mantra, "You can carry it, it’s ours", and now it was Mom's turn to say it.
            A parent’s love is also something that “We can carry, it’s ours”. And I’ll take advantage of the fact that I can still carry it. There’s still room in the suitcase, so go ahead and stuff a little more love in it!

8. The Waters and Earth of Home (故乡的水土)

            My mom helped me pack my bags the first time I went abroad. When we were almost finished, she suddenly took out a small, transparent bottle with something black inside.
            "Take this in your suitcase to bless and protect you on a peaceful trip," she said.
            "What is this magic potion?"
            "It’s some dirt I scooped up from our doorstep,” she answered, “and some water from our home. You may not have heard, but if you get sick on a trip, it’s because you’re not acclimated to the new environment. If you take a bottle of water and soil with you, your home will be with you wherever you go, and you won’t suffer from not being acclimated.”
            She also told me that this was a custom of us Southern Min people. When our ancestors came over to Taiwan from Tangshan, everyone brought along some mud from their old homeland. They’d carry a bit around with them, and put a bit in their ancestral hall, and sprinkle a bit on their fields. It was only because of the blessings and protection of the old country’s water and earth that the first comers to the wilderness developed the land and became prosperous and affluent.
            Since then, I’ve always carried a bottle of my hometown’s water and earth every time I’ve gone away on a trip. Sometimes I’ll take it out in the hotel where I’m visiting and look at it. I feel that the blackish-grey mud is beautiful and full of power.
            The waters and earth of our home gave birth to us and nurtured us, allowing us to grow into men of indomitable spirit. Even if we’ve wandered over thousands of miles, during nights in lonely and exotic lands we can still be filled with tender sentiment and strength.
            That bottle of water and earth not only held the love of the homeland, but also a blessing from my mother. Her blessing is extensive and prolonged, and has protected me throughout.

9. Racing the Sun (与太阳赛跑)

            One day when I was in the third grade, I came home from school and saw that the setting sun was about to dip below the horizon. The rays of the sunset rose through every gap in the mountains.
            My inner voice said, "I want to race the sun and get home before it goes down."
            So I kicked up my heels and took off. I made it to our courtyard without stopping to rest for even a second. The last corner of the setting sun was still peeking out as I stood before the red doorway to our home. The metal lion's-head latch on the door reflected the faint light.
            I stood quietly in the front of our living room and watched the setting sun sink bit by bit behind the mountains. Emotion welled up to fill my heart. I ran into the kitchen where my mother was lighting the fire to cook dinner and told her, “I outran the sun. I outran the sun.”
            After that, I raced the sun home almost all the way through grade school. I admired the exquisite sunset over the banana arbor as I returned home, and my appreciation for the aesthetics of life began at this time. I felt if I didn’t run faster than time itself, I wouldn’t have any time, and would be in no mood to enjoy the beauty of the setting sun.
            It’s just that, the sadness that’s in life, we naturally think of it as being one step faster than time. The days of our lives are quickly swallowed up by the passing of time.
            As for the lofty goals in a person’s life, although we run toward them as though we were racing the sun, sometimes we stand in front of the Red Gate and laugh. What is it we think we’ve won in this race? But the sun keeps on setting as we laugh.
            Of course, it’ll keep setting if we cry, too.
            Any rushing toward or seeking after, therefore, carries with it some intrinsic characteristics that are illusory! It’s better to return to the present moment, to throw your entire body and mind into every vicissitude, to be in tune with, and have no regrets about, and rejoice in, the chain of cause and effect.
            I’ve arrived at the age of forty and perhaps can’t say heroic things like “I outran the sun.”
            However, the first thing I do when I get out of bed in the morning and look at myself in the mirror, is to tell my image, "Hey! Let's create something for our lives today!”
            Every day holds a smile within. If you operate in concert with the emotionlessness of the cosmos and time, and with the many vagaries of our days and our lives, then, in the great transformation, beautiful scenes will constantly shine to the fore, scenes of bright moonlight on a river, cool breezes in the mountains and willows draping over a shore.
            Me, I prefer to partner with my smiling self, not to live with my troubled self.
            Me, I want to keep racing the sun! To continue through the muddy paths in the fields, and to see the radiance in the distance.

10. A Watermelon Cuddles the Big Side (西瓜偎大边)

            I called my mom and invited her to make good use of the summer vacation by taking her grandson to Taipei for a walk.
            She complained not only that the environment in Taipei makes her dizzy, but also that the weather is so blistering she feels uncomfortable as soon as she goes out the garden gate. Then she told me, playing it down a bit, "Besides, I sprained by back a few days ago. Your big brother only now took me for an acupuncture treatment and I just got home!”
            "Sprained your back?” I asked anxiously. “You were carrying something heavy again, weren’t you?"
            She probably heard the anxiety in my voice. She said, "It’s no big deal, maybe just a ‘sick mother’ from the last time I sprained my back!”
            "What’s a ‘sick mother’?" That was the first time I’d heard the term. While I was asking, I remembered that time a year before when the iron gate to the garden was stuck. Mother pulled extra hard to open it and sprained her back. It only got better after several months.
            My mother, a typical example of a traditional country woman, has cultivated frugal habits since she was a girl. Whatever needed to be done, she habitually had to do it herself, so that right up to the present, as long as she can do it, she won’t ask anyone else. Even now, she washes her own clothes every day and we can't persuade her to do otherwise. She’s only willing to rest when she sprains her back.
            She explained, "A ‘sick mother’ is like, when you’ve sprained your back, you often remember where the sprain was. It gets marked down in your brain and later easily shows up again in the same place. That’s what a ‘sick mother’ is.” She also told me that a sick mother, even if it’s only virtual, can create real pain that’ll make you “shoot at the sight of your own shadow”. It always takes a long time to root out, but when it’s gone, it’s like “breaking your hand once makes you better able to endure the pain next time."
            Mom’s very optimistic. She said, "This time I’m going to grab onto this sick mother and cure it.”
            Saying “sick mother” in the Taiwanese language reminded me of another Taiwanese phrase, "a watermelon cuddles the big side". Most people think the phrase means that people snuggle up to the powerful to curry favor. In fact, the original meaning is that healthy people get healthier when they eat fruits like watermelon, while physically weak people get weaker.
            Thus, in the countryside, if we encounter someone who’s weak but loves to eat watermelon, we’ll advise them that "a watermelon cuddles the big side", and "eating watermelon with your eyes half closed will make you sick"; but if we encounter a healthy person who’s worried that the watermelon is too cold, we’ll advise them "a watermelon cuddles the big side, so someone as brave as you, what’s the big deal about eating some?”
            The problem isn’t with the watermelon, it’s with the person’s body. I’ve heard that people who don’t dare eat cold watermelon have just gotten the incidental and the fundamental backwards.
            Our native Taiwanese language has long known the power of the heart, so we’re often taught that, in a group environment, we need to stop and take care of our own heart rather than complain that the environment doesn’t suit us. Things like, "Steer the ship in ignorance, think the stream is too narrow." (I.e., people who don't know how to steer a boat usually won’t reflect on their own boat-steering skills and will instead complain that the watercourse is too narrow.) "One who shoulders manure can’t smell the stink.” (People who collect dung for fertilizer will unknowingly smell of it for a long time.) "Right or not, ask your own self." (To determine whether something is right, you need to ask yourself before consulting others.)
            Moreover, we always need to let go of our own pessimistic emotions and overcome the blind spots in our minds. As phenomena of the environment, the mouth is the counterpart of the heart. For example:
            "What you fear will come." (The more you worry about something, the more likely it will be to occur.)
            "Customers with big beards insist on coming if you’re in the dark about barbering.” (A barber who isn’t very good at his job will often encounter the most difficult customers.)
            "Shit emergency, pants tied to death.” (When you really need to take a dump, your pants will be hard to get off.)
            These sayings may be vulgar, but they’re full of life. Their meaning is close to the Zen Buddhist sayings, "When the heart is pure the nation is pure”, and "Losing heart is losing.”
            In psychology, there’s a factor called "the optimistic (or pessimistic) coefficient". The power of this coefficient accounts for twenty percent of the actual phenomena. That is to say, if a person is optimistic, he’ll have a twenty percent greater chance of encountering happy things than the average person; and in contrast, if he’s "depressed", he’ll have a twenty percent greater chance of encountering painful things. Isn't this just the "sick mother"? Isn't it the "watermelon cuddling the big side"? If we want to live our lives in happiness, we have to have a happy heart. Didn’t our dear grandmothers teach us, “Sit upright, and people will love you for being upright”?
            To have a happy heart, first of all, don't be too inflexible. You need to let loose of your habits. The old ones, the ones with foresight, always taught us, "If there are no fish, shrimps are good." And "Two for one, feel for clams while you wash your pants – you might find clams, but even if you don’t, you’ve still got clean pants." And “If there’re no fish in this stream, go fish in another one."
            If a person just can't let go, it’s "one foot inside and one foot out." (One foot in the door while the other won’t go in.) Or "grabbing fears death, letting loose fears flying." (When you grab a bird’s foot and don’t let go, if you pinch too tight it might die, but not tight enough and it might fly away.) You’ll feel terrible that day. It’ll be "one who roasts porcelain lacks food; one who weaves mats is tired on a chair.” (A person who cooks chinaware has naught to eat, but a person who weaves mats can sleep on a chair.) “A tailor wearing a ragged shirt, a carpenter without a bed to sleep in," [describing people who work too hard for the benefit of others.]*
            People who can't let go are often "good amount people, fate is begging food”. [People with money can spend until they become beggars, but they can’t buy happiness.] They’re obviously wealthy but live life like beggars, reminding us of the poor man in the Buddhist Sutra who didn’t know the treasure he had in his own clothes.
            And secondly, to have a happy heart, keep a grateful heart, and often share your blessings with others.
            "Share food, have springtime, mutual grasping, have no share." (If you share, you’ll have a springtime of plenty, but if you get greedy, you’ll never have enough to eat.)
            "Human kindness leave a line, both to see a later day." [A bit of human kindness given today will be returned to you tomorrow.]
            "Everyone earns together, checks poverty." (You’ll be poor unless everyone makes money, that is, don’t think you made all that money by yourself.)
            "Eat a person’s one pound, return the person two ounces." [Repay a kindness with interest.]
            "Eat fruit, worship the tree; eat rice, worship the hoe." [The best things in life may be free, but the staples come through hard work.]
            In the course of human life, it’s normal to encounter things one finds unsatisfactory. Don't let the unsatisfactory things become "sick mothers" in your life. Instead they should become the “leavening” to grow our wisdom, always growing us when our hearts are sad.
*[For most of the adages, the author translated the original Taiwanese into standard Chinese. When he didn’t, Fannyi found the standard translation online. These latter cases are shown in italics.]

11. Extinction (灭绝)

            On a visit to the exhibit on the History of Species Evolution at the Museum of Natural Sciences, I saw an expanded placard:

"Extinction – No Death No Birth, No Birth No Death:

                      “Of all the species that have appeared on earth, at present perhaps up to ninety-nine percent have already

             become extinct. In evolution, extinction and survival are almost equally important.

                      "If no type of creature on earth ever became extinct, the world would be very chaotic indeed."

            It was quite hard to imagine that ninety-nine percent of the species that ever existed on Earth have disappeared. Then I look another look at the illustrations next to the explanatory placard: A snake wrapped around the neck of an Apatosaurus; a monkey asleep on an elephant’s tusk; a frog perched on a dinosaur's head.... Truly intolerably crowded. Fortunately, species do go extinct, and the survivors only then have room.
            This is as true for humans as it is for other species. Think about the terrible situations if people didn’t die. Coming home from work we’d be so frightened at the prospect of having dinner with our ancestors from 10,000 years ago that we’d run away and go wandering around the streets. But wandering the streets wouldn’t guarantee safety because we might encounter ancestors from 5,000 or 8,000 years ago!
            Maybe extinction is unfortunate, and maybe survival is arduous.
            Or maybe extinction is good, and maybe survival is unfortunate.

12. Phony Beggar (假乞丐)

            I’d often seen this beggar in the market. He sat in a wheelchair, covered from the waist down by a filthy towel. Above the waist his body was bent over, spongily paralyzed in the chair. His expression was dejected and vacuous.
            That dejected, vacuous expression was utterly heartbreaking, and many people gave him something because of it.
            While I was tunneling through the market at noon today, I saw a familiar figure standing by a watermelon stand eating a box lunch. He was talking and laughing with the watermelon vendor. I was startled, wondering why this person looked so familiar. Could it be a friend?
            I wasn’t sure, so I went back and stood under the eaves of a building to look at him and search my memory.
            Ha! It was the beggar who’d sat a wheelchair!
            So, he could stand and walk after all, and eat a box lunch, and laugh and talk at the top of his lings. He turned out to be fake! Then I saw his dilapidated old wheelchair and towel abandoned beside the watermelon stand, which proved what I was seeing really was him.
            I was shocked, but not an ordinary shock. It left me feeling lousy all afternoon, as if I’d been deceived by a good friend.
            I only felt better later that night, when it occurred to me how hard it must be for a healthy young man to sit bent over all day, pretending to be paralyzed. And he portrayed that dejected, vacuous expression so vividly, much more expressive than the average actor.
            He isn’t a beggar, he’s a street performer. He plays a paralytic and portrays dejection and loss. I was moved at the sight of him, and naturally rewarded him with money. There’s no reason to feel annoyed about that!

13. The Valley Starting Point (山谷的起点)

            A worried woman came to see me. She said she was worried about her child’s schoolwork.
            “The correct thing is for children to worry about their own schoolwork,” I said.
            She said: "Mr. Lin, you don't know. My child ranked fortieth in the class exams, but there are only forty students in the class."
            "If I were you,” I said jokingly, “I’d be very happy!"
            "Because, think about it. From today on, your child will never get worse, never fall to forty-first place!"
            The woman blushed and laughed at my joke.
            "It's like climbing a mountain,” I continued. “Your child is now in a valley at the bottom, and the only way to go is up. As long as you stop worrying and encourage him, and start out with him, he’ll definitely climb out of the valley."
            The woman phoned me a while later and thanked me. Her child’s grades had indeed been climbing.
            It occurs to me that the easiest thing for people to overlook is that the lowest point of a valley is the starting point of a mountain. The reason many people who walk into a valley can't walk out again is that they stop moving their feet. They squat down in the valley and worry and cry.


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5. News about the Sea
6. Unfilial Children
7. Going Hungry in Taipei
8. The Waters and Earth of Home

9. Racing the Sun

10. A Watermelon Cuddles the Big Side
11. Extinction
12. The Phony Beggar
13. Valley Starting Point

​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Collected Essays of Lin Qingxuan 林清玄散文集, Page 1
Essays 2-13 collected at
Individual essays on pages cited below

1. A Warm Song
2. A Mother Bathed in Radiance
3. A Nighttime Talk with Father
4. Receiving Precious Mother