1. The Con Man (骗子)
Zhang Jialin (张佳林)
A cooking school opened in a small town and the local Communist Party Secretary came over to check it out. At the request of the School Principal, he wrote a dedication scroll before he left: “Strive for the top rank in the nation, catch and surpass international standards”. This valued piece of calligraphy greatly inspired all the teachers and students at the school. Before long the school leaders had decided to spend a significant amount of money to hire a Master of Culinary Arts from abroad in order to thoroughly improve the educational quality of the school and the ranking of the faculty.
One month later, an Italian chef came to the school. He’d been hired as a “Foreign Professor on Special Assignment as Chief Technical Inspector with the Educational Committee”. Before starting a formal class, the Italian professor conducted a lecture in the school’s largest teaching hall. The subject was The Art of Fine Food. During the lecture he introduced the histories, specialties and masters of European culinary arts in detail, with emphasis on a logical explanation and analysis of the connections between fine Italian dining and Italian culture. It was especially quiet in the hall throughout the lecture, so quiet you could hear a pin drop. As he was finishing up, the professor asked the attending students through a translator: “If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.” There was no response from the hall. The translator asked again, but there was still no reaction. The awkward silence bothered the Principal, who was present in the hall. He pointed to one of the young teachers and said: “Ask a question! This is such a good opportunity, hurry up and ask something.” The young teacher had no choice. He stood up and, after hemming and hawing a bit, said: “Er, I’ve heard Italian noodles are famous. We’ve never seen any, but I think, well, noodles are noodles. So I’d like to ask, in making Shanxi-style knife-shaped noodles, how can we shape them more quickly, and more uniformly, and more vigorously?”
The Principal was quite satisfied: “A good question. Translator, please convey it to the expert.”
The translator talked it over with the Italian professor for a bit, as though the professor hadn’t quite understood the question. Finally he said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know the type of Chinese food you’re talking about. If you’re interested, I can tell you the techniques for making Italian noodles, but that’s not something I could explain clearly in just a few words here today.”
After the lecture, the Director of Educational Affairs told the Principal, “Yeah, looks like Foreign Experts don’t know everything…. This here Italy is the homeland of noodles, but that one doesn’t know about knife-shaped noodles. It’s kind of strange….”
The Principal nodded, “Looks like everyone has their limitations. Still, we need to learn about foreign things that are useful for China. Acquire their strong points and avoid their weaknesses. We’ve spent so much money, we ought to learn something more from this guy.”
Within a month the school was flooded with teachers’ and students’ hostile comments about the Italian professor: He doesn’t know how to make Chinese food, and can’t even use chopsticks; As for Western food, he’s all talk and no action, making excuses that he can’t buy ingredients or seasonings, and never actually demonstrating his methods; He doesn’t respect Chinese students, and forces trainees to wear chef’s hats and wash their hands before making anything; He complains that the school’s facilities aren’t sufficient, and his demands for his personal life are excessive, like wanting to shower every day and have milk for breakfast, among other things. Many of the Chinese instructors were angry and resentful: a Foreign Expert who is so unable to acclimate to conditions in China not only doesn’t benefit, but actually harms, the stability of the educational organization and the growth of professionalism at the school.
The Principal could not conveniently show his own feelings when he learned of these comments, but he had said similar things to some of the teachers in private: “From the day he gave that lecture I could see that his professional level isn’t up to snuff. Even knife-shaped noodles…. But he was contacted and introduced to us by the Assistant County Director in Charge of Culture, Education and Hygiene in the county. We can’t just handle this in any old way….”
A month later the County Supervisor came to the school to see how things were going. At a working lunch, the Principal took the opportunity to express doubts about the Italian professor’s abilities in a round-about way. The County Supervisor said it would be easy to take care of, just give him a test. Then he asked his secretary, who was sitting beside him: “Your boy had a restaurant, didn’t he? How did he normally test his cooks?” The Supervisor’s secretary answered: “I know something about this: for a Chinese chef, test him on shredded pork with fish sauce; for western food, have him do egg fried rice. Don’t think these are easy, they’re really the best for seeing the basic skills!” The County Supervisor nodded: “God damn if you ain’t an expert, I think. I heard a song once, it went ‘Let me love enough one time.’ That Jap bastard sang it like a God damn Chinese folk song. In it he says he studied cooking for years and years, and when he was about to God damn graduate, the Master gave him a test, and God damn if he didn’t make him do egg fried rice! Jeez, best God damn way to see the real skills!”
The next day, the Italian professor quit the school without saying a word.
The school held a meeting for all students and teachers the next week. They were told that the Italian professor had violated a number of regulations and the school had fired him. Afterwards there was an extended meeting for the school’s leaders to convey the opinion of the Assistant County Director in Charge of Culture, Education and Hygiene: When bringing in foreign instructors in the future, it will be necessary to observe more investigatory aspects in order to avoid this kind of con man from being mistakenly hired ever again.
The Principal announced two special appointments at the Opening Ceremony when the new semester started: the Assistant County Director would be an Honorary Principal at the school; and the County Supervisor’s Secretary would be Inspector General for Technical Skills on the Educational Committee (Concurrent Position). The school prospered thereafter and before long was awarded the title “Renowned Provincial Level School”.
Translated from here, also available from张佳林的博客 at http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_497c96640100070g.html
2. Pitfalls (陷阱)
Old Dude (老家伙)
My sister-in-law gave my brother a job to do on his day off. “Don’t even think of sleeping in tomorrow morning, you old fool. Take our donkey and our sheep to town and sell them!”
Truth is my brother, who’s been called “old fool” by his wife ever since they got married, didn’t quite get it. That’s apparently why he asked, “OK, OK, but how come we’re selling them?”
“Don’t be stupid.” She gave him a look, then continued, “What’ve we been raising them for, huh? What’ve we been raising them for? ”
My brother had just put his hand to his head, which was as big as an eight-pound melon, when he suddenly figured it out. “Oh! For the money!” Moreover, in a sudden stroke of inspiration, he also figured out the rationale for himself. “This donkey and sheep, if we keep them for another three or five years, we’ll have to sell them then, or they’ll just die! If we sell them now, we can save a day’s fodder for every day between now and then. Isn’t that right?”
It was nice and sunny the next morning. While my brother was leading the donkey and sheep to town and wondering whether to hide the money earned from the sale in his crotch or clutch it in his hand, the ding-dong of the copper bell hanging from the sheep’s neck startled three guys standing under a tree by the side of the road.
The three guys were in fact three thieves. They’d been toiling happily through the night from the time it got dark, so of course they were excited and in a mood to have a couple when it started to get light. They were propping up their elbows on in a vendor’s cart under the tree, drinking and chasing the booze with peanuts.
The sound of the copper bell around the sheep's neck attracted them. Their three pairs of eyes stared unblinking at my brother. He didn’t know they were staring at him, and of course he knew even less about what plans they had for him.
They were making bets. “I can steal that sheep without him even realizing it,” said one.
“I can steal the donkey without him noticing,” another said.
“I can steal the shirt off his back and he won’t know it,” said the third one with a smile. “You guys believe me?”
Actually, if my brother had followed his normal habit, he would still have been in bed at that time of day. His wife had ordered him not to sleep in that morning, though, and how could he disobey her? Thus, as he walked along with the donkey and the sheep, he kept yawning continuously. The three thieves probably made these bets only because they saw him yawning. People normally gamble to win money, but sometimes they do it just for fun, and that was the case this time. The three thieves were making bets just for the fun of it, not for the money.
My brother was strolling along, thinking it was too early to be out and about. Indeed, when he eventually arrived at the market, even the tax collectors hadn’t got there yet. He knew he’d be haggling incessantly with people during this livestock selling business, even if he did a lousy job of it, and he figured he should rest his eyes for a bit first, so he led his donkey and sheep over to a tree and tied them to it. He reached out to give the copper bell on the sheep’s neck a little tweak, then found a grassy area under the tree, lay down with his legs crossed, and wandered off into the land of dreams.
The first thief approached the sheep. He took the copper bell from its neck and tied it to the donkey’s tail. Then he led the sheep away.
The bell rang as the donkey waved its tail, but the rhythm was different from when the bell had been on the sheep’s neck, so my brother felt that something wasn’t right. He opened his eyes and saw that the donkey was still there, but the sheep wasn’t. Strangely, a guy with a grin on his face was squatting where the sheep had been grazing while my brother slept.
“The sheep! My sheep!” exclaimed my brother.
“Can’t find your sheep, huh?” the man looked at my brother and asked. “I just saw some joker tie a bell to this donkey's tail and then run away with a sheep,” he continued, pointing down the road.
“Brother, watch the donkey for me while I go after him!” My brother trotted off in the direction the man was pointing. When he came back, dejected, ten minutes later, the donkey was gone.
No sheep, no donkey, and a wife at home sitting on the edge of the bed anticipating how she would feel counting her money. When my brother thought about how his negligence would upset her, he started to cry – a big, tall man blubbering like a woman.
He walked along, crying, until he came to a pond by the side of the road. There was a man by the pond who, coincidentally, was also sobbing. My brother, still whimpering, couldn’t keep from complaining to him, “Damn it all, there’re just too many crooks around these days! Did you lose your sheep and donkey, too, brother?”
“Oh, man,” the guy answered. “I’m a businessman. I was carrying a box of currency into town this morning and, in a moment of carelessness, I dropped the whole thing into this pond!”
“Well, why don’t you just jump in and fish it out?” My brother thought the guy was weird.
“I can’t swim,” the man answered. “Say, do you know how to swim? I’ll give you ten thousand Yuan to fish it out for me, OK?”
My brother's heart skipped several beats. “Yeah,” he thought to himself, “after getting my sheep and donkey stolen, is my luck finally turning around?”
A philosophical person might have thought that losing his animals was a blessing in disguise, but uneducated people like my brother don’t understand philosophy. Not understanding philosophy isn’t the same thing as lacking life experience, though, so my brother said, “Mister, you just wait right here. I'll go in and get it for you.”
After looking all around to make sure there were no women nearby, he took off his clothes and dove into the pond with a splash. He was under water for all of thirty seconds. When he came up for a breath holding a turtle in his hands, he glanced over and saw that the clothes he’d just taken off were gone.
So my brother suffered three thefts in the space of a little over an hour. Someone, I don’t know who, wrote about his bad luck online and he became a laughing stock. A philosopher analyzed the incident in philosophical terms and came to a conclusion: What my brother experienced were the three pitfalls in human life, inattentiveness, credulity and greed.
My brother’s a simple fellow, though, and doesn’t know anything about great truths. He just knows he got taken, and that his wife read him the riot act when he got home. Since then he tells everyone he meets, “Damn, I never knew there were so many crooks!”
Inattentiveness, credulity and greed. Maybe my brother really did fall into these three traps, one after the other. However, while he suffered a tongue-lashing by his wife, he never had to write a three-page examination of his motivation on B4 paper to stick up on a wall as a precautionary tale.
2013 Annual Humorous Writings of China, from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 164
Translated from version at http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4ba9f46a0102em9f.html
3. A Rat's Adventure (老鼠的奇遇)
My name is Mickey. I'm a male rat, one year old, strong and vigorous. By human standards I live barely above the poverty line [so I can't afford a girlfriend]. But as you humans have a habit of saying: When love comes knocking on the door, what young male can resist? I fell in love in spite of myself.
It was a female rat with beautiful gray eyes. Her name was Nora. What made it tougher for me than her beauty was, she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Even though I worked really hard at it, and confessed my love to her with complete sincerity, she just kept her nose in the air, pursed her lips and said, "Diamonds are better able to win the affections of a lady rat than sweet nothings."
I walked away, bereft of hope. Late that night, as I sat in front of my rat-hole looking at the sky, it seemed to me that Nora was just as distant as that lovely moon shining brightly above me. I sat there silently, appreciating her poignant brilliance, without the means to experience the joys of life with her.
I made my final decision on the morning of the next day. I went to the bedroom of a resident on the third floor, where I knew there was a huge fish tank. Beautiful fish of several varieties– I can't even tell you the names – were swimming around inside. I stood on the rim of the tank looking down on these beautiful but unintelligent life forms, my heart miserable with scorn: I was a smart fellow, sure enough, but I was unable to win Nora's love. So I had decided to bring my life to an end then and there. Let these stupid fish taste the flavor of a smart rat's flesh.
I jumped into the tank holding a sinker and quickly sank to the bottom. I calmly kept my eyes closed and knew that the last moment of my life was fast approaching. Then, suddenly, I felt something jab me painfully in the back. Although I'd chosen to die, I didn't want to suffer any additional injury, so I reached out to feel it. There were six very hard objects. I spread out my paw and…. Oh my God, I couldn't believe it! Six sparkling diamonds!
Rodent language doesn't have the words to describe my feelings in that moment of ecstasy. To make a long story short, I kicked the sinker away and, with one paw holding tightly onto the heavy diamonds, climbed for all I was worth back onto the rim of the tank.
A lovely smile bloomed on Nora's face when she saw those six diamonds. She hugged me tightly and gushed, "Dear Mitch, I'm so in love with you. But, if you can dig up some more money, our wedding will be a classic among rodent marriages. It would be awesome!"
What could I say? For a male rat, making his female happy is his life's work. So I went back to that room and combed meticulously through every corner, but I couldn't find what I wanted. The sun would be setting soon and I knew the owner would be coming home from work. I was getting a little antsy, so on impulse I yanked out a cigarette, thinking to pick myself up with a smoke. Would you believe it, the cigarettes in the carton were all rolled up hundred-Yuan bills. I opened a couple of packs and they were all like that. Filled with delight, I dragged the cigarettes back to my den. It wasn't easy. But from the bottom of my heart I praised the wisdom of the owner of that room: hiding diamonds in the fish tank, rolling money into cigarettes, these were things that even the most sophisticated thieves couldn't anticipate. Now these things were all mine, but it was purely by accident.
Maybe it was just the money, but Nora kissed me for the first time. Then she said, "Dear, if you could get some bank deposit books for us, I'd be ready to become your loving wife without any further delay!"
I sighed. I knew that fate had bestowed on me, not the right to choose, but the right to accept. It was a good thing, though, that having been refined by the two previous experiences, I had already grasped a new way of thinking. Sure enough, I found some bank books with large deposits in cabinet for a DVD player in that room.
Still later, Nora and I used the money that had been rolled into cigarettes to put on in a very respectable wedding. It was a grand scene, with every single celebrity and socialite in the rat world in attendance. But then something unexpected happened. The electronic band we had hired was playing so loud that it attracted a pack of outrageously ferocious cats. They tore our city to shreds with their sharp claws. For a time the cats' snarls and the rats' whines rose and fell together.
I wanted very much to grab hold of my beautiful bride and run for our lives, I really did, but looking at the lovely, long white train on her wedding gown, I knew I could do nothing but for her pray. I was lucky enough to escape the disaster, but unfortunately, countless numbers of the rodent world's elite, including my beautiful Nora, lost their lives under the cats' claws. From a festive banquet, my life had returned to solitude.
I was sitting in front of a monument to Nora, lost in ennui and smoking a cigarette. I was turning the pages of a newspaper listlessly, thinking I would never again find anything to make me feel either happy or sad. Then I saw a news item. The headline read "Very Good Intentions, Not as Good as a Rat / Rat-Cat Fight Uncovers Massive Corruption". In the teaser photo I saw a man being led away by the police who looked very much like the owner of that third-floor residence.
I think finally figured it out: For both people and rats, avarice is the most frightening kind of desire. In my mind I kept mulling over the newspaper I'd spotted in front of Nora's monument: Nora, with such a corrupt official about to be buried next to you, may you rest in peace!
And then I turned away. I know that a male rat can live very happily without love and money. That's what I think. Really.
4. Hello, Mr. Tree! (Hello！树先生)
by Zhan Hua (詹华)
Me: Hello! Mr. Sycamore, have you seen any phoenixes recently?
Mr. Sycamore: I haven't seen any real ones, but some phoenix knock-offs came by here to climb on my highest branches.
Me: How could you tell they were knock-offs?
Mr. Sycamore: Their outward appearance was like phoenixes, but they swayed back and forth when they walked, and staggered this way and that. One look and I could tell they were wild ducks who'd just come back from having plastic surgery in South Korea.
Me: Hello! Mr. Apple Tree, when Newton was enlightened by you and discovered universal gravitation, were you happy about it?
Mr. Apple Tree: Of course I was, and I invited Mr. Newton to come back to the old place to relive the memory, when he could find the time.
Me: Did he do it?
Mr. Apple Tree: He RSVP'd saying that last time he'd been whacked by a small apple and had his eyes opened. These days we apple trees are being given growth hormones to increase production, and apples are forced until they're like small watermelons. If he sat under a tree now, it could be his noggin that would get whacked open.
Me: Hello! Mr. Locust Tree, how's business these days?
Mr. Locust Tree: Not so good. I've been butted out of the market by chemical cleansing products. Looks like I'm going to have to do a public interest commercial to make my reputation better known. I've already thought up the wording.
Me: How are you going to word it?
Mr. Locust Tree:
Use chemical shampoo and there's no doubt,
Six months' of use and your hair'll fall out;
With herbal shampoo and condition-air,
Use a hundred years and you'll still have hair.
I'm herbal material, you see.
Me: Hello! Mr. Peach Tree, you've been lucky recently, haven't you?
Mr. Peach Tree: I've had some mostly bad breaks lately.
Me: What do you mean?
Mr. Peach Tree: Two kids stole my peaches before they were ripe, and ate them. They said it was like experiencing the taste of puppy love. And a superstitious man cut into my trunk to make a peach-wood sword, which he said could ward off evil spirits. And then some crazy monkey who had a job as an Urban Control cop (see the last article on this page) insisted that I'm a re-embodiment of the cloth used to bind the Queen of Heaven's feet – since I hadn't produced any sweet peaches, he said, I should be pulled up by the roots and completely removed.
Me: Hello! Mr. Ginkgo, I hear you're the plant kingdom's "living fossil".
Mr. Ginkgo: Actually, I don't think I'm all that old, and I don't like being called a "living fossil".
Me: What do you want people to call you?
Mr. Ginkgo: I hope they'll call me the plant kingdom's Takuya Kimura [the famous Japanese actor], because I'm handsome but also wooden.
Me: Hello! Mr. Willow, I heard that you love to look at yourself in the mirror?
Mr. Willow: I do. I prefer the side where the water is, because if I merely bend my crown a bit, I can see my own "thousands of green silken threads hanging down" in the water.
Me: You don't go so far as to spend all your time staring endlessly at your reflection in the water, do you?
Mr. Willow: Others only have three thousand hairs that can turn white from worry, but I have ten thousand, so in order to see how many white hairs I have, I've got to spend a lot of time scrutinizing the water, now don't I!
Me: Hello! Mr. Hawthorn, I heard that you once witnessed a pure and beautiful love.
Mr. Hawthorn: I can only say that that young couple back then knew rather well how to behave themselves. They weren't so liberated as today's young people are.
Me: Do young people today still bill and coo under your branches?
Mr. Hawthorn: They sure do! And not only do they hug and kiss right in front of me with impunity, the boys will even climb right up me to pick my fruit to give to the girls, and they'll presume to say, "Hey, baby, come on and eat some of this, tart foods to bear a boy child, you know...."
Me: Hello! Mr. Coconut Palm, I'd like to buy a few of your coconuts.
Mr. Coconut Palm: I never thought it would happen, but I'm so popular right now that I can't keep up with the demand.
Me: A lot of people have been stocking up?
Mr. Coconut Palm: Yes, they have. Food safety has been a real worry this year! There've been problems with cow's milk, so some people have been drinking coconut milk instead; gelatin is suspect, so some are eating coconut meat instead. I think it won't be long until there're problems with safety helmets, and people will have to split our coconuts in half and were them on their heads to protect their lives!
[Fannyi's Note –In the Chinese text, the word "Hello" is written in English wherever it appears. The "Willow" and "Coconut" segments were published on the internet but were not included in the book.]
2012 Annual Humorous Writings of China; Selections from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 149
Translated from text at http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_493bc83501019d1l.html
5. Recollections of 1945 (1945年的回忆)
Cui Qiuli (崔楸立)
Takeno Shimokuni went to the top of the fort’s lookout tower, lit a local cigarette, and looked off into the distance. The nearby mountains lay one against the other in a continuous, unbroken stretch. In the glow of the sunset, the sunlit mountaintops and the shadowy slopes presented a scene of contrasts, while the green curtain of tall crops on the flatland rustled in the refreshing, gentle breeze. Nameless flowers strove to open on both sides of the small path through the fields. It was hard to imagine that, just a few days previously, guerrillas from this path had ambushed several Japanese soldiers on patrol.
Some people below the fort were humming a Hokkaido folk song. It was Fujita Koza and several officers drowning their sorrows in booze. Since they’d received news that the Japanese Army had announced its unconditional surrender, morale of all the soldiers at the fort had fallen into the dumps. When the sergeant blew his whistle for assembly that morning, the Imperial Army Associates who were usually eager to assist the regulars do their dirty business had all slipped away.
Takeno and Fujita, the highest ranking officers at the fort, had discussed the matter behind closed doors. They had only one decision to make: Should they commit hara-kiri or should they continue to resist?
The Chinese Takeno had personally killed appeared in his mind’s eye numerous times, people from the northeast, and Shanxi, and Chahar, and Shanghai, and Changsha…. men, women, old, young, beaten with a rifle butt, bayonetted, shot down, raped.... each of those tragically departed souls was owed a blood debt for a monstrous crime.
Takeno felt miserable about it all. Continuing to resist would only result in their deaths at the hands of Chinese soldiers, or perhaps the humiliation of being taken prisoner. Takeno had finally chosen hara-kiri, a seemingly noble way of death. He thought the flat grasslands where the hillsides met the plains would be a good spot for it. He’d made up his mind to bathe in clear water inside the fort first, then put on a clean jacket, pick up his sword and stride out of the fort.
He got to the edge of the hills before long, just the time it took to smoke two cigarettes. He stood on the prairie facing east, the direction of his home. His mother was there, and his wife and their young son and daughter. He found it difficult to keep his emotions under control when he thought of them.
He took a deep breath and knelt on the ground, keeping his body straight. He closed his eyes and, with his hands clasped together, said a prayer towards the east.
He slowly opened his jacket and pulled out his sharp, gleaming sword. This blade, which had been with him many years, had cut off the heads of over fifty prisoners while they were still alive. It had also cut open the stomach of a pregnant woman. Today this sword that had given him honor and pride would ascend to heaven together with him.
He took out a towel and wiped the sword's razor-sharp blade clean. The God of Death was beckoning him, and for some reason he couldn't stop his hands from trembling. He was breathing more rapidly, his chest heaving. His head kept spinning towards the sky. He struggled to point the tip of the blade at his abdomen.
Right at that moment, a woman with her head wrapped in a scarf came out of the curtain of crops opposite him. She held a hoe in her hands and looked like a farmer who'd just finished her work in the fields. She caught sight of Takeno the instant she looked up, and at first was stunned for a moment. Then she lowered her head. It seemed she wanted to escape but didn't dare to run.
Takeno recognized her. She lived in the village next to the fort. Two years ago in the spring, when he had led his unit here to garrison, he had forced a dozen or so able-bodied men from the village to work as laborers. After the fort was built, these men were detained and sent to the southern front to dig trenches. This woman's man was among them. The villagers had come to the fort repeatedly to ask for the men's release, to no avail. Later some of the villagers insulted and jostled Japanese soldiers, and Takeno had killed them all with a machine gun.
This woman was then seized and taken into the fort by Takeno and some of his soldiers. Takeno had torn open her clothes and seen that she was breastfeeding. While they were taking turns raping her, she glared at them and clenched her teeth, but didn't say a word. She hadn't struck out or screamed at them like other women, nor had she resisted or attempted suicide. After she'd been ravaged for a month, the villagers got together to petition for her release. She was carried back to the village lying on a stretcher, but even then she didn't say a word.
Leaning on her hoe, the woman stared at Takeno. His face turned red and he wiped the sweat from his brow. "You," he said to her, "go away."
The woman sidled away, ready to leave. For some reason Takeno himself didn't understand, he shouted at her, "We, sorry, sorry."
The woman stopped, twisted around, and watched Takeno intently.
He felt wretched. As he knelt there, he suddenly felt helpless. His mouth twitched a few times and he said, slowly, "We, Japan, surrendered, China, sorry."
Sorry? The woman's hoe fell from her hands. With a puzzled expression, she said, "You, Japan, sorry?"
Under her gaze, Takeno didn't know what to do. He was ashamed but was unable to show it. The woman cried out and untied her shirt, letting him see her chest covered with scars, her two nipples entirely gone.
"Do your mothers look like this?" she shouted. "Do your sisters look like this?" Anger exploded from her eyes. She strode over to Takeno in a few steps and stood in front of him.
Takeno was terrified. He was afraid the woman would get her hoe and kill him with it. He knelt on the ground with his head down.
The woman stopped shouting and tied her shirt back up. "Go home!" she told him coldly. "Alive…."
Takeno thought he'd heard her wrong. He raised his head surprise and, unexpectedly, the woman's eyes had become very calm. She touched his head and, as she stroked his hair, repeated several times, "Go home, alive, go home...."
Takeno understood "alive, go home". He hugged the woman's legs and wailed. In that moment, the competition between his so-called warrior spirit and staying alive was just so much nothingness. His mind was filled with thoughts of Hokkaido, cherry blossoms, his mother, his wife, their children, their home....
[The Chinese Communist Party conducts a continuous hate campaign against the Japanese. In line with the Party's propaganda, this story portrays the moral superiority of the kindly Chinese people over the malevolent Japs – Fannyi]
2015 Annual Chinese Mini-Stories, p. 148; Li River Publishing; Responsible Editor Sun Jingjing
Translated from http://culture.cpd.com.cn/n2572263/n2572408/c29973135/content.html
6. Our Trip to the Village (旅遊記)
Zhou Hailiang (周海亮)
Living for a long time here in the city of Beijing can make anyone a little depressed. Or maybe it's not Beijing, but all big cities that are like that. Skyscrapers everywhere. Traffic jams everywhere, too, and the smoke coming out of the cars' tailpipes makes it next to impossible to breathe. Even the merchandise piled high in the supermarkets and shopping malls is cloyingly suffocating....
So I decided to take advantage of a seven-day holiday and arranged to go on a trip to a small village, far away in the mountains, with some friends.
The little village really was a long way away. By car it took two whole days, even with three people taking turns driving, and it was a very tiring trip. It was worth it, though, to see the beautiful scenery in the countryside, and to breathe the fresh air I'd been denied so long, and even more to have complete peace and quiet for nerves frazzled by living so long in the noisy city.
I'd been to that place once before, a beautiful spot with clear air and clean water, and simple, unsophisticated people. But the most important thing is, the cost of living there was very low. Living in a farmhouse, eating the farmers' food, passing the time with farming families, that one place had it all. And it was all free, except for the little bit spent on food. Put it this way: for the amount you'd spend on a meal at a mid-range restaurant in Beijing, you could enjoy life there to your heart's content for a full month.
The friends I was with had heard me talking the place up and were all eager to vacation there. We arrived without a hitch after two days.
The car was driving along a narrow, rugged mountain road. My friends were shouting and bouncing around with excitement, enjoying themselves to the fullest. I chuckled at them for being so easily excitable. That kind of scenery can be seen everywhere in the mountains, so what was there to get so worked up about? Wait a while and they would see the incomparable warmth of the villagers welcoming us with a huge tableful of pure green, pollution-free food. They would gorge themselves, surrounded by bamboo sweeping in the breeze, and birds chirping, ji-cha, ji-cha. Then they would really know what is meant by "returning to nature".
But we were surprised at what we saw when we entered the village. More than twenty farmhouses all had their doors padlocked as tight as drums! We couldn't even see a chicken or a duck on the village street.
"They must be out in the fields," I said to console my friends. "We just need to wait a bit for them to come back. When they get here, they'll make arrangements for us to stay in one of the homes, and then they'll slaughter some chickens or ducks.... The village leaders will toast us themselves, and country girls will sing us songs...."
I was having a good time talking about what would happen, and my friends were all smiles.
But in fact, I was mystified by this strange sight. Where had the villagers gone, really? Even if had actually been time for them to be in the fields, wouldn't the kids and the elderly still be at home? And shouldn't there be chickens and ducks and dogs in the road? How could the place have gotten so empty? I began to feel uneasy.
We waited quite a while until, finally, we saw an old man walking down the road. We ran over to ask him what was going on. He laughed and waived a handful of keys at us. "These are the keys to all the houses," he said. "They've all been gone for a few days, and I'm feeding the animals for them...."
Had the whole village moved?
No, of course not. Their families had lived here for generations, how could they move away?
"They were bored sick staying on this mountain all the time," the old man said. "Since this is the slow season, one of the few times when there's no work to do, they all got together and organized a group tour. It'll probably be seven, eight days before they get back."
Gone on a tour? I was really surprised. So we'd wasted our time coming here?
"Yes, you've wasted your time," the old man said. "As old as I am, there's no way I can be a good host and entertain you...."
I hadn't given up hope "Where did the villagers go on this tour?" I asked.
"Why, Beijing!" the old man said. "What a wonderful place! Skyscrapers everywhere, streets full of cars, a train that runs underground, and the supermarkets have everything...."
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