​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Stories 10

                                  1. Simple Simon's Business                            by Lin Junhao (Sentimental, ♥♥♥)
                                  2. To Love, Or Not To Love                             by Jiang Fangzhou (Essay, ♥♥)
                                  3. Misconceptions about Composition        by Chi Li (Essay, ♥)
                                  4. How'd She Get Into Famous Schools?     by Jasmine Li (Essay, ♥♥)
                                  5. Discussing Alcohol over Warmed Wine   by Cai Lan (Humor, ♥♥)

1. Simple Simon's Business (阿憨的生意经)
by Lin Junhao (林俊豪)

      I was on my way home one day during the dog days of summer after doing my morning exercises in Spirit Hill Park. A young man in a peasant hat standing by the roadside shouted in a coarse, resonant voice: "Lychees, bird-leaf lychees, fresh from the farm and sweet!"
      When people in south Fujian Province eat lychees, they customarily soak them in clear water first, then dredge them out for a taste. I took the plastic bag of lychees that I'd bought and put them to soak in an aluminum pan I'd filled with water. I noticed that the water was turning deep, blood red, and the lychees, which had been red, were getting pale splotches. The lychees were dying the water red.
      I really got mad, and ran out to the road to tell the little bugger off. The guy knew his scam had been caught out. He got red in the face and said, submissively, "I won't lie to you, sir. Those lychees are maybe sixty, seventy percent ripe. They won't sell unless they're dyed. They're OK to eat, though. Lychee season is short, and it's hard to keep them fresh. It's really a tough business!"
      The kid threw his hands up in the air and looked so miserable that I couldn't stay mad. We chatted for a while and I found out people called him Simple Simon. He lived in the countryside in south Fukien Province. He was a high school graduate but hadn't yet been able to get into college, so he'd come up here to sell fruit on the street, to get a start in business.
      In summer, the fruits in south Fukien come to market one after the other, like the shadows of running horses from a revolving a
Zouma lantern. After lychees, longans make their debut. When I next passed by Simon's stand, he'd furnished it with a few tables and chairs. "Yes, sir," he said, coming forward to welcome me with a big bunch of longans in his hand. "These longans are as sweet as they are big. You weren't happy with the lychees I sold you last time, so this bunch is on me!"
      Summer goes and winter looms, then in spring a flower blooms. Whenever I passed by Simon's fruit stand I'd notice that he'd made some changes. He not only sold fruits that are common in south Fukien, like lychees, longans, mangos, pineapples and such, but also apples, pears and jujubes that had been shipped down from the North. The stand kept spreading bigger and bigger, and later he even rented a roadside storefront.
      One day as I was on my way to Spirit Hill Park for my morning exercises, I noticed that several glass cases had been set up in front of Simon's fruit shop. They were piled high with firecrackers, incense sticks, paper "spirit" money and the like. I went over and asked, "Simon, what are you doing selling this stuff?"
      Simon was waving a paper fan, his eyes filled with mirth like a little Buddha, and his footsteps clickety-clacked on the floor as he came forward to greet me. "Hi, Sir! They've repaired the temple at Spirit Hill. There's a ton of devotees paying their respects to their ancestors. I can make money selling this mumbo-jumbo!"
      As I listened with growing surprise, I looked closely at this young kid standing in front of me. Never mind that he had a good head on his shoulders, he had a gut full of business sense, too!
      Once when I was passing by Simon's Fruit and General Merchandise store, the kid came out and handed me a cigarette and some fruit. Shaking his head, he took my arm and led me into his shop like a VIP. "Please, sir," he said, "my business is ruined. You're a local, you have to talk to them for me!"
      "What the heck happened?" I asked.
      "I lost my senses for a while and got conned into reselling porno discs. The police caught me red-handed and arrested me." Simon hung his head in dismay. "I spent two weeks in jail, which was no big deal, but I had to write a self-criticism and got fined ¥20,000 (≈$3,350), to boot!"
      It seems that, late one night when there was nothing going on in the shop, Simon had gone to hang out somewhere on the outskirts of town. He caught sight of a small gaming shop that was crowded with people coming and going, and he fished ¥10 out of his pocket for a ticket and went in. All he could see in the dim light was girls with long, disheveled hair dancing seductively on a small screen. They were singing and doing a striptease.... He heard people whispering a temptress's song: If you want to get rich, take Highway Triple-X. Before he knew what had happened, he'd gotten into the filthy business of dealing in porn.
      I looked sharply at the only slightly dishonest youngster who'd been caught up in an evil business. I felt uncomfortable about it, but he'd trusted me and poured out his heart to me, so I gave him my most sincere advice: "Simon, when you fall off a horse, you've got to get right back on!"
      Two years later, as I was passing by the front of Simon's shop, I smelled a delicate fragrance wafting out from inside. Wow, this guy changes his career more often than
Zhu Bajie. Now he's even started a food service business.
      Simon invited me inside to try a bowl of duck noodle soup.
      I ordered a plate of duck slices in addition to the bowl of soup, and it made a delicious meal. A smile bloomed on Simon's face. "I kid you not, sir," he said with exaggerated gestures, "I've hired a chef with the second highest rating!"
      "That's great, really great." I expressed an opinion on the spur of the moment: "With him taking care of the kitchen, from now you'll have more time to put into running the store and expanding the business."
      Simon turned as red as a boiled lobster, and shook his head up and down like a rattle.
      Ten years later, I was in a self-serve shopping center buying some things when a voice came to my ears: "Sir! Come on in and have some tea!" Yes, it was Simon. His head was sticking out from a narrow, five-story restaurant and he was waving vigorously at me.
      "Hey, you're like the
Monkey King, remaking yourself seventy times! And now you're operating a small restaurant!" I hadn't seen Simon for years, and he'd turned into a world-wise, middle-aged businessman.
      Simon was a straightforward fellow, and whenever we ran into each other, he never acted indifferent or gave me the cold shoulder. We climbed the stairs from the restaurant lobby to elegantly appointed private rooms on the fifth floor. From time to time beautiful, fashionably dressed young ladies would emerge from the rooms and say "Hello, Manager Gan!"
      "Simon, you've come into the Land of Fruit and Flowers. With so many angels welcoming you, you can forget about all those look-alike performances on the porno disks!" Suddenly I remembered him with a miserable look on his face, looking like a chicken that'd just been tossed in the soup.
      "Ugh! I've still got the scars to remind me of that! I won't forget the lessons I learned back then just because I'm doing OK now. Besides, my son made the honor roll and has been admitted to college. And later, he wants to go in with me on a star-rated restaurant!" Simon was all smiles, with the contented look of a Buddha.
      The people who live on the coast in south Fukian say: "A simpleton chases big waves." As I sat there facing Simple Simon, I had a lot to think about.

2011中国年度小小说, 2011China Mini-Stories Annual, Li River Publishing, p. 302
Translated from
this text, also available here under the name 阿憨.
2. To Love, Or Not To Love (恋,还是不恋)

Jiang Fangzhou (蒋方舟)

      I've got no rug rats crawling under my skirts and no bun in the oven. I don't even have anyone in my heart that I can dream about. Up to now, as far as love is concerned, I haven't had any catches at all, a personal record of twenty-one straight years. Even so, I'm often forced to talk about love, or about my standards for choosing a spouse. The more I talk about it, the more I put off resolving the issue of love and marriage. The phrase "idle chatter ruins affairs of state" means precisely that.
      The people around me are all involved with someone. The girls get on the phone and sound like little birds chattering away, coquetry in surround sound. I hate that, but I'm also a little bit curious. Sometimes I'll put aside what I'm doing and listen in, wondering just what it is they say when they're talking sweet nothings. I want to know if the people who engage in this love chatter have some kind of special skills, and which brain synapses I'll need to open up to become like them.
      After listening in I feel like love is just boring trivialities. They talk about what they've eaten that day, leaving nothing out – whether it was good to eat, how much they had, whether there's a chance they'll get fat, whether the guy will still love them if they do. It's the same drama every day, except that they occasionally give offense or are offended and go through mood swings. It's very tiring for the spectators.
      I was always turned off by this when the longing for love first started to burn in me. I suspected that love was essentially just a childish game, like chasing chickens or beating dogs. One would pretend to strike and the other would pretend to be stricken, just to make it through the endless years of boredom.
      Certainly years at school, with people crowding and pushing against each other and no space to call one's own, can easily make a person lose faith in love. The lonely people are pathetic, but the people in love are snobbish in their infatuation. At any place or time, the latter can immediately enter into a life and death drama in order to demonstrate their grasp of some mysterious and wonderful resource. They get immersed in the warmth of lovers' intoxication only to turn the campus a Paradise Lost.
      It's probably because I've never been in love that I find it difficult to understand this kind of intimate physical connection. Thus I'm able to maintain, with complete assurance, the excessive purity of a seven-year-old girl – like a child watching a scene in a movie with people kissing. When the violins start playing music in the background, expressive and subtle, the kind of aversion that makes a child unable to sit still is genuine. My heart truly feels this kind of affectation in the melody.
      I hurry to walk past the sweethearts, swearing that I will never be like them. Love, so this is what's called love. I mull over the word and decide that they're all loving wrong, that it's a sham.
     Of course, I cannot not rule out another possibility: That the good things about love are not shared with outsiders. What gets revealed to others is the passion, the mischief and the sentimentality, while the version that exists between the participants is an idyll that could not be any more earnest. On the surface it looks to be a crude, mass-produced advertising poster, and you only realize it's a work by a famous artist when you open it up to see what's inside.
      I'm probably being too harsh, and hateful as a jealous wife, but I feel that people ought to give up the insatiable desire and the idiocy. I feel it can only be called true love when the goals aren't sexual liberties and getting a spouse.
      And most recently I've also discovered that, as the girls around me get involved in romances one after another, the ones who remain single are the good girls. I say this, of course, not to put myself on the list of good girls. I'm referring to those other girls of an appropriate age whom you cannot praise enough once you notice them.
      These are women who have their charms, and who surprisingly are angels. It's rare for them to speak comfortably or courageously. They always address themselves as "brothers" as though they were hermaphrodites.
      These are women who are open-hearted and exquisitely loyal. They care for the people around them freely and don't just dribble it out. But having come into their own in their twenties, they make their way as though they'd spent many years crawling around like infants.
      They're all single, and they say they're looking for a husband or boyfriend. Bottom line, though, they're reluctant to part with the good stature they have.
      Whenever they express a wish about some grand design or intention, they say they're going to throw themselves into it no matter what. But before they let loose and fall on their backs, they can't help getting a fix on their landing site. They worry it'll be too dirty or smelly and, embarrassed, they straighten up and walk away, completely self-reliant.
      As a condition for beginning a romance, I guess, the object of your affection must be someone you can't completely digest. Maybe they're so distant or mysterious or hard or strong that you just can't get your teeth into them; or maybe you cherish them to the point that you can't bear to lose them by swallowing.

      Whatever, a romance can only be a process that benefits one's self. If you tear the other person apart and dissolve them, eventually using them for your own nutrition, what kind of love would that be? Just an insane laugh after a full meal.

      Selected From the Special "Learning to Love" Section of "New Weekly", February 2011
青年文摘2011/10上, p. 6, Youth Digest. Translated from version at
3. Misconceptions about Composition (谬论结构)

Chi Li (池莉)

      All things that exist in the world, if they stand steady and firm, are well composed. You can see that in the positioning of the large, like the heavens and the earth or the sun and the moon; and in the positioning of the small, like a fish in water, or thread in a needle, or the strings of a piano.
      Try to imagine: if there were no mountains, how could there be rivers and seas; if there were no grasslands, how could there be horses?
      Trees are good things, but they’re unavoidably monotonous, so Heaven created flowers to contrast the colorful blossoms with the green of their leaves. Colorful flowers are good, but they have only their stately bearing and lack sound, so Heaven also created birds. Green leaves swaying alongside banks of flowers, with birds chirping in the trees, how could this be considered anything but well composed?
      And, naturally, men and women also have composition.
      Here I’m talking about composition, not about love. Love is the sod that grows from good composition. If the composition comes apart, love ceases to exist.
      There are people in the world whose eyes are blinded to the mountain that’s right in front of them. They’re called ‘men and women of letters’. They know only about love but not about composition. Confused by human sexual urges, they churn out soul-stirring love stories like ‘Eloping in Moonlight’,  ‘Rendezvous across the Wall’, ‘Eighteen Meetings’ and ‘Dying for Love’. This has been detrimental to many young men and women who fell in love at first sight and made the mistake of pledging eternal love after two or three days. By ‘mistake’ I mean an error in composition, and only that.
      But what is an ‘error in composition’? It’s when a man and a woman are basically incompatible, so that they can’t get along after they’ve gotten married and started a family, to the point where they become enemies and seek to destroy one another.
       I don’t know whether people can get the idea. Most love stories of this type are only about what happens before marriage, not what happens after. If a reader really wants to know about the couple’s life after they got married, the author will reply either that “Marriage is the tomb of love”, or that “Marriage is a cage”. Or they’ll say that marriage is like a city under siege – those inside want out, and those outside want in.
      Such talk would mean that marriage is a bad thing. But then they worry that some people might decide, after thorough consideration, “What’s the point of getting married if it’s so bad?” That’s why nobody says outright why getting married is bad. Instead they all resort to analogies to make you imagine what it would be like.
      It’s gotten so that anyone about to get married these days will raise questions: “To marry or not to marry? Will there be love after marriage?”
      It’s always been normal for a husband and wife to have arguments. The theory of love leads this normal gnashing of teeth down the wrong road. When a man is argumentative towards a women, the women thinks that the man doesn’t love her anymore. But when a woman is argumentative towards a man, the man thinks the woman's heart is as volatile as the clouds in autumn, easily changed and always changing, raising the specter of divorce no matter what he does.
      Living alone permanently after a divorce isn’t a good idea, but one can go about getting married again. Some, however, are left grief-stricken by their marriage for love, and are so perplexed and tormented, that they no longer want to live. They can only look upwards and complain to Heaven, their tears flowing wordlessly. They were obviously impetuous. They looked only to their superficial understanding of things, and did not see how essentially harmful [marriage for love] could be.
      Composition is the essence of a marriage, and whether the composition is good or bad depends entirely on the man and woman. For a woman, you must not rush to make the bed and fold the quilt on the morning after the wedding, no matter how passionately and selflessly you are in love. Why not? There’s a subtle point here. The first time you do it, you will necessarily receive great praise from your husband. The next day, you won’t be able to keep from doing it again, and your husband will marvel at what a virtuous wife you are, and the day after that you will feel compelled to do it. After that it will become a habit and your husband won’t even notice that you’re doing it. It will have naturally become your job.
      The firmament of the composition has been formed. You do the job day after day, year after year, until all of a sudden one day you find that you cannot attend to making the bed and folding the quilt because of a physical ailment or because the children have worn you out. Then your husband is unhappy. If he’s accustomed to having a cup of tea or eating breakfast every day at this time, and you want him make the bed and fold the quilt instead, he’ll certainly be shocked and may even throw his teacup in anger.
      There was one girl who liked to have her back scratched. While she was dating, whenever she got the chance she had the young man scratch her back, and she was supremely happy. On their wedding night she had no need to fret. The young man started to scratch her back without being asked, and she got a full back-scratch to her heart’s content. From then on she had to have her back scratched every night. As time went by, the husband couldn’t keep it going. First the wife cried about it, then complained loudly. She firmly believed that the love between her and her husband had died.
      Once the composition is formed, there’ll be an earthquake if anyone tries to change it.
      Woman, you must not act too much on your own accord. During those initial happy days of a new marriage, you need to discuss all household chores with your husband and share them with him. Likewise, a man must not spoil his bride. If you’ve scratched her back while you were dating, how can you scratch her back on your wedding night? [Sic]
      Marital composition is exactly like a tenon and mortise. [Fannyi denies responsibility for the graphic imagery.] The two individuals, the man and the woman, are like a body which has not yet begun to form. At the beginning of the marriage, the man is like a tenon and the woman is like a mortise. Neither can be excessive if the joint is to fit properly. Each has to give in to the other somewhat, gradually progressing from being strangers to being familiar and attaining a stable joint through gentle massaging. If either the tenon or the mortise is larger than the other, the marriage will inevitably break apart, even if the two were bound and determined to become one together when they first fell in love.
      I think I’ll meet with ferocious opposition over this misconception by people who put love in the forefront. Some will say that as long as they have love, they can do without marriage. To them I’ll simply reply with an even greater absurdity: Unless someone is abnormal, they cannot escape the composition of normal men and women. It’s possible to not get married, but you cannot avoid forming compositions with people.
      Marriage is recognized as a type of reasonable composition, but aside from marriage, there are numerous additional forms of composition that are not recognized by the public. An adult who is without composition will inevitably fall. The yin and the yang, the compliment and the opposite, the tenon and the mortise, these are truths as great as the heavens. And the basis of human marriage rests in them.
      Of course, mutual respect and interdependence are of the utmost importance in the relationship between a man and a woman. A man knows what a man should do, and a woman knows full well what her place is. Thus, how can marriage be said to be a grave or a cage or a city under siege?
      That thing called love exists as well. It's like a spring flower, or the rainbow after a summer rain, or a child's game. It may be a step toward marriage, or maybe not. I’ll leave the discussion of love for another article. But as for marriage, it’s best to talk about composition rather than love.

2013 Annual Humorous Writings of China, from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 243
Translated from
4. How Did She Get Into Famous U.S. Schools? (她凭什么打动12所美国名校)

by Jasmine Li (李莉)

      She was simultaneously admitted to Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Northwestern and other big-name schools. What's that kind of a girl like? After receiving acceptance letters from 12 elite U.S. schools, Ms. Li Jiang, a student in the Dao Yuan [Experimental Honors] Class at the No. Four High School [in Beijing], still said she did not feel like an "accomplished master". As one of the first graduates from the Dao Yuan program, she envies some of the "whiz kids" in the class. "I still don't have a clear idea of what I want to do in life, but they've already set goals for themselves and are working towards them with all their strength." Ms. Li said that she'd really come to understand one truth in Dao Yuan class: There's more than one road to success.

To Be with the "Whiz Kids"

      Three years ago, when the No. Four High School began to recruit students for the Dao Yuan program, named after the school's first principal Wang Daoyuan, Ms. Li was just about to graduate from the junior high associated with the school. Her grades made it easy to gain admittance to the No. Four High School, but she chose to apply to the Dao Yuan class. "The brochure said they were recruiting extraordinarily self-motivated students with superior cognitive, analytic and creative thinking abilities in a particular field of study. Exceptions could be made to grant admission to such students even with somewhat lower scores. I thought students who could get into this program would certainly be "whiz kids". It should be very interesting to be in high school with "whiz kids". Besides, I was very interested in physics in junior high school and I'd have more opportunities to do research in physics if I got in this program."
      Seventeen students were recruited for the first Dao Yuan class. Their interests and strengths were in ten different areas of study, including computers, writing, mechanics, Sinology and physics. Four of them were admitted because, like Ms. Li, they were strong in physics.
      In China, where everyone aims for a key university, admission into an experimental class intended to develop specialized talents can be risky. When the Number Four High School was recruiting students for the first Dao Yuan class in 2010, its principal Liu Changming indicated that the students' "futures are not guaranteed." Ms. Li wasn't worried about the principal's comment. "I believe in myself, and Mom and Dad believe in me. I'll test into college no matter what, and even if I don't I can repeat a year [in high school], and it certainly wouldn't be a tragedy."

Concern for the "Pain of Breathing Disability"

      When she was a freshman in high school, Li Jiang came into contact with some people suffering from pneumoconiosis, or dust lung disease. She set a goal for herself of helping these patients get treatment. "What could I do for them? I'm just one person and didn't have the power to do anything by myself. I had to find something like a crowbar, a way to leverage out more clout."
      By chance, her classmate Wang Shiyu, who had just developed a keen interest in making videos, would pull her into discussions of movies every day. The two girls talked it over and decided to shoot a public service video about sufferers of pneumoconiosis.
      During summer vacation [before] the eleventh grade, they used their free time to visit the Chinese Coal Miners Convalescent Home in Beidaihe, [Hebei Province], the Shanxi Province Iron and Steel Group, and a small gold mining village in Guizhou Province.
      "People with pneumoconiosis suffer greatly. The coal dust and metals that have been sucked into the lungs turn into pulmonary fibrosis, and eventually it becomes difficult to breathe. In the late stages, many people with the disease can't lie on their backs and can only sleep when kneeling. It's excruciating. Supposedly employers compensate sufferers of occupational disease, but dust lung disease has a long incubation period, and mine workers often change employers, some even working without a labor contract, so often the companies pass the buck."
      The two girls shot video during several months of field interviews and eventually edited a 38-minute documentary. They posted it on the Internet in the hope that more people would become concerned about pneumoconiosis. They also collaborated with campus humanitarian groups to hold fundraising sales and to solicit contributions. In the charity bazaar marketplace, the documentary was cut into a small 8-minute public service announcement "The Pain of Breathing Disability" for showing at fundraisers. Fundraising sales ultimately raised 50,000 Yuan [≈$8,190] which covered treatment costs for 25 pneumoconiosis patients.

A Plan to Get Water from Air

      Ms. Li remained enthusiastic about physics throughout her three years in Dao Yuan class. During her sophomore year, while she was experiencing the discomfort of Beijing's sauna-like weather, she was struck by an unconventional idea: She decided to research a way to "get water from air". The Dao Yuan program is consistently supportive of its students in their various fanciful ideas. In this instance, the school put Ms. Li in touch with an academic advisor from Tsinghua University.
      After researching the idea for some time, Ms. Li realized it was not just a physics problem, but also involved chemistry. The school therefore put her in touch with a chemical specialist at BUAA [Beijing University of Astronautics and Aeronautics]. Ms. Li compared water absorption in the silks of beetles and spiders. Her paper "Water Absorption in Two Types of Organisms" ended up winning a prize at a youth science competition in Denmark.

Organizing a Concert for the School Janitors

      Ms. Li's interest in music did not diminish while she was studying so intensely. "My parents forced me to study the piano starting when I was three. I refused to take any more piano when I was six, but developed a liking for the erhu [two-string fiddle], and it was my favorite instrument for the next six years. I passed the erhu level 9 when I was 12 years old. After I started junior high, though, I found myself getting into the piano again."
      Because she loves music, Ms. Li got her classmates to set up a "Music Lovers Club", so that students who like classical music could have their own society. The club also organizes an annual piano competition. "So many people can play the piano, they usually get lost in the crowd, but as soon as we organized the competition they came out of the woodwork. Some of the students write their own songs. There's some real talent around!"
      Seeing that some of the school's maintenance staff liked the music but, because of their limited means, could only listen to it on their cell phones, members of the Music Lovers Club got the idea to set up a concert for them. On the day the Janitors Concert was held, the hundreds of seats in the concert hall were filled to capacity and extra chairs were added in the aisles. "This kind of interaction gives us a greater understanding of the janitors who work beside us, an understanding of their lives and their thoughts. In the future we won't be limited to doing concerts, but can progress to showing movies for them. Contact with the janitors has let me see a more three-dimensional society."
                                                                                                                                                  Selected from the Beijing Evening News

Yilin Magazine, June 2013, 2nd Semimonthly Issue, p. 43
Republished at
5. Discussing Alcohol over Warmed Wine* (煮酒论酒)

Cai Lan (蔡澜)

“Alcohol. What’s good about drinking it?”
      “To tell you the truth, you should avoid it.
      “People who don’t drink should turn the page.”
      “Are you still listening patiently?
      “Well, there’s still hope for you.
      “It might be possible for you to become an apprentice drinker.”
“What’s the best alcohol?”
      “Whatever’s right in front of your eyes is the best.
      “If you choose a champagne or a well-aged red wine, and you don’t drink [traditional Chinese beverages like] double-distill or baijiu, then you’re a slave to the booze and not her master.
      “If you don’t normally drink at all, just a little bit will get you drunk. That means the booze is consuming you, not the other way around.
      More precisely, there are two kinds of drinkers: those who consume alcohol, and those who get consumed by the alcohol.
“Drunk. What is that?”
      “Heaving your guts out, not being able to talk about anything.
      “Drunk is conversation turned to mumbling.
      “Drunk is flying high, roaming through the clouds riding on a bird.
      “Drunk is saying whatever you want, uninhibited by etiquette.
      “Drunk is giving everything you have to your buddy, knowing that your buddy would give his bottom dollar to you.
      “Anything else, you can’t call drunk.
      “It’s just being a dumb pig.”
“Making a lot of noise, crying and weeping, acting crazy from the drink, these are hitting bottom, right?”
      “Not necessarily.
      “Several times in the course of his life, a real drinker will allow himself to indulge in the situation you’ve described. When you’re the saddest and also the most joyful, it’s absolutely beautiful.
      The problem is, if you repeat these shameful performances too many times, you lack the qualifications for drinking. You might as well just go commit suicide.”
“Well, what’s the limit?”
      “It’s quite simple. The limit is that every sip of booze must still have flavor. If you’ve drunk to the point where you can’t tell if it’s brandy or whiskey, you should stop.”
“I’m the type who’s always looking for a drink. What should I do?”
      “There’s nothing you can do. Just don’t drink.”
“If I have one drink I throw up, but I still long for the booze. I’d like to get drunk for once. What can I do?”
      “The answer is: The scent of flowers can make you drunk. The liquor of tea can make you drunk. Scenery can make you drunk. A beautiful woman can make you drunk. Reading can make you drunk. Please don’t use alcohol as a tool, please don’t use alcohol as an excuse, and please don’t use alcohol as an opponent. You can get drunk in any situation.
“What’s the best kind of booze to drink?”
      “For alcohol that goes with the type of food you’re eating, it’s best to drink: Shaoxing yellow wine with Hangzhou food, sake with Japanese food, red or white wine with Western food.
      “For alcohol that goes with your surroundings, it’s best to drink: vodka when you’re in Russia, makgeolli [unfiltered rice wine] in Korea, ouzo in Greece.
“Mixing drinks gets you drunk easily. Brandy with whiskey will knock you right down. Don’t you agree?”
      “That’s nonsense.
      “People who drink cocktails, I don’t see all of them getting dead drunk.”
“Does drinking make a person more creative in artistic endeavors?”
      “Not entirely. It depends on the media.
      “If you’re writing a long essay, getting drunk will mess with your chain of thought. It’s better to quit drinking.
      “For five-character classical poems or seven-character quatrains, go ahead and get really drunk. You can also get drunk to practice calligraphy; Huaisu‘s
cursive calligraphy must have been done while he was drunk. But you can’t be drunk while cutting a seal or you’ll mistake your fingers for the stone. You’ll smash the ends and blood will flow.
“Does alcohol increase sexual desire?”
      “Yes. That’s correct. But it does depend on whether the object of your affection is someone new. Otherwise, what gets strengthened by drinking isn’t sexual desire. It’s the desire to sleep.”
“Is there a medicine for hangovers?”
      “No. Drink water or tea. The best treatment is to cover your head and sleep it off.”
“I’d like to start learning how to drink. What’s my first move?”
      “I’d say first drink beer. If you don’t think even beer is a good drink, stop right away. There’s no need to force it on yourself. If there’s any alcoholic beverage you think tastes good, you’ve already got the knack of it. You’re a natural drinker.”
“Bottom line, is drinking bad for your health, or isn’t it?”
      “From the time you’re young, sensual enjoyment of any kind starts to harm your health a little. Excessiveness is always bad. Even plain rice can be bad for you if you eat like a glutton.”
“I’m thinking about going on the wagon.”
      “If you want to give something up, it’s all in the mind. Alcohol recovery centers won’t help you. Our bodies have a primitive breaking ability called “problem onset”. If drinking starts to give you problems, you should cut back on the drinking. If you obstinately keep on drinking, you’ll die obstinately. It’s as simple as that.”
“Can you really die from drinking?”
      “Yes, really. That’s how the Taiwanese novelist 
Gu Long died.
“Is it true that you can’t eat jackfruit while you’re drinking?”
      “There’s no scientific evidence. Beer with jackfruit shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s much better not to try the hard stuff with it. My friend
Yue Hua, the actor who goes by the stage name Eliot Ngok, used to like eating jackfruit after he’d been drinking brandy, and he never had a problem. One time his stomach got upset, though, and after that he never again ate jackfruit while drinking hard liquor.
“Which do you prefer, liquor or women?”
      “I want both.”
“Nope, you can only have one or the other.”
      “In that case, I’ll take the booze.”
*[The title is a reference to Chapter 21 in the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms“, entitled “Discussing Heroes over Warmed Wine” (煮酒论英雄), which has also been rendered as “Cao Cao Discusses Heroes in a Plum Garden” – Fannyi]

2013 Annual Humorous Writings of China, from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 239
Translated from version at

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