Thursday, December 4, 2014

One of my 9th grade reading assignment -- 朱自清的 "背影"

朱自清is a famous Chinese writer in the earlier years of the Republic of China. Some of his proses articles were included in the junior middle school curriculum on Chinese literature readings. It was a required reading in the fall semester of 3rd year junior middle school in the ChingTao Municipal Middle School when I attend there in 1948. Actually I had read it on my own before that. It was a rather moving article describing his last time together with his father when the father was seeing the son going away at the train station as he was to go to school in Peiping. Very simple description, very real, just what had happening but extremely moving. I remember after we read it, the teacher assigned us to write a composition about a similar experience of our own. That was the time Mom and I were in ChingTao, but my Dad was still working in the provincial city of ChiNan that had been surrounded by commie thugs at the time.  I was writing about the time when Dad took us on a Jeep to the airport for the flight to ChingTao. He sat on the passenger front seat, I sat in the back  looking directly at his back. I don't remember what exactly what did I wrote, but there were some real emotions in  there too.  I wish I could have saved that writing -- only it was deeply buried in the crowded memory along with others.  But I am bring up 朱自清的 "背影" today for another reason.  In his article at the end he mentioned his father 's letter talking about his fading health in which he particularly telling his son that his "大去之期" is not too far away.  Chinese of course are always avoid talking directly about death, they use all kinds of creative terms to imply it. This 大去之期 is one of the nice terms. I have not seen it used elsewhere. This one always implanted into my memory.  Now that I am getting to be in the stage of thinking about those things, that special expression always popping up in the back of my mind.  I think a good direct translation into English could be "the time of the big exit"!  By the way the article can be found online in simplified Chinese here: <> . Other than it's the pitiful simplified Chinese, it is 朱自清的 "背影" that generations of Chinese had been read, I for one always feel some connection to 朱自清 the famous writer in my youth.  I don't think he has ever expected that his simple article remembering his own father can be immortal, but as much as I am inevitably getting closer to the stage of life that "big exit" is lurking in the background, the article just reasserted itself on my mind after 67 years, I don't think I am getting closer to the 大去之期 yet. Two weeks ago when Tina, Mike and CJ and Anna came back for Thanksgiving holiday, Tine made a statement that we are in "ridiculously" good health, which is certainly true. And the Good Lord has not given me any signal yet. Doesn't matter.  I am just making myself be prepared!

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