1927-1928年间，他的英诗创作达到了高潮，在美国当时最有影响的文艺刊物The Dial上先后5次刊登他的作品。1927年8月号的The Dial在扉页上介绍了五位作者，第一位就是Kwei Chen（陈逵），其他几位如H. Guelenian（笔名Hamasdegh）、George Minne、Herbert都是当时或以后驰名美国文坛的作家。同时Kwei Chen这个名字也在其它著名杂志如Nation、Poetry、World Tomorrow中出现。
《自传七章》（Seven Chapters of Autobiography） 的前四章于1928年由美国著名诗刊《日晷》（The Dial）发表。
Seven Chapters of Autobigraphy
（注：Seven Chapters of Autobiography 引自《陈逵中英诗文选》第77至107页，张墨，南开大学出版社，1995年6月第1版，其前四章于1928年由美国The Dial发表。）
美国《日晷》杂志（Dial）为主张新颖并尊重创造自由之文学艺术杂志。本年10月出版之该杂志第85卷第4号，中有吾国留美学生陈逵君（湖南人，现已归国，在北平任教授）所作“自传之四章”（Four Chapters of Autobiography），描写中国旧日之风俗，藉使西人得知中国生活之真相及其中之趣味，文笔轻清婉约，饶有情感。闻陈君自传之作，用力甚久而结构宏大，尚在推敲休整之中，未成，此特其一小部分耳。此所登之四章为（一）我之初生；（二）入塾谒圣从师受业；（三）出外从师读书；（四）族中丧礼。虽所叙者在中国人观之不为特别，而在西人读之则趣味浓深。
I was born and brought up in a small village in the interior of China. My parents were Confucian by birth. Confucius’ teachings had been the principle of life of the Chinese people for more than two thousand years before my father and mother were born, before father’s and my mother’s fathers were born, and before their fathers were born.
On the third day after my birth, as I was told years after, my fond paternal grandfather came early in the morning to my father, and said: “Here I have it… I have it… the name of the boy.” Carefully he took from his pocket a sheet of red paper on which he had written in his exquisite calligraphy: “Newly born male child given at Third Morning its name, Ching-yü” Instantly my father took the paper and pasted it on the family shrine. The two characters(庆余）of my name mean Abundance of Joy. They are from a famous saying in The Book of History: “The family that has accumulated good deeds will reap abundance of joy from its descendants.” When I entered high school, I adopted by myself the Character Kwei（逵）for it was the custom in China that a student should be called by another name in school than that used at home. Kwei means literally highway; it connotes straightforwardness, a quality for which I have chosen, with varying success, to strive.
Since in China as elsewhere there are successful men, there are also men who are jealous of these. I happened to be born when my parents were in many ways prosperous. In celebrating my birth they used more firecrackers than usual, and the sound of joy stirred the jealous nature of a man in the neighbourhood. A young cousin of my mother ran to her and told her that he heard the man say: “Some day the boy will disgrace the family.” My mother was very indignant at first, but laughed afterwards. She replied to her cousin: “Go and tell the man that I said my boy will be respected by all the good members of the Chen family.” Here, as a rule, my mother, as she told me this story, would pause for a moment, staring at me gravely though encouragingly, and then conclude in the usual way: “Now you are growing and will be a man before long. It is for you yourself to make up your mind whether or not you will be the kind of son your mother has always hoped you would be. I shall not be able to watch you throughout your life!”
Note: In the following sketches I do not attempt to give a complete account of my life. Inasmuch as these episodes are of my actual experience, however, they illustrate a Chinese view of life which may be regarded as authentic, if not authoritative. If my readers are not misinformed about China through my words, I shall be content.
My Commencement Ceremony
In former days before a boy began his schooling, there was a ceremony upon the occasion of his Formal Commencement of Learning. His parents took it very seriously, being careful to see that their boy should have a good start. Usually the most virtuous and most learned man among the relatives or friends of the family was asked to be the teacher on this occasion. Afterward the man became the First Teacher of the boy, standing as a pattern for the boy’s life. Should the boy later distinguish himself in the province either of literature or state affairs, the townspeople would like to say: “Indeed 'Without clouds in the sky there can be no rain!’ He had for his First Teacher So-and-so, the most virtuous and most learned man that ever lived in our county.”
Now I was to leave my mother-teacher and to be sent to a regular school. Following the ancient custom my parents planned a Commencement ceremony for me. They requested my mother’s own uncle to be my First Teacher. He was a retired magistrate. When in office he had ruled his people so wisely that crimes were not committed for months at a time. It was said that within his county people did not need to bar their outer doors at night; nor would any of them take possession of what they found on the streets. They loved their magistrate for his great kindness and respected him for his strictness in enforcing the laws. On the day when he left his office the old ones leaning on the young, fathers leading their children, formed a long procession to wish him peace and safety on his way home. At the head of the procession was the huge Ten-Thousand-Names-Umbrella of bright red satin embroidered with four large characters: Magistrate’s Heart Like Parent’s. It was a gift to their magistrate from all the people of the county. Their names were written in tiny script on the thirty or more white satin strips hanging from the umbrella. The golden tassels gleamed while the people shouted: “Long live the Parent-Magistrate!” Thus my mother’s uncle was one of the very few who enjoyed the highest reverence in our county. Fortunate is the boy whose parents can invite such a celebrated man for his First Teacher!
My parents also took care that the day selected for the ceremony was when the Star of Literature was on duty in Heaven. Unlike the Greek Muses, the Chinese Patron of Letters is conceived as a sour-looking old man, though his appearance is not at all in conformity with his character for he is good and righteous. It is he that sees who deserve to pass the Examinations each year, and one with an ambition toward letters would indeed be unwise should he not beseech the acquaintance and protection of this venerable Star.
On the evening preceding the ceremony my mother’s uncle arrived. He walked the ten miles from his home. My parents wanted to have him come in a sedan-chair, but he insisted that “an easy walk is chariot.”
At the dinner-table he and my father conversed a great deal while they leisurely sipped old wine from small white porcelain cups. They conversed mainly of the reading of books and on being a man. My grand-uncle’s voice rang like the bell in a Confucian temple which gives a tone both of peace and virility; surely his virtue was like the wine of which the quality increases which its age.
Finally rich was brought in bowls for all, and bean-cake soup was served.
“Ah!” exclaimed our retired magistrate, smiling, “bean-cake soup! It was the pastoral simplicity! The late Imperial Examiner’s father used to hang on the wall of his modest library this little poem of his own composition:
“ 'Guests come,
They are asked to dine
On salted eggs and ben-cakes.
Please forget the simple fare,
The friendship of good men is
As pure water.’ ”
Before we left the table, “Indeed the ancients do not deceive us,” said my grand-uncle, closing the conversation. “They say: 'To read extensively and to be able to write well are second in importance for a scholar and a gentleman.’ What is the real value of a man, if it is not measured by the integrity of his character and the nobleness of his mind?”
The next morning everyone in the house wore a reserved smile. Soon after breakfast two scarlet lacquer trays painted with gold were brought to the tiger-legged table in the middle of the men’s parlour. In one tray were four brushes, ten ink-bricks, twenty silver dollars, and an old book. These were for my grand-uncle. The brushes were the best of their kind, ivory-tipped and each carved with four characters: White Crane Crossing Sky, symbolic of the beauty and freedom of a creative mind. The ink-bricks were from far-away Hwei-chow, and were very old, for the Chinese believe that the longer the ink-bricks are preserved, the purer will be their fragrance, even as men become wiser when they are older. The twenty silver dollars were sewed on to a red silkcovered pasteboard in four rows. The old book was of the rarest edition of the Sung dynasty (960-1276 A.D.) in the famous Butterfly-style binding—when the book is open, its leaves resemble the two wings of a butterfly. On the other tray were two brushes, an ink-grindstone, two ink-bricks, a small pitcher of light blue porcelain half filled with clean water, and a roll of thin writing-paper; all of them were wrapped in cheerful red. These were the gifts from my parents for me, and were to be used in this ceremony.
In the upper part of this parlour was the sanctuary of Confucius for whom we had erected a tablet inscribed in gold on a red ground. The inscription read: “The most perfect, the most sage Ancient Master Confucius—Sacred Place.” Before the tablet were a pair of large candles in their bronze holders and a triple-legged brazen censer shining with a carved unicorn. The unicorn is the symbol of a Sage, who is the true friend of mankind, though men, unable to understand him, think him inauspicious because he is different from them.
Second Elder-Brother lighted the candles and the incense, and came to my father’s study to announce that everything was ready. Presently my grand-uncle, my father, and two of his cousins waked toward the parlour, and I timidly followed. We were all in blue gowns and black jackets—such was the costume of the Chinese scholar. In the parlour my grand-uncle stood on the west side, and the rest of us on the east, facing him. Then at a sign from my father I stepped upon the mat before the tablet of Confucius. In the court-yard my brother kindled a long chain of firecrackers, while I bowed, swung up and down my folded hands, kotowed, and put more incense into the censer. I did these things nervously, lest I make a mistake or forget what I had been told to do. When I came back to my place, my father, my uncles, and I bowed and swung up and down our folded hands before my grand-uncle who meantime returned us the courtesy in the same way. Now my father led me nearer to my grand-uncle, and once more I bowed, swung up and down my folded hands, and kotowed, this time to my First Teacher. Thereafter my teacher and I sat down at the table and my father and his cousins withdrew.
My teacher took a sheet of paper and wrote on it the twenty-four characters which constituted the first lesson for all school-boys of that time. In Chinese they were in rhymed verse, of which the English adaptation is as follows:
“The great man,
Educated three thousand—
Seventy became sages,
They all loved high-mindedness,
And knew the laws of propriety.
You, little student,
Never cease to learn!”
He taught me first how to read these characters one by one, then how to write them. Finally he told me to copy the lesson twice with my own hand, and went to my father’s study.
“Congratulations!” I heard him say. “The literary atmosphere in your Chen clan is yet abundant. The younger generation shows conspicuously the gift which has been the happy bequest of your family for many scores of years. In the course of time we shall see that young ones are not at all unworthy of their fathers and grandfathers.”
Genial conversation, with plentiful tea, followed the ceremony. I felt I was once more newly born in a world, the glorious world of learning with Confucius as my father.
I Go to School
Within a fortnight after my commencement ceremony, I was in a private school about a mile from home. Carrying my books I went to school every morning and returned home before dusk. Thus I could be near my mother, and in the meantime have schooling regularly. It was nearly autumn, the rice was ripe, and who can withhold his joy on seeing the bright yellow grains—the pure, bright gold—glittering in the morning rays? Yes, they are gold, but more than gold to the farmers. They are their work, their hope, their laughter, their tears. They are their life! My heart melted with the joy of the reapers who were already singing high their
Familiar matter of to-day”
as I passed them early in the morning. I was grateful to them too, for I knew the work was hard although they seemed to enjoy it. I remembered well the couplet my mother had taught me:
“Know that each grain in your bowl
Means toil and pain.”
My grandmother’s nurse had also told me to regard rich as a sacred object. She said that once upon a time a young man saw a grain of cooked rice on the floor, and picked it up and ate it. Later he won the First Place in the Palace Examination, and married the Emperor’s beautiful daughter!
Throughout the season I walked on that road. I watched the first harvest begin, and saw the last one finished. Throughout the season I noticed none but cheerful faces; even when they went home in the evening after a long day’s toil, they did not appear weary. “The poor, ignorant Chinese farmers!” The good European and American missionaries find themselves eloquent on the subject when talking to their pious countrymen. Yes, poor the Chinese farmers are, and ignorant. But as for the soul, theirs, it seems to me, is the most highly blessed by Heaven.
For myself, I was not without occupation. In the morning I played with the dewdrops on the leaves of the wild plans along the country road; in the evening I listened to the sunset melodies of the birds and insects, and tried to harmonize them with my own untutored songs when no one was near me. In three months I became very familiar with the large stones in the middle of the road. I had counted them many times, and remembered the particular hues of some for a long time. Ah! the rising sun, the evening-red clouds, the happy reapers… Was it not yesterday that I saw them all?
The next year I was again in the country school when the villagers were singing:
“Having passed the Half of the First Moon,
Last year’s dead weeds now we burn.
Men and boys start their ploughing and schooling,
Women and girls their spinning and weaving.”
I had now come to live there, hoping that I could save the time which I had spent with nature and my mother, for more books. It was my mother’s idea. Although I did not like it, I took pride in obeying her and in being always willing to learn more. But the first month away from home and from my mother was very trying. For the rigidity in the old method of Chinese schools was mortal enemy to a child’s nature. Many a time I had determined to flee back to my mother—to have but a moment’s glimpse of her, which would immediately cure the hunger of my soul… But I never could gather sufficient courage to execute my determination, for to flee from school was too degrading for me, and I knew that my mother would scold me for doing that, however much she might like to see me. To permit her boy to neglect his school work or to encourage him to think of anything but books would be as bad as to allow him to gamble. I had heard my mother say so. Gradually I learned to submit to Fate, finding no other way advisable.
The daily program recurs now vividly to my mind. Every morning (there was no Sunday then) as the day was breaking, our teacher would come into the class-room and give us each a new lesson. We were to study it and read it aloud, then recite it, one by one, standing beside our teacher but facing in the opposite direction.
One morning my mind happened to have gone home to my longed-for mother; I besought her to ignore tradition and take me home just for a little while—a day or so… Here, of course, in my mind I had said much more than I would have dared to say in her presence. While I was half dreaming,
“Study!” our teacher called out, slapping the table; “don’t you want breakfast?” It was for me.
I went back and forth several times from my seat to our teacher’s to recite my lesson, but could not succeed in a satisfactory manner. At length all but me had left the room for breakfast and I was alone with the teacher. He became more impatient; I, more fearful.
“Concentrate your mind on the lesson,” he said as he let the room, “and be ready to recite it when I come back.”
Oh, what humiliation! The empty room pricked the boy’s heart. The whole world was dark and cruel to him. Yet, he could not hate his teacher because he had been taught that he should always revere him; he could not hate his parents because he knew that they were doing all for his good; he could not hate himself because he saw no wrong on his part except his desire to see his mother. He then upbraided the Great Maker who had brought him into this weary world without his previous consent.
How could I study! My heart was burning as a wild fire; my head aching; tears bursting forth. I did not know what the teacher might do to me, but I was determined to receive whatever punishment he might inflict. My Second Elder-Brother was the first to return. He said nothing, but joined me in weeping. Then our teacher came back. I paid no attention to him and with my hands on the desk cushioning my head, wept anew.
“What is the matter with you today?” my teacher asked in a half angry tone. “Has a blue-eyed, red-bearded man carried off your mind?”
“Don’t think you are here studying for me!” he continued, puffing at his long bamboo-root pipe, ivory-mouthed, with a shining brass bowl. “I don’t care whether or not you study if you prefer to be ignorant. Nor would your parents care much, if you were not their son.”
The teacher’s words sounded reasonable. “Yes,” thought I, “a good student must model after a good farmer. He goes barefooted working in the flooded fields, while the water is yet very cold. On an extremely hot summer day, he works, out in his field in the burning heat, while the rest of us stay inside the house. Yes, the farmer works hard and steadily toward a definite end. When autumn comes; when the green tassels are turning into pure, bright gold, he watches them as a lover would gaze at his beloved—the more he gazes at her the more beautiful she becomes. He is delighted. He is rewarded. Yes, I must devote myself to studying, as a farmer to working, so I too shall reap. Were I like a lazy man, a do-nothing—Lo! haven’t I seen beggars wander hither and thither, homeless and forlorn, like withered leaves blown by the west wind, tasting dust? Should I, then, disgrace myself, disgrace my mother, disgrace the whole family?” I felt my years and cheeks burn, and my heart beat violently. The contrast was as distinct as that between day and night. Gradually my heart was softened.
As I was wondering how I should change my attitude without injuring my pride, our teacher’s wife entered the room. She begged her husband to excuse me from the whole morning’s duty. When he gave his consent, she caught me by my shoulder, saying: “You are to play chess with me after breakfast. Let us go.”
According to our daily program the first thing after breakfast was a review of the lessons of the preceding five days, and then the lessons of the five days preceding those. At eleven we would have tea and home-made cookies. The rest of the morning was to be devoted to cultivating calligraphy. In the afternoon our work began with one more new lesson for the day. Then we were to punctuate by ourselves the comments on the Classics, while reading them in silence. As the sun was sinking toward the horizon we opened our books of poetry and chanted our favourite verses, our bodies swaying and our hearts expanding.
About half an hour before dusk, the class was dismissed. My brother and I would stand by the door and watch the road leading toward home: perhaps a messenger was coming from our mother!
The evening was wholly for essay reading. The essays were of historical criticism and philosophical interpretation. Occasionally our teacher would begin a discourse, and How to Live a Manly Life took the place of a mother’s lullaby. Finally everyone departed to sweet slumber.
The Five Cypresses
Because only few people, a selected few, ever went to my Eleventh Uncle, and because of the quietness of the place and the orderly life the family lived, his house was called by the villagers The Secular Temple. From a distance one could see in the front yard five large cypress-trees forming a screen for the house. The cypress is well liked by the Chinese for its shape which is that of a Chinese brush, the symbol of creativeness, as well as for its being ever green. My uncle had named his house The Five Cypresses, alluding to his five children, two sons and three daughters, after the example of the poet Tao Chien of the Chin dynasty (265-419 A.D.), who had before his house five willows and called himself Mr Five Willows.
When one approached the Great Door, one rad on the right: Literature to Serve the Kingdom; on the left: Honesty to Bequeath to Descendants. The characters were inscribed in black on two crimson boards symmetrically hung on the two sides of the door. They were written by a distant relative of ours who, according to the rumour, passed his Examinations of the Province by his calligraphy, because the Examiner liked his penmanship better than his composition. I heard people say that my grand-uncle, my First Teacher since my Commencement ceremony, actually saw this comment of the Chief Examiner made at the end of our distant relative’s composition: “His composition is commonplace, but in calligraphy he is exalted above all.” In a way it is maddening to have such a reputation, but our relative was compensated by a handsome income of two or three thousand dollars a year which he earned by writing inscriptions for the stores in the city.
The Five Cypresses was built in the year when I was born. Before that my Eleventh Uncle had lived under the same roof with his three brother and nine cousins in the house built by my great grandfather. As the members of the family increased, there was an increasing call for tact and patience from each in order to maintain harmony among them. My Eleventh Aunt, his wife, was of a very sensitive temperament. Though she always appeared to be pleasant in the presence of her relatives, she often shed tears to my mother in whom alone she confided. She had not learned how to please people she said, and she did not wish to please those who had ill-used her merely because she was one of the younger sister-in-law. My mother would console her, saying: “The best protection from the Lengthy-tongued is to be deaf. Your mind will not be disturbed when you hear nothing, our wise men say. If I happen to hear people talk about me, I walk away as soon as I can. I pursue the right path, I sit on the correct seat, I say to myself: what is there in me that may not be talked about? The public is a mirror; it reflects clearly everything. They who accuse us falsely will be laughed at by good.” But my aunt did not suffer any the less from certain woman members in the family. It was her nature, she told my mother pathetically.
After I was born, my Eleventh Uncle came to my father one day and said: “Fourth Elder-Brother, I have decided to build a new house some half mile from here. Now you have three sons. You will need more rooms sooner or later. Do you not wish to have my portion of this house? ... You know I can no longer remain and be happy…” He was depressed. My father knew, of course, the cause. He agreed to buy from him in case he really wanted to leave the house.
My Eleventh Uncle and is family moved to their new house, The Five Cypresses, on the New Year’s Eve of that year. There they had lived happily for almost ten years when suddenly my aunt died. In order to divert his attention from his deep grief, my father asked him if he would not take my Second Elder-Brother and me as his pupils. He consented. My brother and I went to live in his house as soon as the Half of the First Moon had passed.
The last time I had been there was for my aunt’s funeral. The signs of mourning were still there. On the two crimson boards at the Great Door were pasted several strips of white paper. My uncle’s daughters braided their hair with white thread; his son wore white shoes. For according to the Confucian code the Chinese sons and daughters were required to wear the signs of mourning for their parents for two years. The first seven weeks after their parent’s death, the sons were not allowed either to shave or to cut their hair, and they were not to go out of their own house. During their two years’ mourning, they could not marry, nor could they take the Examinations. In case they were officials, they had to resign; they could return to their post only with some special excuse. Although the Republic has abandoned by law these ancient customs, they are still in practice among the conservations though in a modified manner.
My uncle’s study and library occupied the rear part of his house, and the room for my brother and me was adjacent. All the windows faced the flower-garden. Above the entrance of the study were four characters inscribed in bright green on a horizontal yellow board: “Only the Learned Enter.” Opposite it, above the door opening to the library there was a similar inscription in different characters: “Books Are Here Revered.” On the two doors of a specially made bookcase a couplet was carved in relief with raised gold on a red ground:
“Enveloping the Entire Universe;
Preserving Past and Present.”
Of all the paintings my uncle valued a piece by Cheng Benchou most highly. It was one of Rock and Bamboos, the favourite theme of the painter. There was on it also a quatrain of the artist’s own composition written in his peculiar calligraphy. The English of the poem reads:
“Grey, grey there strands the Solitary Rock;
Straight, aspiring, the several Bamboos
Their beauty no one is to know;
They dwell in a remote vale, concealed.”
There was a clear-water pond in my uncle’s garden. The garden had also a name. It was The Reflection of Red Clouds. My uncle called himself the master of the Reflection of Red Clouds Garden, his pseudonym for his poetical works.
The name of the garden was inscribed on the garden wall, each of the three characters as large as one yard square. Under the inscription was a sketch by my uncle himself, expressing his view of nature and life in relation to the place of the garden in a home. He ended it with a couplet:
“In the empty rooms—leisure and deep stillness;
In the wood and garden—no worldly passions.”
There were other couplets in large characters on the garden walls. I have always remembered the one written by my mother’s brother in the bird-like script:
“For the beauty of the flowers, in spring early to rise;
In love with the moon, in autumn late to bed.”
At the supper table our teacher was always eloquent and inspired. While he sipped drop by drop his home-brewed wine, he would open his talk. He took his own time to eat his supper, which usually lasted from two to three hours. As the evening went on, he became more eloquent and more inspired. In case one of his neighbors should come, he would have a second bottle, and share it with his guest. He would continue to talk until his visitor rose to go home.
“The world is utterly different now from what it was!” he would begin with a deep sigh. “Even one year makes a great difference, a difference greater than that of twenty years when I was a boy. When I was a boy, rich was a copper a quart; pork, three coppers a pound. Today we pay ten times as much. When I was a boy, the crops ripened always in time, and there were frequently good years; people were industrious and thrifty. Now calamities of all kinds befall us. Last year we had too much rain, and a flood; this year we do not have enough, and our rich-fields dry up; next year we are likely to have locusts to eat up all our crops! Although money becomes more scarce, the villagers are getting more luxurious, and lazy…”
Here he would pause, sip a drop a wine, ad raise his chop sticks for greens cooked with peanut oil, or a piece of pork chop. He sipped another drop of wine, looked at my Second Elder-Brother and me, and continued.
“When I was a boy, in your village, as soon as the New Year’s Day was over, men and children were all in school. The sound of book reading from every window of the study rooms was like Heavenly music. full of the beauty of Hope. That was why in your division of our clan there were every year on the average three members who passed the Provincial Examinations. Now for three years all public examinations have ceased. In you village half of the men are not doing any work toward that great art which is Learning. Although the children are yet in school, they do not study half so hard as did their fathers in former days. Ah! even if I were a sag, I could not have foreseen this degenerating day ten years ago..”
One night in the late spring, when all except our teacher had finished supper, and the women folk at the other table were clearing away the dishes, Chang-hsin, a neighbour, entered the room hurriedly.
“Have you folks seen the thing in the sky?” he asked.
“No!” answered our teacher, surprised, “What is it?”
Meantime we all rushed out and stood in the garden.
“The Sweeper Star!” our teacher’s wife cried out.
“It is called comet in books,” our teacher immediately corrected her. “Poor people… Great calamity is ahead!”
There was a grave silence among us for five minutes, as if we were at the bedside of a dying friend with our hearts heavily burdened with grief.
Finally our teacher’s mother broke out.
“We old people have seen enough,” she said. “Sixty years ago, when I was a little girl, the Sweeper Star appeared for a number of nights in succession. Soon the Tai-ping Rebellion began. Sixty years make a cycle. So this Sweeper Star has come out again to-night!”
“Mark you!” our teacher declared. “This is the sign of Heaven’s anger. At present His Majesty is yet a child. Those in power are none but corrupt, mediocre people. They have lost numerous rights for our country and have caused her to be weak and humiliated! The Revolutionist Party is growing secretly all over the country. The danger is upon us.”
With a sense of fear in our hearts we all went into the house. Our teacher sank in the bamboo sleeping chair, saddened and trying to smoke.
A few days before, on of his pupils had left us for the city where his parents had sent him to the new school recently established by the government. At this moment the event recurred in our teacher’s mind.
“A pity!” sighed he, his pipe neglected. “It is indeed pitiful that Ho Fan’s father, following poor counsel, gave up his son to the 'foreign school’. He had been a very promising boy with me. But, now… They are short-sighted, those men who follow the tides and forget the real value of education.”
“Let us look into the new school. What do the pupils do there? They spend half of the time in learning to play foreign games, and the other half in doing artisan’s work. Where does our Sage stand? When do they learn the Classics and History? And they call it a school! It is new schooling indeed. Such is the blind imitation of a foreign system! If this kind of thing continues for a decade or two, we shall readily see tailors and shoemakers take the place of professors, and the Confucian books buried in the dust…”
“But,” our teacher’s Second Young-Brother interrupted.①
“… youth from the whole world and educate them?”
“It is,” said Mr Lung. “Do you remember the whole passage? Recite it.” A Chinese teacher would never use the word “please” when speaking to his pupils.
“ 'The Good Man is happy in three things; none of them is being the ruler of the world. He is happy when his parents are both living, and his brothers are healthy; he is happy when he is not ashamed of facing Heaven, and has wronged no man; and he is happy to have the Bright youth from the whole world and educate them.’ ” I said the passage very slowly.
“That is good,” Mr Lung said, smiling. I felt as if I had won a great prize. An hour later I handed in my composition to him. He read it immediately, and told me that I was admitted to the fifth grade.
The next day our classes began. My curriculum consisted of reading and memorizing, composition, calligraphy, arishmetic, Chinese, history, geography, biology, English, drawing, singing, and physical education. My joy upon first starting my new studies was no less than the poet’s:
“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken.”
If Inquisition is characteristic of a religion, Confucianism was still a religion shortly before the Revolution of 1911, a religion forced upon the boys in this country school. The hero, or rather the outlaw at that time, was my First Elder-Brother, one who had been frequently scolded by my teacher.
One day my teacher gave him a subject on which to write a composition. It was from the Confucian Analectics: “An Interpretation: That Confucius did not wish to see Yang Ho.”
“Yang Ho was a powerful, but usurping official of state of Lu,” our teacher began, giving his pupil a few hints as to how to go at the subject. “For a scholar the best way is to avoid having any intercourse with such a person as we flee from a conflagration. Confucius’ way of treating him was both polite and dignified.”
In the evening my teacher was reading the compositions handed him. Suddenly he called, angrily: “Chung-shen, come here!” Presently all of us looked toward our teacher. My First Elder-Brother timidly stepped from his seat.
“Strange! Strange!” grumbled my teacher, with my brother’s composition book in his hand. “You think you know better than the wisest man of our race?” He spoke scornfully to my brother standing beside him. “Throughout twenty-five hundred years our Master has had worshippers, followers, but no critic. No one has ever dared to think of himself as wiser than he Master. Now you dare to do so! You need not come to learn anything from me…” My teacher threw my brother’s composition book on the table, and went out of the room. My poor brother returned to his seat, terrified.
“I did not write anything except…” my brother murmured, his eyes filled with tears, “except… what I thought right. I can not help it, when I disgrace with Confucius…”
The cause of my teacher’s wrath was obvious. My brother did not follow his teacher’s instruction in interpreting Confucius’ deed on that occasion. He boldly expressed his own opinion. “However bad an officer Yang Ho might have been,” he wrote, “since he desired to see Confucius, he at least had shown his inclination to associate with good men. Confucius was right in not calling on a usurping official. But he should not have chosen the time of Yang Ho’s absence from home, when decorum demanded his visit to the official in the acknowledgement of his gift.”
“It was possible,” my brother went on, “that Yang Ho was seeking the wise counsel of Confucius on the affairs of the state. When a chance was offered him, Confucius should have taken it and tried his best, since he believed in entering public office.” “Small wonder,” he concluded, “that Confucius wandered through the many states to seek his sage-king, and in the end he met none. Might he not have had better success, should he have had the courage and the patience to try the second kings who also had high esteem for him?”
While other students were whispering about the possible punishment for my brother's offence, my teacher entered the room with his uncle, a veteran both as a student and as a teacher in the old school.
“No excuse in school for such a sacrilegious deed!” my teacher’s uncle began, agitated. His gray hair looked grayer than at other times. His right hand trembled with his long black-wood pipe. “Confucius has been the pattern-teacher of our country as well as our neighboring countries for more than two thousand years. In former days students were punished even for throwing in unworthy places on which characters were written. You are young yet,, Chun-shen. If you fail to learn now to respect our Master, I fear you will not get very far in that resourceful world of learning.”
“Now, Chun-shen,” the judge began to pronounce the sentence, “you go to the other room with your teacher and me.” They went out of the room together. I can still see my brother looking like a chicken frightened by a thunderstorm.
A few minutes later, we came one by one stealthily to peep through the crack of the doo. My brother was made to kneel down before the tablet of Confucius. Some incense-sticks were burning in the censer. On either side of my brother stood my teacher and his uncle, who were questioning him. I overheard a few words, but disconnectedly. They sounded somewhat like this: “Do you dare to say again that Confucius was not right?” “No.” “Say this three times: The Wisest and Greatest of Sages, our Maser Confucius!” “The Wisest and Greatest of Sages, our Master Confucius! The Wisest…”
Thereafter my brother was permitted to stand up and return to the classroom with my teacher. For a long time this story was passed about in and outside the school house. My brother was then about fifteen years old.
The great Tides of European Liberalism reached the Middle Kingdom at the opening of the twentieth century. Byron’s The Isles of Greece was widely chanted in Chinese as well as in English throughout the country. Floods of tears were shed over the remnants of China’s ancient glory. The trumpet of Revolution was loudly sounding; its echo was in every heart.
The year 1911 was memorable. This was the year 4609 since Emperor Huang, the creator of Chinese civilization. On the 19th of the Eighth Moon at Wu-chang the people raised the flag of Revolution, to which my province immediately responded. The Ching dynasty in which the Manchus ruled China for nearly 300 years was no more to us; the Manchu emperor was now our enemy. Those who were still loyal to him—as many of the strictly Confucian-minded officials were, not that they cared for the Manchus who had proved themselves corrupt and incapable, but that they wanted to be loyal to their emperor—were denounced as “Manchu slaves”.
When an officer came to our village from the city with the edicts of the revolutionary government, the country folk crowded about him, asking him thousand questions. The first edict gave a general account of the wrongs the Manchu government had done the Chinese people, and the aim and policies of the new government. The governor of our province addressed the people as citizens instead of subjects, and called himself the public servant instead of the father of the people. The second edict announced the new laws of our province. Among others: “That all men should cut off their queues; that mothers should no longer bind the feet of their daughters; that opium smoking was absolutely prohibited, with the penalty of death for the breakers of this law.”
The officer posted the two edicts on the wall of the bean-cake store of our village. The he began to make a speech:
“Fellow countrymen, we are now free! We are free in a twofold sense. We are freed from the Manchus and from an emperor. Hereafter we shall suffer no tyrant’s abused power; we shall govern ourselves by ourselves…”
“Fellow countrymen,” he went on, staring at the faces of his audience, “why do you not cut off your queues, the sign of servitude to the Manchu emperor, whose forefathers murdered our forefathers by the millions? Look at me! I am free!” he removed his cap. Lo! his hair had been clipped to the skin. He looked like no less than a Buddhist monk.
“Come!” he cried out, with a pair of scissors in his hand. “Who will be first?”
Every one was looking at every one else, wishing that the other would be the first. They all seemed to have known Laotze’s saying that a wise man dos not act first.
“It’s a nuisance!” finally a man exclaimed, advancing to the officer. “ Will you please cut my queue off for me?” He was a Chen, for in our village only few were not.
Instantly all began to murmur. Some said that he was more courageous than the rest. Others thought that he was merely foolish, and besides, he was poor and had nothing to loss in case this kind of change turned out to be temporary. Still another group declared that it was “one of the most unfilial things one can do, for our body and our locks, which we have received from our parents, are sacred, and we ought neither to hurt nor to destroy them.” In the meantime not very many followed the example of the first man, and several slipped away. The officer assured the people that they all would be obliged to have their queues cut off sooner or later. And he sighed: “There are men who are like birds in a cage. Having been brought up in confinement they do not care for freedom, even though the door is wide open!” I was both glad and proud that I had never had a queue; it was logical, therefore, I thought, to say that unlike others I had never been servant to the Manchus.
After that day those who still kept their long hair had it made into a knot on the top of their heads, like the Taoist priests. This was the way the Chinese had dressed their hair before the Manchus forced them to wear the queue. It was, then, a happy compromise on all sides: one could do that whether he was an orthodox Confucian who regarded his hair as sacred, or feared the return of the Manchu emperor, or disliked the idea of cutting his hair like the Europeans.
1912 saw the first year of the Republic of China. To the great surprise of the country folk China was actually without an emperor, for whom was substituted a president elected by the people. The dragon flag, the symbol of the supreme authority of the Manchu emperor, was displaced by the Five Colors—red, yellow, blue, white, and black—which represent the union of the five tribes of the Chinese Republic—Han, Man, Mon, Hwei, and Tsan; or Chinese, Manchurians, Mongolians, Turkomans, and Tibetans respectively. The Republic had also adopted the solar calendar used by all Western countries, and abandoned the Chinese lunar calendar invented about 1200 B.C.
All things new had now come into vogue. The young gallants would not wear anything but European clothes, and carried sticks which the country folk nicknamed Beating-Dog-Wood. The fashionable ladies sneered at their fellow countrywomen who did not use Parisian perfume. This caused not a little excitement both at home and abroad. A large American clothing manufacturing company was said to have cabled to the American minister to China: “ASK THE CHINESE NEW GOVERNMENT, BEFORE OTHER POWERS DO IT, FOR AMERICA TO BE GIVEN THE MNOPOLY OF SUPPLYING EUROPEAN CLOTHES IN CHINESE MARKETS. AS THE DEMAND NEWLY CREATED BY THE ESTABLISHENT OF THE REPUBLIC MUST BE TREMENDOUSLY GREAT.” Whether or not the American minister did as the film bade him, no one knows, but the right was not granted. Meanwhile the Chinese merchants of cosmetics were becoming bankrupt; many of their stores were closed because of the immense shift of their former patrons to the Parisians. It was only natural for the Chinese women to follow the fad, for they were by no means willing to be regarded as backward by the Westerners.
Not all the Chinese, however, were satisfied with outwardly copying the West; a sufficient number of them had thought of assimilating the inner spirit of the European civilization as a supplement and a new inspiration to the old Chinese civilization. “New education for the new era of our country!” was the cry in the whole of China. Nearly ten thousand young Chinese went to study in Japan this year. At home the new schools were growing in size as in number, like bamboo-shoots after rain in springtime. But no one was more zealous for a new education than the small boys and girls who found in it a new outlet for the curiosity natural to their age.
I had become very impatient at remaining longer at home. Now and then I brought to my parents news that sons of So-and-so had gone to the county capital to enter a new school, and that Cousins So-and-so were to leave for the provincial capital soon. But my father, after listening to me, would maintain his usual tranquility, gaze at the floor for a while, and then explain to me the reasons these boys had for leaving home. He never touched on my case, as if I were not being considered in the matter.
When the New Year vacation—we in the country still observed the lunar New Year—was half gone, my father had said nothing to me in regard to my entering the new school. I came to my last resort. One day I seized an opportunity to attack the puzzle directly.
“Father,” I asked, “shat school shall I go to this year?”
“Why,” said he, “you are to study under Eleventh Uncle.”
“No, Father!” I protested, tears filling my eyes, “I am so tired of being at home… I want to enter a new school.”
“Well,” my father replied, unmoved, for the Chinese believe that a father must be firm while a motor is kind, “we do not need to follow the tides, to enter the new school when others do. This is the reason: Before you pursue a new education I want you to have as good a foundation of our classical learning as you can, in the hope that you will not forget the spirit of a Chinese good man while your eyes are dazzled by the material splendor of the modern Westerners. To attain this end you are most fortunate to have such a excellent teacher as your Eleventh Uncle.”
Thereupon my mother entered.
“Ching-yü,” said she, “unlike other boys you are too weak to leave home, you know. Should you be sick in the new school so far away from home, who would look after you?”
“O Mother!” I exclaimed, resuming my courage, “my health will be greatly improved if I study in the new school! There the boys have exercises every day.”
Finally my father put an end to my argument, saying: “If you can finish the Five Classics① this year, I will send you to the new school next year.”
注①:The Five Classics are the Book of Poetry, the first Chinese anthology, edited by Confucius; the Book of History, the first history of the Ancient Chinese, written several centuries before Christ; the Book of Change, containing Confucius’s metaphysics; the Book of Decorum, a record of the cultural institutions of the Chow dynasty (1134-247 B.C); and the Book of Judgment, written by Confucius according to his ideals of life and society after he had failed to find a sage-king. For centuries the Chinese students were to learn the Five Classics by heart.