Published:2014-01-27 15:16:32    Text Size:【BIG】【MEDIUM】【SMALL



In a number of my stories, I’ve referred to an antiquated park: in fact, this is the Temple of Earth Park. Some years ago, before tourism had developed much, it was as desolate and neglected as a wasteland. People seldom gave it a thought.

The Temple of Earth wasn’t far from my home, or perhaps it’s better to say my home wasn’t far from it. All in all, I felt I was related to it by fate.

It had reposed there for four hundred years before my birth, and ever since, when my grandmother was a young woman, she had taken my father to live in Beijing, my family had lived near it: in more than fifty years, my family had moved several times, but always to a place in its vicinity. Each time, we moved closer to it. I often felt this was something foreordained—as if this old park were waiting especially for me: it seemed it had been waiting for four hundred years—through all the tumultuous changes of those centuries.

It had waited for me to be born, and then it had waited for me to be suddenly crippled in both legs during my wildly ambitious youth. In those four hundred years, it had been denuded of the colored glazes on the eaves of its old temple, the glorious vermilion of its gates and walls had faded, the high walls had collapsed, pieces of jade inlaid into the pillars had loosened and scattered, yet old dark green cypress trees surrounding the altar had become more and more serene, and everywhere, weeds and vines flourished with abandon.

It was about the right time for me to come here. When the park was finally ready for me—a man at loose ends—I maneuvered my wheelchair into the park for the first time. The sun—on its ancient, unchanged path—was just growing bigger, and redder. In the still rays of light suffusing the park, it was easy for a person to see the time, and easy to see his own shadow.

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