Monday, July 28, 2014

Chinese Nostalgia

Vila was a sweet visiting student from humble village roots far from Jinan. It is a curious practice in the Chinese university system that invites students to take classes at another university somewhere in China  (and sometimes Asia) for 1 or 2 semesters. Students bop all over the place. I had 3 incredible students from South Korea. The Korean students' English was always superior to their Chinese peers. Real home-sickness is not uncommon among freshmen students.

"As is know to all, nostalgia is a recurrent them in Chinese poetry. Most of us, especially the foreign readers of translated versions of Chinese poetry, may well be taken aback --or even put off-- by the frequency, as well as the sentimentality, of the lament for home. Actually, to understand the strength of the sentiment, we need to know that it has been deep-rooted and profound over the ages.

"To begin with, in ancient times, transportation and communication were largely limited and people were greatly isolated by mountains and rivers. Once separated, reunions seemed far from coming. Although they had thousands of words, few letters could be delivered. For this reason, even letters from homeland ere worth their weight in gold. Drifting on strong lands alone, poets were inclined to recall happy memories of their family members and hometowns at the sight of familiar scenes, especially when they were seriously ill and severely frustrated. And on holidays, they often found themselves drowned in great homesickness, In this case, nostalgic poetry seems the best embodiment of their loneliness and longing for home.

"In the second place, the Chinese desire for stability and rootedness in place is prompted by constant threat of war, exile, and the natural disasters of flood and drought.  Compared with natural calamities and man-made misfortunes, human beings seemed so insignificant and powerless. Have you ever seen the movie 1942?  Actually, I have seen it twice. From the hero's perspective, even dying closer to one's hometown is a kind of consolation. As a prevailing Chinese old saying puts it, if dead people can't be buried in their ancestry graves, their should will wander aimlessly all the time just like ghosts.  In other words, it's the forcible removal that makes the Chinese keenly aware of their loss and the importance of their homeland.

"Finally, it is the feeling of relaxation, warmth and sincerity that makes our longing for home ever-lasting. Faced with fierce competitions, people are not isolated by distances by  mistrust and jealousy. In this case, home is not a place to protect us from heavy rains and strong winds, but also a place to ease our minds and cure our wounds. That is the place where our beloved ones live in and our in exhaustive motivation comes from. That's the reason why so many people can endure all manner of difficulties and fight their way home. That's the reason for the emerging of the so called Chinese Spring Festival Travel Rush, the greatest temporary migration in human history.

"In a nutshell, Chinese nostalgia may be expressed in different shapes in different times, while the essence is the enduring."

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