Six years have slipped
by since I came from the country to the capital. During that time the number of
so-called affairs of state I have witnessed or heard about is far from small,
but none of them made much impression. If asked to define their influence on me,
I can only say they made my bad temper worse. Frankly speaking, they taught me
to take a poorer view of people every day.
small incident, however, which struck me as significant and jolted me out of my
irritability, remains fixed even now in my memory.
was the winter of 1917, a strong north wind was blustering, but the exigencies
of earning my living forced me to be up and out early. I met scarcely a soul on
the road, but eventually managed to hire a rickshaw to take me to S- Gate. Presently
the wind dropped a little, having blown away the drifts of dust on the road to
leave a clean broad highway, and the rickshaw man quickened his pace. We were
just approaching S- Gate when we knocked into someone who slowly toppled over.
was a grey-haired woman in ragged clothes. She had stepped out abruptly from the
roadside in front of us, and although the rickshaw man had swerved, her tattered
padded waistcoat, unbuttoned and billowing in the wind, had caught on the shaft.
Luckily the rickshaw man had slowed down, otherwise she would certainly have had
a bad fall and it might have been a serious accident.
huddled there on the ground, and the rickshaw man stopped. As I did not believe
the old woman was hurt and as no one else had seen us, I thought this halt of
his uncalled for, liable to land him in trouble and hold me up.
all right," I said. "Go on."
paid no attention -- he may not have heard -- but set down the shafts, took the
old woman's arm and gently helped up.
you all right?" he asked.
hurt myself falling."
I thought: I saw how slowly you fell, how could
you be hurt? Putting on an act like this is simply disgusting. The rickshaw man
asked for trouble, and now he's got it. He'll have to find his own way out.
the rickshaw man did not hesitate for a minute after hearing the old woman's answer.
Still holding her arm, he helped her slowly forward. Rather puzzled by this I
looked ahead and saw a police station. Because of the high wind, there was no
one outside. It was there that the rickshaw man was taking the old woman.
I had the strange sensation that his dusty retreating figure had in that instant
grown larger. Indeed, the further he walked the larger he loomed, until I had
to look up to him. At the same time he seemed gradually to be exerting a pressure
on me which threatened to overpower the small self hidden under my fur-lined gown.
paralyzed at that juncture I sat there motionless, my mind a blank, until a police
man came out. Then I got down from the rickshaw.
policemen came up to me and said, "Get another rickshaw. He can't take you
On the spur
of the moment I pulled a handful of coppers from my coat pocket and handed them
to the policeman. "Please give him this," I said.
wind had dropped completely, but the road was still quiet. As I walked along thinking,
I hardly dared to think about myself. Quite apart from what had happened earlier,
what had I meant by that handful of coppers? Was it a reward? Who was I to judge
the rickshaw man? I could give myself no answer.
now, this incident keeps coming back to me. It keeps distressing me and makes
me try to think about myself. The politics and the fighting of those years have
slipped my mind as completely as the classics I read as a child. Yet this small
incident keeps coming back to me, often more vivid than in actual life, teaching
me shame, spurring me on to reform, and imbuing me with fresh courage and fresh
published in =Chinese Literature= magazine (No. 12, 1972)