"The secret of Chinese Characters"


 

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Chapter One

Zanzibar

'A maharaja’s ruby cast on a Persian carpet by the blackest of hands'

The ancient dhow stirred in the soft morning breeze, moving through the water like a sated lion, snuffling about the other boats on the harbour; some scurrying, some at anchor, some darting before a brief gust of wind. The lateen sails a bustling panorama of blood-red and sun-bleached white.

Aft, the woman's eyes searched the skyline, drinking in the architecture of Stone Town, the heart of Zanzibar; its jagged, cluttered silhouette so familiar, so much a part of her soul.

Abruptly, her eyes ceased their restless searching, jagged by an invisible hook, transfixed by the grand buildings on the northern shore, Beit-al-Ajaib, the House of Wonders, Palace to the great Sultan of Zanzibar. The distinctive architecture captured in the tropical light: coconut white outlined by contrasting shadow plays of pepper black.

A smile, ever so slight, started to play on the edge of her mouth, then disappeared. A memory that should have been fond instantly turning to sharp unbearable pain. Her eyes hardened and moved on.

Without warning the captain threw the rudder over. Stumbling, the woman barked her shin on a wooden box, a rough-hewn coffin. She recoiled, knocking over an untidy stack of cane baskets. Imprisoned in the baskets, rusty cockerels, their scruffy heads straining through the latticework, snapped at her, cried out to her; their raucous din overwhelming her, drowning her.

Dimly, through the fog of noise, the strident swearing of the sailors in Kiswahili seeped into her conscious. Understanding, she smiled mirthlessly.

The coffin had been carelessly stowed, a chore, rather than a labour of respect or love.

 

 

London 1910

“Hello, who are you? I am Oliver, is Edward at home?”

The words were spoken by a tall, impeccably dressed young man rushing into Edward’s flat, shaking off surplus water and calling for whisky while shoving his umbrella into a stand; a shaggy grey Irish wolfhound, impeccably dressed by savile row.

Susan laughed, her hazel eyes dancing with the exhilaration of the new. “Yes, he is having a bath. I think he is trying to get warm. I’m Susan, Susan Carey, his sister.

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Pick'n Season

Short stories on a theme set in Tasmania, Australia

Where style and story telling are explored.

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The Cultural Revolution through my Eyes

By Zhou Xiaosui

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I was born in 1966, the year China the Culture Revolution began. My mother told me when I was just born that a nurse held me in her arms and said, "come, look at this girl, she is so pretty, her eyes are so big". Another nurse who was in the room standing in front of the window, said, "come here and look at the people marching down the street wearing high caps!"

They were the people the Gong Chan Party (The Communist Party) had branded as counter-revolutionary. They were being marched down the street as an example.

This is the story of my life, and my family's life, in the time of the Cultural Revolution. I hope you will be interested in seeing China through my eyes.

 

Chapter One

I was Born in this Time

This was a time of unrest and uncertainty. A time that was to last for 10 long years and profoundly affected my family.

Just after I was born, the Government accused my father of being a counter-revolutionary because his family had moved from China and all lived overseas. So he lost his job as a teacher. He wasn’t allowed to work and had to stay at home reflecting on what he had done wrong. This was bad for my father, but it was good for me. My father could look after me at home, and over the early years of my growing up I became very close to my father who was also my first teacher.

I remember, he hung a blanket by the four corners to become a hammock, and he put me inside. He would rock me to and fro when I cried or became restless. He needed to write two pieces for the Government about his thinking and saying sorry that his family left China and lived overseas. He also had to embroider a Mao Zhengdong photo.

Just like this, my father looked after me and finished his thinking “reconstruct”.

My parents told me I was a lambkin, a fat lot cry. My father really loved me. At that time, no-one listened for him, so he talked to me everyday. He talked and talked and I laughed and laughed. My father said he looked at me and I made him so happy.

By the time I was one year old, I had worn out four blankets!

When I was one year old, my father who had lost his job as a teacher, had to go to a Government building company to become a general labourer. It was very hard work for a teacher. At night he had to go to re-education meetings. When I was older and started to understand something of what had happened in my family, my sister, who is six years older than me, told me, “in this time, many nights she saw my father come back from the meeting with bruises and wounds all over the body." These had been inflicted by the Hong Wei Bing. My mother, who was a Doctor, cried and helped my father clean the wounds. These beatings went on night after night, my father wanted to die. My mother told him, “I need you, your two children need you, they need to have a father, you must live!’

Hong Wei Bing: Hong = red; wei = to guard, to protect; bing = soldier

In Chinese culture, ‘hong’ is lucky and represents good.

The Hong Wei Bing was the Communists Party’s youth cadre. It was made up of students in high school aged between 12 and 18. They were given authority over any person branded as a counter-revolutionary. They were, of course, too young and callow to be given that much power, so they abused it. It would be like giving the students at your local High School authority, without boundaries, over anyone in your town who did not seem to conform, including their teachers.

The Government officials ran the re-education meeting with the Hong Wei Bing.

The Hong Wei Bing harassed anyone who was at the meeting. Asking questions like, ‘Did you do the bad thing for the Government, for Mao?’, ‘Do you love Mao?’, ‘Why does your family live overseas?’ ………… questions that had to be answered quickly and with enthusiasm. If the Hong Wei Bing were not satisfied with the answer, or even if they did not like your demeanor, of if they just wanted to hurt you, then they would beat you up. Many people died from these beatings.

My father did not, he lived.

 

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My Father's Wisdom

By Zhou Xiaosui

I was born in 1966, the year China the Culture Revolution began. My mother told me when I was just born that a nurse held me in her arms and said, "come, look at this girl, she is so pretty, her eyes are so big". Another nurse who was in the room standing in front of the window, said, "come here and look at the people marching down the street wearing high caps!"

They were the people the Gong Chan Party (The Communist Party) had branded as counter-revolutionary. They were being marched down the street as an example.

These are some of the stories my father taught my in this time.

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