Selected Modern Chinese Essays: Endurance

By Duanmu Hongliang

The pigeon flies high. People tie a whistle to its leg so that they can enjoy the sweet sound coming from the air.

When the pigeon circles in the clear blue sky with a speck or two of white cloud, the rises and falls of the whistling sound are indicative of the aerial somersaults performed by the bird.

Pigeons fly in flocks. They hover over the ancient castles in Rome. In fact, they have been hovering over them ever since Dante first met Beatrice.

They wheel over Tian’anmen Square. In fact, they have been wheeling over it ever since the birth of the City of Beijing.

Some pigeons have a head shaped like that of a phoenix. Their wings are either black, white or speckled, and invariably strong and vigorous.

Their eyes glisten with love. They use their mouths to pass food to their nestlings. It is said that when the pigeon grows old, it will be fed in the same manner by the adult pigeons it has hatched and reared.

The pigeon’s wings are shorter than those of the seagull, smaller than those of the sparrow hawk and less capable of gliding in the air than those of the eagle, but, nevertheless, stronger than all…

The pigeon is a social bird, but it also flies by itself. It often covers enormous distances on its own.

It has practically nothing to eat or drink while flying long distances non-stop day and night. While in flight over the sea, it finds nothing edible or drinkable, nor a place for taking a rest until a rocky spot is in sight, which means it is nearing the other side of the sea…

The camel conquers the desert while the pigeon conquers the air.

The camel cannot run as fast as the horse, the pigeon cannot fly with as much agility as the petrel. But both camel and pigeon are hardy. Their endurance is such as to put to shame both the raging sandstorm and the violent typhoon.

Their great endurance enables them to get to any place they want to. Almost no camel succumbs to difficulties in the midst of a desert and almost no pigeon falls dead while halfway over the sea.

Both camel and pigeon are very gentle, with eyes always twinkling timidly. But they never cringe from a blinding dust storm or a furious tempest…

The camel’s hump symbolizes an arch bridge linking up the cultures of East and West. Armed with a jingling bell, it is a most reliable courier delivering most exciting messages…

The pigeon is a most trustworthy messenger. It does the work of delivering secret intelligence to a military commander with unerring accuracy.

The pigeon whistle is ringing again overhead. To me, however, the whole firmament seems to pale into insignificance in comparison with the small sound.