Selected Modern Chinese Essays: First Love – Fragments from My Diary

◎  Xie Bingying

September 7, 1926, 2:00 pm

I’m being too hard on myself!I’m suffering a self-inflicted torment!How come his is the only image rising in my mind?It seems that I see nothing but his smile and hear nothing but his voice. I take the sender of any letter I receive for him and then read it over again and again. I’m completely preoccupied with thoughts of him. Oh, my!I’m not in a mood to do anything, nor am I able to. Whether in class or at table, walking or sitting, asleep or awake, I can never banish him from my mind. I fail to concentrate when I listen to a talk or read a book. In short, I just sit about thinking of him.

September 15, 1926, evening

I really don’t know what love is and what it is made up of.

I don’t know what love is like, except parental love. I don’t know whether it tastes bitter or sweet, sour or pungent. But I know I’ve developed a very mysterious and deep feeling for him. Isn’t that feeling named love?

During my first encounter with him, the moment we had an eye contact, he instantly sowed a seed of love in my heart and magnetically attracted my heart and soul. From then on, I began to have a soft spot in my heart for the opposite sex.

Formerly, I was so naïve as to run away from my schoolmates with a loud“Bah!”whenever they chatted about the question of love.

They called me simple-minded, but I would rather be always like this. Now I’m experiencing a nameless agony. Oh, my goodness!I really don’t know why!

I can’t explain psychologically why I love him and yet completely keep him in the dark about it. I want to keep it secret forever and ever. What a mysterious and inconceivable behaviour!

Pain, pain, I welcome you. I’ll never shy away from you. Life will be insignificant without pain.

Kuriyagawa Hakuson[1] says aptly, “Anguish and tears make love worthwhile. Marriage is the grave of love.”

Damn it, why should I quote him?An innocent and artless girl like me shouldn’t get a foretaste of bitter love.

When for the first time in my life my mind was haunted by the image of a member of the other sex, I was so much distressed that I felt like committing suicide. I couldn’t understand why the image of the smiling young man kept appearing before my mind’s eye, so that I couldn’t concentrate on my studies and could no longer live a happy life free from anxieties and cares. I hated him. And I also hated my third brother who had introduced him to me. I tried to destroy the image, but in vain. Often in the depth of night, on waking up from a dreadful nightmare, I would thump my head with my fist and curse:—You good-for-nothing, go to hell!Why should the unsullied mind of a young girl be haunted by a member of the opposite sex?O what a misfortune!The image, like a whirlwind, will sweep away your future, and, like a beast of prey, will devour your life. Ah, you’re in great danger!It is, however, never too late to mend your way. You’ll be done for unless you become awakened to the danger facing you.

Much as emotion was condemned by reason, the former, nevertheless, got the upper hand. Instead of disappearing, the image of the young man became with each passing day even more vigorous in my mind’s eye.

I managed, however, to refrain from revealing to him my troubled state of mind. For over a year when I exchanged correspondence with him I never let him know how much I loved and thought fondly of him. Every day I wrote an entry in my diary as well as some free verse in vernacular Chinese. Sometimes I got dead drunk with the strong liquor I had bought on the sly. Sometimes I even thought of asking some friends of the same sex to go with me to an ancient temple in the remote mountains to become Buddhist nuns. They of course had no idea of what had happened to me. Oh, first love, how unblemished and unforgettable it is!

The alarm bell began to ring in a new era. The Northern Expedition started. Courageous young men and women threw away their books, took off their long gowns and joined the revolutionary army. It was then that I succeeded in freeing myself from the deep distress I was in.

One day the lovely image suddenly appeared before me. It was none other than the young man. He fixed his passionate eyes on me and said,

“You must have received my letter. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to have a serious talk with you.”

The tender voice was charged with immeasurable hidden hope and joy.

“Don’t you believe it?I’m going to join up.”

A smile, accompanied by sternness, passed over my face. He looked astonished.

“No, I don’t. You’re joking, aren’t you?”

“No. I mean what I said.”

“Physically, you won’t be able to go through the hardships!”

“I need to be toughened up by the army life.”

“So you’ve really made up your mind?”

The smile on his face was replaced by deep gloom.

“I’ve already signed up!”

“Why not think it over again before you make the final decision?Let’s talk it over thoroughly.”

“No need to think it over. You should unconditionally agree to let me go!”

“…”

He hung his head in silence. I knew he was suffering untold mental agonies. But, strange to say, I didn’t feel bad at all. On the contrary, I sat before him smiling a proud smile like a prisoner under death sentence being suddenly granted a special pardon.

“I go back home tomorrow. Tell me if we can ever meet again.”

His voice, like a melancholy tune, unexpectedly touched me to the heart. And a feeling of sadness suddenly came over me.

“Let’s meet at the front!I hope you’ll join up too.”

“…”

He gave no reply, his eyes glittering with tears.

So we parted silently without saying a word. I saw him to the school gate and then turned round with warm tears in my eyes.

[1] Kuriyagawa Hakuson(1880-1923), professor of Kyodo Imperial University, was a well-known Japanese literary critic.