Selected Modern Chinese Essays: “Good-bye, My Ill-fated Motherland!”

By Ba Jin

The moment I set foot on the deck of the ship, there began my temporary separation from Chinese soil and a feeling of parting sorrow welled up in my heart. At sailing time, I stood on deck watching the ship receding slowly from the bank until I was out of sight of the towering waterfront buildings and the foreign warships on the Huangpu River. Thereupon I turned round with hot tears in my eyes, murmuring, “Good-bye, my ill-fated motherland!”

Good-bye, my ill-fated motherland! I owe what I am to the upbringing you have given me during the past 22 years. I have spent every day of my life in your warm bosom and under your loving care. You have given me joy and sorrow as well as food and clothing. This is where my close relatives were born and brought up and where I have friends here and there. You gave me a wide variety of happiness in my early childhood, but you have also been the source of my sorrow ever since I began to understand things.

Here I have witnessed all sorts of human tragedy. Here I have come to know the times we live in. Here I have undergone untold sufferings. I have been struggling, fighting and, time and again, found myself on the brink of destruction and covered all over with cuts and bruises. I have laid to rest, with tears and sighs, some of my close relatives — relatives victimized by old feudal ethics.

Here, besides beautiful mountains and rivers and fertile farmland, we have ghastly prisons and execution grounds as well. Here bad people hold sway while good people suffer and justice is trodden down underfoot. Here people have to wage a savage struggle in order to win freedom. Here man eats man. O the numerous terrible scenes! O the numerous sad memories!

O the grand Yellow River! O the mysterious Yangtse River! Where on earth are your glories of the past? O my native land! O my people! How can I have the heart to leave you?

Good-bye, my ill-fated motherland! Much as I hate you, I’ve got to love you.