Selected Modern Chinese Essays: I Love the Sea

By Xie Bingying

I love diverse aspects of Mother Nature, but I love the sea more than the mountain.

Ever since I came to Xiamen, I’ve been in the habit of going for a walk along the seashore almost every day. It gives me an indescribable pleasant sensation to step on the spongy fine sand. When the sea wind dashes the snow-white billows against the beach, I can pick up from among the brilliant spray many pretty shells and colourful pebbles, as well as some lovely green seaweed as delicate as human hair. I’m even more inclined to lie on the clean and soft sandy beach and listen quietly to the sea unbosoming itself. How comfortable and refreshed I will be to feel the cool gentle sea breeze brushing past me!

There is no denying the mightiness of the sea. I love her not only because she has the beautiful hues and many intriguing objects hidden deep underneath her, but also because she is broad and liberal enough to turn the foul into the pure. The numerous small rivers that she accommodates may be of a black or yellow colour, but once they flow into her bosom, they instantly take on the green colour signifying peace and tranquility. A person with a terrifying hot temper will become, I believe, as meek as a lamb after a long stay by the seashore. Likewise, I believe a narrow-minded person will become tolerant and open-hearted if he often keeps company with the sea.

Surrounded by the sea on all sides, the city of Xiamen is really picturesque with clean wide avenues. Facing it on the opposite bank is Gulangyu, the famous tourist resort, and in the west is Nanputuo, one of the local scenic spots. Here you can choose to tour a different place of interest each day if you feel fit enough.

Lots of things happen by mere coincidence in this world. It has been an unexpected piece of luck for me to become a teacher at Xiamen Middle School. Zhuang Kuizhang, headmaster of the school, was a stranger to me when we first met though he had been a schoolmate of mine at Peking Normal University. The middle school is located high up on a mountain slope facing the sea. On the second day after my arrival at Xiamen, I was so struck by the beauty of the school environment that I went sauntering into the campus where Zhuang and I met by accident and started chatting. He asked me if I would like to be a teacher of Chinese at his school, but, as I was to go on a tour to western Fujian, I could not say yes or no immediately. Later he wrote me again and again urging me to go back to Xiamen to pick up the teaching post. At first, I had misgivings about working together with a person of whom I knew so little. What if he and I should fail to agree with each other in the future? My worries, however, turned out to be uncalled-for. Zhuang is very honest and kindhearted. So is his wife, if not more. He treats all the teaching staff with warmth of heart as if he were head of a big family. We will often go together to his home to spend our free hours chatting cheerfully.

I came back to Xiamen to fill the teaching post before school began. It was unbearably hot, so Mr. Zhuang and his wife invited me to go seabathing with them. But surprisingly it ended up in my narrow escape from the surging waves. As I had never in my life seen people swim except in some pictorials and as the weather was so hot, I, being at the seaside and not knowing how dreadful the sea could become, naturally felt like having a go at dabbling in the water. Suddenly the violent waves came upon me and carried me quite a few metres away. “Help! Help!” I cried out with lots of salty seawater in my mouth. They rushed to my rescue. But no sooner had they seized me by the arm than the surging waves returned to carry all of us quite a few metres away. In an increasingly rough sea, even a good swimmer may lose all control over himself, let alone me, an absolute beginner in the art of swimming.

It was with much effort that they managed to drag me onto the beach. Since then, I’ve never dared to have a go at swimming again. All I do is sit quietly on the beach reading and basking in the sunshine, or go collecting shells. True, shells have aroused in me so much interest that every day I will come back from the seaside with pockets bulging with shells. I’ll lay out my new acquisitions on the desk in many classified groups so as to show off before my colleagues. They may take away some of the shells, but I don’t care at all, for the next day I can bring back from the beach as many replacements.

I’ve become more and more crazy about the sea. I never let a day pass without seeing it with my own eyes. Sometimes, as soon as I get up, I’ll hasten to the seashore to greet the blood-red sun rising from the distant edge of the sea. Sometimes, I’ll go to the beach at sunset for the special purpose of enjoying the twilight scene. I’m even more fascinated by the lighthouse standing in the middle of the sea. My hat off to the lighthouse keeper for drudging at the tedious task of providing ships with a flashing light lest they should run up on rocks in the dark sea!

I love the sea. I wish I could some day live by the sea in a thatched cottage of my own so that I could all day listen to the soft breeze and the sea communicating with each other in sweet whispers and watch the rolling waves kissing the beach. If I should then have great sufferings (as a matter of fact, I know I can never steer clear of sufferings), I’ll quietly plunge myself into the bosom of the sea, and let the mighty waves strike up a funeral hymn for me, the gentle sea breezes softly caress my dead body floating about on the blue waters, and the moon and stars mourn over my death with their tender light. How wonderful it will be for me quietly to take leave of this afflicted mortal world without the knowledge of anyone except the moon and stars, and the wind and sea!