Selected Modern Chinese Essays: On Self-Appreciation

◎ Ying Pei’an

Frankly, I very much appreciate myself. Yes, I admit I’m in many respects not as good as other people, but I don’t think I’m always no good. When I find what I’ve done or written is okay, I’ll remain pleased with myself for quite a few days, and, in case I receive praise for it, I’ll even become so swollen-headed as to add a few words to glorify myself.

True, I’m not modest at all.

People may call me conceited. But I think otherwise.

I also appreciate other people. I appreciate anything good. Isn’t it unfair to forget appreciating myself while appreciating others?

We Chinese are generally inclined to be modest, and we take pride in being so. For example, a Chinese will call his own wife zhuojing, meaning“my humble wife”, and his own writings zhuozuo, meaning“my poor writings”. But if you should call his wife a“rustic woman”or his writings“trash”, he would, I’m sure, slap the table in a rage and declare he would make a clean break with you. As a matter of fact, there is probably no difference at all between what is said by him and you respectively.

I don’t think it’s wrong for you to freely praise yourself if you’re really worthy of praise. As we know, there is an old Chinese saying disparaging a melon peddler, named Lao Wang, who keeps praising his own goods. Well, why can’t he praise his melons if they are really sweet and juicy?

Friends, Lao Wang sells melons for a living. How could he carry on business if he, by imitating the affectations of us intellectuals, were to show false modesty about his melons? He would sure enough die of starvation.

Self-appreciation is therefore key to professional dedication and enjoyment of work. One will lose confidence in continuing with writing when he ceases to admire his own essays.

Needless to say, the same is true of those who make a living with their pen.