Selected Modern Chinese Essays: One Saucer More

◎ Jin Shenghua

I’ve been told the following anecdote by a friend of mine:

When Chen Chih-fan, professor of electronics, was about to leave the U. S. for Hong Kong to take up his new post at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, he did packing at home with his wife. They owned a beautiful tea set, but while packing up, they had one of the cups broken through carelessness.

Ordinary people would have got very upset over it, as it was always troublesome to replace the broken cup to complete the set.

Professor Chen, however, reacted to it differently. He said calmly with a smile, “Wow! Now we’ve got one saucer more! ”

The attitude of always looking on the bright side of things will definitely be of inestimable benefit to us in our real life.

Professor Chen has distinguished himself both as a scientist and an essayist. His prose writings, which have been published in several collections, are known for their fresh and expressive style. I was struck with admiration when I first read them, and I remember how I marvelled then at the keen insight and wisdom displayed between the lines as well as his beautiful language.

Things seldom go one’s way. That’s a popular saying too old to warrant re-quoting. But, one will certainly meet with one setback after another on his life’s long journey.

When frustrated, one is apt to wonder why the more fortunate can fare so well either in business or officialdom, making a pile or enjoying both fame and wealth, while he himself, like an old ox pulling a rickety cart, has to trudge all by himself on a country road thick with dusk.

Is that true? Now take for example a cup half filled with water. Some, in the face of it, may exclaim with delight, “Great, the cup is half full! ”Some may grumble gloomily, “Too bad, the cup is half empty! ”You see how the two kinds of people differ.