Selected Modern Chinese Essays: Sunrise at Sea

By Ba Jin

I would often get up early to watch sunrise when it was not yet quite light and all was quiet except for the droning of the ship engine.

The sky was pale with a bluish hue. Soon a streak of pink dawn broke over the horizon, expanding gradually and becoming brighter and brighter. Knowing that the sun was about to rise, I had my eyes fixed on the distant edge of the sea.

As expected, the sun soon appeared revealing half of its face, which was very red but not bright. It kept rising laboriously bit by bit as if weighted down with a heavy burden on its back until, after breaking through the rosy clouds, it completely emerged from the sea aglow with a lovely red. Then, before I knew it, the dark red orb began to shine blazingly, dazzling my eyes until they stung and all of a sudden lighting up the surrounding clouds.

Sometimes, hidden by the clouds, the sun nonetheless shed its rays straight onto the seawater, making it difficult for me to distinguish between the sky and the sea because what I saw in front of me was nothing but a wide expanse of dazzling brilliance.

Sometimes, with thick layers of dark clouds hanging in the sky, the sun was hardly visible to the naked eye. But its radiance managed to show through the dark clouds to edge them with golden lace. Then, after gradually breaking through the tight encirclement, it came into full view and even dyed the dark clouds purple or scarlet. At the moment, apart from the sun, the clouds and the seawater, I too was luminous.

Wasn’t that a marvellous spectacle?