Selected Modern Chinese Essays: The Idol Speaks

By Ai Qing

There stood in a well-known ancient temple a huge statue. It was so tall that people standing by were unable to touch even its knees however hard they tried to reach for it. For many, many years, visitors couldn’t help feeling so overawed and dwarfed at the sight of it that they looked to it eagerly for salvation.

Having stood there for several hundred years, the statue had now come to detest it as a kind of forced drudgery. And it knew perfectly well that it could do nothing whatsoever to help the suffering mortal beings craving for salvation by it. Feeling bored as well as ashamed, it began to address its worshippers at long last:

“O ye mortals, what a ridiculous thing you’ve done! You’ve created me in your own image, and an image of gigantic dimensions at that, believing that I can thus be powerful enough to rid you of your worries and cares. As a result, however, I’ve become just scared of you.

“I’ve every reason to believe that it is your lack of self-confidence that has prompted you to create me. Look, in what way am I superior to you? As a matter of fact, I even lack what you yourselves are equipped with.

“If you’re bold enough to smash me to pieces, you won’t see a single drop of blood trickling down my chest.

“Of course I’m also aware that it’s a daring act of yours to have created me, in an attempt to make me an accomplice of yours so that I can join you in hoodwinking those who are even weaker than you.

“I’ve had enough of punishment, having been footed to the spot for several hundred years! Ever since your forefathers moulded me, people have been gilding me all over from generation to generation to keep me glittering from top to toe. Nevertheless, I’m sick of my present position as much as I’m of hypocrisy.

“Please smash me, or reduce me to your size and instill life-giving blood into me! I would be very grateful to you if that could ever be done. But it’s simply impossible!

“I hold, therefore, that you yourselves only are your saviours, and my presence can only mean your misfortune.” With that, the statue crumbled all of a sudden like a huge mountain.