Selected Modern Chinese Essays: The Window

By Duanmu Hongliang

When you throw open your window on an early morning in March, you will at once be totally exposed to the sun’s first rays and, inhaling deeply of the fresh air brought in by them, exclaim, “Spring is here!”

Yes, it is through the window that spring manages to approach us.

But don’t forget that not all houses have been windowed ever since man first began to build them.

Our Eskimo brothers’ houses, built of large blocks of frozen snow and shaped like white-jade clock covers, have no windows at all. Our Oroqen brothers used to live in roofless houses with no need for windows because they could in the evening enjoy the moon and stars overhead indoors.

Man’s ancestors had been cave-dwellers before they left their mountains to settle on the plain. It was not until countless generations later that they began to build dwellings patterned after a cave — with an awning over a shallow pit in the ground. There was no window to speak of.

Making a window in the wall was a much later invention. As the popularity of windows grew, so did the civilization of man develop.

The window, ever since its birth, has been an entrance to sunlight, a port for taking in fresh air, and a tie between nature and human society.

With the passage of time and increase of tall buildings, more and more windows have appeared. Now, at the sight of a multi-storey building, one cannot help exclaiming at how the window is so symbolic of the house. Without a window, a house could hardly be called as such.

Who hasn’t experienced great delight in opening a window? The moment you open it, you will be immediately struck by imposing blue mountains, fresh green willows, little swallows flying towards you…

Open the window, and fresh air will break in upon your room.

Of course, grains of sand will simultaneously be brought in too. So will invisible dust particles and bacteria, either openly or surreptitiously…

From ancient times to the present, innumerable poets have sung their praises of the window, innumerable singers have extolled it, innumerable lovers have fixed their dreamy eyes on it…

The evolution of the window is worthy of our study. Small as it is, the window has opened man’s eyes to civilization. In the days to come, its changes will become even more manifold.

The window pane will, along with the tick-tick of the clock, automatically regulate light streaming into the room and change its own colour according to interior illumination. The window frame will be filled with circulatory water to remove things harmful to the resident without his knowledge and carry to him fragrance and nutrients which he much needs but are otherwise hard for him to get.

Some windows will ensure good ventilation and transparency without manual manipulation. They will keep out disturbing noises and let in sweet music.

Let’s open the window! Open it not just to let in sunlight and air or to get a distant view of blue mountains, fresh green willows and swallows in flight…, but, more importantly, to usher in a new century!