Selected Modern Chinese Essays: Under Leifeng Pagoda

By Lu Yin

Han! Don’t you remember that April day? We strolled about under Leifeng Pagoda on a lush green meadow sparsely studded with yellow flowers and then sat down side by side on the downy grass. Then you picked a yellow flower to fix it onto the front of the purplish lined cambric blouse I was wearing. You stared at me shyly and timidly like you feared I might refuse to take it. I too was afraid to look you in the face and probably blushed. I knew my heart was beating fast and sweat seemed to be oozing from my forehead.

While the evening sunlight was gilding the tip of the pagoda and shedding its rosy rays on the rippling water in the middle of the West Lake, pairs of young lovers were seen floating past on their rowboats. Han! You then plucked up enough courage to softly hold me by the hand — our first ever physical contact. But I felt as if a sharp sword had pierced me to the heart and tears began to trickle down my cheeks unconsciously. And you too were somewhat tremulous. Han! At that moment I somehow had a premonition that things would not go well with us on our life journey.

Suddenly, as was characteristic of the capricious weather of the Lake area, a dark cloud emerged from the foot of a mountain followed by the far-off rumble of thunder. We were at first too much seized with tender feelings to notice the unpleasant rain and wind. Soon we got wet as the rain pelted down in big drops. We had each brought an umbrella with us when we first arrived, but later, seeing it was fine, had left them in a boat.

The rain shower continued with wind and dust. We dashed to the boat, thoroughly drenched. All of a sudden I felt chilly and crouched down shivering. You covered me with a felt rug and sat close to me. Han! At that moment you still didn’t dare to open your heart to me!

It cleared up after dusk. We sat on a lakeside bench admiring the moon. You said to me in a whisper, “Under Leifeng Pagoda, that’s where we’ll leave a significant imprint of our life history!” I hang my head and kept silent. Han! Truly, I always doubted whether we would be happy together.

Oh, Han, that very night you made known to me your pent-up feelings. As a timid and weak girl, I just couldn’t say no to you though I feared what the future might have in store for us.

After coming back from Leifeng Pagoda, we, as lovers, passed four difficult years. However, by the end of the four years, we finally came through and had every obstacle cleared away. We revisited this place in April and put up at the same hotel. The same dusk, the same Leifeng Pagoda. Han! This time we felt absolutely free. We embraced and held each other by the hand as much as we liked. How proud we were …!

Han, in the following year Leifeng Pagoda toppled over. Do you remember how we mourned over it? But little did I then expect that in October of that year you would depart this life leaving everything behind and be gone, never to return! Ah, Han, I used to grieve over the collapse of the Pagoda, but, now, oh, now I am thankful for its collapse for it has also blotted out the imprint we together left there.

Han, it will soon be October again. You have been gone for three years! Has this human world gradually faded from your memory? Oh, father is getting on in years! Every time he writes me, he always speaks of you and refers to the relationship between us as something ordained by fate. Yes, we have been suffering retribution for our deeds in the former life.

Han! Last year, due to the inconvenience caused by living in the school dormitory, I failed to hold a memorial ceremony for the second anniversary of your death as I had intended. All I could do then was scribble a memorial message and then have it burned. May your soul exist! How I am longing for you to make a distinct appearance in my dreams! But, alas, you never appeared!

Han, I did, however, once see you in my dream, but you looked so cold. Why? Does it mean that our relationship has come to an end? Han! You may have the heart to leave me and forget all about me! But you will never forget the imprint we have left under Leifeng Pagoda.

Han! Things have gone from bad to worse in this human world. Everything has changed since you departed. My family has also got into deep trouble. Father has failed in business. My two elder brothers are wandering overseas. Mother and my younger brother have moved to the countryside. And father, despite his inner sorrow, is still rushing about to raise money to clear up the debts. Han! All that would have troubled you when you were on your deathbed. Now, when I tell you all about what has happened, do you feel sad too?

As for me, I’m still battling on, and maybe you’re not worrying for me. Han! The collapse of Leifeng Pagoda has been an omen of our ill luck. Now, on the occasion of the third anniversary of your death, let me offer this message to your soul in heaven as a token of my ever lingering love for you despite our separation.