THE FALL OF A GREY WHALE— In Memory of the 20th Century 灰鯨落海──悼二十世紀
   By Hsia Ching 夏菁
   Translated by C. W. WANG 王季文
   By Duo Sui 朵思
   Translated by John J. S. BALCOM 陶忘機

   By Bai Ling 白靈
   Translated by John J. S. BALCOM 陶忘機
   By Jiao Tong 焦桐
   Translated by David van der Peet 范德培
   By SUN Wei-min 孫維民
   Translated by the poet
   By Ko-Hua CHEN 陳克華
   Translated by Patrick CARR 柯英華
  A TREE’S NAME 一棵樹的名字
   By Ko-Hua CHEN 陳克華
   Translated by Patrick CARR 柯英華
   By Lu Pin 鹿苹
   Translated by Zona Yi-ping TSOU 鄒怡平
   By Lu Pin 鹿苹
   Translated by Zona Yi-ping TSOU 鄒怡平
   By CHEN Wan-Chien 陳宛茜
   Translated by John J. S. BALCOM 陶忘機

   By Ah Sheng 阿盛
   Translated by Darryl STERK 石岱崙

   By Yi-Ting LEE 李儀婷
   Translated by Patty Pei-Jung LEE 李佩蓉
   By LIN Tai Man 林黛嫚
   Translated by Danny Hsin-yueh LIN 林心嶽
  NANA 娜娜
   By YUAN Chiung-chiung 袁瓊瓊
   Translated by Michelle M. WU 吳敏嘉
   By Kun-liang CHIU 邱坤良
   Translated by Chris Wen-Chao LI 李文肇
  TEMPER AND METAMORPHOSIS— A Painter’s True Colors 淬鍊與蛻變──畫者的真容
   By TU Chung-Kao 杜忠誥
   Translated by Gen-sheng DONG 董更生
  STANDSTILL AND OBSERVE THE UNIVERSE— On Mei-Yu’s Bamboo and Sparrows and The Lotus
靜觀萬物─ 談簡美育的《竹雀圖》與《芙蕖圖》

   By Shou-chien SHIH 石守謙
   Translated by Gen-sheng DONG 董更生
  NEWS & EVENTS 文化活動
   Compiled by Sarah Jen-hui HSIANG 項人慧
color on silk, 38 × 40 cm, 1999 .........................Cover

BELL FLOWER 鐘花, color on silk, 40 × 38 cm, 1999 .............................................................Back Cover
   By CHIEN Mei-Yu 簡美育


Ah Sheng 阿盛


Translated by Darryl STERK 石岱崙

  Ever since graduation, Nosey Pao has been keeping tabs on the fifty-three students in our class. By his reckoning, fourteen are teaching, three putting food on the table by selling insurance and nine doing their time in the military; there are seven in sales and two in business; five are unclassified (including one girl whose marriage was “arranged” by her unborn child) and five unproductive (they haven’t yet got their feet on the ground); the other eight are whereabouts unknown, D.O.A. undivined, among them a fugitive, a man “wanted” for writing checks as casually as the chanteuse Fong Feifei signs autographs for her fans.
  Chao Chien aspired to be a writer. He talked about it all the time, telling us how after graduation he was going to put his nose to the grindstone and write an explosive magnum opus instead of finding a job. From freshman year on, he often penned submissions for the school newspaper with titles like “Pale Poinsettia by Moonlight.” Just the other day, I ran into him in the trendy Hsi-men-ting district in Taipei. He was carrying a 007 attaché case, his face ashen. I asked him if he was still writing. The way he looked at me, it was like I was quizzing him on ancient history. I invited him to lunch but he said he was busy: he had to go meet a client. “Doing business is hard,” he said, “about a million times harder than writing.”
  Liu Kung-pin and I are neighbors. After graduation, he set up a stand selling leather wallets and whatnot in the Shih-lin Nightmarket. He slept during the day and came out to do business at night. He told me later that too many people knew him and he was too thin-skinned to haggle with his acquaintances. So he switched to selling meatballs in Ta-chih; after ten days he was out over seventy dollars. Now he rides his motorcycle in all directions selling generic stereo equipment, earning a 20% margin on each sale. Every time he returns he reports how many units he’s sold. He says he earns more than a university professor, and that seems right to me. I’m always telling him to save money and take a wife; but he says once you’re rich there are women everywhere. Last month he brought home one of his stereos and it broke down in two days. He started swearing about how these stereos were such crap. But the next day he went out selling them just the same.
  Chang Tou is also working in sales in Taipei: his products are books and honey. From what he says, his mainstay, what pays his salary, is books; honey is just the family business, a sideline. But he sells a lot of honey and not very many books. He says no matter what you’re selling you’ve got to consider the customer. For a woman in her thirties, you say honey is skinnourishing and wrinkle-removing. For a middle-aged man, you say honey aids the digestion and won’t go to the midsection. If it’s a student, you’ve just got to guarantee it’s the real thing. Most students will buy a bottle “to see how it tastes.” He ended up selling so few books that his boss let him go; but he simply switched to selling encyclopedias for another company. A couple of days ago he brought round a set of encyclopedias for me to look at. When I refused to buy he called me a blockhead. I ended up purchasing two bottles of honey: he gave me his personal guarantee that it was unsweetened. But I didn’t eat any. I gave it to the proprietress of the variety goods shop across the way.
  As for Ma Nan-ping’s profession, Nosey Pao and I have been trying unsuccessfully to pigeon-hole it. During the day she works as a receptionist at her father’s company. She goes in when she wants and it doesn’t even matter if she doesn’t show up: there’s already a company secretary. When she gets to work she and the secretary will have a heart to heart about Sakyamuni sitting under the Bodhi tree or Chuang Tzu dreaming about being a butterfly. In the evening she goes to English class, saying she wants to study in the United States and marry an American or overseas Chinese “while she’s there.” Nosey Pao pointed out that her plan contradicted the traditional teachings. She retorted that this had nothing to do with Buddhism or Taoism. One time, Nosey Pao went to visit her and she was hunched over her desk writing modern poetry. The two lines he stole a glimpse at went like this:
  Smiling, the shadeless Bodhi tree
  Bites free the funereal frieze of the boreal breeze.
To this day I have no idea what it means.
  Lu Yi-jung is recently a bride; she didn’t attend our graduation ceremony. As soon as final exams were over, amid the chirping of the cicadas, she became a true June bride. She didn’t send out wedding invitations, either, for fear that we would laugh at how she was already “showing.” A couple of classmates in Taipei sent her a decorated banner emblazoned with “a ‘show’ of strength.” I hear she was apoplectic when she opened it. Last week I received an invitation to her one-month-old baby shower: I was a bit worried, until I saw a note that said “no gifts S.V.P.”
  Ta-hu—Tigris magnus—is in the army. For his send-off party, we treated him to dinner at Beautiful Shih-lin Restaurant. Wiping away tears and snivel, he confessed to scoring eighty on the intelligence test. He’d made it twenty-three years without discovering he was a “slow learner.” It was hard to take. Later he wrote me regretting that he hadn’t made the most of his university experience:
  Though our four years of college now has vanished like a
  I can’t forget the good times we had in the halls of academe.

  This is his rewriting of the famous couplet.1 Tiger is still not used to getting up at five-thirty in the morning: “The bugle sounds, I sit in shock, remembering the good old days, when I would be reclining on my comfy couch just like the wise Chuko. The tears well up: Ah Sheng, do you know how it feels?” I wrote him back, saying, “Let’s be good little guys, for early to bed, early to rise will make us healthy, wealthy and wise.” In his next letter he gave me a piece of his mind. The end of his reply went, “At mid-autumn, the year’s eighth month, on Phoenix Hill, the grass grows long, the flowers bloom, the warblers fly: could Ah Sheng be the only one without a heart?” 2
  At the end of last month, Little Miss Hua-kan got promoted to director; she’s found a knack for selling insurance. When I asked her the trick of the trade, she said the most important thing was “thick skin.” This came as quite a shock, because in school, nobody had thinner skin than her. She’d blush with embarrassment if a boy came to speak to her, and if someone “stood sentry” outside her dormitory, she’d ask a roommate to buy meals for her to avoid going out herself. Someone gave her the nickname “little white flower.” But in a few short months since graduation she’s changed completely! Her office is close to where I live,. . .

From Ah Sheng’s 阿盛 Ah Sheng ching-hsuan-ch 《阿盛精選集》 [Best short works by Ah Sheng]. Taipei: Chiuko Publishing, 2004, 280-285.
1The nostalgic Tiger’s model was a couplet from a poem by Du Mu (803-852): Awakened now a   decade on from my Yangchow reverie, 十年一覺揚州夢 I’ve won me naught in the painted chambers   but ingrate infamy. 贏得青樓薄倖名

2Adapting part of Qiu Chi (463-508)’s “Letter to General Chen Bozhi” (與陳伯之 書), anthologized in the   Wen Xuan (文選), in which Qiu Chi was trying to evoke nostalgia for the southland in the heart of the
   turncoat general. Southland is Jiangnan, south of the Yangtze, in the original; Tiger’s letter
   substitutes Phoenix Hill or Fengshan, Kaohsiung County, the location of the Chinese Military

All Trademarks are registered. ©2005 Taipei Chinese Center All rights reserved. Best viewed with IE and Netscape browser.