The VIGIL OF A NATION(枕戈待旦), LIN YUTANG(林語堂), THE JOHN DAY COMPANY NEW YORK (1945|民國34年)《Black Water Museum Collections | 黑水博物館館藏》
BOOKS BY LIN YUTANG
Published by THE JOHN DAY COMPANY
MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE
THE IMPORTANCE OF LIVING
MOMENT IN PEKING
WITH LOVE AND IRONY
A LEAF IN THE STORM
BETWEEN TEARS AND LAUGHTER
THE VIGIL OF A NATION
Here is China in the seventh year of her war, as seen by the Chinese philosopher on a journey through seven inland provinces. A deep sense of the ancient past, an eye keen for the urgent present, and a mind reaching out to the hopeful future, join to weave a pattern glowing with color, human interest, wit and wisdom.
By the Author of The Importance of Living, My Country and My People, Between Tears and Laughter.
THE VIGIL OF A NATION
By LIN YUTANG
For the second time Lin Yutang has gone deep into wartime China and has come out with much to tell. No foreign writer, and few Chinese, could have had such a chance to see past the smoke of war, through the clouds of gossip, and be neath the heaving surface of economic and political change. And Lin Yutang, as always, is unafraid of the truth.
His sense of history, joined with his spirit of eager inquiry, led him to watch for the old China along with the new. Only China presents such a study in con trasts, rich alike with romance and with hope for the future. Sitting on the ruins of a Tang palace and telling us tales of ancient times, Lin Yutang looks down at an Industrial Co-operative group work ing in the gully below and dreams of the China that is to be. He describes a cotton mill, all underground, three miles of whirring machines in tunnels bored beneath the protecting hills; and further west, a vast irrigation system built two thousand years ago and still working perfectly.
(Continued on back flap)
Government wartime restrictions on materials have made it essential that the amount of pa per used in each book be reduced to a mini mum. This volume is printed on lighter paper than would have been used before material limitations became necessary, and the number of words on each page has been substantially increased. The smaller bulk in no way indi cates that the text has been shortened,
Above, in the author's own calligraphy, is the Chinese title of this book-literally, "Pillowed [on] Spears Awaiting [the] Dawn.” The fit ness of the phrase is apparent throughout the book and particularly in the closing passage.
AT NO TIME in the history of Sino-American relationships has true and deep understanding of China's land and people, historical back ground, and present problems been more imperatively required. The war will come to an end soon, and China's role in Asia and in world co-operation will be newly determined. China will launch a gigantic program of industrialization and reconstruction, under the same gov ernment which had started the work with such good promise before the war broke out in 1937. American co-operation will be needed and intensely desired. Yet the American people as a whole know little about the people with whom they are expected to co-operate and to whom they will quite probably be lending money and material assistance. Unfortunately, too, this mutual understanding has been shadowed in the past year by a cloud of confusing criticism, tending to make the Americans worried about China and unnecessarily alarmed about the government, although deep sympathy and friendliness are always there. At no time has the situation been so tragic as now when we near the end of the war and Allied victory.
Having no faith in propaganda, but troubled by reports about the condition of my country, I went back for an extended journey, cover ing seven provinces. I am now writing this record of my experiences and impressions as a Chinese who saw the country from the inside after seven years of war. It is essentially a book about a journey, but it is my hope that such inside pictures, presented fairly, will contribute toward a better insight into the Chinese people and their problems. I believe the knowledge thus gained will be deeper and more intimate than from a volume of economic and political essays. One cannot begin to discuss the problems of a foreign country until one has some pictures of the land and its people. The problems of inflation, of the Army, of social and educational standards, and above all of the much heralded "civil war" will be described as I saw them, as a Chinese who is a member neither of the Kuomintang nor of the Chinese Communist party, but who sees them as problems of China's emerging unity as a nation.
This is what I saw and what I felt. Because I could have no illusions about any country after seven years of war and two years of blockade, I was not disillusioned. And because I had observed China's progress
and problems for almost two decades, since the National Revolution of 1926-27, these problems and difficulties, largely social and psychological, were not new to me. The particular effects of the blockade were an ticipated in the years when many people were complacent and thought nothing mattered on the China front until the European war was won. Now when the full blast of its effect is felt and the same people, caught by surprise or frightened, have begun to lose hope and turn against Chungking, I have not lost faith in the national leadership. Only a more intimate knowledge of the social and political background is needed. This is what I am trying to supply in this book.
What China wants is not maudlin sympathy, but faith and under standing from her Allies. I found on this trip that the Chinese do not mind criticism, if criticism is based on intelligent understanding and placed against the background of the larger purposes and greater objectives. Unthinking criticisms, however, based on superficial and extremely limited knowledge, or even directly on hostile partisan propaganda, will do more harm to the outside public by bringing con fusion than to the Chinese themselves, since the latter have a lot on their hands and do not spend their time chewing apparently unintelli gible gossip from far away. I think foreign prestige suffers when some of these perverse criticisms become known in China. If the East and West must meet, they should meet on some higher level of intelligence than the present. One basic background fact, for instance, is that the China war is now in its eighth year, and yet the morale and resilience of the nation are no worse than what American morale would be at the end of an eight-year war, or what English morale would be if Eng land's Atlantic sea lanes had been cut off for two or three years. Tak ing account of this background, one would be able to understand quite a few things, and gain a better sense of balance.
There is no question that such faith in China will be justified. Soon the war will be ended, and the curtain of doubt will be lifted. Then we shall see the face of victory and of a China washing her wounds by the side of clear waters, resilient, confident, and hopefully rebuilding for the future, even as she was building in the years before the war. These moments of doubt shall pass away from the man who has faith. "For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but its leaves shall be green."
À PROPOS OF THE MANNER AND MATTER OF THE BOOK
I LEFT Miami on September 22, 1943, and arrived back in New York on March 22, 1944, covering the trip in exactly six months, more ex actly than I had planned. As I sit down to write of my exciting expe rience in those six months, I do not feel China is so far away. Traveling from America to China used to take two or three weeks across the Pacific. This time, I flew back from Calcutta to New York in five days.
Going over to China seems almost like a visit to a neighbor's front porch. I believe the Age of the Open Door is over and the Age of the Front Porch has begun. For the Open Door was a misnomer. I sup pose it meant that the door was to be kept open for anybody to go in any time of the day, like a house without an owner, and if there was an owner, it was not his business to inquire who were the visitors, what they came for, and what they did inside when they entered the door. Now the owner has returned, and a sign is hung outside the door reading, "Kindly knock."
Rather the good neighbors will come to sit on the front porch of an evening, and taking out their pipes, will chat and exchange gossip until the moon is high and then turn in for the night. The Age of the Front Porch began at Cairo, when the neighbors first met and exchanged their cards, with a promise to visit each other more often. The fear is not that the neighbors know too much about each other, but that they know too little, desperately too little. I feel sure that the rocking chairs on the front porch will be used more often after the war, and by that time the returned owner will probably be modern enough to offer a "coke" or a Manhattan, with ice. So let's begin.
China seems so far and yet so near. When the war is over, and the Alaskan air route is open, I am sure that a man can leave the United States on Friday evening and sup at Chungking or Shanghai Sunday evening and telephone to his secretary in New York Monday morning to say that the letter he wrote on Friday had better be held up until he gets back Wednesday afternoon at 3:45 P.M. The magic of shrinking space has been found. It is bound to work profound changes in the
minds and manners of living of the people of this age, as the invention of the railroad did. Perhaps our present notions of space and time are all wrong, even as the people eighty years ago who regarded New York and San Francisco as separated by a five months' covered wagon trip were all wrong. We have to take time to readjust these notions, and twenty years from now we will chuckle at the idea the people of the nineteen-forties had that China was a country far, far away. At that time, people will think mentally of the distance between China and America as they think now of the distance between New York and San Francisco.
Yet, as I reflect upon time, it seems even more incredible than space. We feel that space exists, as we can visibly measure it by the span between our thumb and fingers, but we do not know whether time exists or not. Some say they "spent" it, some say they "wasted" it, some passed it and some killed it, and some say they even "borrowed" it but what is it? As I recall the experiences of those six months, I realize that they have vanished, and what remain are only pictures in my mind, and some perceptions, emotions, and memories.
It was the Seventh Year of the War. It was a period of time, like a river weighted with the driftwood of the past and rushing toward an unknown future. Such was a period of time; such was the Seventh Year. The Marco Polo Bridge incident seemed already long, long ago. People were living, dying, fighting, and hoping in 1937, and people were living, dying, fighting, and hoping in 1944. The sack of Nanking was only a memory, and so was the Panay incident. It was more than two years since Pearl Harbor, the first shock and the high hopes of the Chinese people, followed by disillusionment, with the fall of Singapore and Rangoon and loss of the South Pacific area. Burma was lost and China was blockaded. Help was not in sight, but the Chinese people still held on. Then came Stalingrad, and the reversal of the pattern of the and the victories of the African campaign. No one could have war, anticipated that such would be the course of the war; no one knew that it was going to happen that way. Time was a closed book; the past has been revealed; the future, as we say figuratively, only time will tell.
The events and people of those six months of travel were real. China holding on and the people fighting, hoping, living in the Seventh Year of the War, were all real. I was privileged to get a panoramic and kaleidoscopic view of these people during those days packed with ex citement, but as I write of them now, I think of them as belonging to history, to the past. I know they have a mysterious meaning for the
future-I do not know how, but the secret pattern of time, though hidden from us, is certainly there.
So how shall I tell the story? How shall I tell it except in terms of my own perceptions, feelings, and the more memorable excitements of the moment? For how shall one tell an epoch, and say of it that it was so and so? The facile generalizations of historians, characterizing a period by a one-word label, have no place in reality. How shall one say that one decade was gray and another mauve, or that the period was romantic or realistic, and that people thought only in one way dur ing a whole period? Any real stream of thought, in any period, will be found to have many crosscurrents, countercurrents, and eddies. It is also true that a few heroes or a mode of thinking may dominate a period, like Empress Eugénie's hat, but the day-to-day activities of the individuals are the mirror of the life of an era. The life of the nation during a period consists of the actions, thoughts, and domestic cares and troubles of individuals, acted upon by a thousand minute, transient influences, continually changing and shifting, like the dancing shadows upon the ground in a pine grove. The forest analogy is a good one; the forest is composed of trees, and all trees contribute to the char acter and smell and light and shade of the forest. Some spots in the forest are in deeper shade, and some in lighter, and there are open glades which permit the sun's rays to shoot down over the treetops directly upon the pine needles on the ground. The wind blows through the woods, causing the leaves to shiver and cast dancing circles of light on the ground, which are reflected again and caught up by other parts of the forest. At every moment, the forest's character is subject to a thousand changes. How, therefore, shall we speak of the dominant character and tone of a forest without studying the trees? The man who could shape the day-to-day thoughts and lives of the individuals of a nation would be more powerful than any dictator or the President of the United States.
So shall it be with my book. The writing of the life of a whole people during a period may be likened to the painting of a forest. I could not explore the entire forest. Every traveler is limited by what he sees, and two artists going together will paint the same forest in different fashions. Still one has to depend upon words, as the only means of bringing any moment back alive. For if one has a proper sense of the notion of time, one knows that there is nothing static in the life of a nation. Everything is in flux, and no two days are ever identical. Living from day to day, and going all the time, I was ready each morning to expose myself to the new sensory images and impres-
sions from the happenings of the day. And so a day passed, and another, and yet another, as I traveled over mountains and rivers and cities and towns. Each day rose like an unchalked black board, and we did not know what it was going to bring forth, until the night had come and we said to ourselves it was an interesting man or woman we had seen on the highway. And so the "epoch" was made of days, filled with the impedimenta of life. But if we could recapture a day, a moment, and reveal its full meaning and hold it in true focus, we might be good historians of that epoch, as so mirrored in the way men and women eat and dress and live and think about the tomorrow. It is inevitable that wayside lingerings over wild blossoms may be more important to me than the destination, and I shall fill the book with such wayside details and objects and persons. This may annoy some doctrinaire critics, who will seek in vain here for a grand formula three times removed from life, with which those who ideologically dis agree with me can fight sham battles of shadow words. My opinions and feelings will be explicit enough, though not stated in forms con venient to any particular school of thought. Let those who like to indulge in pontifical truths and professorial formulas have them; let me have the colors and sounds and smells. Thus it may be found that I am more concerned in recording the little things on the avenue of life, as they seemed to me and as I felt them.
I am afraid the style will be much like that of a wayside chatter. There is something essentially idle about a journey book, not only because of enforced leisure on rainy days, but because the very act of travel suggests taking time off from the business routine of our slavery days. To be sure, the traveler is always moving on and doing something, and the reader of his book moves on with him, while his mind roves. But whatever the traveler does, it has not that authoritarian necessity or "sacredness" that we associate with office hours. Some idle com ments will be inevitable, and perhaps some cracker-barrel wisdom.
I think that writing is only "chatter with the pen" (pit'an), as the Chinese call their essays. As I sit in my armchair and survey the tomes on my shelves, each volume seems to me only an effort at sealed elo quence. All are merely trying to talk and to say something, each in his best manner. Some talk better than others, some are pompous and very grave, and some take themselves too seriously. Some are hopelessly and congenitally inarticulate, and their efforts at self-expression must be a mental burden and something of a pain, but because they do have something important and profound to say, people are patient and will ing to listen to them.
There is a class of ancient books which better illustrates my point about chattering. Wise men have lived before us; they came into life, thought and felt deeply, said some terribly wise things, and went away, seemingly curt and unobliging. What they said were eternal truths, yet they left us wondering why they said them. What we would have given if they had been more chatty and communicative and told us why they said those things! We are sure that their deepest observations of life and some of their profound convictions had trivial origins in the personal happenings of the moment. In a flash they perceived a truth, caught it, and casually mentioned it to someone standing by. Yet paper was so scarce and writing was so laborious a process that what these wise ones had said was inevitably reduced to a skeleton, stripped of the color of the moment, and the exigencies of the context and the tone of their voice were irretrievably lost for us. That is why these truths look so universal, and yet so impersonal. The best biogra phers and critics can at best reilluminate certain of these moments for us, as Boswell did with Johnson, with all his whims and crotchets. And we are pleased to hear from Plato that after talking everybody to sleep in an all-night sitting, Socrates went out and took a bath, fresh as ever.
I have never before written a book about a journey. It seems more difficult than writing fiction, for one cannot invent things. It must be like taking candid camera shots: either you catch it at the right mo ment or you don't, and some shots certainly must be destroyed. The writer of travel sketches is like the camera man in his dependence on his material, on what he sees, on the quickness of his finger, and on the large margin of selectivity at his disposal. He cannot invent objects and scenes that are not there. He has only the advantage of love and imagination and sentiment and can put his own thrills into the picture. Thus he often sees the unseen, being at liberty to dip into the past and peer into the future. He paints a picture in the fourth dimension of time, and necessarily in the fifth dimension of his own feelings. The fifth dimension is more important than all the rest. I only hope that my pictures may be as true and as candid as such pictures should be.
It follows then that my records as such will be subjective; for the railway-mileage kind of objectivity, the reader must go to yearbooks and Baedekers and those travel writers who aim at resembling them. All art is, I believe, subjective, and only to the extent to which the product is a comment by the artist on what he sees and not a mere objective reproduction and representation can it be called art at all. One must after all paint what one loves with his brush or with his
pen; to go against this rule would be to violate the first canon of art. The word "love" must be taken in its broadest and deepest sense, as a personal and deep and lively sense of the importance of the object before one. Unless one so loves, one cannot paint at all. The very selec tion of his subject is personal. It isn't that the Dutch painters didn't see the chateaux and the gentlemen and ladies of the court, but that they loved the barber and the interiors of the people's homes more. So it will be with painters of all periods. In the second place, the artist's comment is more important than the objective reality; the unseen is more important than the seen. And in the third place, no matter what the artist does, the technique is his own, the touches by which con noisseurs recognize and identify him. I am but a mortal man, with my personal likes and dislikes and inner excitements and responses all my own. I should not pretend that others would view the scene as I did; the truth about an epoch is hidden behind a thousand changing realities, and I hope that others will be as sincere with them as I will try to be. I must try to be fair, which is not absence of judgment but a good balance of it; but even the degree and quality of fairness achieved is necessarily a part of my own self.
O Travel, how many crimes have been committed in thy name! Some businessmen travel to attend a business conference; other wiser heads make a business conference the excuse for travel to their wives. Some pastors and priests have to go all the way to Rome or Moscow to serve God; that is the only way they can justify their leaving their sheep behind. In the Middle Ages, Christian knights and even kings had to travel to the Holy Land just in order to fight the Saracens in the name of serving God. I predict that in the years after the war, al most every American professor or publicist of any account will be going to Prague or Florence or the Riviera for some terribly important business under one of the general categories of investigation, strategic survey, conference of experts, or permanent observation post-so much so that if a professor of international credit or veterinary surgeon is seen anywhere in the U.S.A., everybody will ask him, "Why are you in your own country?" The clearest evidence of the approach of impend ing victory is that most professors of any account are already busily traveling to Washington. Flying over Jerusalem and seeing from the sky that Bethlehem was only a suburb of the Holy City, I realized that the hotel situation at Jerusalem in the days of Joseph and Mary must have been quite like the hotel situation at Washington. The finger of scorn is already pointed at the professor who is seen on his own college campus and who is subjected to the almost unanswerable question, "Why are you on your own college campus?" In the interim between the armistice and the signing of the peace treaty to come i.e., during the cooling-off period-a sudden global-mindedness or Sense of International Solidarity will strike the people of account, and you will not hear one of them admit to so much as a smile at the prospect of touring Europe. May God forgive them!
The fact is, travel per se has become ungentlemanly. A professor from Kansas has to come to Washington, and President Roosevelt, being already in Washington, has to go to Alaska. There always is a mysterious, businesslike reason for it. This point of view is now affecting even the less important people. Even I had to tell people that I went to China to gather material for a book, since it would be impos sible to explain to anybody that I went back to China because I was deeply concerned when I heard all sorts of reports about my country, and had to see it after two years of inflation and blockade. One English editor at Calcutta told an Indian friend that I had made a mess of things in America by writing Between Tears and Laughter and had to go back to China to prove to the Americans that I am a Chinese. I always like to hear speculations like that concerning myself. There are various theories of why and how I went to China and why and how I came out again, all except the theory that when my country was reported to be in trouble I had to see her. I must confess right here that I had a publisher's contract before I went, that I took in with me two big 150-page notebooks and came out again without writing a single line in them. People might think I had an armful of notes; I am afraid my whole diary runs under a thousand words.
There is an art of irresponsible traveling. Lest the phrase be misun derstood, I must explain that it is meant as a hopelessly inadequate English equivalent of the Chinese phrase langyu, or "splashing-about ramble." Lang originally meant "waves," which suggests "tossing" or "splashing about" (with money or gestures). Consequently in time it came to have the meaning of "extravagant," "uninhibited," "irresponsi ble," and "licentious." The Prodigal Son is langtse, and uninhibited talk is langt'an, while a licentious woman is langfu-she just tosses about. But it has finer, poetic uses. Langt'an, or casual, irresponsible, rambling conversation, in fact is supposed to be quite a scholar's occu pation, and langyu is just gay, carefree, irresponsible traveling, with the sky as the limit, and even suggests that one enjoys one's travel. To borrow Irwin Edman's phrase, it is strictly a "philosopher's holiday."
The difficulty lies, it seems to me, in inducing the philosopher to go on a holiday.
The difficult thing, I am afraid, is to get a cultured vagabond. He is a bygone type. It doesn't do for a vagabond to talk of statistical aver ages and social security measures, yet that seems to be all that these modern roving correspondents are talking about, when they travel to gather material for a book. Vagabondia and economic statistics don't go well together. The decay of the art of traveling has brought in its train the decay of the books of travel. These intelligent observers on China come, with pad and pencil, to observe you like guinea pigs, with a scientific mind and judicial temper, and you are as afraid of their observation as you would be afraid of meeting and shaking hands with Dale Carnegie, for fear that this is merely his Strategem No. 7 to win your friendship or influence your opinion. You hang back a little and refuse to be observed in the one case, and to be won over in the other. That is now called sales resistance.
These press correspondents and other observers on China are horrify. ing; you cannot catch them on a single factual error. Brooks Atkinson, of the New York Times, is different; he has culture and I can never be sure of his facts; I am sure he loves his Aristophanes more than his facts. You get a kind of human warmth from him, but that is because he never went to a school of journalism. The Missouri School of Journalism, or any school of journalism, teaches you to report facts accurately, the Who, What, When, Where, How, and, if you are intel ligent enough, the Why. The Why of all sociological phenomena is admittedly difficult, but anyway get the Who, What, When, Where, and, if you are clever enough, the How. Anyway, get the Who, What, When, and Where, which will make you a journalist. The journalist's concern is, I understand, just to get his facts straight, checked and rechecked. If he says an affair happened at 5:43 A.M., you are sure he is reliable; it could not be guesswork; he does not rely on hazy memo ries, he relies on notes. You see he is a trained professional. That is the journalistic technique they teach you at the schools. Any one of them has a trained and scientifically disciplined mind good enough to be detailed by Sherlock Holmes to observe the physical appearance, dress, fingernails, birthmarks, and movements of some unsuspecting person. You just add two and two and you see the result is four, and you just "report." But the deuce if he can deduce things without Sherlock Holmes's imaginative mind, whose inner processes are not strictly equated with mathematical additions and subtractions. With all due respect for the many intelligent travelers and roving writers who report on China, whose books show, in addition to all the journalistic merits of factual correctness of dates and figures, an avowed openness of mind, a striking judicial temper, and some analytical talent, I must say that some of them at least have successfully escaped a sense of wonder, and a good many of them missed the fun. They went to China in a very right frame of mind and came out of it with still a very right frame of mind, which is to say, they should not have traveled to China at all.
China, I understand, is assiduously training up modern journalists. I suppose there is some need of such things. One Chinese girl reporter came to interview me a few days after my arrival at Chungking. After I had spent an hour listening to her discourses on the merits of the second front, the political strategy of Winston Churchill, and other information she volunteered on the state of the country, over which she grew very eloquent, she did not burden me with any questions on my opinions or news from America, and I was completely refreshed when I said good-by to her. This, I said to myself, is the pleasantest and most relaxing interview I have ever had. There was another re porter at Hengyang who not only freely expressed in his published interview his own opinions and completely reported himself, but also during the interview offered to enlighten me on who Walter Lippmann was. His eyes twinkled when I could not catch his pronunciation of Li Po Men, and he thought, coming from America, I could not possibly have read Lippmann's U. S. Foreign Policy. He was seized with a de sire to educate me on Walter Lippmann and ended up by enlightening me on John Steinbeck and Upton Sinclair. Some improvement in journalistic technique is evidently desirable in China. I commend Hol lington K. Tong for his enterprise in starting a school of journalism. But there are some things in journalism, in fact the only important things in journalism, that such schools can never teach and are gen erally not to be found on the curriculum of a school of journalism, namely, Shakespeare and a Penetrating Mind. If you command a good English style and possess a penetrating mind, you don't need a course in journalism, and if you don't, the school can't help you.
But I was talking about the cultured vagabond. The vagabond is a different sort of being. He talks with people and does not interview them. His realm is irresponsible fancy, and his heart is warm. He has an eye for the trivial things of life and he loves to tell tales and hear them. He has a sense of history, a very vivid one, recalling anecdotes with ease, and his historical imagination sees things of the past and dreams dreams of the future. He fondles a tree or the burr on a bole, or an overhanging bough brushes his face and evokes a mood in him.
He sees more in a woman's face or a furtive smile than in a whole volume of statistics. He would see as much if he remained at home, but since he is traveling, he sees more of such smiles and faces, and strange landscapes and ancient battlegrounds and folkways are likely to excite him inwardly, and if the excitement is intense enough he breaks out into poetry. For then the subjective in him and the objective phenomena outside merge, the scene and the personal mood co-operate and emerge together as something new, something keen and exciting. There a moment is captured for eternity. That is the poetic moment. The poet but communicates that thrill, the thrill of a moment, but it is so intense that he feels and his readers feel that no one had felt such things before, and the moment is truly unique. It may be a feeling of beauty, of utter perfection of the moment, or it may be a feeling of sadness or forlornness, and it may be even casual, humorous, or re signed. But the moment lives thenceforth and becomes unforgettable. He does not report things any more; he transmutes them by the touch of his feeling.
Would that I had the tongue of the poet, the imagination of the historian and the vision of the prophet, and what I would see and be able to put down in this book! To go back to one's own land, to live with its people whose folkways have not much altered these thousands of years, to know their feelings for things, to know the sufferings which they have survived and the peace they have enjoyed, and to see them now in fighting war years, struggling with failures and mistakes, and yet with hope and determination to change themselves radically into a modern nation-this would be subject for an epic. One feels a thread of history and tradition, and a thread of change and progress, and these come together in the most weird and confused fashion, and one wishes to weave them into some clear pattern, if possible a beautiful pattern, of peace and justice and happiness. No land except China offers such a confusion and contrast of the extremely ancient and the ultra modern in thinking and feeling, such a tearing out from within. The young are impatient of the old and are fanatic and unbalanced, and call reactionaries those who try to harmonize the past and the future. Yet the past dominates them, with all its beauty and grandeur and pathos, and they cannot comprehend it.
I have captured some glorious moments, moments of grandeur and beauty and moments of sadness. I have stood above the ruins of a Tang palace and looked down the gulley to see women spinning and weaving wool in loess caves with hand looms. I have seen a peasant woman nursing her child in peace, sitting on the field outside the crumbled walls of the first Chou capital, and it seems to me the scene has not changed, has never changed these four thousand years. I have seen these and other things.
For the rest, I am strictly on the plebeian, prose level, the level of merely observing life and loving it. I can admire the heroes and forgive the sinners. But to the intellectual height of the true vagabond I shall not attain. The true vagabond carries pencil stubs only; I carried a German-made four-colored pencil. My vagabondage was good, quite good, and I prospered on it. I could walk longer and climb higher than I thought. My hunt for a can of coffee in Kweilin was a chapter of disgrace. I could not live without it; but the vagabond can, or can he? The vagabond is uncomfortable in a first-class railroad coach; I stuck to it, as Wendell Willkie did when he was in Sian. I felt com passion for an English lad riding third class, all alone. Quite a few Englishmen came inland when Hong Kong fell, joined the Chinese Army for training, could not go through with it, and dispersed God knows where. He, I said to myself, was really vagabonding, and I wondered deeply what was going on inside his soul and mind-such a young lad and lost, traveling all alone. If he was at all gifted mentally, and had a balanced mind, he would survive it and his mind would grow richer for the experience.
Such a mind a vagabond ought to have. There is that essential cheer fulness and animal faith in all true vagabonds. He is one of the crowd and yet always detached from it. That commingling of warmth and detachment makes a true vagabond. And then his mind's eye sees farther than the traveling businessman or the roving correspondent. I wondered, for instance, what that English lad's mind was able to see. Was his fancy free? Still the very motion of traveling, of going some where and seeing and meeting strange people, is bound to react on his mind and stimulate wonder. The most barren intellect, the most un imaginative mind, must, I think, start to wonder in times of travel.
A final word about myself. This is essential because I am in dire straits. For I find myself in the impossible position of a Chinese who is neither gloomy, nor war-weary, nor disloyal to the war leadership of the Chinese government. The sepulchral, lugubrious, and doleful tones that emanate from American sources in Chungking suggest that I should be, that I should share their hoarse, tomb-like echoes. Worse than that, it will be seen from the following pages that I am not even a Communist, and obviously all Chinese liberals today should be Communists and help to overthrow the Kuomintang government. I went to Harvard, and there is still enough liberalism in me to dislike heartily all totalitarianism and suppression of individual liberty wher ever they are found, even though it is a totalitarianism of the Russian type, which we feel constrained to admire today. In my literary battles with the Chinese "leftists" ten years ago, they used to sneer at me as a "liberal" who did not know that freedom of thought was outmoded and that the Lunacharskian thesis that literature should be the vehicle of party propaganda was the last word of western wisdom. It amuses me a little now to see them struggling to claim the label of "liberalism" because they are talking to Americans. The fact that all Marxists are claiming to be "democrats" and "liberals" and even procapitalists is one of the most astounding achievements of this war. The fact that I take a nonpartisan view and hit hard at internal disunity and suppres sion of the free press in Yenan, as well as in Chungking, will be ex asperating in certain quarters.
I have to make my position clear, in justice to my readers. I am an independent writer, deriving my sole income from my books. I am not in the pay of the Chinese government. I am not responsible to it and do not make reports to it. I hold an "official visa," as a matter of convenience, because of the following American difficulties: Before 1940 I held a "tourist passport," which made it necessary for me to leave United States territory with my family every six months. I took the precaution also because, in 1931, when traveling as a League of Nations official, I was sent to Ellis Island and lost my liberty for forty eight hours. Someone in uniform had to accompany me even when I went to a latrine. My Chinese passport was not recognized, so far as the immigration authorities were concerned, and the American visa had inadvertently classified me as a "tourist" without a "Section 6" paper. The official job, for which my present American official visa was granted, is "research on Sino-American cultural relations." My actual job, as I see it, is to help interpret China wherever I can. If I choose to support the forces of integration rather than the forces of disintegration in China, and if I choose to support the Chinese govern ment where I think it deserves support and criticize its mistakes where it deserves criticism, that is my right as a citizen of China.
FLIGHT INTO CHINA
IT WAS the end of September, still hot like the tropics at Miami. My wife had accompanied me from New York to spend the last days together. We had two wonderful days, knowing that once the plane started, my journey would be shrouded in secrecy, as all travel in war time is. While waiting for the plane, with an undisclosed time for departure, we visited the city. It was then that we caught for the first time the real atmosphere of war in the United States. There were some sixty thousand soldiers in training there. Early at six we would hear the bugle calls, and all day soldiers marched through the streets singing Army or Air Force songs, some dressed in full kit and some stripped to the waist and wearing shorts, suggesting practice for jungle warfare and endurance in tropical weather. In the afternoons we saw classes being held in unshaded wooden cabins, with the blazing sun beating down on them to keep up a perfect oven temperature. No wonder their faces were as red as turkeys. If it was a "toughening process" the Army was giving them, they were getting it.
A sense of the mystery of the journey and of the coming separation enveloped us. I did not know which route we were flying, but in any case this was my first airplane trip across Africa and India to China. Knowing that I would be flying across the tropics most of the time, I bought a sun helmet, two polo shirts, and a few extra gray shirts and told my wife not to worry about my laundry on the way. As an extra precaution, I bought two thermos bottles to fill with coffee and milk, and a bottle of Horlick's malted milk, in case I should miss my meals during the flight. Thus provided, I believed my frail frame, though long addicted to regular hours and sedentary habits, could stand the journey pretty well. A haircut and a visit to the dentist com pleted the preparations.
The inevitable morning came. I had gone through the briefing the previous day and was told to appear at the airfield at six. It was a cargo plane, and besides the crew there was a Chinese captain returning home with me. The spirit of good cheer had carried us to the end and made the parting not only easy but also an asset during the
journey. We had said good-by to each other at the line beyond which she was not allowed. When I had taken my luggage aboard the plane and was standing at the top of the ladder, what was my surprise and joy to see her sitting by the driver in a jeep coming right up to the ship, wearing a naughty and triumphant smile. How she bribed her way in and broke the Army regulations I was too happy to inquire. I suppose there are no fools like old fools. But parting of this kind was good and gave one something to cling to all through the journey.
The route I followed, I understand, is now no longer a military secret. We made ten easy hops to India, flying no more than six or seven hours a day. The ship stopped at Puerto Rico, Georgetown in British Guiana, Belem and Natal in Brazil, Ascension Island in mid Atlantic, Accra, Fort Lamy and Khartoum in Central Africa, Aden in Arabia, Karachi and Calcutta in India. Thus we flew right across French Equatorial Africa. This was known as the southern route, while on my return I followed the northern route over North Africa. Flying from India to New York in three and a half days is now the common experience of many. Dr. H. H. Kung recently flew from Chungking to the United States in four days, or sixty-three flying hours. The matter is really very simple. One takes off from Calcutta at one or two o'clock in the afternoon, stops at Karachi, sleeps soundly, takes off and comes down at Cairo for the second night, at Casablanca for the third night, and the next midnight one stops at Newfound land for a cup of coffee and lands in La Guardia airfield at six o'clock in the morning. The airplane has completely revolutionized our conceptions of travel time. One might as well wake up to it, as one of the most important by-products of this war and one of the permanent features of the postwar world. There is no question that after the war, Seattle to Shanghai in twenty-four hours will become not only a feasible but an accomplished fact. Again the matter is quite simple. A plane traveling 350 m.p.h. can, according to simple arithmetic, cover 3500 miles in ten hours. A change of crew would enable the ship to cover 7000 miles in twenty hours.
There is no need to dwell on this part of the journey as if one really saw the countries one passed in the air. All the way we were stopping in American barracks, and there was little chance to get an impression of the country or town one was passing through, even though it was the first time I had touched South American soil and the second time I had touched Africa. I could not even send letters with Latin American and African stamps from the American airfields, as I had promised a philatelic member of the family. But traveling in wartime, one could not have everything. There was some slight compensation in the sense of mystery surrounding the trip. You were either in danger or danger ous and either the Army was trying to protect you or you were trying to protect the Army and therefore yourself, by not revealing the mili tary secret in your possession that on such and such a date your ship was at such and such a place. The satisfaction and minor moral triumph in keeping a secret compensated for the inability even to let one's family know one had or had not safely crossed the Atlantic. One chafed at the little restrictions and inconveniences, but no more than any civilized being. It is like paying the income tax, going through that agony of mathematical involutions and fine metaphysical differentia tions between total income and victory tax income, and net income subject to normal tax and surtax net income, and victory tax deduction and personal exemption and earned income credit, never knowing which to deduct first and which later. You get madder and madder as you come to the end and then someone says, "After all, it goes to build battleships to knock out the Japs," and your heart skips a jump and you smile and say, "Of course."
The age of commercial flying is only beginning, and some of our inveterate prejudices have to be gradually worn off. A kind of adult education is required here. There is a story of a Chinese gentleman making his will before going on his first airplane journey, in the first months of the war in 1937. He was in Hankow and was commanded to appear at Nanking the following day. As an official of a ministry, he had no choice but to take a plane provided for him. The evening before his departure, he called his wife and sons and daughters-in-law and nephews together, and lighted some red candles, and after what was considered a last supper, gravely announced his will and gave his dying instructions. Holding his youngest child's hand, he said, "If anything should happen to your old man... ." and broke down and I could not go on. His wife was sure that his old bones would not be able to survive his expected crash. There were prayers and assurances in the condolent mood that after all not every plane crashed and there was hope they might see each other in this life again. The family sat up with him through the small hours of the morning in sighs and tears, followed by courageous efforts at smiles, as if nothing was really going to happen, but living intensely every precious minute of their father's bodily presence upon the earth. Finally, the old man made bold to mention the matter of coffins and began a furtive discussion as to how much of one's body would remain after sustaining a fall of five thousand, nay, of perhaps seven thousand feet, and what one was
to do in case there was no corpse to be found. This is a true story. Some of our contemporaries still may not have got over this attitude about a flying journey, the same attitude that we had about ocean and railway and motor travel. There are undeniably ships sunk on the ocean, but we do not make our wills before crossing the Atlantic, and friends or relatives sending one off on the wharf smile without thought that their dear one is going necessarily, or even possibly, to a watery grave. I went through a bad railroad wreck, but still maintain that, objectively speaking, railroad travel is safe. Stories of airplane crashes no doubt make good news and create an impression on the public's mind entirely out of proportion to the standard of safety achieved. The routine maintenance service of checking a plane after every fifty hours of flight, and the developments of the engine, have brought flying to a state when there is no more reason why an airplane should develop trouble on the way than a town bus. After a few flights one gets familiar with the sensations of landing and taking off as one is familiar with the sounds of a street bus stopping and starting every few blocks. The difference is that the air bus lands one after a few hours in a different country, and one steps out, not in a neighboring town twenty miles away, but in Morocco or Algiers. I was so inured by the time I was on my return journey that when our plane was returning to the airfield at Cairo and I heard in my sleep that "Number three engine has caught fire," I dozed off and did not know when we landed and took off again. The next morning the pilots re ferred to me kindly as "a sleeping bag." They did not realize how much confidence I was reposing in the ATC pilots.
I have seen the movie-The Memphis Belle-telling the story of a bombing mission to Germany. It gives, I think, the most fascinating sensation of a flight and of what one sees from the air. It presents a clear, straight story with a reality that grips, without any contrivance of melodrama. You mentally go up ten thousand feet and get a vantage point to look at the globe, with its blue waters and shore outlines and green pastures and deep forests and cities and towns and highways and rivers. You see the globe and it is round, and in twenty minutes you get a sense of its roundness, through perceiving its advancing and receding horizons, almost as if you were looking at a school globe. As the earth below you shrinks in space, you feel like a genie in the Arabian Nights, looking down on a toy globe, unbelievably beautiful in colors. As one ought to see Manhattan by going out at sea on a steamer, so one ought to look at the earth, reduced to the encompassable size of the eye's vision. One sees the sun setting behind a sea of clouds or watches a rainfall fifty miles away, or dashes through a rainstorm for only five minutes and comes out in the sunshine and gets a better physical sense of the earth we are living upon.
I insist upon the colors, too, as suggested by the picture The Memphis Belle. There is as yet no method of reproducing the colors of the sea except by technicolor aerial films designed for the purpose. Flying over the Caribbean Sea, one's senses are struck by the display of colors where the water is of different depths. As the contours of the shore line shrink into miniature proportions, one also sees a beautiful pattern of colors in that brilliant tropic sunlight, from deep navy blue to purple, lavender, turquoise, aquamarine, shading off into bluish and cabbage green and defined by the buff of the sand beaches against a fringe of bubbly white where the surf is-all on a miniature scale so that the whole seems like a moving, living toy or a jeweled palace made by some cunning artist. The string of islands, with water inlets and creeks and bays and crossings, becomes a connected pattern as the bottoms of the bays become visible, their relative depths indicated by the delicate shading of blues and greens. Where the land rises, it becomes an island, and where it slopes beneath the water, it becomes a strait, or an inlet, or a shallow crossing, and you see the accidents of topography interrelated, intelligible as a mass, as you see them on a model. A fishing craft or a tramp steamer appears like a speck or an infinitesimal leaf, crawling at an almost imperceptible pace, and then you realize that the strait which seems like a shallow rivulet from where you sit may be miles wide. Then you have to imagine that inside that tiny speck there is a miniature toy steam engine, perfectly fashioned with pistons and boilers and shafts and all, in a miniature ship provided with cabins and decks and saloons, all complete. Along these decks walk microscopic creatures who have made that ship and designed that clever engine to make it go, and these creatures them selves are provided with liver and heart and lungs and facial features. You marvel at such a living miniature and feel like a god looking down upon the human beings that inhabit the earth and toil and love and fight till they die.
As there were only two passengers, we were permitted inside the crew's quarters, being taken as adult democratic individuals who knew what might and what might not be done. They were a good, hardy lot, these American boys of the crew and those I saw on the ground, breezy and strong and cheerful, griping and jeering and cussing in that
inimitable Private Hargrove manner, with not a speck of malice in their souls. They ate, they swore, they worked hard, they sweated and were personally clean, and didn't mind the grease, loving their work and their engine gadgets, yet most living the moment when their work was through. They teased and kidded and clowned and you couldn't believe a word of what they said. Woe to the mollycoddle who has just left his mother for the first time and takes their words too literally. Yet all this kidding and clowning did not interfere with their dis cipline and co-operation where work and ministering to the ship were concerned.
The captain was a blond. There was something about his accent and voice, the American voice, milk-fed and strong at the source and some what lazily rolled into articulate speech like that of a Harvard student. I suppose there is such a thing as an American voice, which is so distinctive and so good to hear when in a foreign country. The accent has a characteristic laziness, that goes through all the stages from mumbling and rolling of tongues to the slightly more careful enun ciation of orating Senators. The English accent is lazy, too, when one compares it with the even distinctiveness of the French, or the muscular exertions of German "ach" and "ich" and "Schlacht" and "fünfzig." But the English counteract that effect of laziness in slurring over their vowels by affecting the muscular tenseness about the throat of a man on the point of strangulation. The American completely lets go.
The rather bizarre and inimitable mixture of cussing and slang which forms army speech, so successfully reproduced by "Private Har grove," gave you confidence in the pilot's knowledge of his machine. Evidently he had been playing with switches all his life since he could call switches disrespectfully bitches. Then he looked out into the sky behind his sun glasses, his clean blond hair fluffing in the wind, while you heard the twin motors purring smoothly along-oh, it was beauti ful to see! Simple like children, with few wants but a hankering for cigarettes, contented with coffee and sandwiches for their meals, with an utter contempt for boiled eggs, and delighted like children with the discovery of a can of mayonnaise, these boys sailed through the clouds! At night they rolled in bunks or on the ground, or on top of any level mass formed by the coincidental leaning together of some packages of cargo, and rested their heads on their bent arms and fell asleep. Such
was the manner of living and sleeping with the army in wartime. I was never more American-conscious than when I was on the journey, and never more so than when I was on the way back to America, after an absence of six months. Here in the United States where almost everybody is an American, you are not conscious of American traits. Traveling in distant countries, the American is at once recognized. He is on the whole more carefree and wears his part more easily than the sons of other countries. "Breeziness" is the word. Compared with the average Chinese and with other foreigners in China, he is distinguished by a trait of boyishness. There is a youthful jollity and Mark Twainian fun and folly implied in this quality, sug gested even by the way obviously grown-up soldiers are called "boys" and office women of thirty are delighted at being referred to as "girls." The American is at once familiar and easygoing and has a natural pride in himself and his country. You have the feeling that he can't be taken advantage of easily and won't take advantage of anybody. He stands for his rights and respects the rights of others and loves getting into a fight any time, verbal or physical. He blasphemes and swears when things displease him, and half believes in God, but more in' an instinctive hillbilly sense than in the church sense. He is also a spendthrift with a good business sense. His social dealings are simple and direct, coming from a society where everybody is everybody else's equal, and where if he does not like a place it is relatively easy for him to cut his ties and move about until he finds what he wants, and where if a man honestly tries to do his job well, he gets a fair deal. He clowns and loves a good time, but only the most fantastically shallow observer can deceive himself that he is "soft" or "effeminate." How did that notion ever get into the head of the deep and profound metaphysical German observers? He submits to discipline but only when that discipline squares up with his sense of justice. He stands for no red tape and innately hates rituals, and has more respect for puppies and horses than for aristocracy and kings. All these tie together into a pattern of quiet efficiency and simple courtesy and good neighborliness that struck me vividly when I saw the officers and men of the ATC on the way to this country after a period of absence.
My reading of See Here, Private Hargrove gave me an insight into the character of the average American, in particular the G.I. I saw on the journey, the inner man as exposed in army life, stripped of his social armor. I believe the characterization is accurate and true. That soldier who jiggled his toe in the small of his buddy's back by way of waking him up in the morning is a funny but enormously effective creature. To be sure, this is a humorous book, portraying only the affectionately familiar and comical side of the G.I., and it says not a word about the other side-his serious side when he gets to work. But even without any profound knowledge of human psychology, the
reader easily senses that he has got the stuff that makes a good soldier, ready to scare away the Devil himself with a good mouthful of slang and when the Devil sasses back with quotations from hell, he can take it, too.
I lament the fact that the book isn't easily translatable into Chinese, for it would help enormously in a better appreciation by the Chinese of the American G.I. in China. To a Chinese crowd, and even to an educated Chinese circle, the G.I. in China certainly seems strange. Yet in spite of the necessary strangeness to each other, between the average American who knows nothing about China and the average Chinese who knows nothing about America, who are now, however, brought together by the war, I know the barrier is no deeper than that of language and superficial customs. The average American officer or enlisted man is forthright and fairly tolerant; sometimes his manners when he is displeased amount to brusqueness, and the Chinese, not knowing the American frankness, or not familiar with American pro fanity, are a little taken aback. I knew a Chinese flyer who was greatly offended when he heard a Chinese fellow-pilot referred to as a "son of-a-bitch"; he knew enough English to know what that phrase means but not enough to know how many people share that common honor in army barracks. Without direct evidence, I know every G.I. has been at one time or another affectionately and politely called a "monkey" by his sergeant or by his buddies. The Chinese officer cares more for dignity, even for literary expressions, and if he does not know Amer ican manners, he is apt to take the American's addressing him famil iarly with a "Hullo, Joe," as an evidence of disrespect. The moment the Chinese and the American talk fluently a common language, how ever, whether in English or in Chinese, all barriers vanish, and the Chinese say he is frank and natural like themselves. If the Americans are sometimes brusque, the Chinese discover that they have the com pensating virtue of saying what they think and telling you honestly to your face; on the other hand, they can be quite thoughtless at times and tend not to face realities until they come up against them smack in the face. In international politics, I have never seen the American people play a "deep" game, and I don't think they can. The thing the Chinese have yet to learn is that when an American soldier swears, they need not take it in the dictionary sense. Someone ought to publish a historical study of swear words used by English and American gen erals and sea captains, and explain to the Chinese people that they mean, in the army and at sea, only something slightly less affectionate than "I love you," and then all will be well. On the whole, the impression the Americans give in China apart from their huskiness and their mechanical ingenuity and business efficiency, is that they are frank and direct and easy to deal with. The Americans, when they come really to know the Chinese, also find the Chinese easygoing and frank like themselves. The two peoples can remain just as they are and do not have to change a bit to be friends.
Throughout my journey, seeing American camps and airfields, I was impressed by the prodigal wealth and mechanical advances of America. I doubt that Americans at home quite know it that way, but the G.I.'s overseas are feeling it, I am sure, by the benefit of con trast. The Americans really don't even know how powerful their nation is, like rich men's sons who don't know exactly how rich they are. It is probably better that nobody tells them, not too much, so that as a nation they will behave only as just one of the several powerful nations, and enjoy a sincere feeling of the common equality of nations. It is not only that the American G.I. is better fed and better cared for than the soldiers of other nations. The transports, the supplies, the products of American machinery and American labor are literally pouring over the surface of the earth. In airfields and camps for American soldiers, the SOS has spent millions. The American Army just does not reckon in pennies and apparently never has an occasion to stint. The American Army may complain that it is short of this and short of that and has never enough to supply all, but by all non-American stand ards and the standards of other armies, that army is a spendthrift and a prodigal. What is needed by the Army is built in a short time. Camps at Natal, at Accra, at Kunming and Kweilin were expanded speedily, though they cost millions. One sees the shining silver bodies of the C-54's, and the brilliant airplane workshop, lighted by neon vapor at night and visible for miles, at a station in Cairo. A factory lighted by mercury vapor in Trenton or the outskirts of Philadelphia attracts no attention, but in Cairo it does. In native eyes, it is simply burning away quicksilver.
Going at an easy, comfortable pace, we arrived at Calcutta in ten days. Dr. Pao Chünchien, the consul-general, and his wife, whom I had known in Peiping years ago, were extremely kind to me and put me up in their home. They and other Chinese friends helped me with the booking of a flight to Chungking and other preparations.
I was all set to fly "over the hump." Our plane was supposed to leave from the airfield ten miles away outside the city at seven in the morning, and the passengers were notified to assemble at the Great Eastern
Hotel at 4:30 A.M. to clear the customs. I was therefore to get up at 3:30. I urged Dr. and Mme. Pao not to get up for me, for I would steal out of the house in the silence of the night. They had a perfect Peking servant who had been staying with them for over a dozen years. All Peking servants are perfect, and more dependable than an alarm clock After finishing some letters at one o'clock, I went off into a sound sleep. I had laid out my Chinese gown, which I had brought from New York. I wanted to leave all my foreign clothes in a suitcase in India, being anxious to get into the comfortable gowns at the first opportunity. I was waked at 2:30, and had coffee and a bowl of hot noodles. Dr. Pao was an old friend of mine, but I felt guilty when I saw him up in his pajamas.
The car was ready, and I sped through the dark streets of Calcutta, The passengers assembled at the customs office looked like sleepy ghosts, and this effect was enhanced by the dead silence of the yard and the street outside. One by one we went up to the desk while others dozed in chairs. The customs officers were like the customs officers of any country, men who asked you the most personal questions, in- cluding the maiden name of your mother, with a most impersonal outlook, interested only in scribbling notes on paper.
As far as the flying operations are concerned, flying over the Him alayas is like flying anywhere. You expect to go through the routine sensations, the eardrums crushing outward as you go up and crushing inward as you go down. Sometimes there is a squeak in the ear canals as if a baby eel had rushed into them and landed flat against the tympanum. Sometimes there isn't. A few puffs with the nose held between fingers usually equalize the pressure, and relieve the chest. We were to go up without oxygen masks, this being a passenger plane of the CNAC. We might go as high as twenty thousand feet,and this might be an inconvenience.
The engine was warmed up. As usual, the plane taxied down a run way and turned ninety degrees at the end, and there the pilot ran first one engine, then the other, to top speed, for routine tests. The whole ship vibrated and chafed like a horse ready to break into a gallop but held back by the rider. Then the engine slowed down again and you knew you were ready to taxi the runway at a dazzling speed until the ship lifted itself in the air. She turned back into the runway and the whole earth seemed to turn round, and as one heard the steady mount ing beat of the engine, packing more and more power and jabbing the air with a sharp, metallic swish like cutting a thin tin plate, the objects of the airfield swept past in a whirl. At this moment, one always had feeling of suspense, that the miracle might not happen this time and this heavier-than-air machine might not lift itself from the ground be fore the strip ended. But it always did. Without one's knowing, its toes silently left the ground, and only when one looked at the houses and trees a few hundred feet below did one realize one was now floating, air-borne. Then the plane banked to change direction, and one side of the earth went up and the other side went down. The passenger felt he and the plane were erect, but the earth seemed to poise itself on one leg, about to keel over.
Were we circling the airfield or not? We were definitely coming down and heading back toward the operations building. One of the meters did not register, owing to some defective wiring. Most of the passengers got off while the mechanic was repairing and testing the meter.
A second time we took off, and a second time we came back. At eight, the plane finally started on its journey, and the engine soon settled down to a steady, pulsating whir. Nothing is more comforting and re assuring than the smooth, steady hum of the engine when one is up in the air. This was a Douglas C-47 and was provided with very com fortable, adjustable lounge seats. There were more than a dozen passen gers in all, some Chinese and some Americans, including the very grave and reticent Gunther Stein, correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, who had just come back from New Delhi, and an American missionary returning to her station in Fukien. The stewardess, a slim Chinese woman in foreign dress, came and gave each passenger a lunch box and a blanket to wrap around his legs. She was Mrs. Ma and told me her husband was also working with the CNAC. I asked her if she knew the CNAC stewardess who was killed by the Japs, and she said she had heard of her. I do not remember that stewardess' name, but she was a wonderful modern Chinese girl, college-educated, bright and independent. Flying in from Hong Kong to Chungking in 1940, I had met her, and my children all remember her vivid per sonality. She had graduated from Yenching and had contributed articles to a magazine which I edited. Her fluent English, Mandarin, and Cantonese and her slender size qualified her for the job on the Hong Kong-Chungking run. Small and dark-complexioned, she had a remarkably intelligent, cheerful and alert face, typical of many young college women in China. Talking with her, I learned that she was a lover of modern literature and had read much. The story of her death, as told me by the CNAC people, was as follows: Their plane had left Chungking for Kweilin. Midway they learned there was an
cataracts and mountain torrents unseen and unobserved of men. On the lower stretches vegetation would grow and multiply for centuries in silence, following merely the instinct for survival. Ages must have gone by since the Himalayas first stood there alone with God. Down below, somewhere in the thick jungles, forest sages have debated since millenniums ago on why there are mountains and jungles and lambs and ewes, and have given up, knowing only there must be God and deciding to say nothing more about it. Some of them have written fifty thousand words on the mystic syllable OM and still have not done with it, while others have lived and fought and died, like the beasts of the jungle, asking no questions and perplexed by no doubts. This human world lay now below me at my feet, shrunk in size, and its human beings were no bigger than little ants, leading Homeric cam paigns against one another, stirred by Homeric passions and mauling one another in battles and close combats as bloody and ferocious as any ant battles could be. It had its demagogues and mountebanks, working on the passions and ambitions of races, dreaming of the glories of conquest and leading men to slaughter, but it had also its heroes and poets and soldiers, but all no more than the size of ants. What cruelty, what cheating, and what sacrifices were going on down there!
The passengers were told that since there was no oxygen tank, we would feel sleepy and probably the best thing was to sit perfectly still and go into sleep, thus requiring and consuming less oxygen. But I was not willing to sleep over this stretch, and tried my best to keep awake. I turned round and saw that many of my neighbors were perfectly still, eyes closed, apparently in sleep. There was not a sound except the steady drone of the machine and the sweet purr of the propellers. It was ghostly; we were sailing at an altitude that was unearthly, if not celestial. The stewardess was sitting in her seat, read ing a paper. I turned the ventilation socket above my seat and directed the jet of cold air toward my face. My theory was that a continuous. stream of fresh air carrying a little oxygen content would give me a greater total amount of oxygen than the still air. I asked the stewardess whether my theory was plausible, and she didn't know; she had no theories of her own. I asked about the altitude, because I had lost my altimeter in a handbag, and was told we were flying at seventeen thousand. I arranged myself comfortably in my seat, wrapping the blanket around my legs, and a feeling of drowsiness crept over me. I don't know what I was thinking. A verse of my mother's came back to my mind, one she often used to tell me when I was a child. She said it in the classical pronunciation, not in our dialect, and it used to amuse me. It told of a Taoist saint who went up to heaven and re turned to earth after centuries had passed, and then repeated the verse which said that "one day in heaven is a thousand years on earth." I had been told that the day before my mother died, while I was away, she had a dream, and after waking, had happily told her grandchildren the dream and repeated this verse again. What if it were true, and after a few hours in heaven I should come down to earth and find China in 1964 or 1974? What would I see? I saw a long, long bridge across Shanghai and Pootung supported by strong steel cables, and another beautiful bridge spanning the Chientang and another long one across the Yangtse at Wuhu, and most glorious of all, the Tri borough Bridge, connecting Hankow, Hanyang, and Wuchang. There were many, many bridges all over China, all very beautiful and all made of steel. But there were other things, too-drinking fountains at squares, and parks for children and four-lane parkways and wonder fully clean and fast buses speeding along to the foot of Huangshan, the Yellow Mountain. And the gold and silver and copper and man ganese and all the treasures of the earth would pour forth, and China would be a rich and prosperous and peaceful country and all farmers' children would go to school. These people of China, the men and women, would be sure of themselves, and say of the present generation, "It was a good job they did. It must have been an exciting period, when there was so much to do, a whole country to transform into such a modern, industrial nation. But they were brave men and women, and they did it."
These thoughts, it seemed, came to me in the flash of a few seconds. Only a mood remained. Had I fallen asleep? The air was cold and I shut off the ventilation socket. A crew member came out to see if everybody was all right, and stood for a moment at the door and went in again. I turned around and saw two American officers wrapped in their sky jackets, soundly asleep. A lady was shifting in her seat. The stewardess was reading. Nothing had changed, and I must have gone to sleep and been dreaming only a few minutes. The purr of the engine was smooth and steady. All was well.
In about an hour we passed over the hump. Now we were in China, flying over Chinese territory. Five thousand feet below us, I could recognize Chinese farmland and village houses. The familiar terraced rice fields were everywhere. After flying over Tali, with its tall, majestic peaks and blue mountain lakes resembling a Swiss landscape, we would be in Kunming in half an hour.
China lay at my feet. I remembered that I was returning by the back door. I would soon be seeing Kunming for the first time, but Kunming would be China, too, with a Chinese landscape, peopled by Chinese men and women. I felt a strange glow of excitement, not the keen excitement of youth at fresh discoveries, but one rich in memories It was good to be home, to be lost in the land and its people and its customs and traditions and become an unrecognizable part of it. It would be like returning to a house where the trees, the backyard, the kitchen and threshold and doorsteps would be all familiar. It was like a part returning to the whole, where everything would be taken for granted, and one would feel safe and secure in a corporate entity bigger than our individual selves. I would be just one Chinese among millions of Chinese, and could talk of trivial things and accept certain customs without questioning and meet old friends and call up old memories.
I was returning to China for the second time during the war, after three very hard years had passed, and was intensely anxious to find out how she had changed. I was sure of one thing, that no matter how hard the circumstances, her fighting spirit could not change. There might be a few added wrinkles on her old face, but she would still say to me, with immense pride, "Son, we have kept the colors flying!"
It was half past two when our plane landed at the Kunming airfield. I wanted to shut my eyes and then look and I hoped to see China exactly as I wanted to find her, not too happy, but not too sad. The passengers landed and stood around; a few new passengers were going on to Chungking. I strolled about. Some sixty feet away I saw a group of peasant girls and women working to fill up a small shell hole in the airfield, and I went toward them. The girls, dressed in black and each holding an empty bamboo basket, were pummeling and pushing and chasing each other with romping laughter, and their mirth was ir resistible. Silently I said to myself, "This is just right. So long as our people have not forgotten to laugh, China is all right." I could not have prayed for a better reception.
After about an hour our plane took off again for Chungking. A tail wind helped us, and in two hours and twenty minutes, we wer circling over the city of Chungking.
It was half past five when we landed, but the sky was already gray I stood looking at the rocky city from the airfield on the islet in the middle of the Yangtse. It looked so peaceful now, that symbol and
citadel of China's resistance. Three years ago, as I was coming out to do my writing, I was standing upon the same islet waiting for the plane to take off. It was a late August morning, near the end of the bombing season, and I was sorry to leave. The closing of the Indo-China railway after my arrival and the holding up of some essential reference books had shattered my plan for doing some writing inside China. The decision to leave China again was made after consultation with, and with the approval of, the Generalissimo. It was felt I should do my part in helping to interpret China abroad, a field in which there were singularly few laborers. An air-raid alarm had just sounded; the enemy planes would take two hours to arrive. But I could see a long stream of people walking on the road up the high bank, going into the shelter in the yet cool hours of the morning to sit out the air raid-hundreds of them, men and women in an endless stream, carrying stools and bundles and leading young children by the hand, going into the dark caves cut into the cliff, a whole city disappearing underground beneath the protective shelter of the rocks. It seemed like a picture of the Chinese people at their heroic best, a profoundly moving spectacle. They had been doing that almost every day for three summers already. There had been a severe bombing the previous day, and wisps of smoke from yesterday's fires were still curling idly in the sky. Someone ought to have painted a picture of that moment; it would be a great picture, a historic testa ment to the true spirit of Chungking, sad and gallant.
Now, as I stood on the same spot, the enemy planes came no more, and the people could work and sleep in peace. Three more years of war had passed, the fifth, the sixth, and then the seventh. The Marco Polo Bridge incident and the fall of Nanking seemed now so long ago; for seven long years China had fought single-handed. Who could have predicted that China would fight so long and so stubbornly? That was what Chungking meant to me and to the hearts of the Chinese people. There was Chungking, tattered and bruised and rather friend less, under siege for two years and still holding out, with rescue still far off, alone refusing surrender in an Asia that otherwise would have become a solid Japanese continental empire. It would be interesting to speculate about what Allied strategy would be against such a solid continental empire, cushioned in Thibet and the Himalayas on the west and the southwest and the Mongolian desert on the north.
Chungking stood there, waiting, waiting, waiting patiently, pathet ically for the materials with which to start the counteroffensive and liberate her land and her people from the invader. It was the vigil of a nation, keeping watch in the hours before the dawn of victory, no less tense and inwardly exciting, however dark and calm the night out cession to the top of a hill to greet the dawn. The great Festival of the Fruitful Corn will begin. There will be great rejoicings and merry making and the singing of songs. The daughters of Chungking will put on red pajamas and dance in the streets with the soldiers, those soldiers who stood in the storm in the threatening night. For the long watch is over, the day has come, and the night shall not fall again. So shall pass the Vigil of the Nation.