Old Guy and Three Swordsmen | Zhu Zhenglin

 Old Guy and Three Swordsmen | Zhu Zhenglin

Such encounters may have been common in Peking University in the early 1980s. On the one hand, Zhao Shiren, Luo Yihe and He Tuoyu, known as the three swordsmen of the Chinese Department, met; on the other hand, I, an old fellow (Shiren language) who walked through the swamp with an empty pocket on his back (Yihe language). Three of them were in their twenties, and I was thirty-four by then.

For me, it is not only the emotional ideological confrontation of that era and the so-called two generations of forgetful friendship, but also because the three swordsmen have passed away, leaving me as an old fellow.

Only Shiren and I met for the first time. Shiren took charge of an exhibition, and I was recommended as a consultant. It takes only a few words to say things neatly, even if the intention has been reached. Just as he was about to leave, Shiren talked to me head-on about the future trend of Chinese history.

Peking University has a tradition that seems to be palpable with your hands. You can call it taking the world as your responsibility, but I prefer to express it as the rise and fall of the world, the Pifu is responsible, especially the Pifu of Peking University. The present official benevolence is naturally in this tradition. I thought I understood Shirens passion, so I began to echo, full of the thought that he said we also carried me. Little did he know that he suddenly said, In our view, your generation is a generation of the past, can only play the role of paving the way. I was shocked to see how sincere he was. I know that the students of Peking University are crazy, but Shiren is not crazy when he says that. I dare say he didnt even think it might hurt me.

When our generation raised the question of Where is China going in the early 1970s, though it was high-pitched and somewhat pointing out the country, it was actually doubtful and confused. Ten years later, when young people take up this issue, they are more expressing some kind of excitement. In the 1980s, when the earth was broken, there was indeed some hope in China. But I can also see that he has a good understanding of the exploration of our generation, otherwise there would be no paving stone.


If I remember correctly, I talked about three theoretical perspectives.

The first is the so-called original and clean source which was in vogue at that time, getting rid of the Soviet-style historical concept, returning to Marxs historical narrative to explore what kind of historical stage China is currently in, and looking forward to its trend. I remember referring in particular to what Marx called the Asian Form and believing that it was not in the model of Soviet-style social development history.

The second perspective I borrowed from Spengler. In Spenglers eyes, the protagonist on the stage of world history is culture. From the ideological history, what he called culture is closely related to the cultural fever that rose in the mid and late 1980s, although it seems that he is seldom mentioned in our cultural discussions. His culture is a living individual, each with its own life cycle - birth, growth, aging and death, each with its own cultural destiny. As far as their lives and fates are concerned, there is no inheritance relationship (denying the theory of historical stages) or substantial interaction between cultures. If you believe him, the conclusion is very pessimistic: the only living Western culture has declined, and Chinese culture has already died. Moreover, according to him, there is no chance of rebirth in a dead culture. If we first hold reservations to his conclusion and follow his train of thought to explore the fate of Chinese culture, it is an attractive topic. When I was in prison in the mid-1970s, I thought hard about it. Of course, there is no constructive result. There is no book to read in prison. If you think but dont learn, you will suffer. For me and my contemporaries, Spenglers cultural concept and the concept of civilization, which was born out of Toynbee, did provide an inspiration that enabled us to change our historical horizons.

The third perspective is actually the evolution of the second perspective. In the 1970s, there was an internal reading called Foreign Bourgeoisie Talking about Modern Chinese History. Some of the articles took the conflict between Chinese and Western civilizations as the main line of explaining modern Chinese history. The concept of civilization is obviously related to Spenglers culture and Toynbees civilization. However, historians do not go as far as historical philosophers. Their concepts are always closer to actual experience. They say that civilizations are not so closed. There are always conflicts and blends between them. From this point of view, we can draw a more optimistic conclusion that the result of conflict and blending may produce a new civilization. The temptation of this conclusion goes without saying. Many years later, I named the temptation of the third road as the temptation of the third road, and I was wary of it. Whether there is a third road should have been doubtful, but the theory of revitalizing the words can be used to fill the hunger and become an excuse to avoid choosing. Nevertheless, I was not so alert at the beginning, and drew a big cake in front of Shiren.

Shiren may not have expected that his stone caused a thousand waves, and even provoked my old fellow to dump more than ten years of inventory. After all, he was still young, and for a moment, of course, he could not produce any arguments for rebellion. He could only listen in silence. But I could see that he was as excited when he listened to me as he was when he spoke. It was his excitement that encouraged me to keep my somewhat empty grand narrative flowing, and I knew I had met the best listeners. Good listeners are often good conversational opponents. In Peking University, you will never find a conversational opponent. Thats not so fast!


The next morning, Shiren visited my dormitory on the 29th floor. Opening the door to welcome visitors, three people came in, Yihe and Xiaoyu also came. Not too many greetings, and then the topic of the previous day. Shiren asked very clearly, and the questions were on the point, indicating that he had thought seriously when he returned the night before. Yihe and Xiaoyu are also good listeners. Yihe is quiet, but his inner passion is easy to perceive; Xiaoyu is free and easy, but there is a big boys shyness. Coupled with the keen-minded and sincere official benevolence, the three swordsmen really make my humble room full of vitality and spirit. The atmosphere of the conversation became more and more active, and I knew that I had probably passed the inspection. Before leaving, Xiao Yu told me in a teasing tone, Do you know what were talking about? Shiren is the brain of China, Yihe is the heart of China, I am the stomach of China.

One weekend evening, everyone improvised a concert, you and I one song, unexpectedly has not been cold, singing until the light of the day. They were singing popular songs at that time, and a few of them touched me in particular. From the songs they sang, I realized the freshness of campus songs. At the same time, I realized that although I had rebelled fiercely in my youth, one kind of aesthetics that had covered us at the beginning was still dross and still hindered and distorted my aesthetics. So I intentionally avoided the kind of grandeur and lofty admiration, the kind of yearning for fire and blood, trying to sing some of the little ballads I learned during the rebellious period from 200 Foreign Famous Songs to beg for life... I always thought that after that night, we really became friends.

Thirty years later, in a pen talk with me, Liu Sola put forward a proposition: Aesthetic standpoint is more important than class standpoint, and added: Rebellion is easier to reflect on than to reflect on. I suddenly remembered that night again. So he wrote back, When I went to Peking University, I was thirty-four years old, and I met a group of boys and girls in the twenties. They called meold fellowbehind their backs. The initial communication is the kind of conversation peculiar to Peking University, full of metaphysical words, and put on a skilled posture, tentative, it looks like across a gap (known as the generation gap). Until one evening when everyone gathered to sing, I suddenly felt that I could understand them, and that they seemed to understand me, and the ditch disappeared. Since then, it has really become a forgetful friendship. I remember clearly that the attitude of their singing touched me, and I liked the songs they sang. In terms of the concepts we are using at the moment, it was obvious that I and they understood each others attitude, each others aesthetic standpoint that night, and found that they were actually interlinked.

Since then, I have come to the conclusion that the barrier between people does not mainly arise from the difference of ideas, but from the difference of aesthetic taste. Conversely, the harmony between people does not lie in the similarity of ideas, but in the similarity of aesthetic tastes. This conclusion has been repeatedly confirmed by experience. Generally speaking, people with different ideas may become enemies, but it does not prevent them as individuals to appreciate each other and even feel happy together, but people with different aesthetic tastes are difficult to get together without hating each other.


Looking back, lets talk about that year. My younger friends are both young and love literature. Of course, life is also a topic that they often pay attention to. I am more than ten years older than them, and have spent several years in prison. I have experienced many vicissitudes among the students. I naturally have some advantages in talking about life. I remember telling them some prison experiences, fragmentary stories and little experiences, all of which were improvised in conversation. I only remember that their eyes lit me up like stars, which made my story more pure. I mean, when I tell it, I virtually reduce the boast of talking about the history of revolutionaries painfully and increase the exploration of walking in the middle of life (Dante).

My fumble is endless, but it can also be summed up as a question: Is there any meaning in `colorless life? I have met some people who have been in prison for almost a lifetime, and they have caused me to ask: Is this life meaningful? I also mentioned this to myself, of course, because their fate foreshadows my fate. Years later, I wrote The Story in It. My own explanation is, What I write is just an individual experience, the life situation of myself and some other people. We individuals, together with all our experiences, will not enter history, or, in my hometowns words, even a bubble will not appear in the long river of history, but this does not mean that our existence, experience and feelings are not true. What I want to express is the value and significance of individual life which has been neglected by history. Those who wanted to hear me tell these stories in Peking University were the pride of heaven. It was rare for them to understand my feelings and thoughts without any obstacles. I could not help but lead them to bosom friends.

Regarding the big issue we discussed when we first met, the three swordsmen declared to me, We have discussed it and decided to criticize Lao Zhu for five years. I hastened to disarm and surrender: In less than five years, I will give you the bottom line. I talked about a few books that had a great influence on me. I also briefly talked about my idea of breaking through the theoretical circle and the pitfalls that I should be careful to guard against on the breakthrough road. Especially when it comes to the two concepts of history and culture, both of them need to be reviewed, but my own learning ability is not enough, and I can only say that I am working hard.

The five-year critical plan is not a joke in them. Soon I noticed from his talk that he was reading The Decline of the West. He read the Taiwanese version, and I borrowed it specially to read it again. I remember telling him how I felt after I reread it, to the effect that when I read it, I thought Spengler was insightful and less academic, and he read it smartly and musically, but this time I found that the smart narrative contained a conceptual framework like steel bars, which was actually very rigid. Because it is too strict and exquisite, it makes me feel suspicious almost instinctively. Later, I read Yihes long poem Blood of the World and found that there was a broad vision of big culture in the real epic he tried to write, apparently from Spengler, and the peasant girl he wrote down to the city reminded me of Spenglers assertion: All civilizations were born in the city, all articles. Ming will decline, but the countryside will remain forever. Yihes vast singing (poet Chen Dongdongs comments) made me realize that the three swordsmens criticism of me has been completed.

Its a pity to be jealous of talented people. In fact, less than five years ago, Shiren died early in 1984, and the three swordsmen broke their wings. He drowned when he went swimming with me in Huairou. When I sprinted down from a high place and plunged into the water, his struggling body quickly sank to the bottom. According to the diver who salvaged the body, it was eleven meters deep. There is an old saying: Boren is not killed by me, Boren died by me. I always feel that Shirens death is my fault.

Unexpectedly, this mistake seems to have triggered a chain reaction and turned into a mistake again and again!

Xiaoyu was left alone in the world, saying that he had gone to sea. Occasionally, when I came back to Beijing and met with him, I always laughed and said that I was the only survivor of the three swordsmen, and once I sighed and said, Do you remember the crazy words I said when I first met you? Now you see, only my stomach is left in China! His voice was still in the air, and he refused to leave in 2007. It is said that he jumped down from a high building for reasons that no one could explain clearly, or that those who could explain clearly would not elaborate. I can only imagine that the three swordsmen made a covenant in accordance with the old practice, and that he had fulfilled it.

When Yihe died, I inscribed a poem: The poet loves to take the lead, and the courtyard decides to sleep long. I just sat waiting for my head to fly white, and didnt dare to swallow and cry for the teenager. Thirty years later, the head is already white. What is the old man waiting for?

Author: Zhu Zhenglin, a scholar and Book reviewer. He was vice-president of Oriental magazine, full-time planning of Reading Time column of CCTV, and co-edited with Shandong Picture Publishing House Series Growth Digest as editor-in-chief. He is the author of many anthologies, such as Cutting Down the Mountain Aftershock, Literary Affairs, World Affairs, Minds, Still Spirit, Reading is a Private affair, Stories in it, Reading Points.

Topic: ThreeMenSeated, Georges Seurat

Luo Yihe (1961-1989) was born in Beijing. When he was young, he was sent to the Huaihe Plain in rural Henan Province with his parents, where he received enlightenment education. He was admitted to the Department of Chinese Language and Literature of Peking University in 1979. He began publishing poems and poems in 1983. He graduated in 1984 and was editor of Beijing October magazine. He presided over the Southwest Novels and Poetry Columns. He won the Excellent Editor Award twice. In 1988, he attended the Youth Poetry Club held by Poetry Magazine. In the early morning of May 14, 1989, he died of massive cerebrovascular hemorrhage on May 31. He left behind the long poems Blood of the World and The Sea and a large number of short poems, poems, papers, etc. His works include the collection of poems Blood of the World (1990, Changchun), the complete edition of Luo Yihes poems (1997, Shanghai), and Luo Yihes poems (2011, Beijing), etc.

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