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Autumn in My Old Capital

xiaoman;1952493 said:
I would like to share a translated this prose with friends here (I am not sure if this is the right forum to post translated prose. So please let me know. Thanks you! )

Autumn in My Old Capital

Writer: Yu Dafu (China)

Translator: Xu Yingcai (America)

Autumn, no matter where it
happens, is always appealing, but autumn in Northern China, especially, is less
diluted, quieter, and more melancholy. It is merely for the purpose of fully
tasting these “flavors”—the autumnal flavors of my old capital—that I braved the
long trip from Hangzhou to Qingdao and then to Peiping.

Autumn, of
course, also happens in the south, but in a southern autumn, the flora is slower
to wither, the air is denser with moisture, the sky is lighter in color, and it
is more often rainy than windy. Muddling along as a loner, engulfed among the
residents of the near southern cities like Suzhou, Shanghai, or Hangzhou, or the
far southern ones like Xiamen, Hong Kong, or Guangzhou, I can only feel a little
bit of the pureness and melancholy of autumn. There, I have never seen enough of
the views of autumn, tasted enough of flavors of autumn, or explored enough of
the poetic imagery of autumn. Autumn is neither a famous flower nor a luscious
wine. That state of half-blooming and half-intoxication is not appropriate to
the understanding of the season.

It has been more than a decade since I
last experienced autumn in the north. In the south, every year when autumn came,
I would always miss the reed catkins at the Joyous Pavilion, the willow
silhouettes by the Fishing Tower, the chirping of insects in the West Hills, the
midnight moon above the Jade Spring, and the chiming of the bells from the
Poolside Mulberry Temple. In Beijing, however, even though you stay at home—say,
you reside in a dilapidated rented house in the imperial city, with a sea of
inhabitants, and you get up in the morning, making a bowl of strong tea, and sit
in a spot facing the entire yard—you can also see the azure color high in the
sky and hear the noise the domesticated pigeons make when they fly under the
blue sky. From beneath a locust tree, counting strip after strip of sunbeams
dripping down from the east through the foliage or quietly looking at the blue
flowers of trumpet-shaped morning glories rooted in the middle of a broken wall,
you will also automatically get a deep sense of autumn. Speaking of morning
glories, I think the blue or white flowers are the best, the purple-blacks come
next, and the light-reds rank last. If there are a few long, thin autumn grasses
loosely spread out under them to set them off, so much the better.

northern locust tree is yet another scenic element that would make people think
of autumn. When you get up in the morning, you will see stamens and
pistils—which look like flowers, but are actually not—all over the ground. When
you step on them, you don’t hear anything or smell anything; you only have an
extremely light and soft feeling of contact. After the street cleaner sweeps the
tree-shaded ground, you will see strip after strip of sweeping marks on the
earth. They look delicate and inspire a sense of leisure, and your subconscious
mind will even register a little feeling of desolation. This is perhaps where
lies the profound meaning of the ancient poetic line that “A falling leaf from a
Chinese parasol manifests the arrival of autumn.”

The lingering, weak
chirping of the autumnal harvest flies is even more characteristic of the north.
Because there are trees everywhere and the houses are not very tall in Peiping,
you can hear the harvest flies wherever you go. But in the south, you won’t be
able to hear anything unless you go to the suburbs or take a trip into the
hills. In Peiping, harvest flies, which are as common as crickets or mice, are
like house pets for every family.

Don’t forget the autumnal rain! The
autumnal rain in the north seems to fall in a way more distinctive, more
flavorsome, and more akin to rain than that in the south.

Under the grey
sky, after an abrupt cool wind comes the pitter-patter of rain. Soon after the
brisk rain is over, the clouds begin to slowly roll to the west, the sky starts
to turn blue again, and the sun pops its face out once more. A tobacco pipe
between his lips, a leisurely townsman, clad in a thick lined jacket or a dark
blue padded coat, would step out of the shade of the rain-washed skew bridge and
stand under a bridgehead tree; when he sees someone he knows, he would let out a
light sigh and say, in a slow and leisurely tone,

“Gosh, it’sss really
getting chilly—” (Emphasizing the progressive “s” by highly pitching and
dragging it.)

“Exactly! Hence, the saying ‘Each burstr of autumnal rain
adds a burstr of chilliness!’”

When northerners pronounce the word
“burst,” it always sounds like “burstr.” But, in terms of cadence, this
distortion in pronunciation has the benefit of creating an accidental

When autumn comes, the fruit trees in the north also boast of an
unusual scene. The date trees should be the first kind. They grow
everywhere—around the corners of houses, on walls, by outhouses, next to kitchen
cabins. When the dates, like olives or pigeon eggs, begin to show their
light-green and light-yellow colors amid the small oval-shaped leaves, the
autumn season has reached its prime. By the time the leaves have fallen and the
dates themselves have finished turning red, the northwest wind will start to
blow, and this will then make the north a dusty and muddy world. The best period
of an undiluted autumn in the north is at the transitional period between July
and August, when dates, persimmons, and grapes are almost completely ripe. These
are the golden days of the year.

Some critics say that all Chinese
scholars, men of letters, and especially poets, have a strong propensity for
decadence and that’s why quite a number of Chinese poems eulogize autumn. But
don’t foreign poets do the same? I have neither delved much into foreign poetry
nor want to make a list that will turn my pure prose into a piece of
quotation-riddled lyric prose about autumn, but if you flip through a collection
of poetry from Britain, Germany, France, Italy, etc. or through a poetry
anthology from each of these countries, you are bound to see much eulogizing and
bemoaning of the season.

The best-written and most exquisite parts of the
voluminous idyllic pastoral poetry or of the verses on the four seasons produced
by famous poets are those that describe autumn. This clearly reveals that all
sentient animals and appreciative humans share an identical mentality toward the
autumn season, which always gives them a deep, remote, serious, serious, and
melancholic feeling. I believe that when autumn comes, not only poets, but even
prison inmates, have deep, uncontrollable emotions. When it comes to autumn, no
differences exist between nations, ethnicities or social classes. Since there is
a term “autumnal scholar” in the Chinese language and some popular “autumnal
verses” such as Ode to Autumnal Sounds by Ouyang Xiu and Ode to the Red Cliff by
Su Shi, one would feel that the Chinese literati have a more profound
relationship with autumn than their western counterparts. But this profound
flavor of autumn, especially the profound flavor of a Chinese autumn, can only
be tasted in the north.

Autumn in the south, of course, also has its
special characteristics. Take, for instance, the bright moon over the
Twenty-fourth Bridge, the autumnal tides in the Qiantang River, the cool mist on
Mount Putuo, the late lotus in the Litchi Fruit Bay, etc. But none of these is
deep in color, and none leaves a permanent aftertaste. Comparing a southern
autumn to a northern autumn is like comparing yellow wine to white spirits, rice
gruel to steamed bread, perch to big crab, or dogs to camels.

If I could
keep autumn—this autumn of northern China—from leaving, I would trade two thirds
of my lifetime for a life only a third as long but spent entirely in

For the original Chinese version please click: http://www.backchina.com/blog/358517/article-241613.html#ixzz3xE9z1o00

Writer: Yu Dafu (simplified Chinese: 郁达夫; traditional Chinese: 郁達夫; pinyin: Yù Dáfū; Wade–Giles: Yu Ta-fu) (December 7, 1896 – September 17, 1945). Born in Fuyang, Zhejiang province, was a modern Chinese short story writer and poet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu_Dafu

Introduction of the Translator: Xu Yingcai 徐英才, a professor from DelPaul University. His books include:

【英译中国经典散文选(汉英对照)】链接:http://nxtmarket.info/item/520814806971 http://www.amazon.cn/%E5%9B%BE%E4%B9%A6/dp/B00MTI5CKO

http://www.amazon.cn/%E8%8B%B1%E ...

In September, 2015, Professor Xu's books were given to Lincoln High School by the President of the People's Republic of China, Mr. Xi Jingping, as gifts for learning translation, Chinese culture and Chinese language.


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