Essay:《爱》Love by Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang)

A tragic, dreamlike little essay from writer Zhang Ailing (张爱玲, English name Eileen Chang) about love and destiny. This is one of her more well-known works of micro-prose, written in 1944. HSK 5-6.

This is the second thing I put up from Zhang this week. The first piece was filed under “advanced” (though I think HSK 6 readers could probably tackle it), but this one is definitely a little easier. I introduced Zhang in that post, so head over and read her bio if you’d like, but the short version is that she was a literary diva whose work garnered a cult following in China in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and is still one of China’s most famous female authors.

Some language stuff

As with much of Zhang’s writing, a couple sentences are deep but a little vague, it’s left up to you to read into them. The last paragraph of this work are along those lines.

小康之家 xiǎo kāng zhī jiā – A middle-class household, or a family that has enough money to cover the necessities but isn’t wealthy.

做媒 zuò méi – Play matchmaker, act as a middleman / negotiator to find a suitable spouse for someone.

作妾 zuò qiè – Be a concubine.

转卖 zhuǎn mài – To buy and re-sell something, or in this case, someone.

Want something easier?

Du Chinese has a big catalog of easy HSK 1 and HSK 2 texts for ultra-beginners. There are quite a few free practice lessons, but CRP readers get 10% off on paid accounts using the discount code CRP10.








Show English translation »
This is true.

There was a village girl from a middle-class family, she was born a beauty, many people came to play matchmaker, but none [of the negotiations] succeeded. That year she wasn’t more than about 15 or 16 years old, and one spring evening, she stood at the back door, with her hand on the peach tree. She remembers she was wearing a moon-white shirt. [She had seen] the young man across the way but they had never greeted each other, he walked over, no great distance, stood still, and in a soft voice said: “Oh, you’re here too?” She didn’t say anything, and he said nothing else, just stood there a moment, and then each went on their way.

It was over just like that.

Later, this girl was abducted by her relatives and sold as a concubine [to a man] in another county. She was resold again and again. After passing through countless dangers and storms, when she had grown old, she still remembered that one thing, and she often mentioned that spring night, under the peach tree at the back door, and the young man there.

Among all the thousands of people you meet, in all the thousands of years, in the boundless wilderness of time, there is no ‘behind’, and no ‘ahead’, there is only coincidental catching up, [and in such moments] there are no other words to say, only a gentle question: “Oh, you’re here too?”

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