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老冬儿的博客  
疏懒常潜水,兴来偶提笔。世事不多议,山川入话题。  
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· 疫情中的大发现
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· 斯洛文尼亚:童话世界布莱德湖(
· 收藏曹雪葵大作:赏析《【雨中花
· 雨中花令-为丰子恺画作而题(诗坛
· 禁足的极简生活
· 宅家近三周(旧金山宅家令延长了
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· 青草青青.:青草青青.
· 瀛洲大蟹:轻扣柴扉
· 又一蛮夷:又一蛮夷
· 晓竹:晓竹之家
分类目录
【环球采风 (六)】
 · 秘鲁跟团游(7):芦苇人家/利马惊吓
 · 秘鲁跟团游(6):安第斯山所见
 · 秘鲁跟团游(5):古城库斯科
 · 秘鲁跟团游(4):马丘比丘
 · 秘鲁跟团游(3):神圣山谷(图)
 · 秘鲁跟团游(2):山中农家
 · 秘鲁跟团游(1):出行/利马寻美食
【环球采风 (七)】
 · 斯洛文尼亚:童话世界布莱德湖(图
 · 克罗地亚(3):欧洲九寨沟
 · 克罗地亚(2):向北,沿着亚德里亚海
 · 克罗地亚(1):杜布罗夫尼克(Dubrovn
 · 坦桑尼亚散记4:东非的伊甸园
 · 坦桑尼亚散记3:亲睹动物大迁徙
 · 坦桑尼亚散记2:Tarangire国家公园
 · 坦桑尼亚散记1:遥远的非洲
【环球采风 (五)】
 · 坐了一回中国人的邮轮
 · 美丽的布拉格(下)(图)
 · 布拉格维也纳布达佩斯11日游攻略
 · 美丽的布拉格(上)(图)
 · 越南行(5):舌尖河内(图)
 · 越南行(4):海上桂林(图)
 · 越南行(3):言语不通(图)
 · 越南行(2):奥黛美女(图)
 · 越南行(1):河内观感(图)
【环球采风 (一)】
 · 呵呵,逮住了你们(图)!
 · 在吉隆坡,我遇到国内旅游团
 · 南洋行之七:新加坡的夜晚和清晨
 · 南洋行之六:吉隆坡-精彩瞬间
 · 南洋行之五:历史名城马六甲
 · 南洋行之四:五彩缤纷的极乐寺
 · 南洋行之三:名门后裔,水上人家
 · 南洋行之二:古风古韵的槟城
 · 南洋行之一: 大马风情娘惹美食
【环球采风 (四)】
 · 夏威夷岛:难忘的家庭旅馆
 · 夏威夷岛:深谷探幽(图)
 · 夏威夷岛:飘雪的咖啡花(图)
 · 夏威夷岛:遭遇狂风(图)
 · 夏威夷岛: 地火奇观(攻略)
 · 夏威夷科威夷岛:Napali
 · 夏威夷科威夷岛:奇物奇景
 · 夏威夷,寻找快乐(多图)
【神州掠影 (二)】
 · 回国记(4)茅台飘香
 · 回国记(3)青山绿水的镇远
 · 回国记(2)驱车贵州见识乡民请愿
 · 回国记(1):张家界,不完美的旅游
 · 回国记事:老父坐轿上窦圌山(图)
 · 2013年回国简短笔录 (多图)
 · 访汉武帝陵墓茂陵(组图)
 · (组图) 天下第一关:剑门关
 · 数数这次回国的开心事
【神州掠影 (三)】
 · 蜀南竹海小记(附五律-回国)
 · 黄庭坚的流杯池(图)
 · 回国打车:Uber
 · 回国过年(7):中国远征军国殇墓园
 · 回国过年(6):玉出腾越(图)
 · 回国过年(5):中国的黄石腾冲热海
 · 回国过年(4):白族名镇喜洲
 · 回国过年(3):带着狗狗去旅行
 · 回国过年(2):大理古城(组图)
 · 回国过年(1):自驾车去云南
【诗词歌赋 (十一)】
 · 2019七月回成都
 · 昙花组照(五言排律)
 · 仪式感,旧照
 · 介子推(临江仙 )
 · 少年,老年(和西岭相见欢)
 · 满江红—北极光下
 · 情人节,少林寺(绝,律)
 · 潼关小记(附山坡羊)
 · 七律:2017年 岁末杂记
 · 七律--林肯
【神州掠影 (四)】
 · 访三国故地:落鳳坡,庞统祠墓,白
 · 聊聊国内老人的医养中心
 · 烟雨中,车里少一人
 · 自驾去洛阳(5):少林寺,嵩山
 · 自驾去洛阳(4);洛阳牡丹(图)
 · 自驾去洛阳(3):诸葛亮墓地
 · 自驾去洛阳(2):马超墓,定军山
 · 自驾去洛阳(1):三国古城
 · 潼关小记(附山坡羊)
【环球采风 (二)】
 · 陈年旧事:第一次去法国的狼狈
 · 新教皇,圣方济,小城阿西西(图)
 · 多伦多的外遇
 · 多伦多: 秋色惊艳(组图)
 · 曼谷风情(4):莲花飘香卧佛寺(图)
 · 曼谷风情(3):金碧辉煌的大皇宫
 · 曼谷风情(2):水上市集(组图)
 · 曼谷风情(1):中国城(图)
 · 洪水期间访曼谷:高空惊魂(图)
 · 伦敦桥,要塌了。。。(图文)
【诗词歌赋 (八)】
 · 西湖雨,龙井茶
 · 忆江南:三月北京(图)
 · 七绝 早春(樱花红了)
 · 那帕酒庄(组图)
 · 秋天可以做什么?
 · 鹧鸪天 近日感怀
 · 望海潮--都江堰(多图)
 · 天赐美景后院野花(图,绝句)
 · 咏荷绝句 (荷叶粥,荷叶鸡)
 · 我的古典文学启蒙读物
【诗词歌赋 (十二)】
 · 七律—疫情中感怀
 · 雨中花令-为丰子恺画作而题(诗坛活
 · 禁足的极简生活
 · 庚子杂言 (七律)
 · 忆春三月访杜甫草堂 (解语花)
 · 冬至, 年关有感
 · 上班途中遇日出(外一首:悼公公)
【诗词歌赋 (十)】
 · 换个活法
 · 朋友拍的北极珍稀动物(图,西江月
 · 诉衷情 腊梅(图)
 · 西江月:2018回顾(附动物大迁徙视
 · 初冬的成都(五古)
 · 中秋小景(诗坛活动)
 · 忆王孙-思归
 · 一个人的时光
 · 天那边的外婆
 · 七律:周末读思
【诗词歌赋 (七)】
 · 吾家有菊
 · 满城风雨到中秋
 · 七律-纪念戴安澜将军(滇西抗战胜利
 · 阿拉斯加的夏夜(七律)
 · 追花千里/漫山遍野的加州金罂粟
 · 访百年华工旧城<乐居>(五律)
 · 捣练子---悼马航
 · 卜算子-赏梅(梅兰图)
 · 浪淘沙--夜梦外婆
【诗词歌赋 (九)】
 · 流星雨,我的放弃!
 · 暑热-咪咪-奶昔-五律
 · 也玩一把三行诗: “你”
 · 在你的温柔乡里
 · 微信时代(附打油)
 · 南乡子—秋山(外一首)
 · 七律 大喜,扔双拐!
 · 俺家的猫咪火啦!(收藏)
 · 一条腿的日子
 · 夏日山行(和阿立边砦)
【诗词歌赋 (四)】
 · 旧金山暴风雨
 · 阿拉斯加乘船出海-五言排律
 · 秋水
 · 五律二首:秋菊秋风(步骆宾王韵)
 · 采桑子--菊径
 · 蝶恋花:蒲氏,紫荆棘鸟,绿岛,女王
 · 浣溪沙,并湿地风光美图
 · 游落基山国家公园(七律)(多图)
 · 唐代才女薛涛(七律)
 · 武则天和唐高宗的合葬墓乾陵 (七律
【诗词歌赋 (五)】
 · 帅锅,歪诗,蝴蝶兰(图)
 · 文姬归汉,阴平道
 · 七律--秋
 · 中秋赏月,兼和洛基山人
 · 李白故里:四川江油(组图)
 · 临江仙---成都锦江
 · 我家的壁炉 (不准笑)
 · 摊破浣溪沙-网络相聚
 · 清平乐-春-梧桐
【诗词歌赋 (六)-新体诗】
 · 旅途归来
 · 缘/老冬儿的笔
 · 重生 (外一首)
 · 那一晚...
 · 峨嵋云海 (小诗一首)
 · 夜行(小诗两首)
 · 这个世界的苦难
 · 当你还能爱的时候
 · 诗歌与我
 · 大海日出
【神州掠影 (一)】
 · 上海:十月的邂逅
 · 刚收到几张西藏的照片,绝美!
 · 陕西扶风法门寺(组图)
 · 红(黄)色之旅(下):壶口瀑布,延安
 · 红(黄)色之旅(上):黄帝陵,黄土高
 · 随聊回国旅游
 · 见鬼了
 · 黄龙-九寨-藏家妹 (组图)
 · 古城阆中-张飞墓-风水故事 (下)
 · 古城阆中-张飞墓-风水故事 (上)
【环球采风 (三)】
 · 墨西哥七日邮轮(5):Ensenada
 · 墨西哥七日邮轮(4):Cabo
 · 墨西哥七日邮轮(3):Vallarta
 · 墨西哥七日邮轮(2):甲板天堂
 · 墨西哥七日邮轮(1):所见所感
 · 访世界奇迹吴哥(5):吴哥消失之谜
 · 访世界奇迹吴哥(4):高棉的微笑
 · 访世界奇迹吴哥(3):神秘恢宏的吴哥
 · 访世界奇迹吴哥(2):湖上打鱼人
 · 访世界奇迹吴哥(1):柬埔寨印象
【诗词歌赋 (三)-新体诗】
 · 为叶子
 · 在春光里老去(诗, 图)
 · 为北雁高飞绿点白衣照而题
 · (玩笑帖):我写的梨花诗和朋友的诗
 · 两个人的圣诞
 · 家乡
 · 岁月让男人升值?(小心,黑色幽默)
 · 漂泊的感动(图文)
 · 九月的大苏尔 (Big Sur)(组图)
 · 兰花
【诗词歌赋 (二)】
 · 西江月--张家界雨天
 · 七律 和西岭-春节再近感怀
 · 清平乐(二首)-春游杂感
 · 采桑子--圣诞纪实
 · 菩萨蛮二首-中秋(图)
 · 划着船儿去看焰火(图)
 · 七律-生日回望
 · 阿拉斯加:消退的冰川和海上浮冰
 · 死谷行吟
【诗词歌赋 (一)】
 · 2015回国绝句几首
 · 诗迷:四川风味食物
 · 后院的花 (绝句四首,图)
 · 聚散如梦(绝句二首)
 · 无题 (绝句三首)
 · 残荷--几首题照小诗
 · 七律-赠闺中女友
 · 春来不是读书天 (组图)
 · 蝶恋花 * 观潮(北加州海岸风光组图
【感念随笔 (一)】
 · 旅行-吃-中国胃
 · 护花使者
 · 舍不得猫咪(图)
 · 杂谈:怎么舍得死?
 · 感恩节:那些做甜点的日子
 · 吃月饼的罪恶感
 · 那一刻,我肃然起敬
 · 梦里故乡---重访西雅图
 · 闲话中秋
【感念随笔(三)】
 · 拥抱生活
 · 悼念金庸
 · 生日那些事
 · 外公-梦-猫咪-遗传
 · 新厨房,好心情
 · 茶--故乡--我--父亲
 · 咖啡--西雅图--我--儿子
【感念随笔 (二)】
 · 圣诞彩灯(多图)
 · 神思,灵感,微信
 · 岁月与美丽:精彩留言(收藏)
 · 岁月沉淀了美丽
 · 生死无常
 · 假如生活欺骗了你
 · 中秋快乐!兼谈“老婆做菜好吃”(微
 · 朋友的惊喜生日派对
 · 小师弟来旧金山
【偶议世事】
 · 名作家也喜欢戴着马甲玩(短博)
 · 读不懂的“学得好不如嫁得好”
 · 三言两语:物种与文化 (微微博)
 · 买房卖房祸从天降 (陪审员见闻录)
 · 买房卖房祸从天降 (陪审员见闻录)
 · 家有老人要小心骗子
 · 我所知道的美国同志 (二)
 · 我所知道的美国同志 (一)
【轻松一笑】
 · 傻姑爷送错情书
 · 国内朋友寄来的笑话 (ZT)
 · 你以为我是智障?
 · 转贴: 成都老太婆(四川方言,很好笑
 · 今晚吃什么?(微博,笑话)
 · 不同年龄的女人:“风”字的妙用(微
 · 四川人请进---周末一笑(转帖)
 · 你的眼睛真漂亮(笑话,微博)
 · 浴缸里的女郎 --美式厕所幽默
【诗友墨宝(2)】
 · 收藏曹雪葵大作:赏析《【雨中花令
 · 畅游山水曲同弹(叶子近作收藏)
 · 收藏:冬儿夜读武侠(几首怀斯的诗
 · 收藏:赏析《七律谒汉中勉县武侯墓
【诗友墨宝】
 · 收藏:山坡羊的和作(阿立,曹雪葵)
 · 收藏:快活老人/古林风/七分儿的题
 · 2017岁末杂记:朋友们的唱和
 · 收藏:赏析七律 流杯池(曹雪葵)
 · 旅途归来:欣赏朋友们的佳作
 · (收藏)才华横溢的女王为我谱的曲
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海斯勒:重访"江城"涪陵 2013-02-20 12:02:15
 

海斯勒:重返江城

(Return to River Town)

 


    刚收到最近一期(2013年3月)的国家地理杂志(National Geographic), 刊登了彼得海斯勒(Peter Hessler)的文:“重返江城 (Return to River Town)”。


     1996年,一位叫做彼得海斯勒(Peter Hessler)的美国人作为和平队(Peace Corps)的自愿者被派到长江边上的城市涪陵(四川),教授了两年英语。回到美国后,他写出了400页的江城(River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze ),记录他在涪陵生活的所见所闻。当他最初把江城的书稿投送到好几家出版社时,都被退稿。九十年代的美国,大多数人对中国还不是特别感兴趣,一位编辑坦诚地告诉他,“我们不认为有人会读一本关于中国的书”。彼得最终还是找到了一家出版社出版江城,此书出版后成了最畅销书籍。自江城后,彼得海斯勒又写了两本以中国为主题的书,不过最有名的还是那本江城,曾获桐山环太平洋图书奖 (Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize)。

    

    彼得海斯勒的书描写的都是普通人的生活。他的描写细致,真实,文字略带幽默,视角独特,很有可读性。在这期国家地理杂志上的文章里,彼得讲述了《江城》的后续故事:他重返涪陵的见闻。带着对涪陵的感情,彼得的笔穿梭在九十年代和现在的时空之间,讲述了涪陵城市的变化,三峡大坝,以及人的变化。在《江城》一书中彼得曾经详细地描绘了他的很多学生,这次重返他跟其中的好些人见了面,叙述了他们这些年的生活,从中可以了解中国的改革开放给老百姓的生活带来的变化。


    由于《江城》一书有些关于涪陵的贫穷和城市污染的真实描述,该书出版后彼得以为他自己将不再会受到欢迎,不可能回访涪陵。没想到中国的快速变化也转变人们的观念,
彼得海斯勒回到涪陵后,当地官员与他会面,感谢他为涪陵作了宣传。彼得的解读是涪陵的变化给了人们自信。 如今,《江城》中九十年代的涪陵景象由于时间的距离,已经定格成了一张黑白照片。如果你曾经读过《江城》,并且喜爱那本书,你应该会有兴趣阅读彼得海斯勒的这篇文章(原文转贴如下)。
  

     

 

Return to River Town

In 1996 a Peace Corps volunteer arrived in Fuling, a sleepy town on the Yangtze, to teach English. He went back recently to find the landscape—and his former students—transformed.

By Peter Hessler

Photograph by Anastasia Taylor-Lind

There is excellent cell phone coverage at the bottom of the Yangtze River, although Huang Dejian is one of the few people who know this. He’s the director of the new White Crane Ridge Underwater Museum, and today his phone rings constantly at a depth of 130 feet. The museum is the strangest sight in the city of Fuling—visitors enter via a 300-foot-long escalator encased in a steel tube, like a massive straw dipped into the muddy Yangtze.

“This is the most expensive museum in the Three Gorges region,” Huang says, answering his phone again. The ringtone is a woman’s voice that urgently repeats the phrase “Jia you—go, go, go, go, go!”

The last time I saw Huang, this was all dry land, and the $34 million museum didn’t exist, and the Three Gorges Dam was still under construction 280 miles downstream. I lived in Fuling from 1996 to 1998, when I was a Peace Corps volunteer at the local college. Back then the population was around 200,000, which was small by Chinese standards. Most people strongly supported the dam, although they didn’t talk about it much. It was scheduled for completion in 2009, which seemed an eternity in a place where so much was already happening. In China the reform era had begun in 1978, but it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that free market ideas started to have a major impact on smaller cities like Fuling. Locals coped with overwhelming change: the end of government-assigned jobs, the sudden privatization of housing.

In those days the White Crane Ridge gave me a different perspective on time. The strip of sandstone emerged only in winter, when the water level dropped. Low-water season was treacherous for boatmen in ancient times, and somebody carved two fish into the side of the ridge. They served as a gauge, allowing pilots to anticipate the shoals and rapids downstream.

Locals associated the stone fish with good fortune, and it became a tradition to mark their annual emergence with a carved message. The earliest dated engraving was from A.D. 763, during the Tang dynasty, and eventually more than 30,000 characters decorated the sandstone. The calligraphy was stunning, and messages had the rhythm of incantations: “The water of the river retreats. The stone fish are seen. Next year there will be a bumper harvest.”

In the 1990s admission to the ridge was three yuan, about 35 cents, which included a ride on a rickety sampan manned by an off-season fisherman. Huang Dejian used to sit on the ridge for hours, wrapped in a surplus People’s Liberation Army overcoat. He would note the water level and tell stories about the most famous carvings. During one of my last visits, on January 30, 1998, the Yangtze was exactly two inches higher than it had been at the time of the first inscription in 763. Two inches in 1,235 years—that put the changes of the reform era in a new light.

Time moved differently on the river. The Yangtze remained a creature of cycles, even as life along the banks marched to the straight line of history and progress. And both kinds of time, natural and human, intersected at the White Crane Ridge every year. The river retreated; the words emerged; the messages and dates lined up neatly on the rock. And then the spring snowmelt would come, and the water would rise, and all that history would disappear once more beneath the timeless river.

Now that the dam is closed, the Yangtze no longer falls anywhere near the old levels. To protect against the high water of the reservoir, Fuling has surrounded itself with a dike that is nearly three miles long and 190 feet tall. The White Crane Ridge Museum is set into the side of this massive concrete wall. Today Huang Dejian takes me to the underwater viewing gallery, where portholes face the submerged ridge. The scene is dreamlike: I recognize places where I once stood and engravings that I touched. But even familiar words seem to have a new meaning: “Pillar Rock in Midstream,” “The River Runs Forever.” What’s the significance of these inscriptions now that they lie 20 fathoms deep?

Huang Dejian smiles when I ask if he ever feels a sense of loss. His days of sitting on a cold Yangtze rock are long gone, and so is the People’s Liberation Army overcoat; today he wears a neat gray suit. In addition to handling the constant phone calls, he’s juggling my visit with that of a China Central Television film crew. “They weren’t able to do this at the Aswan Dam in Egypt,” he tells me, noting that Egyptian authorities had to move relics before they were flooded. “It makes me proud. I don’t have any feeling of loss when I come here; I feel like it’s a success. We were able to build the Three Gorges Dam and also successfully protect the White Crane Ridge.” And then Huang heads off to the television crew, and his cell phone rings its modern incantation: “Go, go, go, go, go!”

Fuling sits at the junction of the Yangtze and the Wu Rivers, and in the mid-1990s it felt sleepy and isolated. There was no highway or rail line, and the Yangtze ferries took seven hours to reach Chongqing, the nearest large city. Foreigners were unheard of—if I ate lunch downtown, I often drew a crowd of 30 spectators. The city had one escalator, one nightclub, and no traffic lights. I didn’t know anybody with a car. There were two cell phones at the college, and everyone could tell you who owned them: the party secretary, the highest Communist Party official on campus, and an art teacher who had taken a pioneering step into private business.

In those days Fuling Teachers College was only a three-year institution, which placed it near the bottom of Chinese higher education. But my students were grateful for the opportunity. Nearly all of them came from rural homes with little tradition of education; many had illiterate parents. And yet they majored in English—a remarkable step in a country that had been closed for much of the 20th century. Their essays spoke of obscurity and poverty, but there was also a great deal of hope: “My hometown is not famous because there aren’t famous things and products and persons, and there aren’t any famous scenes. My hometown is lacking of persons of ability ... I’ll be a teacher, I’ll try my best to train many persons of ability.”

“There is an old saying of China: ‘Dog loves house in spite of being poor; son loves mother in spite of being ugly.’ That [is] our feeling. Today we are working hard, and tomorrow we will do what we can for our country.”

My students taught me many things, including what it meant to come from the countryside, where the vast majority of Chinese lived at the beginning of the reform era. Since then an estimated 155 million people have migrated to the cities, and my students wrote movingly about relatives who struggled with this transition. They also taught me about the complexities of poverty in China. My students had little money, but they were optimistic, and they had opportunities; it was impossible to think of such people as poor. And Fuling itself was hard to define. The Three Gorges Dam could never have happened in a truly poor country—Beijing reports that the total investment was $33 billion, although some unofficial estimates are significantly higher. But memories of recent poverty helped make the dam acceptable to locals, and I understood why they desired progress at all costs. My apartment was often without electricity for hours, and over-reliance on coal resulted in horrible pollution.

After finishing my Peace Corps assignment, I returned to my parents’ home in Missouri and tried to record that moment in Fuling. After completing a 400-page manuscript—I called it River Town—I sent it out to agents and publishers, nearly all of whom rejected it. In the 1990s China hadn’t yet entered the consciousness of most Americans. One editor said frankly, “We don’t think anybody wants to read a book about China.” But I eventually found a publisher, and that was when I began to worry about how locals would respond to the book.

The Chinese had always been extremely sensitive about how their country was portrayed by foreigners. Even in remote Fuling, I heard people speak angrily about books and films that they believed had emphasized Chinese poverty. When I began editing my manuscript, I sent a draft to a student named Emily, and most of her responses were positive. But sometimes she sounded a note of disappointment: “I think no one would like Fuling city after reading your story. But I can’t complain, as everything you write about is the fact. I wish the city would be more attractive with time.”

The balancing act seemed impossible. I wanted to show my affection for Fuling, but I also needed to be honest about the pollution, the dam, and the problems I sometimes had as a foreigner. In the end I accepted the possibility that I wouldn’t be welcomed there again. But I hadn’t imagined how fast the place would change. By the time River Town was published in early 2001, the city’s first highway had been completed, rendering the Yangtze ferries obsolete. Two more new highways would follow, along with three train lines. Because of the Three Gorges project, large amounts of central government money flowed into Fuling, along with migrants from low-lying river towns that were being demolished. (All told, more than 1.4 million people were resettled.) In the span of a decade Fuling’s urban population nearly doubled, and the college was transformed into a four-year institution with a new campus and a new name, Yangtze Normal University. The student body grew from 2,000 to more than 17,000, part of the nation’s massive expansion in higher education. Meanwhile, Americans began to take new interest in China, and River Town became a surprise best seller. I heard that an unofficial translation was commissioned in Fuling, with access limited to Communist Party cadres. But I never learned how the government reacted to the book.

This is my first visit back in more than five years, and it’s the first time I’ve been invited to meet with a high-level official. At the Fuling District Government office, I wait for Vice-Director Liu Kangzhong, who has been preceded by an entourage of eight officials. The men sit in a line along one side of a conference table; I am alone on the other side. My attempts at small talk are unsuccessful. The room falls silent, and I realize that even in a Chinese boomtown there are moments when time moves very slowly.

Finally one of the cadres clears his throat. He says, “Have you sold a million copies of your book yet?”

This wasn’t the question I expected, but it’s easy to answer: No.

“Are they making a movie about it?”

I say that there has been some talk but nothing more.

“It would be hard to make a movie of that book,” he says. “Fuling looks completely different from when you lived here. They wouldn’t be able to find places to film that looked like it did in those days.”

Everybody stands up when Vice-Director Liu arrives. He’s in his early 50s but looks younger, a fine-featured man with gelled black hair. He distributes a round of Emperor cigarettes to his entourage, and then he recites the kind of statistics that you hear only in China. For the past five years Fuling’s GDP has grown at an annual rate of 20 percent, and the city plans to add another 300,000 residents by 2015. A new factory district has attracted more than three dozen foreign-invested firms, including several that produce battery cells for cars and computers. All local cabs and buses now run on natural gas, in order to reduce pollution. To the west, the government is building a new satellite city, which will be three times as large as the Fuling I remember.

“We’ve opened our eyes,” Liu says. “When I was in school in the 1970s, we couldn’t communicate with outsiders. China has been an open country for a while now, and we have a sense of what foreigners think. I’ve read some of your book.” He continues: “Thank you for giving us xuanchuan.” The word can be translated in different ways; sometimes it means “publicity,” and sometimes it means “propaganda.” Vice-Director Liu smiles and says, “Fuling is a good example of a Chinese city for Americans to know about.”

The writer’s vanity likes to imagine permanence, but Fuling reminds me that words are quicksilver. Their meaning changes with every age, every perspective—it’s like the White Crane Ridge, whose inscriptions have a different significance now that they appear in an underwater museum. Today anybody who reads River Town knows that China has become economically powerful and that the Three Gorges Dam is completed, and this changes the story. And I’ll never know what the Fuling residents of 1998 would have thought of the book, because those people have also been transformed. There’s a new confidence to urban Chinese; the outside world seems much less remote and threatening. And life has moved so fast that even the 1990s feels as nostalgic as a black-and-white photo. Recently Emily sent me an email: “With a distance of time, everything in the book turns out to be charming, even the dirty, tired flowers.”

One evening I have dinner with Huang Xiaoqiang, his wife, Feng Xiaoqin, and their family, who used to own my favorite noodle restaurant. In 1998 Huang acquired his driver’s license and told me he hoped to buy a car someday, which seemed impossible with his limited family income. But tonight he picks me up at my hotel in a new black Chinese BYD sedan. Huang drives exactly two blocks to a restaurant, and then we drive exactly two more blocks to his family home. These journeys may be short, but they provide ample time for Huang to make full use of his dashboard DVD player.

After dinner he insists on chauffeuring me back to my hotel. He tells me that his brother-in-law, who doesn’t speak English, used a dictionary to read River Town. He went word by word; it took two years. “In your book you wrote that my biggest dream was to have a car,” Huang says. “And this is the third one I’ve owned!”

I ask him what his biggest dream is now. On the dashboard screen, girls in miniskirts bounce to a song called “The Smiling Eyes of Love.”

“There’s nothing else I really need,” he says at last. “Having a car was my big dream. We already have the important things now.”

When you live in the Chinese interior, you realize how Beijing and Shanghai create an overly optimistic view of the country. But this is the first time I’ve wondered if Fuling might inspire a similar reaction. The city is under the jurisdiction of Chongqing Municipality, which receives more funding than other regions because of the dam. At the time of my visit, the top Chongqing official is Bo Xilai, who is known for having national ambitions. Along with his police chief, Wang Lijun, Bo has orchestrated a well-publicized attempt to crack down on crime and reform a corrupt police force. As part of this project, cities like Fuling have erected open-air police stations where officers must be available to the public at all times. This is hardly a new idea, but in China it feels revolutionary. I visit a few stations, which are busy handling the kind of problems that in the past often flared up as street fights. Everywhere I go, people tell me about Bo’s reforms, and I realize that I’ve never been anywhere in China where people speak so positively about their government.

But you don’t have to travel very far to hear a different story. Poverty and isolation no longer characterize Fuling, but smaller cities and villages still face these challenges. Most of my former students live in such places, where they teach English in middle schools and high schools. Their letters remind me how far China still has to go: “Dear Mr. Hessler: I am sorry to tell a bad news. My town is called Yihe in Kaixian County in Chongqing. Two days ago, a big thunder hit my wife’s village school. It killed 7 students and wounded 44 students ... There used to be lightning rod ... but the school can not afford it.”

“One of my students’ mothers worked [in a factory] in Guangdong for 10 years, she came [back] to Luzhou last month. She was cheated out of her bank card and code … She lost 45,000 yuan [more than $7,200]. This was the money she saved in the past ten years. She wanted to use the money to build a new house and get prepared for her kids to go to college ... She went back home and cried for many days, and two days later, she ate mouse poison and died in bed. What a bad things. It is hard to imagine what 45,000 means for a country woman.”

During my visit, about 15 students return to Fuling for an impromptu reunion. They give updates on the classmates who, like so many Chinese of their generation, have migrated far from home. Several live in coastal boomtowns, and one does trade in India. Another is a Communist Party official in a Tibetan city, where he’s in charge of xuanchuan. (“Publicity” to some, “propaganda” to others.) One woman hosted a popular radio show for years. Another man got fired from his teaching job, drifted out to the Tibetan Plateau, started a cab company, and became a millionaire. One student is in prison for corruption. William Jefferson Foster, a kid from a poor village who gave himself an impressive English name, has earned an excellent living by teaching English to the children of wealthy factory owners in the east. Emily now works in a Fuling elementary school, and she tells me about her cousin, a high school dropout who used to live in my building on campus. In those days he worked as a gardener. He subsequently went into construction, then contracting, then real estate; and now he has assets worth more than $16 million.

The new mind-sets impress me even more than the material changes. At the college, teachers tell me that today’s students, most of whom come from the new middle class, are more sophisticated. One evening I give a lecture, and during the question-and-answer session a freshman stands up and asks, “Do you think that China will ever be able to surpass the United States in democracy and freedom?” When I was a teacher, no student would have dared to ask such a thing in public. My answer is diplomatic but honest: “That depends on you and your generation.”

I also find that educated Chinese seem much more interested in analyzing their own society. Emily tells me that her cousin may be rich, but she’s noticed that money hasn’t made him happier. William observes that his younger relatives now migrate to destinations close to home rather than the coast, a sign that China’s boom is moving inland. William and his wife recently decided to violate the “planned birth” policy by having a second child. He made this decision after attending a funeral of a man with only one child. “I had to help his son lift the casket,” William says. “It made me think about what happens when we’re gone and my daughter is alone in the world. It’s better to have a sibling.”

His classmate Mo Money—another poor kid who gave himself a bold English name—has succeeded as a teacher at an elite school in Chongqing. But he’s ambivalent about the relentless pressure of urban China. “Life is so competitive,” he says. “I think this is a special stage for China. The Chinese may have criticized other countries when they went through this—there was so much criticism of capitalist America in the old days. But now we are going through the same thing.”

From Fuling I hitch a ride down the Yangtze with a student named Jimmy, who has a new SUV. I remember when this journey took two days by riverboat; now it’s a three-hour drive on a beautiful new highway. We pass the resettled cities of Yunyang and Fengjie, and then we arrive in new Wushan. The old town sites lie far beneath the Yangtze, and these fresh-built places appear prosperous. But in the past few years the region has suffered from landslides, and some believe that the constantly evaporating reservoir water has changed weather patterns. Students periodically send jarring updates: “Flood has come into our school, and it also came to the second floor of our teaching building. There were two big floods before this one. Now more and more people are doubting the Three Gorges project. Since it established, Chongqing and Sichuan have been natural disaster area.”

“I want to tell you that my old family will be moved to somewhere because of the Three Gorges project. But I don’t know where our villagers’ homes will be ... people here know it is because of landslide, but the government says it is for our good future.”

Soon after my journey, China’s State Council issues a surprisingly blunt statement admitting that the dam has “caused some urgent problems in terms of environmental protection, the prevention of geological hazards, and the welfare of the relocated communities.” The council says that new safety measures are being taken, but it’s a reminder that the Three Gorges Dam isn’t truly finished and never will be, and that the cycles of the old Yangtze are still alive somewhere beneath the surface of the reservoir.

In March 2012 China’s biggest scandal in decades erupts in Chongqing. Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun, once so widely praised, are suddenly purged from the Communist Party and accused of a spectacular series of crimes. Wang is found guilty of four offenses, including abuse of power and taking bribes. Bo is charged with a long list of offenses, ranging from “taking massive bribes” to “inappropriate sexual relationships,” according to the official government news source. His wife, Gu Kailai, is convicted of the most shocking crime of all: the murder of a British businessman.

Across China, Bo and Wang are portrayed as the nation’s worst villains. But many people in the Chongqing region are sorry to see the officials go. One student told me that in the early stages of the scandal, when preliminary reports said that Wang would be demoted to handling municipal education, teachers in her Chongqing school became worried. For years they had embezzled money from the students’ lunch fees, and now they feared that Wang would clean up the schools. As far as my student was concerned, corruption was endemic at all levels, but at least Bo and Wang had made some changes. “Wang gave people a sense of safety and Bo gave us hope,” she wrote. “They were not perfect, but they really did something.”

In the end Wang did not receive the demotion; instead he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. My student updated me on the dirty lunch fees: “We got the extra money when it was confirmed that Wang wouldn’t come back.”

My last stop is Wushan, where I call a number for the first time in eight years. I don’t expect success: In fast-changing places no one keeps a phone number for long. But Huang Zongming answers, and soon I’m sitting on his boat. Zongming and his brother Zongguo are fishermen; I watched them move out of their homes in June 2003, when the first stage of the dam was completed. During that week the Yangtze flooded the entire district, and I felt certain that the brothers’ lives were being irrevocably changed.

But now I discover that they are the only people I know who remain virtually the same. The government paid for a new house on the banks of the Daning River, a Yangtze tributary, but the brothers prefer to sleep on their boats, as they have done all their lives. They still make their own sampans, and their clothes are just as dirty as ever. They have not been anywhere interesting. Zongming, who dislikes all land transport, has still never ridden a train.

Today their boat cruises up the Daning, famous for its Little Three Gorges. The rapids were shallow at the time of my last visit; now the placid water is more than 300 feet deep, with new bays and inlets that cover former farmland. I ask Zongming what he thinks of the dam. He says, “The river looked better in the old days.”

And that’s all he has to say—the simplest analysis I’ve heard. The brothers tell me there’s still good fishing upstream, where the rapids are low and fast. We head in that direction, and I imagine one final incantation: The weather will be perfect, the fish abundant. The river runs forever.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

新近博文:

夜行

茶--故乡--我--父亲


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作者:老冬儿 留言时间:2013-02-25 16:44:47
小瓢虫,谢谢你又回来。是的,那书出来很久了,我也是在7,8年前读过的了。估计读过的朋友不少,所以我才会介绍他这篇新的后续文章。

我马上就去拜读你的新作。
回复 | 0
作者:ladybug 留言时间:2013-02-25 16:07:26
冬儿:你提到的这本书2002年就出版了。好的东西真实需要时间的检验。另,我的最新博文中有提到那个加拿大纪录片。请查:)
回复 | 0
作者:老冬儿 留言时间:2013-02-23 20:21:18
阳光,对不住,让你眼花了,赶快给你上碗汤圆哈。 :-)

我现在把海斯勒的名字放回了标题,免得继续误导朋友们。

谢谢来访留言!
回复 | 0
作者:love阳光 留言时间:2013-02-23 19:16:32
冬儿呀:
俺以为你真的重访"江城"涪陵后又写了一篇大作。
嗨!你把“海斯勒:重返江城”贴上来,看得俺老眼昏花,找不到北,这会儿阳光太太又喊俺去吃饭,俺的老眼可以先休息一下了。等一会儿再来继续吧。
回复 | 0
作者:老冬儿 留言时间:2013-02-23 19:08:00
关雎好,元宵节快乐!

我也听说重庆变化特别大,比成都大多了,但一直还没有找到时间去。下次回国争取去,坐动车好像非常快。谢谢你的关注留言!
回复 | 0
作者:关雎 留言时间:2013-02-23 04:13:21
重庆10年来发生翻天覆地变化,想来涪陵也如此。下次回家一定去看看。他描述的人们对薄王的评价,非常切实。谢谢介紹。
回复 | 0
作者:老冬儿 留言时间:2013-02-22 16:53:28
谢谢小瓢虫回访,你太客气了。

我是比较喜欢看资料片,你找到了要告诉我哈。

周末快乐!
回复 | 0
作者:ladybug 留言时间:2013-02-22 12:57:18
回访。。。看到留言就奔这儿了。。。
冬儿真是兴趣广泛。。。好!另:加拿大有一个关于三峡的记录片很好,你可能有兴趣。我曾写过一篇有关文,回头我再找找。^_^
回复 | 0
作者:老冬儿 留言时间:2013-02-21 17:06:06
沁霈好!我查了一下,有中文版,说不定还可以从网上找到。你说得一点不错,他们看事情的角度的确很不同,好多我们习以为常的事情,他们觉得很奇怪。这种文化习俗的差异非常有意思。

谢谢你的关注留言,周末快乐!
回复 | 0
作者:沁霈 留言时间:2013-02-21 14:29:28
不知有没有中译本,想必一定很好看。美国人跟我们中国人不同,看待事物的视角以及思维还是有很大区别的。

谢谢冬儿的介绍!
回复 | 0
作者:老冬儿 留言时间:2013-02-21 09:17:39
分芳好!本来我把作者名字放在标题上了,后来想想,还是朦胧一点吧。 :-)

你明明知道我感兴趣,还要问我。哎呀你就别钓咱的胃口了。
回复 | 0
作者:白黑分芳 留言时间:2013-02-21 09:00:29
冬儿,

网上流行重游,我以为冬儿也买张票重游去了。哈哈原来是书呀。

冬儿,我又找到好玩的地方了,想知道吗?
回复 | 0
作者:老冬儿 留言时间:2013-02-21 08:55:55
晓竹好!完全同意你说的。怀旧是人类的共同情节,当然,人生驻足过的地方很多,只有一些很特别的地方值得回访。
谢谢留言!
回复 | 0
作者:晓竹 留言时间:2013-02-20 21:33:59
我一直觉得,故地重游是一件很有意思的事。当时隔久远,当人有了一定的阅历,再回去看看以前生活过的地方,会有不同的感受。
回复 | 0
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