Xinran Blog

Archive for the ‘Xinran’ Category

Less than 30 hours ago I was in the hot Beijing summer and now here I am in the cold New Zealand winter. It seems like no big time difference, but my body is confused by the seasons and I couldn’t sleep.

‘Don’t blame the weather!’ A voice shouted to me, in fact, I’ve never been able to sleep a whole night with nice dreams, ever!

My nightmares started in my childhood when the Cultural Revolution took place and I became a ‘black child’ (you can get some details from my book The Good Women of China). Some dreams I have are very frightening – people beating me with thick sticks and bricks as they did in my childhood; some are very scary – an invisible man comes to my bed in the cold moon light, an event that happened to me when I was only 11 years old; some are a struggle - I am exhaustedly climbing to the top of a bloody well; some are very sad - I am dying and my son Panpan is a baby in my arms. I am crying, thinking who will bring him up and how can this tiny life be saved from war and starvation…

I can control myself in the daytime, but I can’t do this when I am dreaming.

I used to think that reading and education might erase these dreams from my brain, but 39 years of reading and studying many different things has never replaced the nightmares. I have to make my body very tired and go to bed late at night; so that I won’t be woken up by the nightmares at 2 or 3am.

Many young Chinese don’t understand why older generations always mention the ‘old days’ as if old people have nothing to talk about. I think the older Chinese are visited over again by their dreams, which are full of their painful past…

We still aren’t civilised enough to allow everyone to open up and offer their own opinions in the waking world. Therefore many of us tell our true stories only through our dreams.

Today, 6th Sep 2008, I gave my first talk to the Christchurch Book Fair. Over 500 hundred people came to listen to me and queued for signed books. I am very touched by the number of book readers in this tiny, quiet city. A German mother and daughter were both in tears and thanked me, for I said ‘we should all be honest and try to understand the past, no matter whether it was good or bad, the past is our roots…’ The daughter said, no-one in her family had told her what had happened to her grand-parents during World War Two. Her mother replied to her for me, ‘Because it is too difficult to be honest about the family past when looking to your future…’

How can we be honest and face our past? After all we all want it…

Bang-bang mang! Jiu-Ming! (Help, please! Help!)

What a year 2008 is becoming for most Chinese!

I returned from China last week where all the conversation was about the Olympics and where I heard the Chinese talking so much about the lucky number 8.

The Chinese said that everything about the timing of the Olympics seemed great. 2008 is not only the first Year of the Dragon of the new century, but also the first year in the new century to have a number 8. (In China 8 has been a lucky number since the1980s and is associated with making money and building up power).

But this 2008 we are living in, seems to have changed Chinese beliefs even before 8th August when the Olympics opened.

On 24/2/08 (2+4+2 = 8), there was one of the largest snowstorms in recent history, and hundreds of thousands of migrant workers were stuck at city train stations far away from their families whom they hadn’t seen for more than 10 months…

On 23/3/08, (2+3+3=8) the Beijing Olympic torch relay began and so many anti-Chinese voices were heard.

On 12/05/08, (1+2+5=8) the Sichuan earthquake took over 80,000 lives, including over three thousand children who died in their school.

My Chinese friends were so worried about the Beijing Olympics because they began on 8/08/2008. In April they telephoned me to tell me that the Chinese government couldn’t comprehend the negative reactions to the Beijing Olympics, especially after the celebrations we had when China won it. ‘We made such a huge effort, the largest in a hundred years, but no-one in the West could see it!’ many Chinese complained. ‘I used to think our Chinese lucky number 8 had been damaged by the Western God’, one taxi driver said to me, ‘after 24th August, I could put my heart back where it belonged…we made it, the Beijing Olympics will go down in history…you know what, my relative who works in the police told me that there were very few crimes committed during the Games! 2008 is our lucky year, no matter how much we have been through!’

As with many Chinese we still see the world from our perspective. We think only the West has McDonalds and Starbucks, and nothing can beat our five thousand years’ worth of culture and our rising economic power. What about freedom and the democracy movement in the West? For most Chinese, these are too far out of reach – you have to live and travel in the West to really see it and for most Chinese that costs too much. Living in China the West is too difficult to understand, you have to talk to Westerners in their own language and it is so hard to try and visit. The Chinese stomach is not strong enough for fish and chips and fat sausages…

Most of us don’t like to read another country’s map in a different language and in a different form, even though we all know we have different maps for the same world!

Chinese ‘left’ could be ‘right’ in Europe.

Tomorrow I am going to visit the Beijing Book Fair. In fact, it takes place in Tianjing, a harbour city one hours drive from Beijing. I can’t wait to see the changes in Tianjing, I last visited 25 years ago and was impressed by the sea and the donkeys and the local food!

I hope I have time to tell you more about the sights of Tianjin before I go on my New Zealand and Australia book tour for my new book China Witness.

Ren-shi nin, hen gao-xin! (Nice to meet you!)