Remarking Bai Xianyong’s Glory By Blossom Bridge: Homesickness, Memory And Experience
Bai Xianyong’s Taipei People is one of the most important and classical novels in modern and contemporary China history, which consist of 14 different short stories of different characters. These characters came from different classes and they were with different background and worked in the industries. However, their lives and stories have a strong correlation with the current situation at that time, there was a direct relationship between the times of worry and suffering.
All stories contain sadness, regret, unwillingness, homesickness, and other in- depth personal feelings. Every character of the stories experienced a shift of life during the war times and was always reminiscing the scintillating old times in Mainland China.
They were all the witness of the history of the Republic of China (Minguo 民國) but presented in different ways. In this sense, Taipei People is not only a novel that recording different stories but also a history book of Minguo. In history education, students are taught The People Republic of China is a replacement of Minguo since 1945, which means the history of Minguo came to an end, just like any other dynasties in Chinese history. However, in Bai Xianyong’s writing, Minguo is still alive but its people are trapped and stuck in the glorious period in the rule of Minguo. People in Taipei People live in the past, the past filled with hopelessness and helplessness. So, this paper aims to find out the underlying content regarding the sense of homesick, human memory and historical experience through one of the stories named Glory’s by Blossom Bridge, in order to have a closer look at in people feelings and attitudes toward their life of the “Post-Minguo” period.
Glory’s Blossom Bridge focuses mainly on love and human relationship. Through the interaction between storekeeper “me” and Mr. Lu, the story reveals the fall and death of Mr. Lu as well, meanwhile, it is about the memory and relationship between “me” and hometown Guilin. The narrator started disclosing the origin and history of her rice noodle shop which was called Huaqiao Rongji. Why was Huaqiao Rongji? Because she had fled from Guilin and lived in Taipei during the war, and she re-operated the rice noodle shop.
Before treated to Taiwan, her family used to open a shop in Guilin when she was a child, it was the Huaqiao Rongji. Huaqiao is a famous bridge on the Lijiang River in Guilin. Their family ran a rice noodle shop on the edge of the flower bridge, which was the most well-known rice noodle shop in Guilin. Although the shop was relocated, it still comforted the sense of homesickness of some Guangxi fellows, especially the homesickness of the stomach. Among the regular customers, Mr. Lu was the most special one because he was the only educated and gentleman-like person.
Later, with the novel heroine, the owner of this Huaqiao Rongji rice noodle shop found that he had been saving money. He tried to save a sum of money because he wanted to help his back-stay fiancée in Guilin sneaked into Taiwan through Hong Kong. She realized that Mr.Lu had always been unable to give up that girl on the mainland. He has worked hard for more than ten years for his fiancée. He was so happy that he could take out his wife, but later, he did not expect it to be a scam. Since then, he was disheartened and turned into a different person unlike the usual, and finally, the whole person had completely lost his mind.
He fell in love with the fat woman in a wet market. However, the ‘love’ between them could not be called love. It was only a mental and sensual vent. As a result, one day he returned home, the fat woman Achun had an extramarital affair with another man but witnessed by him. Unfortunately, he was injured by two people, and finally, his heart was paralyzed and died. In order to get her payment back, she visited Mr. Lu house, but it was empty, and nothing was valuable. The only thing she could do is taking away a wall picture with Guilin’s mountains and rivers, so she was able to show off the glorious history of her family business and the beauty of her hometown Guilin to different customers.
Through the narrator storekeeper, it is not difficult to find out that the tragedy of Mr. Lu is not only the result of changes in history but also the result of people around him. One the one hand, Mr. Lu was born in a wealthy family and did not suffer any hardships of life before retreated to Taipei, meanwhile, he had an engagement with his fiancée who was from Luo’s family. If there was no war, they supposed to have a blessing living. Therefore, Mr. Lu had a strong sense of homesick, he missed his fiancée in Guilin too much so that he dedicated himself to save money and strike a chance for their reunion. In the eyes of the storekeeper, Mr. Lu was willing to ‘live in his own ivory tower’ as all he wanted was marry with the Guilin girl from Luo’s family. Driven by this motivation, he was willing to endure material hardships in his daily life and even rejected a great opportunity to become a relative of the storekeeper.
However, life is full of unpredictability and uncertainty; when Mr. Lu found that he had been treated by his cousin and his dream was suddenly broken. He totally lost himself, so, his pursuit of beauty was alienated and saw Achun, a woman with ‘big breasts, round buttocks, fleshy trembling’ a tool for sexual venting. When Achun violently beat him, Mr. Lu realized that he had lost control of his love with Luo’s family girl and lost the physical ownership to Achun as well, He could not find the meaning of life. The wonderful life he imagined collapsed and eventually died in the heart attack. In fact, is it just his heart paralyzed, or the paralyzed of life? Ultimately, Mr. Lu not only lost his mind but also lost his life. Mr. Lu lost felt hopeless and helpless at the end of his days as he was neither able to go back to the past days nor move forward with nothing important of his life.
Although the storekeeper holds a neutral attitude toward the death of Mr. Lu, which seems cruel to Mr. Lu and his unfortunate life experience. Generally, readers expect that the storekeeper could do more to prevent his death and change his life. However, as a matter of fact, she treated Mr. Lu as her family. On the one hand, she was sympathetic that often add meal for Mr. Lu; at the same time, she also tried to be a matchmaker in between her niece and him, as a way to make Mr. Lu hand on the present for a stable life and forgot the past. Even after Mr. Lu died, she still burned paper money for his afterlife, she expected Mr. Lu to be released from his lifelong stress. Through the eyes of the storekeeper, Bai Xianyong uses a unique narrative perspective to observe life in the perspective of a bystander, without too much non-judgment. Even so, the story still contains the author’s personal feelings, which is not only empathy but also feeling incapability of changing anything.
Mr. Lu’s encounter can be said to be a common phenomenon in the era of chaos. His experience just like other grassroots people in the book, all the people inside had crossed the Taiwan Channel. After arriving in Taiwan, the situation was not as good as before. Although there were merely no changes in lifestyles to those from upper classes, what Taipei People really concerns and focuses on those who had lost their lives and lost themselves. They once had enjoyed the prosperity in Minguo period, but due to the turnover of the government, they were fallen and lived like walking deaths.
In general education, it is not difficult to find out that the details of history or some subtle personal feeling are largely ignored by textbooks. The history of Minguo period just like a game of power in between two major parties, Communist Party and Kuomingtang Party, which is ended at KMT’s retreatment to Taiwan in 1945. For those characters in Taipei People, the past in the overall national memory are compared to their personal life; there are many profound words for the national establishment, but from the novel that we can see how much turmoil this historical event has caused in the lives of every little person. The fear, anxiety, and struggle are the common feelings of people of that era, meanwhile, unstable and hesitated attitudes toward the past and the future stopped them to live energetically and optimistically. Although the novel focuses on the story of Mr. Lu, it is not difficult to imagine that stories from other people are actually a common portrayal at the period of twist and turns.
Nowadays, information technology and transportation equipment keep progressing and developing, it is more and more easy for us to transit from one place to another to see someone important in our life. Therefore, it is difficult for us to imagine a life that had lost its roots and drifts. But in those days, many people’s lives were hard due to their own fault and the struggles of their minds from the past. They could not let go of them, and always look back those good memories and glorious times, which made them life ruined, just like Mr. Lu in the story. It is this portrayal of the Taipei people who were living in an embarrassing city. They have no way to go back, and they do not know what else they can see in front of them. They are all trapped people, all stucked in the period of Minguo.
There are some phrases with a double meaning in this book. One of the tricky and ironic point in the term “Taipei people”, People in all stories were not original Taipei people, who became Taipei people after retreating to Taipei since 1945 and tuning themselves to be Taipei people. Meanwhile, Glory’s by Blossom Bridge in Chinese is “Huaqiao Rongji”, Hua represents flowers as well as the most beautiful moment of life, Rong means prosperity of a society, while in fact, flowers had faded and prosperity was no longer exist. The glorious period of Minguo had gone, past became the past. The new identity of ‘Taipei people’ is like a curse reminding them to forget the past. But of course, everything is difficult. Therefore, the memory and history of Minguo are recorded and collected by the book Taipei People.
In addition, it should be noted that the entanglement of those people in Taipei People was not simply isolated from the old and the new. On the contrary, the root of the opposition between spirit, flesh and their mind lied in the changes of the times. Those who filled their own lives with the pursuit of ‘long-lasting’, including love, the glory of the store, and honor of the war, all of them were often unwilling to believe in the cosmic truth of ‘time never stops.’ Instead, they chose to engrave the most beautiful moment in memory and brought only the personal ‘past’ from the mainland to Taipei and inserted that beautiful moment into their new life.
This kind of stubbornness of ‘knowing that it cannot be done’ is the embodiment of the nostalgia of these drifters. For these characters who lost in the battle of the flesh and blood, lost love in the changes, and lost family business in the war, Bai Xianyong emphasized the ending of their demise due to their intertwined relationship between their personal feeling and the past experience, but not criticize their stubbornness ironically. So, through the Bai Xianyong’s Glory’s by Blossom Bridge, we can see people in that time was living in my own memories. Therefore, a whole generation had generally withered like flowers, and the ending of the Minguo has been written in the Taipei People by Bai Xianyong already.
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