A Lifetime Away

There is a well-known classification of the history of the blogging in China.  The first-generation pioneer bloggers were information technologists who were at ease with the technology and they were concerned mostly about technological and business issues.  The second-generation bloggers were media workers who capitalized on their writing and presentation skills and they were concerned primarily with the use of the blogosphere as the free speech space which did not exist in mainstream media.  The third-generation bloggers were the celebrity bloggers who used the well-developed and simple technology to tell us about their personal experiences in entertainment, finance and sports and they were interested primarily to promote themselves with a huge assistance from their blog service providers.

Usually, when second-generation bloggers talk about third-generation bloggers, they wince with distaste because of the view that their own solemn mission has been trivialiazed and sidetracked by the celebrity bloggers.

In the following, there is a translated blog post by celebrity entertainment Li Yapeng.  He is the husband of Faye Wong, but he is a superstar in his own right.

This particular blog post appeared at 16:48:30 on October 16, 2006.  At this time, it has been viewed 317,282 times with 1,391 comments.  This is a much bigger audience than first- or second-generation bloggers are getting.  However, this cannot be said to be frivolous and trivial.  Apart from the huge audience, the personal style from a celebrity makes it much more influential than first-/second-generation blogger and state media.

(Li Yapeng)  Sixty Years Is Like A Life Time Away.

My maternal grandmother, my mother and my maternal grandfather

My Maternal Grandfather

We arrived in the United States on June 27.  My daughter Yan'er was exactly one month old.  Four generations of my family dined at the house of my aunt.  My 92-year-old maternal grandfather held his great-granddaughter in his arms and praised: "This child has clear features and she is calm and composed.  Her future accomplishment will be greater than yours ... unfortunately, I will not be there to witness ..."  Although the my wife and I were tired from the long trip, we were warmed in our heats and we hastened to add: "Please don't say that.  You will see it, you will see it."  During the meal, we spoke about the hardship over the past several months.  My aunt said: "We can read it in the newspapers over here.  The media are over the top."  My maternal grandfather paused and then said: "They are boosting you.  They are boosting you.  It is a good thing.  You should not be bothered by these things."

After my maternal grandfather arrived in Taiwan in 1949, he abandoned politics for ten years to work at a newspaper.  So he was a media person, and his words are relatively fair.  My maternal grandfather was happy and drank a few cups of wine.  He then recalled how he came to visit me in 1995 in Beijing and went out to have lamb hot pot and drank some wine.  I interrupted: "You drank quite a bit."  My maternal grandfather paused and said, "No.  You were not there on that occasion.  You were out filming (I was in "A deep autumn story in Beijing") and it was your friends Cao (Cai Weiyu) and Wang (Wang Xuebing) who accompanied me."  I remembered and immediately interjected: "Right, Cao Weiyu sends his regards.  He keeps bringing up the story about the Forbidden Palace."  (Cao Weiyu had brought my maternal grandfather to the Forbidden Palace and volunteered to act as the tour guide.  Afterwards, he told me: "Your maternal grandfather took me on the tour instead, as he explained each palace ..."  My maternal grandfather had not been there before the Liberation ... but scholars can know everything without ever being there.)  My grandfather said: "You recall incorrectly.  I went with your friend Cao to the Earth Altar."  I said, "Oh, oh ..." and I had nothing more to say.  My wife could not hold back anymore.  She looked at my maternal grandfather and then she looked at me.  Then she said: "What is going on?  Which one of you is more than 90 years old?"  Then everybody laughed.

Whenever the tv news came on, my maternal grandfather would sit in front of the television set with his cane propping up his chin and in full attention.  He would not speak to anyone in the meantime.  One time, I was watching the news about the anti-Bian movement in Taiwan with him.  Afterwards, I asked him: "Grandpa, do you think Bian will be ousted?"  He said: "No.  That is impossible.  Or else this is not politics."

On this trip to the United States, there was nothing to do other than the medical treatment for my daughter Yan'er.  Perhaps because I have just turned from husband to father and therefore began to appreciate life, I was full of respect for the white hair on my maternal grandfather and I was also full of curiosity about his ninety plus years of living.  So I often poured a cup of red wine for him and we would lay back and chat.  We chatted about the fun things that occurred at university when he went to study in Beijing; we chatted about how he joined the Kuomintang; we chatted about the period of collaboration between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party; we chatted about old acquaintences such as Jiang Shengqing and Zhang Aiping; we chatted about his despondency after he arrived in Taiwan.

I asked: "Why did you leave your wife and daughter behind in Nanjing instead of bringing them to Taiwan?"  My maternal grandfather sighed and said: "I went ahead to Guangzhou first and I was going to set a place up before bringing them down.  I did not expect that the Communist troops would cross the Yangzi River so quickly.  When Nanjing fell, things were chaotic and we quickly lost contact with each other ..."  From the rueful expression on the face of my maternal grandfather, I can imagine the grand sight of the million-person army crossing the river and the reputation of the Party and the Army was not unfounded.  But I did not say anything.  After some thought, I decided to approach with a very shallow question: "So do you identify with the Kuomintang or the Chinese Communist Party now?"  My maternal grandfather did not look at me.  He paused and said: "This is not important anymore.  Next week, I will go and sing the national anthem (note: meaning that he will be sworn in as an American citizen).  I am now an American citizen."  Then he got up and entered the house again, leaving me in the garden looking at his back ...

My maternal grandfather looks like the old Kuomintang party member that I imagine

My Maternal Grandmother

My maternal grandfather went to Taiwan in 1949 and lost contact with his family afterwards.  My maternal grandmother stayed in mainland China with her two daughters.  She survived through the first few years by selling off family assets, and so her life was hard.  Before the Cultural Revolution, my mother was forced by the social pressure at the time to go by herself to the remote Xinjiang province, where I was born.  My maternal grandmother used to be the wife of an official, but she had to knit sweaters and work as a maid.  After the relationships across the Taiwan strait improved, she gradually went through friends to re-establish contact with her husband.  My maternal grandfather went through Hong Kong to see us, and that was how the photograph at the top was taken.  At the time, I was still in middle school and I did not understand many things.  I only saw the adults embraced each other and cried, and so I cried too.  My maternal grandmother was an extraordinarily strong lady, but my mother said that this was the first time that she ever saw her cry.  Afterwards, my maternal grandmother went to Taiwan to be with my maternal grandfather.  Several years later, my maternal grandmother returned to the mainland.  I asked her why, and I remembered that she only said plainly: "I was not used to it."  In 1999, my maternal grandmother passed away.  My maternal grandfather went from Taiwan to live with my aunt in the United States.  This was an ending that none of us imagined.

Mainland and Taiwan

Mainland and Taiwan are one family, just like my maternal grandmother and grandfather were.  In that black-and-white photograph above, my mother was chosen as a "healthy baby" on the June 1st Children's Day at the Nanjing government's kindergarten.  That was a harmonious and happy family.  But for historical reasons, the family was split up for several decades as if they lived different lives.  Forty years later, they met again based upon the emotional memories from forty years ago and the forty years of yearnings in between, but then they discovered that they "could not get used to it" anymore.  Forty years of separation could not be removed in a short time.  So the mainland-Taiwan problem cannot be solved in one go.

Ten years ago when I first met my maternal grandfather, the first thing that he said to me was: "My blood flows in your body.  I am your maternal grandfather."  I responded with my mouth, but my heart was somewhat unresponsive.  But as I watched the back of my maternal grandfather as he went back into the house, I now know that I really feel for him.  It was time that caused the change.  Unfortunately, my maternal grandmother left us earlier.  Or else if we stay together for twenty years, that we will "get used to it."

Where will mainland and Taiwan go?  The Taoist philosophers Laozi and Zhuangzi advocated "doing nothing to rule."  I think this is applicable to cross-strait relationships.  "Doing nothing" does not literally mean doing nothing whatsoever.  From the relationship between my maternal grandparents, "doing nothing" means the recognition that the estrangement between the two sides needs to be eliminated over time.  Thus, this kind of "doing nothing" means doing everything.  As long as it is understood that the family will stay together, then cross-strait economic ties and civilian communication should be developed without recourse to armed invasion.  Forcing them together will cause the sides "not to be used to it."  There is no need to be afraid of Taiwan independence; even if they go independent, it is just one step in the process.  Today, my maternal grandfather became an American.  But he still told me that he wanted to be buried in his hometown.  That is the same reasoning.  No matter how the Taiwan political situation evolves into, we do not have to intercede.  We only have to open our arms.  One word: "Welcome"!

I don't think that we have to wait "a lifetime of sixty years" before we reach that moment of embrace.