The Starbridge Over China And Other Essays – Part 2

Continuing the essays collection with 4 more pieces...

By Elaine Jiang,蒋绎藟


Content 6+ It has been said that everything in nature is a piece of art that somehow or other is connected to the deep artwork inside of us, our own personal craftsmanship. If that is true, then nature is a mirror of us and we are a mirror of nature. This idea of nature as art has never left me; as a young girl,I gradually fell in love with the world outside of my windows and doors.

One of the things I really get lost in doing is admiring the clouds. You might be wondering: Why the clouds? They are so boring because they are just loitering in the sky, seemingly without anywhere to go or anything better to do. But you’ll be wrong. The clouds – especially in the summer – are changing shapes and colors every single minute. In the morning or noon, white clouds are usually the only companions of the sun. Big bunches of clouds hug together and build a mid-air castle. With the help of the breeze, the “castle” begins to move forward slowly. After several seconds, a piece of cloud floats out of the “castle” and is followed by a larger but slimmer one. Is that a princess chasing her lost crystal ball?

The best time to look at the clouds is in the afternoon, during the sunset. When the sun arrives at the western point of the horizon, various kinds of colors paint the sky into a delicate picture. The clouds near the horizon look like red bloomings. Besides that, there are two pieces of cloud with long “tails”. They make me imagine two girls walking hand in hand in long dresses. Their long red hair is flying as well as their orange sleeves.

 At the end of the sky, a bit of purple creates a garden of morning glory. The big bunches of clouds change from yellow to orange, and from orange to red. They sometimes turn into dozens of rabbits; sometimes they prowl like lions in a den; sometimes they are like a row of maples; sometimes they change into a teen with flowers in his hands… In the end, the sun disappears beneath the earth and the sunlight it gave birth to slowly follows it, the way a child would follow its own mother into a deep  forest. The darkness soon arrives and swallows the “roses”, “girls”, “morning glory” and “rabbits”. Another force darkly assumes control of the sky. A black patrol, yet benevolent and without clubs.

 Autumn to Winter

Content 6+ My Mum says that autumn is the best season in Beijing. There is no catkin like spring, no muggy weather like summer, no amnesia like snow in winter; therefore, I must agree with my Mum’s opinion. I can hardly say there’s anything bad in autumn. It is when dying things do their brightest dances and say goodbyes that are really promises.

In the early morning, when the dew is still lying on the lawn like a melted god, when the breeze wends through the golden leaves, when the sky still hovers between gray and pink like a philosopher who cannot make up his mind, when teens laugh while walking into the classroom building, the little garden remains quiet and spare. The bench  is covered in gingko leaves; the lonely ladybug wandering in the scrub, the sinuous and dust-less path with fallen leaves on its sides – these together create a natural oil painting. Large bunches of clouds gather around the borderless sky, the light on the skyscraper far away is twinkling, like a bright star in the dawn. This is my early morning in Beijing.

The school bell rang the second time, the school soon became absolutely silent and obedient. The only sound was the sparrow’s aubade and the chasing-game between the wind and leaves.

But autumn waved goodbye too quickly to let me enjoy its beauty. Winter soon arrived with its suitcases full of snow. The first snowfall came to Beijing in the beginning of November. My classmates all tumbled outside to wad the snow into balls for impromptu battles. Was I the only one who lamented the death of autumn? When would autumn be back again? I was debating this while my friend ran back to drag me toward the playground. A single autumn day is like a small red-headed girl in a big crowd, I had hardly seen her face clearly when she disappeared in throngs of people.

However, soon, I found the loveliness of winter. I can skate on the frozen ice, I can make snowmen in my living area, and I'm able to put on my new overcoat. But, in the windy evening, no one would like to go out to play; when we want to enjoy the scenes after snow, we only manage to stay at home in warm sweaters and have  cups of hot coffee in hand, then see the world through a thick window. 

No kid would frolic in the gale and everyone would run back home immediately after work without stopping to look at the world behind their fleeing shoulders. In the end, when I curled in my quilt and gazed outside the window, I began once more to miss the cool autumn in Beijing. Winter was like waking up in a distant city.

 The shape of the sea

Content 6+ I remember a song: A teenage girl sits beside the lonely sea, with dancing waves in her eyes. The keys of the old piano ride up and down as she strokes and ignites them with her fingers. Waves pat the shore and sea shells briefly rock on them, then settle back like old abandoned wives while the hunter men on the waves roll seaward again. By the faraway horizon, a round and light-yellow sun lights up the corner of the sky like a moon-sent torch, full of passion and hope. Accompanied by the fragrance of coconuts, the wet winds baptize my soul. All around me I hear the approving, swooping caw and screech of gulls. They flutter in the morning mist and from their wings comes the taste of salt.They inspect the water tops, then soar into the sky-going space where sun breath blows the summer down upon us.

I know the rising sun this balmy China day will go north and west, illuminating the hemispheres and kindling this summer…”. Freedom, loneliness, silence and hope---these are the keywords that appear in my head as The Shape of the Sea arrives to my ears through my headphones. The pianist plays the notes softly and carefully - just like a girl dancing ballet on tip-toes by the shore. With the sound of the waves and seagulls, I feel like floating out of my windows and flying toward the sea-blue water. 

What is the shape of the sea? I’m thinking. Is that the shape of footprints - like the ones I leave as I pad along the parting sands? Is that the shape of a starfish - like the one which lies lazily on the shore ? Is that the shape of a wish bottle - which floats above the sea and brings people’s desires to small islands faraway? Is that the shape of the pink clouds - which change their colors as the sunshine runs through them? … Maybe the sea can change its shape too - as the waves being pushed onto the shore again and again. Will my own life change this way too?.

“Finally, there will be a “meet after miss’” – as the lovely lyrics of the song insist.” I believe that too. In my mind, there is a piece of sea just for me. Every time the music starts, I have a feeling of embarking on a holiday of my own soul – alone and in silence. I can run a footrace with the wind; I can chase the waves as they loll back into the sea; I can hug the air around me… There will be no idea of time, so I won’t know whether these are my memories or wonders of the mind. Maybe both. 

But every time The Shape of the Sea flows into my ears, it makes me recall these scenes one by one like a movie made of the soul’s cameras only. I am yearning to run toward the sea with my full force, admiring the sunrise without anyone bothering me, like a maiden of old wandering in the flowers. It will not matter if a prince comes or not. I wish to say “hi” to the birds and say “goodbye” to the noisy world behind me.


Content 6+ What could a beautiful flower make you think of? You might at first imagine it’s just a plain plant with petals loose or stiff and a little fragrance, or maybe not. But consider carefully. Couldn’t a daisy remind you of your happy childhood? Or white lilacs evoke memories of your colorful youth? Won’t a carnation remind you …?

The beginning of spring: the ripping winds of March yield to April storms, which bring forth May grass on the wide fields. Children are dancing and thrashing about under the blue sky. They skip around the daisy parterre, chasing and catching butterflies and dragonflies. Then, they start playing hide-and-seek. Breezes blow up stalks, stems even the unwanted weeds that kneel or grovel on the ground until they also stand alert like soldiers, waving their long arms in the fresh, cool air. 

Look, there is a freckled boy with clever eyes darting about as he seeks a place to hide; he crawls into the brushwood, losing himself among branches and leaves. It might be quite difficult for others to find him. They chatter among themselves as they search, and one gets the feeling they are not really looking. White clouds are floating on the clear blue sky. I pick a yellow daisy, and then nestle and interweave it in my hair carefully. This is my memory of childhood – carefree, tactile, and clean with the soothing blue of sky and breeze to wash my spirit.

Soon, June comes. Which flower would open its petals in this stuffy season? Yes, it’s lilac. In the mid-summer, teenagers adorn themselves in T-shirts full of memes and mottos, shorts, and skirts, run on the golden beach, jump into the sea, and look for shells with amazing shapes. They grab some ice cream and cola, go for a ride on the narrow roads near the ponds, and drift away as if called forth by the sunset on the small hills beside their home. Another day is over--- let’s discuss how we can spend the second day! We are still young, so we dare to explore, to burst into bloom, for we are the flowers. We are not afraid, we never end running towards our dream. We never stop or rest because we still have a lot of things to try, to experience, to know and forget as life greets us with a sun and buries us in its wind.. We are fearless. Here is my ‘crazy’ youth. And this is nature’s best work – a child in the green of its field, blossoming in its throbbing fecundity, in the full passion of its day on earth.

September comes, following the glistening summer on heavy legs. Autumn is a quiet season. Orange leaves fall off from tall trees. A little girl is running towards an old house. “Gran, it’s me! Knock, knock!” In the girl’s basket lies a pink carnation and hand-made card with her drawings on it. She puts the basket in front of the door, and then skips away. What is written on the card? “Dear Gran, when you miss me, look at this card and the flower, and then you won’t be so lonely. And Gran, some day when I miss you, I will feel the same.”

Now, look at the beckoning flowers out of your window. What do they mean in your eyes? After you have witnessed the things that dance in a flower, you will banish the word boredom from your life forever…

voIr07hZ1jfbGXL0Gyds 1 igmxm_6x

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.