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The Fountain by Jia Pingwa

刘晓峰 英译


The Fountain created by Jia Pingwa, since its publication, has experienced a dramatic change of genres with the elapse of time. At the outset, this composition, treated as a novel, had been published on the magazine Anhui Literature in 1980. Afterwards, it was labeled as a model essay by several publishing houses and even was selected as a reading comprehension material in the Chinese test of 2008 Senior High School Entrance Examination. In February 2014, The Fountain was awarded the first Prize of the 11th Annual Best National Mini-novel. It could be safely assumed that this award eventually reveals the true features of The Fountain to the public.

The Fountain is a typical example of the delicate and fresh writing style in the earlier literary creations of the author Jia Pingwa, who, through his longing for the old Chinese scholar tree, expresses his nostalgia to the fullest extent. Meanwhile, his conversation with his kid enhances the theme to a piety towards nature and life and highlights the constant complex of hometown passing down from generation to generation.



In front of my old family house in my hometown, there grew an old Chinese scholar tree, which, one stormy night, was struck by lightning and split. Subsequently, a letter from my family reported that the miserable tree had suffered a tragic fate as the thunderbolt snapped it in two halfway up and split it into four portions. Accordingly, the wretched tree could be used for nothing but firewood. Naturally, this message made my heart sink and I felt obliged to pay it a special visit when next I came back to my native land.


According to my vague memory from childhood, this old Chinese scholar tree was already standing in front of the house, with its length and size withstanding the passage of time. In scorching summers, all the kids from the neighborhood would be attached to it day and night, as it provided us a perfect paradise for such joyful games as swings, pebbles and shuttlecock. In severe winters, as the whole world fell into bleakness, the tree fought against the fierce wind with its bare arms. On such an occasion, flocks of birds would hover and perch on its stark branches so as to reward it for the shady shelter it offered in summer. All at once, the old tree conducted a lively melody in the desolate winter, each singing bird turning into a lively leaf and each leaf representing a musical note. Upon hearing the song of winter, initiated by the animated birds, all the kids nearby all rushed out of their houses and yelled gaily in the wintry outdoors.


I now returned to my hometown after being absent from the old Chinese scholar tree for ages. With longing eyes, I searched in vain for its umbrella-shaped crown from the moment I approached the entrance of the village. It really was gone! After stepping into the yard, my gaze immediately focused upon the old tree, the trunk of which had already been chopped into a messy pile of firewood. Its glistening whiteness hurt my eyes and made my heart race. At the top of my lungs, I bellowed to my family: “How could this tree, with its gorgeous frame and splendid air, vanish from the world so quickly?” Gone, together with the vanished tree, was my sweet childhood memory of its company. Eventually, nothing was left but a dizzy and distressed stump. No longer could I be so hard-hearted when confronted with such a cruel scene of vicissitudes. My overwhelming tenderness towards it naturally turned into tears which trickled down my cheeks.


That night saw me sleepless. Not knowing where to stroll, I sat listlessly on the stump in the yard. Since the root of the tree had not been dug out yet, the remaining stump-which was as huge as a sieve and as round as a millstone-stood there, glistening with a silvery light under the moon. Around the bark of the stump sprouted a ring of tiny, tender twigs, the firm length of which ranged from half an inch to a foot.  


Later, my little son, waddling out of the house, rested his head on my lap and looked at me right in the eyes, sighing: “Papa, the tree is gone.”



“Yes, it’s gone!”

“Are you missing it too?”


All of a sudden, his childish question awoke my sympathy for him. Immediately after his birth, my little son had been nursed in my hometown. Thus, it could be safely assumed that the aged Chinese scholar tree had witnessed his growth from a crawling infant to a walking kid. However, in a flash, his frolicking moment of childhood in the company of the tree had disappeared before he could fully savor it.


“Papa,” my little son blurted out, “I seem to hear rustling leaves whispering again like the murmuring water!”


Oh, my naughty boy, why did you utter such sentimental words which would trigger my long-cherished memory of that water-like melody in my childhood? Now it really was a pity that this water-like sound would never be heard again.


“Papa, the water is still there!” my son marveled, “look, isn’t the stump exactly a fountain?” As I turned around, the sight of the stump immediately astonished me: indeed it was a fountain! Under the moonbeam, the snow-white woodiness did indeed become the water-shadow while the round growth rings were actually ripples springing out of the fountain. How adorable my little son was to have discovered the fountain. My heart was filled with gratitude for him. In my eyes, he was as great as Christopher Columbus, the explorer and discoverer of the New World.


Bubbling over with enthusiasm, I held my son close to my chest and exclaimed: “This fountain is a fountain of life!” It is true that the facts of the world are in reality more diverse than fictions in the mind . A tree is actually a vertical river, the streams of which can be blocked by a thunderbolt. Meanwhile its spring may gush out an inexhaustible supply of fresh water day and night. Each of the extending crisscrossing roots running deep underground truly is a spring the headwaters!  


On this moonlit night, I gazed at the twig sprouting vigorously from the bark of the stump, with each leaflet bursting forth into bright greenness. My mind began to run wild: the green crystals, the angels of life, are they not the water pillars spilling from the fountain? Are the dewdrops on the sawtooth-shaped leaves not foam left behind by the splashing water? Alas, within every bit of foam there is a little moon, which sheds shiny flickers of splendor at night.


“Papa, could the tender branch finally grow up?”


“You bet.” I answered him in an affirmative tone.


Afterwards, the quiet night saw us sitting wordless beside the fountain. We were listening attentively to the splashing water of life in the air.


    刘晓峰(1985-),男,山西临汾人,西安求学七年,毕业于西北大学外国语学院,师从胡宗锋教授攻读硕士,于2010年获英语语言文学硕士学位,现执教于天津市中国民航大学外国语学院,讲授本科课程包括《英汉翻译》、《汉英翻译》、《文学翻译与译作赏析》、《欧洲文化入门》、《英美经典名诗导读与鉴赏》、《汉英实用修辞》,授课之余致力于文学翻译实践与理论研究,先后在美国《新文学》(New Letters)杂志和中国《英语世界》发表译作,参与《欧洲文化精要问答》,《陕西作家中篇小说英译》和《中国当代诗坛群雕108首诗歌英译》等书籍的编译工作,其中合译作品《贾平凹中篇黑氏英译》荣获西安市社会科学优秀成果一等奖。

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