This Tang dynasty poetry book was given to me by my Jiujiu (mom’s brother) in 2003 when I visited Beijing for the first time since 1986. It’s mom’s who loved classical poetry. The dog-eared book was published in 1957, cost only 0.70 yuan.
I treasure it just as much because, this is the only thing I’ve from mom, except photographs. On the title page where mom inscribed her name and the place and time of purchase. The calligraphy was not her usual style, which made me wondering why. Under her mother’s tutelage, she had a sound foundation in Chinese literature that included calligraphy.
Searching Tanggangzi, in 2003 there wasn’t a place to be found on the Internet but nowadays, it surfaces as a top notch spring resort, near Anshan, Liaoning province. Apparently, mom went there in 1958 to recuperate, and made a few friends.
One day mom and her new friend Min decided to go to town. Passing by the book store, they went in. Mom was attracted by the Tang poetry book. She picked it up and began to read, regretting that she didn’t bring her own copy. An hour had passed. Min tiptoed sneaking up and tapped her shoulder. Mom was startled.
“It’s time to go.” Min said.
“Let me read a little more.” Mom said.
“Can’t … we’ll miss the bus.” The resort’s bus had limited schedule.
Mom was debating if to buy. Money was tight for everyone. A yuan could go a long way. But in the end, the book won. Her friend inscribed on the title page.
Mom’s health had not been great and in late 1967, she was once again offered extended sick leave from the doctor. However, the flame of the Cultural Revolution was burning bright and when everyone was running for cover, except mom, who felt her calling.
Her good friend Auntie Wang went to the hospital with her. After the doctor handed mom her sick leave note, Auntie Wang said, “Take the note and go away for a while.”
“Where can I go?” Mom asked.
“Tanggangzi, for example?”
“Why don’t you go to the city and visit your daughter and parents?” The Institute of Zoology was in the suburbs where they both worked and lived.
“What would I do in the city?”
“Play with your daughter, or plant flowers.”
“Plant flowers? That’s so bourgeoisie” Mom laughed and dismissed the idea.
Ignoring doctor’s instruction and her close friend’s advice, mom dived right back in, full throttle. She was soon put under house arrest and committed suicide four months later.
我很珍惜它，因为这妈妈留下的唯一遗物 – 除了照片。书的扉页有妈妈她名字和购买的地点和时间。书法不是她一贯的风格，这让我想知道为什么。妈妈受她的妈妈 – 婆婆的影响，文学基础非常扎实。 搜索汤岗子，互联网上在2003年还没有，现在是国内一个顶尖的温泉度假村，鞍山市，辽宁省近了。显然，妈妈去那里于养病，并认识了几个朋友。
“不行… 我们会错过汽车。” 疗养院的汽车的时间表非常有限。