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荔子情

让先辈的生活点滴 — 感动你、启发你

林保圣 Lim Poh Seng (新加坡)   20-03-03

薪尽火传荔子情

读了陈晴山的文学作品选集《荔子情》后,心里有许多感想:首先,陈晴山在离开人间40多年后,其后代能将他的作品整理出版,流传给更多读者;更难能可贵的是他的儿子敏良和敏华两兄弟在公余之暇联手把这些作品翻译成英文以中英对照的方式出版,使到我国的年青读者,也能从中获益。敏良和敏华的这种把先辈过去对社会的贡献的精神继续发扬光大,在公在私,都是值得赞扬的。

我国是个多元种族的新兴独立国家,我们的先辈是从中国印度等外地到这里的移民,他们历尽沧桑受尽苦难在这里建立了我们的家园。他们把本身带来的传统文化和在本地的亲身体验,孕育了我国新的多元种族文化。要了解先辈的社会思想、人生哲学、生活情形、家庭观念和对我国的贡献等等,先辈的著作可提供不少线索。所以重新整理先辈的文学作品并以双语对照的方式出版,是很有意义的。我们应该多多鼓励,否则,这些宝贵的资料将会慢慢消失。

《荔子情》收集了陈晴山的四篇散文、五篇短篇小说、六封家书、三首古诗和一篇诗剧。书中穿插了多张作者的家庭照片和插图,增添了整本书的历史性和生动活泼性。当笔者读到《记冷甲四四惨祸》一文,看到建立于吡叻州冷甲小镇"抗日同志殉难烈士纪念碑"的像片时,对作者描述日军当年在马来亚吡叻州冷甲(Langkap)小镇的暴行就好像身历其境一般。我国年轻一辈都不知道当年日军曾经在我国残暴滥杀国人的历史事实,这些记载对国民教育是有一定意义的。《一室楼米盐杂记》这篇小文,读了使我们体会到早期新马华人在南洋日常生活上的拮据之情形和当时一些年轻人的空幻的人生观。《在怀念中的故乡》一文反映了新马初期移民一方面缅怀在那遥远的祖国老家和一方面想在外地建立自己的新家园的矛盾心情。《高粱舅》写的是作者的小舅,是一篇轻松,逗人喜笑的作品。加上照片和插图,读起来更有真实感和有趣味。

五篇短篇小说的篇名是《新儿的生日》、《菊子》、《三百五十二封信》、《落花生》和《五孙舍哥》。我国新华文学史家方修先生说:陈晴山的短篇小说,基本上持有着中国五四运动新兴文学的特征,含有很浓厚反封建社会、摆脱那些"吃人的礼教",和提倡男女平等的思想。笔者觉得陈晴山的作品,还蕴藏着一些其他的特色,如《新儿的生日》,新儿的遭遇,切切实实地反映了人生现实,有朝一日,突然失去了"靠山",一夜之间如入地狱,这种现实人生,比比皆是。又如《三百五十二封信》,表面上读起来,这是一篇平凡的、纯洁的、永恒不变、不受时空限定的爱情故事,但这"平凡"的小说里,却隐藏着华侨热心教育事业的事迹。在没有专门机构处理教育事业的时代,这股"热心"却是社会教育事业发展的原动力。我国先辈对教育事业的贡献,也是功不可抹的。

笔者印象最深刻的是《荔子情》所收的家书,从这几封家书,可以看出陈晴山多么重视家庭教育,以关切的爱心,谆谆教导儿子语文和与人交往之道。例如家书一,陈先生在信中这样叮嘱敏良:"与马来籍的同学住在一块,如果久不说中国话,也许中国话将来会忘记了,最好星期或假期,得访几位说中国话的朋友往来,才不至于忘记了自己的母语,与马来同学同住,也有一种好处,要是彼此合得来,利用机会,学些马来话都很好,有机会就得自己学习,……与外人相处,因宗教、风俗、习惯,种种不同,我们须十分了解,尊重他人的一切,彼此同为马来亚人,闲谈之间,亦须避免涉及种族问题"。信中也充满对儿子衣食之关怀和母爱之伟大,使你感动而泪下。有些事物,在现在看来好像有点老土,但处事待人之道,是要学习的,父母子女之间的感情,是要培养的,有好多!东西是在学校学不到的,现代家长不可不知。

《荔子情》所收的三首古诗,《己亥买书自寿词》写的是"大儿子",即敏良,当年还是靠了政府的一笔微薄的奖学金,留学澳洲。但在父亲生日,特地从自己的伙食费中省出了五镑澳币,自海外邮寄给父亲,要给父亲买些滋补品吃用。儿子的一片孝心,使父亲很感动。在华人的思想里,做父母的,辛辛苦苦养育儿女,所希望的就是儿女的"孝心"。这也是华族的优良传统,应该继续保留和发扬。

《荔子情》的另一特色是中英双语对照,英译者敏良和敏华很忠实地把原文译成英文,排印时中英双语互相对照,对有兴趣学习华文或英文的读者,都有双重的价值。对于华文好的读者,如果要学英文,就可学到许多华文这么写,英文怎样表达的例子;对于有英文根底而要学华文的读者,可以通过阅读英译对照,学习华文。当然,《荔子情》也可让其他种族了解华族的思想文化,促进不同种族间的互相了解。

《荔子情》对学生、老师、家长和一般读者来说,都值得翻一翻的。

“Lychee Fragrance-The Flame Lives on”

The reading of “Lychee Fragrance” has given rise to many thoughts in me: firstly, it is now more than forty years since Chen Qing Shan passed away, and it is quite remarkable that his children should put together his works and publish them to leave behind for other readers. Even more praiseworthy is that his two sons Peter and Michael should find the time to render these works into English and have the Chinese and English text printed side by side. Through the efforts of Peter and Michael, our country’s youth will benefit from the knowledge that our forefathers’ spirit and contribution to society continue to live on till today, in the public or private enterprise and domain. It is indeed a laudable effort.

We are a newly independent nation of people with diverse cultural origins. Our forefathers were immigrants from China, India and other countries who have come here and by their sweat and toil built up this country into our home. It is from the cross fertilisation of the many culture, traditions and personal experiences they had brought along with them that was born the multi-cultural new society of our nation. It is from the writings by our forefathers that we can learn much of their philosophy, their lives and family values and their contribution to our nation. To collect, edit and publish the writings that they had left behind is indeed a very meaningful pursuit which we should greatly encourage. Otherwise, these invaluable records and insights would over time all be lost.

“Lychee Fragrance” comprises Chen Qing Shan's four prose compositions, five short stories, six letters to his son, three classical poems and one lyric-poem play. There are many illustrations and old photographs of the author’s family throughout the book, thus enhancing its historical nature and bring to life the descriptions of everyday living of that era. On reading the chapter “Langkap Massacre”, with the photograph of the simple granite plaque erected in the little town, inscribed with the words “In Memory of the Anti-Japanese Comrades who Sacrificed Their Lives in Martyrdom”, the writer felt as though he was standing in the midst of the terrible event, bearing witness to this atrocity by the Japanese soldiers. The young in our country may not know that the terrible massacres of our people committed by the Japanese army are a fact of history. First hand accounts such as this will form a meaningful chapter in our National Education Programme curriculum. The prose composition “A Roomful of Rice and Salt” takes us into the everyday living of the early Chinese immigrants to Malaya and Singapore and pokes fun at the rather inane views on life of some of the young people of the time. The chapter “My Native Land” reflects the dichotomy faced by the early immigrants who yearned for their far away native land and at the same time were determined to stay rooted to their new found land to build a new home for their families. The subject of the prose composition “Uncle Gao-liang” was a real person, viz., the younger brother of the author’s wife. It is light hearted and written with great humour. The photographs and illustrations bring the whole story to life and make it all the more interesting.

The five short stories comprise “Xin-er’s Birthday”, “Juzi”, “352 Letters”, “Peanuts” , “Madam 5th Sun-she”. Our Chinese literary historian Fang Xiu has remarked that the short stories by Chen Qing Shan basically bear the characteristics of the New Revolution Literature that was born of the May Fourth Movement. This form of literature is characteristically anti-feudalism, with the call to break away from the discriminatory practices in society and to promote the equality between man and woman. The writer however feels that Chen Qing Shan’s writings have in store some other qualities. In the story “Xin-er’s Birthday” for example, Xin-er’s tragic misfortune is very much a reflection of life’s reality. One’s fortune can change so suddenly. When someone on whom we depend on patronage is suddenly gone, our life can turn into the misery of hell just overnight. Such a reality is not uncommon in life. The story “352 Letters” may look like an ordinary sto! ry of love pure and unchanging, a love story not constrained by time. Tucked within this “ordinary story” however is an account of the public spirited Chinese immigrants in their promotion of education. Before the advent of any government funded education organisations, they were driven only by their civic mindedness for the betterment of society. Our forefather’s contribution to education is something we should always remember.

Of all the sections in “Lychee Fragrance”, it is the “Letters from Home” that leaves the deepest impression on me. From these few letters, we can see how much importance Chen Qing Shan placed on the teaching of family values in the home, how much concern he showed for his son as he taught him the Chinese language and interpersonal relationship. In the “Letter No.1 (Lesson from Home)”, he wrote to his son with this exhortation, “The Malay student is boarding in the same place as you. If you do not speak Chinese for a long time, perhaps you may eventually forget how to. It is best that on Sundays or during vacation, you seek out a few Chinese speaking friends to communicate with, then only will you not forget your mother tongue. There is also something positive for you to be boarding with a Malay student. If you can get along with each other, it will also be good if you can use the opportunity to learn Malay …... When you live among people from a different ethni! c community, because their religion, customs, traditions and practices are different from ours, we must respect and thoroughly understand them. When you are engaged in casual discussion with Malayans, avoid intruding into communal issues.” The letters are also filled with a parent’s care and worry whether the son is adequately clothed and eating the proper food, all of which speak clearly of how great a mother’s love is, moving the reader to the point of tears. From today’s viewpoint, some of the things said in the letters may appear somewhat old fashioned, but the norms of good interpersonal relations should always be learned and practised, and the love and care between parent and children is something that should always be nurtured at home. Parents today should know that there is still much that cannot be taught in school.

In one of the three classical poems in “Lychee Fragrance”, viz., “Buying Books to Celebrate My Birthday”, the “elder son” refers to the translator Peter who was then studying in Australia on a scholarship. His living expenses depended on his scholarship but he managed to eke out five Australian Pounds to send as a birthday gift for his father to buy something he particularly liked to eat. This expression of filial piety moved his father tremendously. In Chinese tradition an act of filial piety is the greatest reward for parents who have at great sacrifice brought up their children. This is a traditional Chinese virtue that should continue to be preserved and passed on.

Its publication in a Chinese-English bilingual format is yet another special feature of the book. The translators Peter and Michael have carefully lined up the Chinese and English texts so that each corresponds with the other on the page. This format is doubly valuable to all readers, irrespective of whether it is the Chinese or English language that they wish to study and practise. Readers who are good in Chinese but wish to improve their English, will find examples of good Chinese writing and at the same time see how the same ideas are expressed in English. For those who have a strong foundation in English and wish to improve their Chinese, they could first read the English to achieve a greater understanding of the Chinese text. For the non-ethnic Chinese reader, “Lychee Fragrance” will of course open up a window for them to peer into the philosophy and culture of the Chinese community.

For students, teachers and parents alike, “Lychee Fragrance” is well worth reading, or at least a browse.


 
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