How to Whis­per Grace­ful Sweet-Noth­ings


Special Focus - - Contents - Yan Wan燕玩

Istill re­mem­ber my col­lege days as clear as a bell, a friend of mine fell in love with a girl in my class. Over win­ter va­ca­tion the two love­birds that lived far from each other, though deeply love-sick, were un­able to meet. Overnight, a heavy snow en­shrouded the whole world. At that moment, my friend’s mind was oc­cu­pied by only one idea—that is, to take a pic­ture and send it to the girl with a cap­tion, “Snow is fall­ing. It’s so beau­ti­ful.”

You will un­der­stand one day when you feel an urge to share such a feel­ing with some­one.

A sim­i­lar ex­am­ple can be found


in Eileen Chang’ s novel— Love in a Fallen City, in which the moon­light was a match­maker.

Af­ter a pro­longed il­licit love af­fair, Bai Liusu and Fan Li­uyuan were still not on the same wave­length. What ul­ti­mately de­ter­mined their re­la­tion­ship was the con­ver­sa­tion they had about the moon that went some­thing like this… … Trem­bling with fear, she picked up the re­ceiver and laid it on the bed sheet. But the night was so still that even from a dis­tance she could hear Li­uyuan’s per­fectly calm voice say­ing, “Can you see the moon from your win­dow?”

She didn't know why, but she sud­denly be­gan sob­bing. The moon was big and blurred, ap­pear­ing sil­very with a slightly green­ish tint through her thick tears. “Out­side of my win­dow,” said Li­uyuan, “there is a flow­er­ing vine that blocks half the view. Maybe it’s a rose. Or maybe not.”

He didn’t say any­thing more, yet didn’t hang up. Af­ter a long while, Liusu be­gan to won­der if he had dozed off, but fi­nally heard a soft click and the phone went dead.

Li­uyuan fi­nally went into Liusu’s room at his sec­ond visit to Hong Kong where he could see the moon.

…“I al­ways wanted to see the moon from your win­dow. You can see it much bet­ter from this van­tage point than from my cham­ber.” said Li­uyuan.

So he had phoned her that night— it wasn’t a dream. He did love her.

Though the love be­tween Liusu and Li­uyuan wasn’t the kind with whole­hearted de­vo­tion that makes lovers die for one an­other, but, Li­uyuan’s af­fec­tion for Liusu was un­de­ni­ably true.

Love can be very sim­ple—when you see the light of the gib­bous moon, you can’t help but want to share it with some­one. Com­pared with the di­rect ex­pres­sion of “I love you,” del­i­cate and un­der­stated words of ro­mance are far more touch­ing.

I read a short pas­sage long ago from what was pre­sum­ably an anony­mous Ja­panese novel, which left a deep im­pres­sion on me. Search­ing through my mem­ory, I’ll try to re­count it as fol­lows.

…“Mr. Shuji is the most kind­hearted and gen­er­ous man I’ve ever met. When talk­ing with oth­ers about my friends, I won’t speak of the one who suf­fered from an in­flamed gall blad­der[I feel that us­ing the med­i­cal name, chole­cys­ti­tis may






















《小团圆》差不多是张爱玲的自传,这句话描述她等胡兰成时候的心情。哀而不怨,楚楚可怜,像小猫窝在脖子处磨蹭撒娇般,直击心脏最柔软的部分,比起直接埋怨对方不来,说“我想你”“我等你等得好苦”,都更加惹人怜爱,让 人心动。文坛对胡兰成的评价是“一流的文,三流的人”。但是,他确实是非常懂女人心,非常会说情话的。他初次与张爱玲会面,相谈甚欢。走的时候,张爱玲送他出来,他忽然说:“你长得真高。你怎么可以这样高呢?”



(摘自《喜剧世界》 2017 年第2期)

in­ter­rupt the flow here, so I changed it to the col­lo­quial name.], nei­ther will I men­tion the one who be­came a monk, but I’ll tell them about Mr. Shuji.” said Tsuki.

“What would you say about me? Would you say that I fell in love with Miss Tsuki, yet you feign ig­no­rance?” replied Shuji.

When I read this para­graph, I had a feel­ing that Miss Tsuku’s heart must have just melted. Soft yet pow­er­ful and with a wry wit, Mr. Shuji’s words are not only touch­ing, but sig­nif­i­cant, and his words can make one’s heart “skip a beat.”

Honeyed words are not the ex­clu­sive prop­erty of men, and Eileen Chang was highly skilled at the art. In her novel Lit­tle Re­union,

there is an ex­cep­tion­ally sweet bit of phrase­ol­ogy, “The pat­ter­ing of the rain makes me feel like I live near a bab­bling brook. I’d rather it rain ev­ery day so I may think it is the rain that stops you from com­ing.”

Lit­tle Re­union is an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal work by Eileen Chang, and the above sen­tence de­scribes ex­actly how she felt when she was wait­ing for Hu


Lancheng. Her prose is melan­choly but not mo­rose, and softly poignant; mak­ing you feel like when a cat curls up around your neck and lays there purring in soft con­tent­ment, it strikes right at soft­est part of your heart. In­stead of point­ing an ac­cusatory fin­ger when some­one stands you up, you may in­stead say some­thing like “I’ve missed you” or “I waited for you un­til my feet got blis­ters,” her man­ner of ex­pres­sion adds just that per­fect shade of ten­der­ness and del­i­cate en­chant­ment.

The lit­er­ary com­mu­nity sees Hu Lancheng as a “Third-rate man whose com­po­si­tions were first-rate.” Yet he truly un­der­stood a wo­man’s heart and had a knack for words of love. When he met Eileen Chang for the first time, the two had great chem­istry. As he took his leave, Eileen walked him out, and sud­denly he said, “You look so tall. How can you be so tall?”

The words seem to be out of the blue, which stunned Eileen for a sec­ond, and then she chuck­led.

Al­though the two were newly ac­quainted with each other, the seem­ingly abrupt­ness of the words re­vealed his “ul­te­rior mo­tive” to­wards Eileen. Oth­er­wise, why would he feel dis­tressed about her height? What he re­ally meant was – “You are a lit­tle too tall for my taste.” But his way of ex­pres­sion was far su­pe­rior.

If you want to use sweet-noth­ings exquisitely and grace­fully, eu­phemism is the key. Af­ter read­ing be­tween the lines, those strong feel­ings, sug­ar­coated in el­e­gantly crafted speech, will leave you with an end­lessly sweet af­ter­taste. Hu Lancheng most def­i­nitely had the art of the re­fined flirt down pat, which could make a smart and sen­si­tive wo­man like Eileen Chang ac­tu­ally lower her­self to the very ground; that said, her heart was still joy­ful, so from where her kow­towed head tapped the ground, a flower of ra­di­ance bloomed in its place.

(From Com­edy World, Fe­bru­ary 2017)

Note: 1.Eileen Chang

(Sep. 30, 1920 – Sep. 8, 1995) was one of the most in­flu­en­tial mod­ern Chi­nese wo­man writ­ers. She is noted for her fiction writ­ings that deal with the ro­man­tic tensions be­tween men and women, and was con­sid­ered by some schol­ars to be among the best Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture of the pe­riod.

2.Hu Lancheng

(Feb. 28, 1906 – Jul. 25, 1981) was a Chi­nese writer and ed­i­tor. He was mar­ried to the novelist Eileen Chang from 1943 to 1947. Dur­ing Anti-Ja­panese War, he col­lab­o­rated with the Ja­panese, serv­ing briefly in the Pro­pa­ganda Min­istry of the pup­pet regime in China headed by Wang Jing­wei in the early 1940s. These ac­tions have caused many Chi­nese to re­gard him as a traitor, and led to in­tense con­tro­versy re­gard­ing the value of his works.

● A scene in Chi­nese TV series Love in a Fallen City 电视剧《倾城之恋》剧照

●胡兰成Hu Lancheng

●张爱玲Eileen Chang

● Lit­tle Re­union (left) and Love in a Fallen City (right) by Eileen Chang 张爱玲小说《小团圆》(左)《倾城之恋》(右)

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