Back in the days when boats and horses were the main vehicles in the South and North respectively, Li Bai (701–762), a well-acclaimed Chinese poet from his own day to the present as a genius and a romantic figure who took traditional poetic forms to new heights, showed his wild and splendid imagination by composing the verse– “In the midst of clouds all glowing, Baidi, I left you at dawn. By evening I'll be home at Jiangling, a thousand miles I've gone.”
In an era where slowness ruled, vehicles traveling “at a snail’s pace” hindered not merely the progress of the times, but the mentality and vitality of mankind as well. Even Emperor Xuanzong of Tang Dynasty himself, eager to please his concubine Yang Yuhuan with fresh litchi, had to wait for delivery by horses racing in relay between countless courier stations and whose reins were gradually worn away during the tiresome journey. Thus, Li Bai put
together a powerful ending to his poem–“Ten
thousand folds of mountains, my skiff has slipped them by,” a verse that actually expressed the poet’s yearning for the rapidity of high-speed transport.
Today, many of the ancient fantasies have been turned into reality, for example, “Motionless, on earth I travel eighty thousand li a day; touring the heaven I command a distant view of many a Milky Way”, quoted from “Farewell to the God of Plague” by Mao Zedong (also known as Chairman Mao, who was a Chinese communist revolutionary, poet, political theorist and founding father of the People's Republic of China.) and the heroic feeling of “we can clasp the moon in the Ninth Heaven, and seize turtles deep down in the Five Seas” quoted from “Reascending Jinggang Mountains” by Mao Zedong, are no longer imagination and exaggeration simply existing in literary works. If the deceased authors had the chance, they might have been wondering: did we predict the future, or did our descendants help achieve our prediction?
In fact, we can easily seek evidence from our daily life, for example, when the cherry blossom in Wuhan University starts to flourish in exuberant profusion, some Chinese grannies, with a keen appetite for square dancing, come in pairs from neighboring cities like Changsha and Yueyang to admire the flowery scene. Those grannies are convinced that they are a living embodiment of spring. Some people say, the tights covering their thighs and waist cannot cover up the fact that their youth has long gone, yet they refuse to give in, and they take square dance as a relieving sanctuary for their heart.
The trip from Changsha to Wuhan is a long-distance one. Interestingly, however, the grannies can go dancing first, and then return home to settle all the housework, and ultimately ride a shared bicycle to the high-speed railway station with their dancemates. They are calm and
unhurried, as if someone else has arranged everything properly for them. In fact, it is the modern internet service and high-speed transport that back them up with such confidence. With an ID card in hand and the Alipay app on the phone, they can access any train station with ease, scan the QR code on a shared bicycle to unlock it, hail a taxi, and feel free to roam the streets and lanes in a strange city. Certainly they would not travel just for the sake of it, as in their opinion, it is such a waste of time if they do not post selfies and travel blogs in the Wechat (equivalent to Whatsapp, one of the most popular messaging apps in China today.) All along the way, they admire the scenery and share the beauty of it, but deep down inside, they regard themselves as the real beauty.
More importantly, after all the sightseeing and fun, they could still manage to shuttle between the two cities, and return home after enjoying the cherry blossoms within one single day. In the evening, you will find them dancing at the square, as gorgeous as the cherry blossoms as ever.
(Translated: Zhu Yaguang )