Dream­ing Thee in the Rain

醒来觉得甚是爱你

Special Focus - - Contents - Shao Ziqi 邵子岐——在雨声里做梦

In the 1930s, China, there was a young man who was both timid and ro­man­tic in love. He was too shy to say hello to his sweet­heart when he en­coun­tered her in the street, and he was so ro­man­tic that he would com­pose a love let­ter to her ev­ery two or three days.

His name is Zhu Sheng­hao, renowned for his Chi­nese trans­la­tion of Wil­liam Shake­speare’s com­plete works, as well as his more than 540 love letters.

In 1942, af­ter nine long years of un­re­quited love, he fi­nally mar­ried Song Qin­gru, the woman of his heart. The bride was 31 and the groom was 30, well above the av­er­age mar­ry­ing age at that time. Xia Cheng­tao, a fa­mous poet, pre­sented them a wed­ding gift of his own cal­lig­ra­phy, writ­ten thus, “A ge­nius and a beauty’s hands bound in mat­ri­mony, a lov­ing cou­ple comes down to the mun­dane world.”

Be­fore the mar­riage, Zhu had courted Song but she re­fused. She be­lieved that mar­riage would be the killer of ro­mance, and said, “I am happy to be with you, but mar­riage is not nec­es­sary. We need to think it over be­fore the fi­nal step.” Song’s care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion was the sen­si­ble thing to do, and Zhu didn’t try to force the is­sue.

Song had her rea­sons for feel­ing hes­i­tant. In the Re­pub­li­can era, many ta­lented and charis­matic young men were eas­ily lost in ro­man­tic love. It was lucky for Song, how­ever, that her courter un­der­stood and re­spected her.

Af­ter mar­riage, they be­came a happy cou­ple. Zhu de­voted him­self to the trans­la­tion of Shake­speare’s works, while Song be­came a hard-work­ing house­wife who man­aged to sup­ple­ment their liveli­hood by earn­ing ex­tra money. Now the per­fect cou­ple had to go about the ar­du­ous task of earn­ing enough money just for three square meals a day.

First in 1937 and then in 1941, Zhu’s hand­writ­ten trans­la­tions were de­stroyed twice in the An­tiJa­panese war. To es­cape from the Ja­panese army, the cou­ple went to Song’s old home in Chang­shu. Four Hun­dred Fa­mous Ci Po­ems of Tang and Song Dy­nas­ties to­gether, as an­cient po­etry was their mu­tual in­ter­est. Soon there­after, Chang­shu was oc­cu­pied by the Ja­panese. As a renowned in­tel­lec­tual, Zhu was in dan­ger of be­ing ar­rested. He used a pseudonym and stayed at home all day. In Jan­uary, 1943, they had to leave for Zhu’s old home in Ji­ax­ing, car­ry­ing the works of Shake­speare with them.

A beech- wood desk, an old­style arm­chair, an oil lamp, an old pen, the English edi­tion of The Com­plete Works of Shake­speare, and two dic­tio­nar­ies were all he needed for the trans­la­tion work.

When not trans­lat­ing, Song and Zhu also en­joyed the sweet mo­ments in their mar­riage life. Once when Song went alone to visit her par­ents, Zhu waited out in the rain for her re­turn.

He stood be­neath a green plum tree by the door of their house, pick­ing up a fallen leaf and writ­ing a poem for her. Upon Song’s re­turn, he re­cited fol­low­ing po­etic lines for her.

Upon hear­ing the poem, Song was moved to tears.

Un­for­tu­nately, the heavy work-load of trans­la­tion un­der­mined Zhu’s health. He sel­dom left his home, or even his room. One day while trans­lat­ing

Hen­ryIV , he sud­denly felt a sharp pain be­tween his ribs, and a spasm fol­lowed. Zhu was di­ag­nosed with se­vere tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and com­pli­ca­tions re­sult­ing from the dis­ease. In his last let­ter, he told his brother, “I re­cently fi­nally fin­ished the trans­la­tion of Henry IV. I feel ut­terly fa­tigued as a re­sult of be­ing hunched over a desk day and night. I have per­ma­nent dys­pep­sia, and a short walk to the North Gate is like scal­ing Mr. Ever­est.”

In the end of Novem­ber 1944, Zhu was on his last legs. Per­ma­nently bed-rid­den, he was al­most un­able to ut­ter a word, much less to read a book.

He man­aged to tell Song that he felt so re­gret­ful about the un­fin­ished five and a half his­toric plays, and that, had he fore­seen his se­ri­ous ill­ness, he would have fought with all his might to fin­ish them.

Zhu had in­vited Song to trans­late Shake­speare to­gether, but Song was afraid that she wouldn’t be much of a col­lab­o­ra­tor. She helped her hus­band as a loyal reader and a re­spon­si­ble re­viewer.

“Qin­gru, it’s my time to go,” mur­mured Zhu on the af­ter­noon of De­cem­ber 26, 1944. He left be­hind his beloved wife and son, and his un­fin­ished trans­la­tion work.

S o n g Qi n g r u w a s 3 3 , a n d their son was 13 months old. The mar­riage lasted for only two years.

She had been will­ing to play a sup­port­ing role to her hus­band and fam­ily, but de­cided to make it on her own. The 37 plays, 1.8 mil­lion words of Zhu’s trans­la­tion were not pub­lished yet. Their in­fant son needed to be fed. She had to pull her­self to­gether. She knew she needed to press on for her­self, and for her beloved man.

She was de­ter­mined to en­gage her­self in two pur­suits in the rest of her life— get­ting her hus­band’s un­fin­ished

Iftherain’spit­ter-pat­teris adreamwe­both­share, will­welos­esleep­to­gether orseeea­chotherthere?

trans­la­tions pub­lished and tak­ing good care of their child. The scener­ies of life are so splen­did, and her hus­band re­gret­fully missed the best spots. She would view all of them, keep them in her mind, and then, share with him about them in their eter­nal si­lence.

She put all her ef­forts into the trans­la­tions. What we know to­day is that Zhu’s trans­la­tion works were pub­lished a few years af­ter his death.

One night in­som­nia set in, she put on her dress, walked to the plum tree and saw a vi­sion of her hus­band when he was that strap­ping young man in Hang­chow Univer­sity. He ex­tended his arms bea­con­ing her into his warm em­brace; with tears stream­ing down her face, she held him tightly. Sud­denly she woke to find her­self in her bed. It turned out it was a dream and that her man was re­ally gone.

Af­ter age 35, Song Qin­gru went down­hill quickly. Her pho­tos be­fore and af­ter Zhu’s death clearly showed an at­trac­tive young girl full of vigor who was rapidly turn­ing into a hag­gard old biddy.

In 1997, 53 years af­ter their sep­a­ra­tion, Song passed away and

was fi­nally re­united with her true love in heaven. “The pit­ter- pat­ter of the rain in dreams we share, the pit­ter-pat­ter of the rain in sleep­less­ness we share.” Only by mu­tual in­spi­ra­tion can we con­sole each other, like the comet’s glory glis­ten­ing our tired dreams, though our bod­ies may part, our hearts will be to­gether for­ever. I shall love thee till the end of time. ( From TheRepub­li­cofChina intheLoveLet­ters , Tuan­jie Press. Trans­la­tion: Wang Xiaoke)

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