Daugh­ter of the Sea

Tai­wan’s Wan­der­ing Writer Com­ing Home

That's China - - Je T'aime, Dinghai - Text by / Serene Li

In her Vi­cis­si­tudes of Life, Tai­wan’s most fa­mous ‘va­grant writer’ San­mao de­scribed the ‘homeland’ she had only seen in dreams as “the veins in a leaf”. “The nos­tal­gia is so soft and frag­ile that I am too scared to lay my fin­ger on it,” she wrote.

Her crav­ings for “roots”, some­what un­ful­filled, also blos­somed into a lovely piece ti­tled ‘Nos­tal­gia’, in which the au­thor re­trieved her mem­o­ries about the sweet­est days in her stormy life. In her sub­con­scious, the three cop­per bells put into her hands by a friend as a me­mento on the day San­mao started her self-ex­ile were like a hand­ful of clay from her elu­sive ‘roots’. The bells had since been on the key­chain of her heart, for­ever haunt­ing her.

“They’d play gen­tly to a light breeze, send­ing liq­uid ring­ing into my heart, like a timely driz­zle sway­ing off the baked earth. It is a sound I had never heard in my life, and it rinses away all the pent-up de­pres­sions in me.”

The wan­der­ing writer was born as “the daugh­ter of the sea”, with an un­sul­lied heart yearn­ing for a dis­tant place where life may not be per­fect but was pure and real.

The coastal city of Ding­hai seems to be the log­i­cal ‘home’ for the writer to re­turn to. For San­mao, the sound of the waves wash­ing against the rocks was like the

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