Turn­ing a New Page in Life


Special Focus - - Contents - Feng Ji­cai 冯骥才

Say­ing farewell to sports was a turn­ing point in my life. Be­fore that, I spent all my time with team­mates, coaches, spec­ta­tors, bas­kets, balls, jer­seys, whis­tles, and hard train­ing as well as the sound sleep that fol­lowed. Min­gled amongst those were my love, my ca­reer, my joys and sor­rows, my hopes, and my dreams. I was se­lected by the coach as a “promis­ing cen­ter” to the mu­nic­i­pal bas­ket­ball team.

The scene from Oc­to­ber 4, 1961 is still etched in my mind like a frozen pic­ture. The coach said to me se­ri­ously, “Your ster­num in­jury is not suit­able for heavy and long- time train­ing.” I learned from the doc­tor that sports was no longer a ca­reer path for me to fol­low.

It is said that most ath­letes will ex­pe­ri­ence bit­ter­sweet emo­tions when they leave their teams. While I was dis­ap­pointed and dis­tressed, my mood did not plum­met, and I soon calmed down.

One light went out, and I lit an­other.

Apart from bas­ket­ball, I have also de­vel­oped a pas­sion for paint­ing and lit­er­a­ture. Dur­ing ju­nior high school, I learned paint­ing from a Chi­nese painter, and I even won the Out­stand­ing Works Award of the Mu­nic­i­pal Youth Art Ex­hi­bi­tion in my first year of se­nior high school. Even when I was in the mid­dle of sports train­ing, I would run home on Sun­days and, still wear­ing my sneak­ers and jersey, bend my huge body over a desk to prac­tice my ink work. At that time, I was good enough to per­fectly repli­cate an­cient paint­ings for the Chi­nese Paint­ing So­ci­ety.

Tak­ing off my jersey for good, I have been grow­ing my paint­ing ca­reer for nearly 20 years. Since my start, I have drawn hun­dreds of paint­ings and ex­ported them to South­east Asia, Europe, and Amer­ica. That said, I have not given up my hobby of play­ing bas­ket­ball. Dur­ing the Cul­tural

Revo­lu­tion, I also joined a “mis­cel­la­neous army” and went ev­ery­where play­ing “street ball.”

My ad­dic­tion to lit­er­a­ture was then still echo­ing in mind. Be­cause of the changes in my life and other rea­sons, I took on this more pow­er­ful way to ex­press my strong sense of so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity. In just a few years, I have writ­ten nearly two mil­lion words of lit­er­ary works. I am grate­ful that the strength and phys­i­cal fit­ness I gained as a teenager have blessed me with the health needed to pur­sue writ­ing now in my golden years.

As my old team­mates left the bas­ket­ball world, they were clueless about what to do for the rest of their life. Some of them have no plan for their fu­ture as of yet. One of my team­mates came to talk to me, and there was a cer­tain self- ef­face­ment in his words. I hated to hear him say that. I know how dif­fi­cult it is for an ath­lete to start a new ca­reer. I al­most felt like crit­i­ciz­ing him for be­ing so nar­row- minded as to ig­nore de­vel­op­ing other hob­bies and ar­eas of ex­per­tise, and for ne­glect­ing cul­tural ac­com­plish­ments while he was still young, but I man­aged to keep it all to my­self.

When a man en­gages him­self in any sport, he is des­tined to change his pro­fes­sion again in the fore­see­able fu­ture. A ca­reer in sports is short, so ath­let­ics and com­pe­ti­tion can only be done when you are young. Those who do sports, of course, must strain ev­ery nerve to cre­ate achieve­ments and mer­its dur­ing this golden and fleet­ing time. At the same time, it is also nec­es­sary to pay at­ten­tion to the devel­op­ment of one’s own var­i­ous in­ter­ests and read more books. When ath­leti­cism fails due to aging or is cut in half due to in­juries, hob­bies of­ten be­come the ca­reers one pur­sues for the rest of his life. A per­son who has one more hobby, like one who has one more lan­guage, will al­ways have an­other pos­si­bil­ity for the fu­ture. If it’s not some­thing that drives you, work will inevitably be turned into a bur­den. You do it reluc­tantly and feel it an un­shak­able and in­escapable dis­tress.

Sports is the unity of strength and in­tel­li­gence. But lit­er­a­ture, mu­sic, and other arts will in­flu­ence the ethics, tem­per­a­ment, power, and grace in the way you speak. They will in­crease your abil­i­ties, deepen your think­ing, and of­fer you ac­cess to the rich­ness and breadth of the world. A wise ath­lete, whether in the golden age of sports or in the years that fol­low, will never wan­der down the road of life.

( From My Cul­tural Life Is Only Im­proved , Times Lit­er­a­ture and Art Pub­lish­ing House. Trans­la­tion: Qing Run)

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