Modern Chin~st Starin
BOY QUU'S SCHOOL
Uy LaoHslang (Wang Hsiang-eh'en)
a p;rownup by the time he i~ eight or nine years old. He can weed in thesoring or tie up harvest bundles in summer; he IS able to pass bricks when a hOU8(': is built or open and shut the furrows to the irrigation ditches. That being the case, who'd. want to stud him to school ? But an official proclamation had been issued in the city to the effect that. unless a boy over six years of age is sent to school, some adult in the family win have to go to jail' ..This was how it happened that the country hoy of our story went to school.
A boy in the country gets to be at least half as
On his first day at school the boy came back with eight books. His grandparents and his father and mother all gathered around him .and marveled at the pictures in the . books. Said Grandfather: "The Four Books and the Five Classicgl2 never had any pictures like these." "The people in the pictures are not Chinese!" Father suddenlyexclaimed. "Look carefully and you'll see that none of them wear the kind of clothes we do. See, these are leather shoes, this is a foreign costume, this is what is called a dog stick. They remind me of the old missionary who preaches at the cross street in the city. "
"This woman at the spinning wheel is also a foreigner," Grandmother theright hand to spin but she uses her left."
said .. "We
"If that makes her a toteigner, then this driver is not Chinese either. Look, have you ever seen a Chinese driver standing on this side of the cart?" commented
Grandfather .. "The teacher says that the books cost a dollar and twenty cents. " the boy smldenly said, taking courage in their absorption in the books. The statement stunned everyone like a suddenclap of thunder. Grandmother was the first to speak. "They certainly have nerve to make us pay for the books after we give up the boy for them! He's gone to school hardly a day and it's cost us over a dollar already. Who can afford such schools? We can't save that much money if we go without light for half a year, and we'll have to sen at least. eight bushels of corn toraise that much money."
HI should think one book ought to be enough to start with. They can get another
after they have finished that," Grandfather said. "Moreover, characters on a small characters worth more than
why should it cost so much when there are only three or four page?" Grandmother continued. "The almanac has both large and and is closely printed and it costs only five coppers. How could these be a dollar?"
The Four Bcoks=-the greatest text of the sages Confudu5 and Menciu«, which from 1313·1905 were the basis of all Chine~e education. The Confucian ClaS5ics-Book of Changes, Book of History, Book of Odes, Book of Rites, and Spring and Autumn Annals-in which Confucian learning W<\S restored.
Luckily his father happened to see the other boys also coming home from school and the teacher taking a stroll with his "dog slick." It couldn't be said that the boy was not diligent.a few minutes before had suddenly become a cause for depression. and Father were frightened. no longer so young. "What is the use of trying to make a scholar of a boy whom Heaven had intended for the hoe? Look at him. our young hero came back from school at three-thirty. His father gave him a solemn lecture. she could stand it no longer. OUf boy was enchanted with the story and the words "fairy" and "gold" but he could not figure out just what was meant by "earliest.
. You are too early. He reviewed his lesson every day after school.. " The boy took his father's instructions to heart and set out for school the next day at dawn. He kept wondering. however. Grandmother." his mother's heart would jump. She snatched the book from him and said." The boy looked around the yard and found that he was indeed the only student there.128
The books which they had marveled at. Grandfather was sweeping the yard when he suddenly caught sight of the boy. You'll be very ungrateful if you don't study hard and learn something. reading over and over again. though we can't afford it in our circumstances. At first she only cried and
In the afternoon. Grandfather. In order to make up the sum. and long dress. "Let me see who your mama is!" Thinking that his mother was reallyeager to learn. He threw down his broom and said. saying. he read on faithfully and conscientiously. With his left hand holdi. the boy pointed to the accompanying picture and said. There was nothing for him to do but run back home. To illustrate his point. It's only the second day and he is playing truant already!" The boy was just about to explain when his mother gave him two resounding slaps and made him tend the fire for breakfast. he told a story about a little fairy that waited by the wayside with a bag of gold to reward the earliest boy. "Classes don't start till nine. about the strange ways of these foreign schools. "You are now nine.' however." just as his father was going back to work after his midday nap. The family discussed the matter at supper and all through the rest of the evening and finally decided that they would accept this calamity and pay the amount required. sixth day of school. Needless to say) the price of the books that they had to buy had a great deal to do with their temper. When the boy went to school again after breakfast.ng the book open and his right following the characters. bobbed hair. The first six days of school were taken up with the first lesson in the reader. You had better go home now. with the text "This is Mama." One glance at the picture and Mother burst out crying. When he got there. the teacher was already on the platform and was holding forth on the subject of being late to school. he walked around the lecture room and found no open door. as if afraid that the characters would fly away if he did not fix his entire attention on them. But every time he read "This is Mama. "This is Marna." and concluded that his son was not playing truant. thinking that she might have become possessed by some evil spirits. On the . the boy's mother had to contribute the proceeds from two pairs of earrings that she had recently sold. "This is Mama-the lady with leather shoes. the porter said to him in a low voice. he listened outside the teacher's window and heard him snoring. since it was the first time. We're sparing you from work and sending you to school. The teacher is asleep and the classroom isn't unlocked ." until dusk. It's now only five-thirty.
the man with spectacles and parted hair." the boy said. which made her curse the insti tution of Sunday. really?" The teacher answered even more gently than before. knocking on the blackboard with her ruler. They had an ox and a horse and he had himself taken them out to graze in the hills." she did not dare to pursue the question. She said. "The ox must be the Ox Head Devil King and the horse must also be a demon. "We are going to have the second lesson today: 'This 1S Papa. Father said. he obeyed his teacher's injunction of the week before and asked his father about it. III once went to a foreign circus in the city and saw a horse that could ring a bell and fire a gun." Grandmother.' Whose mama is she.' Look. or to his parents at home. "And you have no mama at all.. but when she heard her son reiterating "This is Papa. A few days later. Mother was still worried about who the picture woman was. The boy told Mother the circumstances. to his teacher at school.
did the boy get that vampire-like
mama?': have the boy ask his
When they found the cause of her distress. "It is the mama of anyone who happens to read the book. but his mama is not like this lady. but he had never once seen a horse eat noodles and he was sure that their ox could not tend the fire. Father said. but when
The next morning before dawn. Perhaps the book is talking about such horses and oxen. "Why don't you understand?" "Baldy is also reading this." Thereupon our hero stood up and asked. however. This is Papa. the boy found that it was Sunday and that there would be no school. "The reader says 'This is Mama. Don't you see that they all wear human clothing? They haven't changed their heads for human heads yet." The old lady then went on to tell
. Arriving at school. At general assembly on Monday." the boy said. "Don't talk among yourselves!" the teacher said. "We'll teacher whose mama this really is. did not agree with Father's explanation. She died a long time ago. "Where when they asked her what the matter was." Hsiao Lin said. But could the book be wrong:? Since he could not answer these questions. Moreover. Do you understand now?" "No. the boy learned two new sentences: "The ox tends the fire.Modem Chinese Stories
would not say anything she said." Baldy said in selfdefense. "One who wants to learn must not be afraid to ask questions.Maybe it is the teacher's mama. but that alone will take five hundred years. the teacher said gently to his charges." He read the text over thousands of times but he could not get over the feeling that there was something queer about the assertions. the horse eats noodles. Mother woke up her son and made him go to school and ask the teacher for a solution of the problem that had bothered her all night. being afraid that her husband might want to know when she'd found a new papa for their son. "Baldy's mother is lame in one arm and has only one eye. She was puzzled more than ever and wondered why the book insisted on presenting people with papas and mamas when they had them already. everyone. This embarrassed the teacher a little but he said patiently. the teacher had drunk more wine than was good for him the night before and was still sound asleep. Anyone who has any question should raise it at once." After school.
son. Grandmother always mumbled that school would bankrupt them yet whenever he had to buy a sheet -of writing paper. Then they heard his father shout. and yet you want to buy candy. "We are getting some
oranges. which he had never seen and which had made him wonder. the boy said. "What is a tea party?" "It means to get together and eat things and drink tea. He only upset the table and broke a few rice bowls. "What
are vou getting
oranges for?" "We want to hold a tea party. who lived in the next dwelling to the east."
"You are getting some oranges?"
asked. But he could not resist the glowing picture that his book gave of the tea party and decided to help himself to the money that his mother had just got from selling more of her jewels and which she had set aside for buying cabbage seedlings. who lived to their west.money to buy oranges?" asked Father. The boy's father aimed a kick at him) but fortunately the table intervened. and someone had told him that orange peels would give him relief." The explanation cleared up at one stroke many things in the book that had punted the boy. They agreed that each would contribute twenty cents so that they could send to the city for oranges.. they heard Baldy. "Is this ox that can tend the fire a
The teacher laughed and said.cd-woIJ demon and woke up crying. ball. apples) chocolate. It is not true that oxen ran really tend the fire or that horses really eat noodles. Grandfather was of the
." This was followed by the voice of Hsiao Lin's uncle. of course. thr. and things. "I let you buy books with my hard-earned money because it is for your good. the boy asked his teacher. ('We can't even afford salt." the boy said. and summon rain. to bring back some orange peels for your grandfather's cough. Our boy knew. There doesn't seem to be any corn stew or bean curd with onions in it. and the like. You can ask whoever wants you to hold tea parties for it. that he would he only inviting a beating to ask money for buying sweetmeats." said Mother. "You are too literal! The book has only made those things up. "The teacher->-" but before the boy could finish making up his story.130
stories about demons that. could command the wind. park. "Where did you get the." Grandfather said. milk. It dawned upon him that the book dealt only with make-believe things." the boy said. "It is in the book. One day the boy and his schoolmates decided that they would play tea party as they had read about it in their reader . "And it is always about foreign food. " The truth came out. The following day. Thinking that this was a chance for him to ingratiate himself into his grandfather's favor. Grandfather had been suffering for a long time from a chronic cough. suddenly begin to cry.p. He kept on asking what orange peels were like and where they could be gotten. "Remember. but I haven't any money for you to buy sweetmeats. seized hy a wip." "What kind of book is this that is either making animals talk or teaching people to eat and play? No wonder the boys have become lazy and choosy about their food since they went to school!" Grandmother said. He had read about such things as bread.result was that the boy dreamed that night of heinp.
After this humiliation. "So this house is now all yours andI have no longer a share in it!' She was mad with fury. Father discharged a day laborer and the teacher marked the boy's absence in the record book at school. "Don't be angry any more!" the boy's father said. Every day after school. a mama. She became very indignant and shouted. but Grandmother did not want her son to go to jail. I would rather-go to jail. our young scholar vowed to study harder and to recover his lost prestige in the family." but nothing about Grandfather and Grandmother." And so the next day. She picked up a brick and broke their iron pot into pieces.Modern Chinese Stories
opinion that it might be better to take the boy out of school. For Grandmother had been feeling that her son was no longer as close to her as before his marriage and that her position in the family had been gradually slipping.
. it was decided that they would let the boy try school for a few more days. Now as she listened to the boy reading aloud his latest lessons. "We won't let him read this kind of book any longer. After long arguments. He did not realize that the source of his troubles lay in the textbook itself.Translated by Chi-chen Wang
. and a sister. a brother. she heard him say. "In my family I have a papa. he read without stopping until it was dark.