writer Hong Ying's eyes, London is a free, quite simple and
unsophisticated city that is overflowing with poetry. "There are many dropped
apples in the grass, enough to enlighten 100 Newtons, as well as calamus, roses and pine
trees sticking into sky. I can write peacefully there," says Hong
Hong Ying is a
citizen of the United Kingdom
who has been living in England and writing in Chinese for
over 10 years. Her four fictional sagas and a series of her novelettes have been
translated into 19 languages and published in more than 20 countries. In 1991,
Hong Ying left Beijing and went to
England with a student visa. However,
she only studied English at London University for half a year. After that she
married and stayed home writing. Hong Ying said, "I never had a regular job but
have lived by writing."
The Man with the
husband Zhao Yiheng is a full professor of Oriental School at London University in England. They knew each other in the
1980s when Hong Ying was a writer and Zhao Yiheng was a literary critic. But
after 10 years, when Zhao Yiheng met Hong Ying and courted her, he has become a
pure English gentleman.
Hong Ying still
remembers the day when she agreed to be married. "He asked me to marry him only
three hours after we met. I can remember I was in a red skirt that day and I
definitely told him that I have another boyfriend. But he said he liked me
because I was a direct woman, which was what he wanted.
"Only when I
married my husband at 29 and settled down in London did I have my own desk and a room——for
the first time in my life.
ascribed this change of luck to my husband. I needn't run desperately around in
this harsh world to make a living, they said. Of course, before marriage my eyes
were wide open for candidates and I was blamed for being too picky---my prince
charming must be kindhearted, well-learned but not a bookworm. My husband is
exactly the right sort, a man with the typical London style. With a tolerant smile, he just
shrugged off the topic after I related my past, a past most men would mind.
Heaven must have taken pity on this poor girl for the first time in my life and
the god of fortune smiled upon me."
The Wedding of a
Chinese in the English Style
England, Hong Ying saw some weddings
which made her feel that some Chinese weddings were short of meaning and
ceremony. The hullabaloo of eating in some Chinese weddings is quite different
from the solemnity and connotation of a marriage. The ceremony of marriage is
not dispensable. If it is dispensable, the marriage itself might also become
about her marriage, Hong Ying felt strongly that "According to English
tradition, people are married in church. So we went to church for three
continuous weeks and asked other people if they approved of our marriage. No one
objected because they did not know us. But the Abba who took charge of our
wedding was suspicious of my husband because he thought I was younger than my
stated age. He thought I was smuggled to England from China. After
checking my passport, he confirmed that I was 29 years old. At that time I was
very thin, just like a 19 year old girl. My English was not good and I needed to
say my vows in English on our wedding day. All my friends were afraid that I
would speak incorrectly. But it was very interesting that everything I said was
right. Our friends spoke Chinese even though they were professors at London University. The Abba said he had never
been surrounded by so many people speaking a foreign language."
The Quietness of
Chongqing, Beijing and London are three important cities in Hong
Ying's life. "Chongqing is my hometown and the
straightforward Sichuan dialect is what I cannot forget. I
which is a flourishing city where I have many friends and there are also many
different kinds of people there."
The house of
Hong Ying in England is
located in the outskirts of London and has a very beautiful natural
environment. Living there is very convenient and they can get downtown by train
in 40 minutes. Their house is very well-marked in a row of houses because "The
British liked to paint their houses light pink, while we used light blue and our
car is red. When we finished painting the house, many passers-by stopped to see
it and felt it very strange. Even one of our neighbors thought we were
committing a crime!"
In the London house, one of Hong
Ying's pleasures is to make friends with little animals:
believe how many animals there are that understand humans. Sometimes I found
that some small items, such as finger rings, were missing and it felt very
strange. But later my neighbor told me that these things are taken away by birds
to be given to their lovers! Around my house there were deserted lands, which
were supposed to be haunted. Sometimes I caught sight of a beautiful red fox
peering into my garden. I grew some peas in the garden and the fox came to steal
them. After I grew flowers instead, it did not come again. When we dug the pond,
we found our neighbor's cat was always squatting nearby. I was afraid it would
catch the fish when there were fish in the pound. But little did we know that
this cat was the guardian of the pond and prevented other cats from
of Underground in London
Ying likes to take her laptop to accompany her husband to London University by train, a 45 minute ride.
"London has the
densest underground in the world. The underground is the most democratic vehicle
Everyone likes to go to downtown by underground except those stars who are
afraid to be recognized. It is most impressive to me that sometimes the
underground in London uses expensive advertising space to
display poetry. Recently a public opinion poll in London showed that firstly people wished that
the underground could be more punctual and secondly people hoped to see more
poems and less advertising.
"It is very
interesting to ride the old train in London. When watching the back of people who
are leaving hastily I am reminded of the 'petals on a wet, black bough' from In
the Station of the Metro, a poem by Ezra Pound."
of China English Monthly, January