Identifier

MSS.2.19

Publication Date

1-13-1918

Document Type

Letter

Transcription

491 Avenue Joffre
Shanghai, China
13 January, 1918

Dearest Dada:

Your 21st letter came a couple of days ago. I am sorry
to hear of your illness - I guess you have been over-work-
ing trying to do your work along with the War Relief.

The New Republic is a singularly clarifying periodical.
I enjoy the articles very much - especially the two by
William Hard. You may think that I am exaggerating:
however, I am beginning to feel that since my return
home, my English vocabulary has become stunted. The
ease and facility of expressing my thoughts, which perhaps
to a measure I had while in college, have deserted
me. I can only express now in general terms
rather than in the specific or concrete. Of course you
understand that the class discussions and lectures
kept my mind on the alert and constantly gave me
opportunities to use new words. The conversation
at home is at best general: and half the time
I speak in Chinese. I am deathly afraid that
within a few years, my knowledge of English will
degenerate into three hundred words.

You cannot exactly imagine how I miss
your companionship and those of my other friends [page break]
with whom I had semi-intellectual [con-fabs.] You
remember my saying that the average conversation
between the average man and his wife would
drive me to distraction. At present, well, I am
wondering whether I could sustain even a semi-
intelligent discussion. My brain seems terribly
full of cobwebs.

Since I last wrote you, my uncle who was
ill has died. Auntie is prostrated with grief.
Under such gloomy atmosphere, I am feeling more
than ever the futility of living, and oh
the eternal emptiness of life! And also the
awful, awful loneliness of existence. I recall
a quotation from [Leibing] which goes some-
thing like this
"Each of us is a monad, separate, different
and alone, each in its separate cell utterly
unique, and cannot either experience or feel
the experience of other monads."

Just think what life means, Dada - If one
does not marry, then think of the long stretch of life
ahead that has to be lived by oneself alone, for of course [page break]
within a few years, the other members of the family
will have interests of their own. Again if one
does marry, then think of the awful awful responsi-
bilities of bringing up the children - especially if
one should happen to marry a man without
great resources. At the same time if one marries
for wealth and ambition, think what it would
amount to if after a short time, the man should
lose his fortune. Such accidents often happen:
and then there would not even be a particle of
affection to keep up one's courage!

All in all, life is a pretty serious problem!
My aunt considers her widowhood in such a
disheartening spirit that even I am affected.
In America, a widow has a pretty good time:
in China the fate of a widow is pitiable.
In America, death is beautiful: people consider
it in such a beautifully reverential spirit. There
I felt that it was a transfiguration, and
a natural transition from this life to the
world eternal. You remember, how I used to long
but for death?

In China, however, death is something considered
terrible. The mystery of entering into the [page break]
Great Unknown is full of superstitious dread. And
a Chinese funeral - even a Xtian one is more
like a ceremony carefully staged than the
voluntary offering of respect to the departed.
I have described to you every conceivable form of
ceremony in Chinese life except a funeral. Now
I suppose I might as well enter into a discussion
of that.

First, the widow is dressed in coarse flax
with a thick rope for a sash. On her head is
a large three cornered hat also made of flax. The
hat is large enough to pull over her entire face, and
looks very much like the "witch hat" one sees
in fairy stories. If the deceased has sons and
unmarried daughters, they too are dressed in
coarse flax. However if the daughters are married, they
wear fine flax. The other relatives wear long
white gowns, and white shoes. As all my uncles'
children are abroad, I wore fine flax for
him. As a rule, I should have worn white,
but of course as I was in the carriage with
Auntie, I wore heavier mourning than I would have
otherwise. In China, if a daughter is married, she [page break]
is considered to belong to her husband's family, and
she wears heavier mourning for her father-in-law
and mother-in-law than she does for her own
father & mother.

At my uncle's funeral there were over fifty carriages.
The coffin is now in a guild as he cannot be
buried until his sons return. We want Auntie
to cable the children: but she refuses to do so.
Now as she is so ill, we may cable without letting
her know anything about it.

I received about fifty letters from the last
year TZE juniors and the new members. Among
them was one from Louie. She spoke about her
great disappointment in not going to the Army-Navy
game.

My little brother takes the St. Johns' Entrance
Examination next week. I am tutoring him
very assiduously, and I hope he will pass.

Dada, I don't know what is the matter
with me - I feel so terribly moody
and lonesome, - as though I were the sole
surviving mortal in this world! I wish you
were here with me, - and let me just have [page break]
a one-big hula hula cry!
I've told you that I am taking music, haven't
I? I practice about three hours every day.

H.K. is coming to Shanghai next month. His father
is the Manager of the [Kiagnan] docks in Shanghai - one of
the most important National Arsenals. My uncle
who died was the Secretary of the Arsenal. Now
H.K. is going to take that position, which is a
very important one. My aunt, of course, resents
anyone taking her dead husband's place -
unreasonably resentful: at the same time the
whole affair puts me in a difficult position.
H.K. wants me to marry him, - more than
ever now, as he sees quite a future
opening up for him. For a man of his age,
this position as Secretary is unusual, especially as
it is semi-political in nature, and has great
possibilities. And as you know, H.K. is cut
out for politics. My family is quite amused over the
fact that he writes almost as much to my
brother, my married sister and to my brother-in-law
as he does to me. But clearly Dad & Mother do not [page break]
want me to marry for a couple more years. And
my brother-in-law says that I am too much
of a kid to think of marriage. My sisters, how-
ever, both being married, are crazy to marry me
off too!

You ask why some of my letters to you are
censored. Well, if my letters go by way by
Vancouver, they are censored, as that is
British territory: if by San Francisco or
Seattle, they are not censored. Your letters
to me are censored most of the time.

But goodnight - I must go to bed, as I have
a music lesson tomorrow.

As Ever
Daughter

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