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Before I set out for the US, a former schoolmate of mine wrote me by airmail, asking
me in all earnest to bring him some raw date stones. They were not heavy in weight, yet I
was curious about their use.
At Philadelphia, shortly before staring out for my friend’s place, I called him up. So
when I got off the train at the destination, I found him already waiting for me at the station.
It was about half a century since we last met, and we were now both in our declining years.
After hugging each other, he asked me eagerly, “have you brought them with you?” I
immediately fished out the date stones from my handbag. He fondled them in his palm as if
they were something more valuable than pearls or agates.
Obviously he was just as childlike as before, when I asked about the use of the date
stones, he put them into his pocket and replied by way of fooling me deliberately, “You’ll
It was really a beautiful mountain city. As we drove on, an expanse of rich crimson up
and down the slope came into sight. In China a place like this would have been described
as a maple city. After passing through several cols, my friend said pointing to a threestoried
house amidst the maple trees, “here we are.” The car turned into a lawn and when it
was three or four meters away form the garage, its door automatically opened as if it
recognized its own master.
My friend looked somewhat ill at ease when he told me this: At the time he bought
this big house, his children had all been at school. Now they had their own homes and jobs.
His wife, a biochemist, was a dietician at a research institute.
After assigning me a room on the second floor facing a lake, he showed me around
his back garden, which, though not too big, was exquisite and nicely arranged. The
moment we sat down on a white bench close to a hedge, he asked me, “Don’t you find
something here smacking of our native place in China?” at this, I noticed a weeping willow,
planted by himself, on either side of a flight of steps as well as a water-lily pond in the
middle of the garden. He said with deep feeling, “When I planted the willows, my son was
only five. Now he serves as head of chief mechanics in a nuclear submarine. My daughter
teaches at Harvard University. I’m happy with my family and my career. I own all modern
household facilities I need. But I still feel something lacking. Maybe I’m a bit too foolish.
How come the older I become, the more I think of my homeland. Now I fully understand
the frame of mind of one residing in a place far away from home. I always think of
Changdian and Longfusi. Every time Christmas is celebrated here in America, I think of
lunar New year back in China. I can never forget the date tree in the courtyard of the house
on Zongbu Hutong. That’s why I’ve asked you to bring me some date stones. I’ll try to
plant them here.
Then he said pointing to a jumble of rockery standing in a corner of the garden,
“Believe it or not, the rocks, hand-picked by me, were bought by the kilogram. I drove
dozens of kilometers away to haul them back in my car. Look, that’s Beihai in our home.”
Thereupon, we rose to our feet simultaneously and walked along a cobbled footpath
beside the lawn towards the miniature Beihai. What a careful man my friend was! He had
had the artificial hill inlaid with a clay pavilion and a red temple, with a white pagoda on
top. He said he had bought the decorative objects from China Town in San Francisco.
He also told me that on a moonlit night he and his wife would sit side by side on the
bench recalling how they had used to go boating on the Beihai Lake. Meanwhile, as I
smelled the faint scent of the water-lilies carried to us by the breeze, I felt as if the
beautiful scene of a Chinese lotus pond were flashing past my eyes.
The change of nationality doesn’t mean the change of national feeling. No other
nation has such a strong attachment for the native land as we Chinese.
为“一次又一次”或“重复”。因此全句译为asking me in all earnest to bring him some
raw date stones，其中in all earnest是成语，作“认真地”或“恳切地”解。
(2)“我赶快从手提包里掏出那几棵枣核”中的“掏出”译为fished out比took out 贴切，
(3)“他托在掌心”译为He fondled them in his palm，比He held them in his palm贴切，因
deliberatedly to make a mystery of……。现全句按“故意开玩笑地说”的意思译为replied by way of
fooling me deliberately，其中by way of 是成语，其意思是“为了”或“意在”（with the
(5)“领我去踏访他的后花园”译为he showed me around his back garden，其中to show
(6)“布置得却精致匀称”译为was exquisite and nicely arranged，其中nicely的意思是“恰
(7)“也许是没出息”不宜按字面直译，现按“也许是自己有些傻”译为Maybe I’m a bit
(8)“堆起的一座假山石”译为a jumble of rockery，其中jumble的意思是“杂乱的一
(9)“你相信吗？”本可译为Don’t you believe it？现译为Believe it or not，为具有同样意
(10)“论公斤买下”即“按公斤计算买下”，译为bought by the kilogram。注意这里介词
(11)“走到‘北海’跟前”译为Walked……towards the miniature Beihai，其中