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In several of my novels, I have mentioned an ancient deserted garden, it is the Earth Altar. Many years ago, when tourist industry was still relatively undeveloped, the garden was in great disrepair, a desolate, barely remembered piece of land.
The Earth Altar is very close to where I live, or rather, I live very near to it. Perhaps it is destiny that Earth Altar was located where it is now, four hundred years before my birth. I have always live not far from it, ever since my grandmother moved to Beijing in her youth along with my father – we have relocated many times in the past fifty years and each time we moved ever closer to it. I often felt that the hand of fate was behind all these, as if the ancient garden had been here for my arrival, waiting patiently over four hundred years and weathering the vicissitudes of time in between.
It waited for my birth and witnessed the lost of use of my two legs at the age when my arrogance had reach its peak. During the four hundred years, it had corroded the tinted glass of the ancient hall eaves, faded the florid red paint of the walls and the doors, laid ruin the high walls and scattered about the elaborately carved parapets and fences; and, in contrast, the cypress tress surrounding the altar grew greener, the weeds, wild and free. Time it should be for my arrival. It was in an afternoon fifteen years ago that I entered the garden in my wheelchair; and Earth Altar was readied to receive me, a broken soul. Then, the sun was traveling on its unwavering path since time immemorial, growing ever bigger and redder with each passing moment. In the garden bathed in quiet glow, one saw clearer the passage of time even as he noticed his own shadow.