Shoi Chia-En, Assistant Professor, Center for General Education, Hsuan Chuang University
Jiang Xun’s famed essay “Lasting Flavor” is a treatise on the sense of taste. Recording his aesthetic musings in lyrical prose, Jiang Xun believes that as long as a person is willing to open the senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch – then he or she can meticulously observe the multitudinous, complex, and minute aspects of the outer world, a process the writer calls “awakening to beauty.” Among the senses, taste is not only a kind of judgment, but also follows a person’s past life experiences and memories, constantly growing, transforming, and accumulating along the way to become the “flavor of life.” In “Lasting Flavor” Zhang writes of his experiences at different stages of life, from childhood to adulthood, using tastes – sweet, sour, spicy, bitter, bland – as metaphors for those experiences. The writer describes dishes his mother cooked and how she taught him to appreciate various flavors.
When the multilayered flavors of the intermingled “five tastes” – sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, salty – enter the mouth, they not only stimulate the taste buds, allowing the brain to recognize flavor, but also are rich in spiritual connotations. Zhang Xun links tastes to realizations one comes to at different stages of life; for example, he likens children’s yearning for candy to the sweet feeling of happiness; in callow adolescence people begin to experience the “sourness” of jealousy and loss; adults’ unbridled excitability is like a mouth full of hot peppers; and in old age we acutely experience the bitter flavor of deep solemnity. In describing each flavor, in addition to indicating the significance of physical properties, the writer also touches on psychological connotations. Thus, “the five flavors are tastes, but also life.” In living we experience every flavor, therefore “in sweetness there is the memory of happiness and satisfaction; from sourness we learn the dejection of loss; hot spices allow us to experience the thrill of unbridled passion and exceeding limits.” These flavors are the author’s actual memories, symbols of his march toward maturity.
Zhang recalls how every lunar new-year his mother would steams buns as an offering to ancestors. First she would select the leavened dough, and then carefully bring a pot of water to boil; in a cloud of dense steam, his mother’s expression, solemn and dignified, conveyed her reverence for life. Standing to one side, the young Zhang Xun was infected by her attitude; thus, he not only became aware of solemnity of the occasion, but also realized that the mild, grainy aroma of the buns came from precious wheat, wheat was a product of the nurturing earth, and the earth’s fertility relied on an abundant sunshine and rainfall – all the richness and bounty was completely dependent on heaven’s generous blessings. Although it seemed commonplace, it all was of incomparable importance.
His mother’s steamed buns gave off a plain, lingering, and calming aroma – this was the unforgettable “lasting flavor.” Just as the book Caigentan (“Vegetable Root Discourse”) puts it, “Rich tastes are not true flavor; true flavor is light on the palate.” Thus, it is only ordinary flavor that holds the possibility of accommodating and giving rise to all other flavors; life begins with the pureness and simplicity of ordinary flavor.
Dai Huaxuan, Assistant Professor, Department of Taiwanese Literature, Aletheia University
Born in China’s Xian City, Jiang Xun (1947- ) came to Taiwan with his family in 1950, settling in Taipei. In childhood Jiang’s creative talents were nurtured by his mother’s storytelling and his father’s love of the classics. Jiang began painting in middle school, and read widely in world classics. He also tried his hand at modern poetry and joined a literary research club. After graduating from Chinese Culture University’s Graduate Institute of Art, in 1972 he went to France for further study at the University of Paris. He returned to Taiwan in 1976 and accepted a post as chief editor of The Lion Art Monthly, devoting the publication to all the arts, including literature, architecture, and theater. In 1981 he was invited to attend the Iowa International Writers’ Workshop. He later served as director of Unitas Publishing Company and taught at a number of universities. He also acted as dean of Tunghai University’s Department of Fine Arts for seven years. Meanwhile, he has continued write and paint, holding a number of exhibitions. A noted art critic, Jiang plans and curates major art shows in Taiwan. In recent years he has devoted himself to promoting art education.
In addition to treatises on aesthetics, Jiang Xun essays account for the bulk of Jiang Xun’s literary output, but he also writes poetry and fiction. Stylistically, his works are varied, sometimes simple and elegant, other times gorgeous and extravagant, the pursuit of “beauty” the common thread running through them all. In 1964 Jiang took first place in a national fiction-writing contest. Received the China Times Recommended Reading Award for Poetry in 1982, the Chung Hsing Literary Arts Award in 1985, and the Golden Bell Award in 1988. Jiang Xun’s poetry collections include Young China (1980), Mother (1982), Affectionately Laughing at Me (1989), Rivers and Mountains as in a Painting (2000), and Tomorrow (2007). His short story collections include Legends (1987), Because of Loneliness (1993), Unrestrained Emotions (2000), Secret Vacation (2006), and New Legends (2009). Essay collections include Love of Praise (1987) and three volumes on Chinese landscape painting: Chance Meeting (1985), Magnanimity – Mountain (1987), and Where Will I Sober Up Tonight? (1990). His epistolary works include Letters to Ly’s M – 1999 (1999), and Letters to the Young Artists (2004). Works on aesthetics include The Great Beauty of Heaven and Earth and Handwritten Letters – Annals of the Southern Dynasties (2010), This Life: Awakening of the Corporeal Body, and Young Taiwan (2012). Discourses on aesthetics include Chinese Art History (1990), Pondering Beauty (1998), The Beauty of Angkor Wat (2004), and The Awakening of Beauty (2006), Ten Letters on Sensibility (2009), Dream of the Red Chamber (2013) and Multitudes in the Dust: Minor Characters in “Dream of the Red Chamber” (2014).
|Anthology：||Business Weekly No.898 and No.899|
|Author：||Jiang Xun (Chiang Hsun)|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Business Weekly|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.businessweekly.com.tw/|
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|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|