Hong Shanhui, Adjunct Assistant Professor, National Central University Center for General Education
Fond reminiscences of mother and family are perpetual themes for writer Qi Jun. Her essay “Reunion Cake” is a recollection of a Mid-Autumn Festival when she had no desire to admire the full moon or purchase moon-cakes, but only to reminisce about the “reunion cakes” her mother once made. Both sweet and savory, the cake’s ingredients included lard, sweetened bean paste, chanterelle mushrooms, jujube paste, salted potherd mustard, and ground pork. “Reunion cake” was the writer’s mother’s term for “moon-cakes” – the woman felt that the moon was a “lunar bodhisattva,” hanging high in the sky, shining down on the world, so how could it be plucked down and eaten? And so she named her creation “reunion cake,” a Mid-Autumn symbol of family togetherness and harmony.
Although Qi Jun’s mother has made a “reunion cake,” family members aren’t completely reunited, because the writer’s father had yet to come home from faraway Beijing. Qi Jun’s white-haired old grandfather asks her to write a letter to her dad urging him to return at once so the family can spend the holiday together and enjoy her mother’s “reunion cake.” Qi Jun’s mother sends Uncle A-Rong, a hired hand, to the store to buy a “reunion cake” as big as a small, round tabletop, and hangs it in her room. That evening she holds her daughter in her arms and stares at the large cake, saying: “Xiao Chun, write a letter to your papa and tell him there’s huge reunion cake hanging in our room. Ask him to come home next year for the Mid-Autumn Festival so we can all be together again.” The words express the mother’s sadness at her husband’s absence and her infinite longing for his return. Qi Jun borrows a phrase from Tang dynasty poet Wang Wei –“We doubly miss our dear ones on each festive day” – to voice mother and daughter’s deep yearning for husband and father, the words betraying a trace of resentment and worry at his long absence.
The mother in Qi Jun’s essay is not her natural mother, but an aunt, Ye Menglan, who dearly loves the girl. Qi Jun’s father passed away when she was one year old, and her mother died when she was four. On her deathbed, her mother entrusted Qi Jun and her brother to the care of Qi Jun’s father’s elder brother and his wife, who had no offspring. The uncle and aunt treated children as their own, but the uncle later acquired a concubine, casting a pall over the marriage. Thus, in addition to portraying her mother’s compassion and care, Qi Jun’s essay also touches on women’s woeful lot in traditional society.
Qi Jun’s nostalgic essays are like a nonlinear autobiography, introducing childhood memories, friends, relatives, and other memorable characters one by one. She often writes in the first-person, or in the voice of “Xiao Chun,” her childhood nickname, re-presenting memories, vividly reliving the past. “Reunion Cake” depicts a woman’s longing for her absent husband and Qi Jun’s fond memories of her mother.
Hong Shanhui, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Center for General Education, National Central University
Qi Jun (1917-2006) was the penname of Pan Xizhen, nicknamed Chunying (“Little Spring”). She was a graduate of Hangchow University’s Department of Chinese Literature. She taught at Shanghai’s Huizhong Girl’s Middle School, Wenzhou’s Yongjia Middle School, Hangchow University, and also served as librarian at the Zhejiang Province High Court. In 1949 she relocated to Taiwan, where she work as registrar at the High Prosecutor’s Office, and copy-edit section chief at the Judicial Administration Department. She also taught at Chinese Culture University, National Central University, and National Chung Hsing University. She was a recipient of the China Literary Arts Association Award for Essays, the Sun Yat-sen Academic and Cultural Foundation Essay Award, the Government Information Office’s Golden Tripod Award for Excellence in Literature, and the National Culture and Arts Foundation Literary Arts Award. Her essay collection Vexation was named one of “Taiwan’s Thirteen Classic Works of Literature.” National Central University has established a “Qi Jun Research Center.”
Qi Jun’s father passed away when she was a year old, and her mother died three years later. From ages five to fourteen tutor Ye Juxiong taught the girl ancient Chinese poetry and prose, giving her a solid grounding in the classics. At Hangchow University she came under the wing of poet Xia Chengdao, who gave the young writer her penname. Stylistically, Qi Jun’s writing is lucid and accessible, warm and sincere. She is best known for her autobiographical essays, which taken together form a complete memoir. Her works recall childhood memories and people and events in her hometown, revealing a feminine acuity, delicate and moving.
Qi Jun’s major works include the essay collection Vexation (1968), The Red Lantern (1969) Dreaming at Midnight with My Book as a Pillow (1975), Sweet Osmanthus Flowers Falling Like Raindrops (1976) Flowers Falling in the Drizzling Rain (1977) Traces of Dreams (1980) Water Is the Sweetness of Home (1983), The Peaches of Immortality Are in This Place (1985), The Green Lantern Reminds Me of Childhood (1988), Mother’s Heart – Buddha’s Heart (1990) One Blue Garment, Ten Thousand Threads of Emotion (1991), and Always a Lover (1998); the short story collections Sister Jing (1956), Lily Soup (1958), Eight Hours in the Proofreading Room (1968), Sorrow of the Seventh Lunar Month (1971), On the Banks of the Qiantang River (1980), and The Oranges are Turning Red (1991); the critical works The Poet’s Boat (1981), and Qi Jun’s Reading (1987); the children’s book Qi Jun Tells Stories of Her Childhood (1981) and The Tortoiseshell Hairpin (2004).
|Anthology：||Love You Forever|
|Author：||Qi Jun (Chi Chun)|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Chiu Ko Publishing Co. Ltd.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.books.com.tw/products/0010315765|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “book.com.tw” Internet Bookstore|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|