Dear Chunni,


Thanks for writing. Happy New Year to you too.

pen and paper 03 

This is a free weekend for me, a rarity for teachers at YYHS, let alone for students. My present students were still having lessons in the classroom the whole Saturday. They will have one day off tomorrow, on Sunday. This morning I was reading their English journal and commenting on their entry for this week. This afternoon I had a nice sleep after lunch. In the evening I turned on my QQ messenger and checked out the messages. I found yours among them.


I do not log into the QQ messenger very often. In future, please write to my actively used email address, I check this box almost daily.


The first snow of this winter is flurrying right at this moment. The air is brisk, cold and fresh. The traffic on the road is unusually less than normal. It is a quiet evening. I am writing to you on my computer in my study.


My memory of you is as fresh as the air today. I remember you were wearing a long pigtail at the very beginning of high school. You were your maths teacher’s assistant. Unluckily, you had the long pigtail cut off later on and you were left with a neat hairstyle for convenience. Probably you didn’t know your pigtail at the time reminded me of some of my childhood playmates, who were also having long long pigtails.


I was wondering whether you were in touch with your former desk mate, Mr Pu Xiao, a lovely and studious boy. You two were getting along so well with each other that I thought you must be a pair. Ha-ha. In one class, Mr Pu wrote a nice little poem in English about you and copied it onto the blackboard to share with us. All of us smiled.


Of course Shengliver is not writing a love letter to you, but still I would like to let you know the image that your name evokes in my mind – a very Chinese girl with a long pigtail, carrying on her back a basket full of green vegetables.


Let’s come to the issues you raised in your mail. The following is my opinion, for your reference.




Pity that your dear father chose the major for you. This is a common practice in our country. Actually most high school graduates in China know little about fields of study in higher education. Upon graduation they normally turn to their parents and their teachers alike for guidance. Judging from what you said, I bet that at the moment you have no genuine interest in your major – biology. It was your father’s choice, anyway; it was not yours.


Obviously two options are in front of you. You could stick with your major and try your best to cultivate an interest in it. It is true that we CAN develop interest in something we were not into or familiar with. Take my tea drinking for example. I didn’t drink at all when I was younger. I thought it was a waste of time and money to drink tea every day. However, I picked up the habit this way. In the very beginning I put a pinch or two of tea leaves in my drinking water. I kept doing it for two or three months. Then one day suddenly I found something was wrong when I missed my afternoon tea. My taste for tea was thus grown. I am a habitual tea drinker now. I was wondering if you could develop a liking for biology in a similar way. It is still the beginning of your studies. As you explore the subject further, you might find your interest will increase and in time you might get hooked on it.


However, if you still find biology boring and dry after some effort, you could consider changing to a new field of study if possible. Do you remember Miss Wang Dan? She recently wrote me, saying that she had successfully switched from her first, assigned major to the field she likes – the English language. Should such an option be available in your school, you could give it a go, girl.


The best university experience results from an ideal discipline plus interest and diligence. If you are into your subject, then you have a strong motivation for it and you are willing to go all out for your academic excellence. You will spend hours and hours on it and yet you are not tired or bored. Therefore, please rethink your course of life, make a decision and then take full advantage of your university education. Your life is not your father’s. The choice is up to you. At the end of your university, you should come out a mature, confident and knowledgeable and skilled woman, ready for a career in China.




I am proud of what you have achieved in high school. Your classroom performance and your work convinced me that you were a good learner. High school differs from college, however. In college, the learning responsibility is 90%, if not 100%, on your own shoulders. Do not expect your teachers to look after you as much as your high school ones did. This seeming irresponsibility of college teachers is actually your independence, your freedom to make choices. Anyway you will leave your teachers sooner or later, totally on your own. You will be your own teacher. Your life is yours. No one else will live it for you. No one else will control it.


You should not have trouble passing your CET, Band-4 or / and Band-6. But I hope you go beyond the exams. There is a whole lot of English experience on campus – reading in the library, English corners and English clubs, to name just a few. If you manage your time well, you may find passing the exams is no more than a small part of your language learning picture. It will come naturally and easily. Apart from that, you will have got a lot of language skills and knowledge which are not tested in the exams by the time your English courses are concluded.


In some universities, an English instructor may teach as many as 200 students at a time. His lessons are usually given in the format of a lecture in a lecture theatre. If you were taught this way, I don’t think you could have many chances to communicate with the teacher. He / She would not and could not take care of each individual student. The teacher would be a talking machine and his / her pupils would be receptacles for knowledge. But if you are lucky enough to be in a small-size class, say one of 20 or 30 students, then you will probably have more chances to interact with your teacher. Of course the students learn much better if a lot of communication goes between the two.




We humans are emotional creatures. We do have highs and lows. Life is hard and challenges are everywhere. You are leaving your adolescence behind and soon you will be an adult. You will discover more about our society and probably in this process there are moments you could feel very low and depressed about this country and this life. But cheer up, girl. Compared with your contemporaries, you are privileged to have access to university education. When your world is overcast, think of the sunshine ahead and fight on! Optimism will beat pessimism and laughter will dispel cynicism and doubt.


I am closing this letter in a moment. Time now is 22.58. Before I finish, I would like to tell you how to access my English blog. The simplest way to locate it is to google the name Shengliver. The first item of the results should be my blog – Shenglivers Garden. Or you may follow this link to it:


It is quite big now, with over 90 entries written in English over the past two years or so. I hope you like them when you visit it.


If you do not mind it, I will post this mail to you on my blog as the latest entry. Do let me know if you permit me to do so.


Best wishes,





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