Shengliver’s Note: This letter is over a decade old, yet the messages are as true as ever.


Dear Thoreau,


Thanks for sharing with me your life questions. These questions of yours are hard for me, even though I have gained some experience. My views are as follows.


It is wrong of your mates to skip classes for PC games or whatever entertainment there might be in the dorm. Many college students do it, but it is absolutely off the right track. I am sure there is a sense of guilt at the back of their mind when they are absent from class. They are trying to deceive themselves. There should be plenty of time left for fun after they have looked after their academic studies. Anyway what would be the meaning of life should all our time be spent gaming? Most of us are not pro gamers. I, as a student, occasionally cut classes which I deemed of little significance. In my first term there was a course called Theory of Chinese Revolution and Construction. I absented myself from some lectures of this course but I did read the course book for the final exam. However, I was dead serious when it came to the major courses. I am happy to learn that you were able to resist the temptation. It is not easy not to cave in to peer pressure, and I hope you can keep it up.


Love and marriage is another big issue we all have to face up to. We are humans, and it is human nature to fall in love, have sex and build up a family. It is our biological need and our sociological need as well. It is perfectly normal. China is being transformed into a diverse society, which might see all kinds of options appear ahead of us. The majority will still enter into wedlock, but some, I dare say, will choose alternative lifestyles. Some may stay single, some may marry a person of the same sex, and some may marry but choose to have no offspring. This will happen sooner or later in China. It is the trend. But I can’t see why you should not end up in a marriage, following the mainstream.


The passion for my first love is still vivid in my memory. We fall in love as teenagers both for biological reasons and for aesthetic reasons. At the right age our body will release the right hormones, which in turn drive us into what is called love. This can be simply a pure good-will gesture towards some person of the other sex in the beginning. The person attracts us because she is pretty in appearance and/or in demeanour. I am afraid, however, that few of us, at such a young age and so green in the world, have the ability to tell what inner qualities the person has. Is she kind? Is she tolerant toward others? Is she keen to learn? At this stage what attracts us most is the superficial quality, a pretty face or a nice figure for example.


Many young people make misjudgements under the influence of their hormones. Some chaps tell me that many a beautiful face covers a heart as cold as ice, as poisonous as snake venom. It does not mean that all beautiful women are this way. The truth is that a pretty face or a voluptuous body is not necessarily proof of a beautiful heart.


After marriage, all the wishful thinking about the adored woman is put to the test of a daily routine, which can be boring and detrimental to the continuation of premarital bliss. The perfect woman is gradually losing the lustre she used to radiate, for both partners have to face all the tedious tasks of a married life. Who should cook? Who should do the grocery shopping? Who takes care of family money matters? Who has the say on important questions this family has to tackle? And many others. A baby will put the marriage under greater strain, especially if both spouses are employed full-time. Most quarrels and strife take place in the two or three years after the baby is born.


You might say that the decision to choose a life-long partner is a once-and-for-all one. This is wrong, I am afraid. The decision about whom to marry is critical, but a happy family is not 100 per cent guaranteed by a so-called right decision. You might choose the right person, but you might ruin the relationship after marriage if you or the other fails to cultivate it. In other words, it takes both partners to make a successful marriage.


It matters very much to remember to make concessions to the other. We are not perfect creatures. We are born with all kinds of defects and weaknesses. If a couple are willing to compromise, their marriage will be full of love. Otherwise rows would characterise it. It is easier said than done, especially when one side holds the conviction that s/he is in the right.


Let’s come to my marriage. As you know, my wife and I were classmates in junior high school, so we share a lot in family backgrounds, values and beliefs. We were attracted to each other when both of us started working in the early 1990s. We did have some differences on many questions but we have been able to respect each other. This respect has altered us both in such a way that we are used to our similarities and differences. This process is not easy because we have found that it is also a learning process. We still have our own ideas but I am sure we will fare well as along as we respect, tolerate and appreciate each other.


Learning mentioned, I would like to elaborate on this point. Probably it is my prejudice, but I have found that many a Chinese female has no desire to learn, especially after she is married. She is engrossed in pushing her child to get good grades, visiting beauty parlours, and building up the family wealth. There is simply no slot in her schedule where she could sit down and reflect on her own self. If you find a woman has no interest in learning, more often than not, she is opinionated and prejudiced against anything and anybody not to her liking. Learning does not concern only books, but also attitudes towards those who are different from us. A woman who does not learn is hardened, intolerant, ignorant and stupid and therefore makes no good life companion. We, my wife and I, make an effort to encourage each other to learn. These days my wife reads a Chinese news digest. She is sometimes moved to tears by those touching stories printed in the periodical. Since she can shed tears over those stories, I have confidence in her.


It will be some years before you tie the knot, if you choose to marry. A word from me is that you would do good to your relationship by trying to encourage your dear spouse to learn, and vice versa.


Do not worry about your aunt and uncle. They are doing fine. At least there are no signs that anything is going wrong at the moment with their relationship. Besides, their daughter is so cute. Your cousin and my daughter are good pals. I bet they will be able to survive those small differences if any. Let’s hope for the best.


Real progress has been made in my spoken English. You may have read the blog entries about my speaking on the Web. I will not be lengthy here. Of course you are welcome to come over for a visit in the vacation if you like. My family will stay in the city for the Spring Festival. If it is convenient for you, you may chat with me online if you happen to have the access.


It should be convenient for you to enter the graduate school of your university. It is good enough. Nevertheless, you could apply for the program at Zhejiang University if you like. You know well the advantages of studying in a new university and in a new city. Your experiences would be enriched and horizons broadened. Anyway it is your decision. Wish you good luck.





1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Chenglin Ben
    Apr 30, 2017 @ 12:17:38

    Thank you for your sharing.


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