The Joy of Living

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Life is beautiful on its own. I realize this after I translated the short story Good Luck and Best Wishes from Chinese into English.

In the story, people live a primitive life with few modern belongings in a far-off mountainous area; however, they enjoy life enormously. A bowl of fermented spirits, a flowery bun, colorful strings, spices, scented pouches, and longing for love and marriage bring them great joy of living.

Mom teaches her teen daughter how to hold a needle and how to use a thimble to sew flowered cloth into the shape of a heart to make a scented pouch, and how to spread aromatic spices to make the scented pouch bulge. The girl savors the pleasure of using a thimble to push a needle, the pleasure of pulling a needle through a cloth, and the pleasure of joining two pieces of cloth together.

Dad teaches his young boy to pound the spices in a mortar with a stone pestle, but spices jump out mischievously. Through pounding and pounding, the boy finally can make the spices turn compliant and burst into flowers, which satisfies him. As he pounds the pestle up and down, the house becomes filled with the aroma.

The atmosphere is aromatic and mystic and the practice means more than itself. The teenagers feel that it is something beautiful and worth expecting. The implication of sex education is evasive, beautiful and healthy.

On Dragon Boat Festival (the 5th day of the 5th lunar month), the young boys and young girls climb onto mountaintop to collect Chinese spicy mugwort plants, they feel like harvesting good luck and best wishes for the entire year. They enjoy being young, being together, being pure and being in love.

The story doesn’t provide a specific time setting nor a particular place. There is nothing to do with politics. It is simply an ode to life. Living is meaningful and beautiful by itself. It doesn’t take much to be happy.

Good Luck and Best Wishes, authored by Wenbin Guo, is included in the short story collection Street Wizards and Other New Folklore, one volume of 21st Century Chinese Literature, which presents a kaleidoscope of Chinese folk customs and provides a view of the multifaceted and living China.

Wenbin Guo, born in 1966 in Xiji County, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, now is a chair of the Federation of Literary and Art Circles of Yinchuan City and vice Chair of Ningxia Writer’s Association. Good Luck and Best Wishes has won the People’s Literature Prize and other awards in China.

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