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Book One 1
1Sensei, an old custom in my hometown dictated1 that a newborn child is given the name of a body partor organ. Nose Chen, for instance, Eyes Zhao, Colon2 Wu, Shoulder Sun?.?.?.?I haven’t looked into theorigin of this custom, but I imagine it embodied3 the outlook of ‘those who are badly named livelong’. Either that or it evolved from a mother’s thoughts that a child represented a piece of her body.
The custom is no longer followed, as young parents have no interest in naming their children in suchan unusual way. Local children these days are endowed with elegant and distinctive4 names of TVcharacters in dramas from Hong Kong, Taiwan, even Japan and Korea. Most of those who werenamed the earlier way have adopted more conventional names, most but not all. We still have ChenEr (Ears) and Chen Mei (Brow).
Chen Er and Chen Mei were the daughters of Chen Bi (Nose), my classmate and my friend. Weentered Great Sheep’s Pen Elementary School in the fall of 1960. That was during the famine, andnearly all my strongest memories of the time deal with food. I’ve told the story of eating coal. Mostpeople think I made that up, but I swear on my aunt’s good name it’s true.
The coal was part of a ton of high-grade ore from the Longkou Coal Mine, so glossy5 I could seemy face in it. I’ve never seen the likes of it since. Wang Jiao (Foot), the owner of a horse cart,transported the coal over from the county seat. Wang, a man with a square head, a thick neck and abad stammer6, had a bright look in his eyes when he spoke7, his face flushed from the effort. He had ason, Wang Gan (Liver), and a daughter named Wang Dan (Gallbladder). They were twins, and bothwere my classmates. Wang Gan was tall and well built, while his sister never grew to full size andremained a tiny thing – to be unkind, a dwarf8. Everyone said she was so small because her brotherhad sucked up all the nutrition in their mother’s womb. After school was out, we ran over with ourbackpacks to watch Wang Jiao shovel9 the coal to the ground, where it landed crisply on a growingpile. He stopped to wipe his sweaty neck with a blue cloth he’d wrapped around his waist, and whenhe saw his son and daughter, he shouted: Go home and mow10 the grass.
Wang Dan turned and headed for home, struggling to keep her balance as she ran, like an infantlearning how to walk; a lovely sight. Wang Gan backed up but did not run. He was proud of hisfather’s occupation. Children these days, even those whose fathers are airline pilots, are not as proudof theirs as he was of his. Wang drove a horse cart whose wheels threw up dust as it rumbled11 along;an old branded warhorse said to have distinguished12 itself by once towing an artillery13 piece wasbetween the shafts14, while a bad-tempered15 mule16 was up front in a harness, a mean animal known tokick and bite. That aside, it was astonishingly powerful and could run like the wind. No one butWang Jiao could control it. Though many villagers admired his line of work, they kept their distancefrom the mule, which had already bitten two youngsters: Yuan Sai (Cheek), son of Yuan Lian (Face);and Wang Dan, who had been bitten and picked up by the head while playing in front of the house.
We were in awe17 of Wang Jiao, who stood over six-two, with broad shoulders, and the strength of anox. He could lift a stoneroller weighing two hundred jin over his head. But what really wowed us washis skill with a whip. That time the crazy mule bit Yuan Sai, Wang pulled back the brake and, withone foot on each of the shafts, brought the tip of his whip down on the animal’s rump with a crackthat drew blood. The mule reacted by kicking out, but then began to quake as its forelegs buckled18 andits head hit the ground, mouth in the dirt, rump raised ready for another hit. It was Yuan Sai’s father,Yuan Lian, who came to its rescue. It’s okay, Old Wang, he said, sparing the animal further anguish19.
Yuan was our village’s ranking official, the Party secretary. Not heeding20 his word was not an optionfor Wang Jiao. After the crazy mule bit Wang Dan, we eagerly awaited another good show, butinstead of striking out with his whip, Wang Jiao scooped21 up a handful of roadside lime and pressed itagainst the girl’s head as he carried her inside. The mule did not taste his whip this time, but his wifedid, just before Wang kicked his son.
That crazy mule was one of our favourite topics of conversation. Skinny as a rail, the indentationsabove both eyes were so deep they could accommodate hen’s eggs. Its eyes emitted a sorrowful gaze,as if it were about to howl. How a skinny animal like that could exert such strength was a mystery.
We were talking about that as we drew up to the mule. Wang Jiao stopped shovelling22 coal and glaredmenacingly, backing us up terrified. The pile in front of the school kitchen grew higher and higher,the load of coal on the cart kept getting smaller. We sniffed23 in unison24 at the strange aroma25 in the air, abit like burning pine or roasting potatoes. Our sense of smell drew our gaze to the pile of glisteningcoal as Wang Jiao flicked26 the reins27 and drove his cart out of the schoolyard. This time we didn’tchase it out of the yard, as we usually did, even risking the bite of Wang’s whip when we tried toclimb aboard to satisfy our desire for a ride. No, we kept our eyes glued to the pile of coal as weshuffled forward. Old Wang, the school cook, wobbled over with two buckets of water on hisshoulder pole. His daughter, Renmei, was also a classmate who, much later, would become my wife.
She was one of the rare children not burdened with the name of a body part, and that was because herfather had attended school. As the one-time head of a commune animal-husbandry station, a carelesscomment had cost him his job and sent him back to his village. He observed us with a wary28 eye. Didhe think we were planning to raid his kitchen? Go on, you little shits, get out of here! There’s nothinghere for you to eat. Go home and suck your mothers’ teats. We heard him, of course, and evenconsidered what he’d said. But he was just mouthing off. Already seven or eight years old, we wereway past nursing at our mothers’ breasts. Even if we hadn’t been, our half-starved mothers, with theirflattened chests, had nothing to give us. But we weren’t interested in arguing with Old Wang. Instead,we stood in front of the pile of coal, heads down and bent29 at the waist like geologists30 who havediscovered an unusual rock formation. We sniffed the air like dogs searching for food in a rubbishpile. At this point I need to first thank Chen Bi and then Wang Dan. It was Chen who first picked up achunk of coal and sniffed it, crinkling his brow as if pondering a weighty question. His big, high-bridged nose was a source of laughter for us. After a thoughtful pause, he smashed the coal in hishand against a much larger piece, like shattering glass, releasing a strong aroma into the air. Both heand Wang Dan picked up shards32. He licked his to taste it and rolled his eyes as he looked our way.
She copied him by tasting hers and looking our way. They exchanged a glance, smiled, and as if oncue, cautiously took small bites; they chewed briefly33 before taking bigger bites and chewing likecrazy. Excited looks burst onto their faces. Chen Bi’s big nose turned red and was beaded with sweat.
Wang Dan’s little nose turned black with coal dust. We were entranced by the sound of coal beingchewed and shocked when they swallowed it. They’d actually swallowed coal! It’s good, guys, hesaid softly. Eat up, big brother! she cried out shrilly34. Wang Gan picked up another piece and reallystarted to chew, while she grabbed a large chunk31 and handed it to him. So we followed their lead,smashing the coal into smaller chunks35 and nibbling36 it at first to see how it tasted. Though it was sortof gritty, it wasn’t half bad. Chen Bi picked up a large chunk. Eat this kind, guys, he said helpfully, ittastes the best. He pointed37 to some slightly transparent38, amber-like pale yellow coal. That was thesource of the pine aroma. From our nature study class we’d learned that coal formed over millenniafrom buried forests. Our teacher for that class was our principal, Wu Jinbang. We hadn’t believedhim or what the textbook said. How could green forests turn into black coal? We’d thought he andthe textbooks were lying. But the smell of pine trees changed our minds. Our principal and thetextbook were telling the truth. All thirty-five students in our class, except for a few absent girls,picked up chunks of coal and started chewing, crunching39 away, slightly mysterious looks ofexcitement on our faces. It was like improvisational40 theatre or a strange game. Xiao Xiachun (LowerLip) turned a piece of coal over and over in his hand, but chose not to eat it, a superior look on hisface. He didn’t eat it because he wasn’t hungry, he said, and that was because his father was thecommune granary watchman.
Old Wang the cook came out, his hands flour-dusted, and was stunned41 by what he saw. (My god,that’s flour on his hands! In those days, the only people who ate in the kitchen were the principal, ourpolitical instructor42, and two locally stationed commune cadres.) What are you kids doing? Old Wangcried out in alarm. Are you?.?.?.?eating coal? Who does that? Wang Dan picked up a piece and, in atiny voice, said, It’s delicious. Here, Uncle, try it. Old Wang shook his head. Wang Dan, he said, whyis a nice little girl like you acting43 like these wild kids? She took a bite. It really is delicious, Uncle,she said. A red evening sun was setting in the west. The two privileged commune cadres rode up ontheir bicycles. We got their attention, as Old Wang tried to shoo us away with his shoulder pole. Thefellow named Yan – I think he was the assistant director – stopped him. With a disdainful wave of hishand and a sour look on his face, Old Wang stormed back into the kitchen.
The next day in school we nibbled44 on coal while listening to Teacher Yu’s lesson, our mouthssmeared black, coal crumbs45 in the corners. The boys weren’t the only ones either. Wang Dan taughteven the girls who’d been absent the day before how to eat it. Old Wang’s daughter, my future wife,Renmei, enjoyed it more than anyone. Now that I think about it, she probably had a gum disease,since her mouth bled as she chewed. After writing several lines on the blackboard, Teacher Yu turnedback to the class and asked her son, Li Shou (Hand): What are you kids eating? It’s coal, Ma. Wantsome, Teacher Yu? called out Wang Dan, who sat in the front row, a lump of coal in her hand. Hervoice was like that of a kitten. Teacher Yu stepped down from the podium and took the lump fromWang Dan, holding it up to her nose either to smell it or get a closer look. She didn’t say anything fora moment then handed it back. Today we’re on lesson six, class, ‘The Fox and the Crow’. The crowfound a piece of meat and was proud of herself, perched high up in a tree. From under the tree, thefox said, Crow, you have such a beautiful singing voice you put all the other birds to shame.
Swooning over the flattery, the crow opened her beak46 to sing and, ha, the meat fell right into the fox’smouth. The teacher led us in reading the story aloud, which we did with our black-as-crow mouths.
Teacher Yu was an educated, out-of-towner who followed the local custom by giving her son thename Shou (Hand), using his father’s surname, Li. Li Shou did well enough in the exams to beadmitted to medical school. After graduation he returned to the county health centre as a surgeon.
When Chen Bi lost four fingers while cutting hay, Doctor Li was able to reattach three of them.


1 dictated aa4dc65f69c81352fa034c36d66908ec     
v.大声讲或读( dictate的过去式和过去分词 );口授;支配;摆布
  • He dictated a letter to his secretary. 他向秘书口授信稿。
  • No person of a strong character likes to be dictated to. 没有一个个性强的人愿受人使唤。 来自《简明英汉词典》
2 colon jqfzJ     
  • Here,too,the colon must be followed by a dash.这里也是一样,应当在冒号后加破折号。
  • The colon is the locus of a large concentration of bacteria.结肠是大浓度的细菌所在地。
3 embodied 12aaccf12ed540b26a8c02d23d463865     
v.表现( embody的过去式和过去分词 );象征;包括;包含
  • a politician who embodied the hopes of black youth 代表黑人青年希望的政治家
  • The heroic deeds of him embodied the glorious tradition of the troops. 他的英雄事迹体现了军队的光荣传统。 来自《简明英汉词典》
4 distinctive Es5xr     
  • She has a very distinctive way of walking.她走路的样子与别人很不相同。
  • This bird has several distinctive features.这个鸟具有几种突出的特征。
5 glossy nfvxx     
  • I like these glossy spots.我喜欢这些闪闪发光的花点。
  • She had glossy black hair.她长着乌黑发亮的头发。
6 stammer duMwo     
  • He's got a bad stammer.他口吃非常严重。
  • We must not try to play off the boy troubled with a stammer.我们不可以取笑这个有口吃病的男孩。
7 spoke XryyC     
n.(车轮的)辐条;轮辐;破坏某人的计划;阻挠某人的行动 v.讲,谈(speak的过去式);说;演说;从某种观点来说
  • They sourced the spoke nuts from our company.他们的轮辐螺帽是从我们公司获得的。
  • The spokes of a wheel are the bars that connect the outer ring to the centre.辐条是轮子上连接外圈与中心的条棒。
8 dwarf EkjzH     
  • The dwarf's long arms were not proportional to his height.那侏儒的长臂与他的身高不成比例。
  • The dwarf shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. 矮子耸耸肩膀,摇摇头。
9 shovel cELzg     
  • He was working with a pick and shovel.他在用镐和铲干活。
  • He seized a shovel and set to.他拿起一把铲就干上了。
10 mow c6SzC     
  • He hired a man to mow the lawn.他雇人割草。
  • We shall have to mow down the tall grass in the big field.我们得把大田里的高草割掉。
11 rumbled e155775f10a34eef1cb1235a085c6253     
发出隆隆声,发出辘辘声( rumble的过去式和过去分词 ); 轰鸣着缓慢行进; 发现…的真相; 看穿(阴谋)
  • The machine rumbled as it started up. 机器轰鸣着发动起来。
  • Things rapidly became calm, though beneath the surface the argument rumbled on. 事情迅速平静下来了,然而,在这种平静的表面背后争论如隆隆雷声,持续不断。
12 distinguished wu9z3v     
  • Elephants are distinguished from other animals by their long noses.大象以其长长的鼻子显示出与其他动物的不同。
  • A banquet was given in honor of the distinguished guests.宴会是为了向贵宾们致敬而举行的。
13 artillery 5vmzA     
  • This is a heavy artillery piece.这是一门重炮。
  • The artillery has more firepower than the infantry.炮兵火力比步兵大。
14 shafts 8a8cb796b94a20edda1c592a21399c6b     
n.轴( shaft的名词复数 );(箭、高尔夫球棒等的)杆;通风井;一阵(疼痛、害怕等)
  • He deliberately jerked the shafts to rock him a bit. 他故意的上下颠动车把,摇这个老猴子几下。 来自汉英文学 - 骆驼祥子
  • Shafts were sunk, with tunnels dug laterally. 竖井已经打下,并且挖有横向矿道。 来自辞典例句
15 bad-tempered bad-tempered     
  • He grew more and more bad-tempered as the afternoon wore on.随着下午一点点地过去,他的脾气也越来越坏。
  • I know he's often bad-tempered but really,you know,he's got a heart of gold.我知道他经常发脾气,但是,要知道,其实他心肠很好。
16 mule G6RzI     
  • A mule is a cross between a mare and a donkey.骡子是母马和公驴的杂交后代。
  • He is an old mule.他是个老顽固。
17 awe WNqzC     
  • The sight filled us with awe.这景色使我们大为惊叹。
  • The approaching tornado struck awe in our hearts.正在逼近的龙卷风使我们惊恐万分。
18 buckled qxfz0h     
a. 有带扣的
  • She buckled her belt. 她扣上了腰带。
  • The accident buckled the wheel of my bicycle. 我自行车的轮子在事故中弄弯了。
19 anguish awZz0     
  • She cried out for anguish at parting.分手时,她由于痛苦而失声大哭。
  • The unspeakable anguish wrung his heart.难言的痛苦折磨着他的心。
20 heeding e57191803bfd489e6afea326171fe444     
v.听某人的劝告,听从( heed的现在分词 )
  • This come of heeding people who say one thing and mean another! 有些人嘴里一回事,心里又是一回事,今天这个下场都是听信了这种人的话的结果。 来自辞典例句
  • Her dwarfish spouse still smoked his cigar and drank his rum without heeding her. 她那矮老公还在吸他的雪茄,喝他的蔗酒,睬也不睬她。 来自辞典例句
21 scooped a4cb36a9a46ab2830b09e95772d85c96     
v.抢先报道( scoop的过去式和过去分词 );(敏捷地)抱起;抢先获得;用铲[勺]等挖(洞等)
  • They scooped the other newspapers by revealing the matter. 他们抢先报道了这件事。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • The wheels scooped up stones which hammered ominously under the car. 车轮搅起的石块,在车身下发出不吉祥的锤击声。 来自《简明英汉词典》
22 shovelling 17ef84f3c7eab07ae22ec2c76a2f801f     
v.铲子( shovel的现在分词 );锹;推土机、挖土机等的)铲;铲形部份
  • The workers are shovelling the sand. 工人们正在铲沙子。 来自辞典例句
  • They were shovelling coal up. 他们在铲煤。 来自辞典例句
23 sniffed ccb6bd83c4e9592715e6230a90f76b72     
v.以鼻吸气,嗅,闻( sniff的过去式和过去分词 );抽鼻子(尤指哭泣、患感冒等时出声地用鼻子吸气);抱怨,不以为然地说
  • When Jenney had stopped crying she sniffed and dried her eyes. 珍妮停止了哭泣,吸了吸鼻子,擦干了眼泪。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • The dog sniffed suspiciously at the stranger. 狗疑惑地嗅着那个陌生人。 来自《简明英汉词典》
24 unison gKCzB     
  • The governments acted in unison to combat terrorism.这些国家的政府一致行动对付恐怖主义。
  • My feelings are in unison with yours.我的感情与你的感情是一致的。
25 aroma Nvfz9     
  • The whole house was filled with the aroma of coffee.满屋子都是咖啡的香味。
  • The air was heavy with the aroma of the paddy fields.稻花飘香。
26 flicked 7c535fef6da8b8c191b1d1548e9e790a     
(尤指用手指或手快速地)轻击( flick的过去式和过去分词 ); (用…)轻挥; (快速地)按开关; 向…笑了一下(或瞥了一眼等)
  • She flicked the dust off her collar. 她轻轻弹掉了衣领上的灰尘。
  • I idly picked up a magazine and flicked through it. 我漫不经心地拿起一本杂志翻看着。
27 reins 370afc7786679703b82ccfca58610c98     
感情,激情; 缰( rein的名词复数 ); 控制手段; 掌管; (成人带着幼儿走路以防其走失时用的)保护带
  • She pulled gently on the reins. 她轻轻地拉着缰绳。
  • The government has imposed strict reins on the import of luxury goods. 政府对奢侈品的进口有严格的控制手段。
28 wary JMEzk     
  • He is wary of telling secrets to others.他谨防向他人泄露秘密。
  • Paula frowned,suddenly wary.宝拉皱了皱眉头,突然警惕起来。
29 bent QQ8yD     
  • He was fully bent upon the project.他一心扑在这项计划上。
  • We bent over backward to help them.我们尽了最大努力帮助他们。
30 geologists 1261592151f6aa40819f7687883760a2     
地质学家,地质学者( geologist的名词复数 )
  • Geologists uncovered the hidden riches. 地质学家发现了地下的宝藏。
  • Geologists study the structure of the rocks. 地质学家研究岩石结构。
31 chunk Kqwzz     
  • They had to be careful of floating chunks of ice.他们必须当心大块浮冰。
  • The company owns a chunk of farmland near Gatwick Airport.该公司拥有盖特威克机场周边的大片农田。
32 shards 37ca134c56a08b5cc6a9315e9248ad09     
n.(玻璃、金属或其他硬物的)尖利的碎片( shard的名词复数 )
  • Eyewitnesses spoke of rocks and shards of glass flying in the air. 目击者称空中石块和玻璃碎片四溅。 来自辞典例句
  • Ward, Josh Billings, and a host of others have survived only in scattered shards of humour. 沃德、比林斯和许多别的作家能够留传下来的只是些幽默的残章断简。 来自辞典例句
33 briefly 9Styo     
  • I want to touch briefly on another aspect of the problem.我想简单地谈一下这个问题的另一方面。
  • He was kidnapped and briefly detained by a terrorist group.他被一个恐怖组织绑架并短暂拘禁。
34 shrilly a8e1b87de57fd858801df009e7a453fe     
尖声的; 光亮的,耀眼的
  • The librarian threw back his head and laughed shrilly. 图书管理员把头往后面一仰,尖着嗓子哈哈大笑。
  • He half rose in his seat, whistling shrilly between his teeth, waving his hand. 他从车座上半欠起身子,低声打了一个尖锐的唿哨,一面挥挥手。
35 chunks a0e6aa3f5109dc15b489f628b2f01028     
厚厚的一块( chunk的名词复数 ); (某物)相当大的数量或部分
  • a tin of pineapple chunks 一罐菠萝块
  • Those chunks of meat are rather large—could you chop them up a bIt'smaller? 这些肉块相当大,还能再切小一点吗?
36 nibbling 610754a55335f7412ddcddaf447d7d54     
v.啃,一点一点地咬(吃)( nibble的现在分词 );啃出(洞),一点一点咬出(洞);慢慢减少;小口咬
  • We sat drinking wine and nibbling olives. 我们坐在那儿,喝着葡萄酒嚼着橄榄。
  • He was nibbling on the apple. 他在啃苹果。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
37 pointed Il8zB4     
  • He gave me a very sharp pointed pencil.他给我一支削得非常尖的铅笔。
  • She wished to show Mrs.John Dashwood by this pointed invitation to her brother.她想通过对达茨伍德夫人提出直截了当的邀请向她的哥哥表示出来。
38 transparent Smhwx     
  • The water is so transparent that we can see the fishes swimming.水清澈透明,可以看到鱼儿游来游去。
  • The window glass is transparent.窗玻璃是透明的。
39 crunching crunching     
v.嘎吱嘎吱地咬嚼( crunch的现在分词 );嘎吱作响;(快速大量地)处理信息;数字捣弄
  • The horses were crunching their straw at their manger. 这些马在嘎吱嘎吱地吃槽里的草。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • The dog was crunching a bone. 狗正嘎吱嘎吱地嚼骨头。 来自《简明英汉词典》
40 improvisational 56e10f67c333e3c46447b23bb595a274     
adj. 即兴的
  • I have never been at games like charades or improvisational acting. 您从来都唔擅长玩“有口难言”或者“即席表演”之类既游戏。
  • I'm practicing self-control, those random and improvisational acts aren't allowed. 我在练习控制自己,那些随意的、即兴的举动是不允许的。
41 stunned 735ec6d53723be15b1737edd89183ec2     
adj. 震惊的,惊讶的 动词stun的过去式和过去分词
  • The fall stunned me for a moment. 那一下摔得我昏迷了片刻。
  • The leaders of the Kopper Company were then stunned speechless. 科伯公司的领导们当时被惊得目瞪口呆。
42 instructor D6GxY     
  • The college jumped him from instructor to full professor.大学突然把他从讲师提升为正教授。
  • The skiing instructor was a tall,sunburnt man.滑雪教练是一个高高个子晒得黑黑的男子。
43 acting czRzoc     
  • Ignore her,she's just acting.别理她,她只是假装的。
  • During the seventies,her acting career was in eclipse.在七十年代,她的表演生涯黯然失色。
44 nibbled e053ad3f854d401d3fe8e7fa82dc3325     
v.啃,一点一点地咬(吃)( nibble的过去式和过去分词 );啃出(洞),一点一点咬出(洞);慢慢减少;小口咬
  • She nibbled daintily at her cake. 她优雅地一点一点地吃着自己的蛋糕。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Several companies have nibbled at our offer. 若干公司表示对我们的出价有兴趣。 来自《简明英汉词典》
45 crumbs crumbs     
int. (表示惊讶)哎呀 n. 碎屑 名词crumb的复数形式
  • She stood up and brushed the crumbs from her sweater. 她站起身掸掉了毛衣上的面包屑。
  • Oh crumbs! Is that the time? 啊,天哪!都这会儿啦?
46 beak 8y1zGA     
  • The bird had a worm in its beak.鸟儿嘴里叼着一条虫。
  • This bird employs its beak as a weapon.这种鸟用嘴作武器。


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