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Thursday, May 26, 2011

背影 The Image of His Back by 朱自清 Zhu Ziqing














This story is called 背影 (Beiying) , and was written by famous poet and essayist 朱自清 Zhu Ziqing (1898-1948). He studied at the famous Peking University and was one of the writers to arise in popularity during the 1920s out of the May Fourth Movement. His story tells the interactions between the thoughts of a young student and his father after the death of his grandmother. 

I got this story originally from the website:









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Enjoy~!






背影
 by 朱自清
The Image of His Back

我与父亲不相见已二年余了,我最不能忘记的是他的背影。 
I haven’t seen my father for more then two years already. 
The thing that I can never forget though is 
the image of his back.
 
那年冬天,祖母死了,父亲的差使也交卸了,正是祸不单行的日子,
我从北京到徐州,打算跟着父亲奔丧回家。 
That year’s winter, my grandmother died and
 my father relinquished his post. 
Lots of bad things happened during this time. 
I had planned on going back home from Beijing to Xuzhou, 
in order to help my father prepare the funeral. 
 
到徐州见着父亲,看见满院狼藉的东西,又想起祖母,不禁簌簌地流下眼泪。
I arrived in Xuzhou and seeing my father, 
I caught sight of the yard in disarray and couldn't
 help the tears from slipping out as I thought of 
my grandmother again. 
 
父亲说,事已如此,不必难过,好在天无绝人之路!回家变卖典质,
父亲还了亏空;又借钱办了丧事。 
My father said, “Since stuff like this has already happened 
there’s no need to be sad, the road to Heaven is open!” 
When we returned home, my father sold our mortgage 
to clear our debt, but also borrowed money 
to use for the funeral.
 
这些日子,家中光景很是惨淡,一半为了丧事,一半为了父亲赋闲。 
These days our family’s circumstances are very bleak, 
half because of the funeral arrangements while the 
other half was because of my idle father.
 
丧事完毕,父亲要到南京谋事,我也要回北京念书,我们便同行。
After the funeral is over, my father wanted to 
go to Nanjing for work, and I needed to go back to study 
in Beijing, so we traveled together.
 
到南京时,有朋友约去游逛,勾留了一日;第二日上午便须渡江到浦口,下午上车北去。
When we arrived in Nanjing, 
we had friends who we went out sightseeing with for one day, 
and the afternoon of the second day 
I needed to cross the river to get to Pukou and 
catch the train north. 
 
父亲因为事忙,本已说定不送我,叫旅馆里一个熟识的茶房陪我同去。
Because my father was already busy, 
we agreed on him not bothering to see me off. 
Instead he asked a hotel waiter that he knew to accompany me.
 
他再三嘱咐茶房,甚是仔细。
My father told the waiter over and over again 
to be very careful. 
 
但他终于不放心,怕茶房不妥帖;颇踌躇了一会。
He was still not relieved, afraid that 
the waiter would not do things right, and hesitated for a minute. 
 
其实我那年已二十岁,北
京已来往过两三次,是没有甚么要紧的了。
I was in fact already 20 at the time, 
and had been to Beijing two or three times 
without any problems arising. 
 
他踌躇了一会,终于决定还是自己送我去。
He hesitated for another second, 
and finally decided to send me off himself. 
 
我两三回劝他不必去;他只说,“不要紧,他们去不好!
我们过了江,进了车站。
I tried two or three times to persuade him not to go, 
but he said “Never mind, if he goes with you 
it will be bad!” We crossed the river 
and entered the station. 
 
我买票,他忙着照看行李。
I bought my ticket and he looked after my luggage.
 
行李太多了,得向脚夫行些小费,才可过去。
Because I had too much luggage, 
I had to pay a small fee to the porter, 
and only then could we go in.  
 
他便又忙着和他们讲价钱。
He was busy arguing the price with the porter. 
 
我那时真是聪明过分,总觉他说话不大漂亮,非自己插嘴不可。
At that time, I thought I was so smart, 
I thought that he didn't speak eloquently, 
and I couldn’t help but interrupt his talking. 
 
但他终于讲定了价钱;就送我上车。
But he at last got the price he wanted, 
and sent me to board the train.
 
他给我拣定了靠车门的一张椅子;我将他给我做的紫毛大衣铺好坐位。
He picked me out a chair that was by the door, 
I took the purple coat he made me and laid 
it out over the seat.
 
他嘱我路上小心,夜里警醒些,不要受凉。
He urged me to be careful on the road, 
be alert at night, and to not catch a cold.
 
又嘱托茶房好好照应我。
He also asked the attendants to take good care of me.
 
我心里暗笑他的迂;他们只认得钱,托他们直是白托!而且我这样大年纪的人,
难道还不能料理自己么?
Inside my heart I laughed at his over-protectiveness, 
These people only know money, asking them to 
do something like this... it’s useless. Furthermore, 
I’m already an adult, why wouldn’t I be able to
 take care of myself? 
 
唉,我现在想想,那时真是太聪明了!
Well, thinking about it now, 
I really thought I was too clever.
 
我说道,爸爸,你走吧。
I said, “Dad, you should leave.”
 
他望车外看了看,说,我买几个橘子去。你就在此地,不要走动。
He looked outside the train, saying, 
“I brought a few tangerines. 
Since your already here, don't move.”
 
我看那边月台的栅栏外有几个卖东西的等着顾客。
I looked across the platform and saw 
some customers waiting to buy things outside the fence.
 
走到那边月台,须穿过铁道,须跳下去又爬上去。
To reach the platform, you had to cross 
the train tracks, jump down and then crawl back up. 
 
父亲是一个胖子,走过去自然要费事些。
My father was a fat person, so to do that would not be easy.
 
我本来要去的,他不肯,只好让他去。
I originally wanted to go, he wouldn’t agree, 
so I couldn’t help but let him do it.
 
我看见他戴着黑布小帽,穿着黑布大马褂,深青布棉袍,
蹒跚地走到铁道边,慢慢探身下去,尚不大难。
I saw him wearing a small black hat, 
a black coat, dark green quilted gown, 
stumbling towards the railway edge, 
lowering his body to go down, still without any problems.
 
可是他穿过铁道,要爬上那边月台,就不容易了。
However, him crossing the tracks to climb up 
over the other platform was not easy.
 
他用两手攀着上面,两脚再向上缩;他肥胖的身子向左微倾,显出努力的样子。
He used two hands to lift himself up, 
pulled his two legs upward, his fat body collapsed 
to the left, and his expression showed one of great effort.
 
这时我看见他的背影,我的泪很快地流下来了。
At this moment, I saw his back, 
My tears quickly started flowing.
 
我赶紧拭干了泪,怕他看见,也怕别人看见。
I hurriedly wiped them, afraid that he or others had seen.
 
我再向外看时,他已抱了朱红的橘子望回走了。
I looked outwards again; he was already 
holding the vermillion colored tangerines and coming back.
 
过铁道时,他先将橘子散放在地上,自己慢慢爬下,再抱起橘子走。
Crossing the railway track, he first 
put the tangerines down, then slowly lowered himself, 
then picked up the tangerines again and walked.
 
到这边时,我赶紧去搀他。
At this time, I quickly went to assist him.
 
他和我走到车上,将橘子一股脑儿放在我的皮大衣上。
He and I walked to the train, and 
I put the tangerines on top of my coat. 
 
于是扑扑衣上的泥土,心里很轻松似的,过一会说,我走了;
到那边来信!我望着他走出去。
Then he brushed the dirt from his clothes, 
seeming very at ease, and then said after a moment, 
“I’m going now, when you get there send me a letter!” 
I watched him leave.
 
他走了几步,回过头看见我,说,进去吧,里边没人。
He walked a few steps, turned back, and said, 
“Go in now, there’s no one inside.”
 
等他的背影混入来来往往的人里,再找不着了,
我便进来坐下,我的眼泪又来了。
When his back mixed in with the people coming 
and going, and I couldn't find him again, my tears came back.
 
近几年来,父亲和我都是东奔西走,家中光景是一日不如一日。
In recent years, My father and I are both 
rushing about; our family situation getting worse and worse.
 
他少年出外谋生,独力支持,做了许多大事。
He left to seek work while he was young; 
he did a lot of things alone to support himself. 
 
那知老境却如此颓唐!
How would he have known that 
the situation would be this bad when he got older!
 
他触目伤怀,自然情不能自已。
He has so many hardships, 
but he cannot feel them himself. 
 
情郁于中,自然要发之于外;家庭琐屑便往往触他之怒。
In the feeling of melancholy, 
I naturally wanted to send out my feelings, 
family matters tended to make him angry. 
 
他待我渐渐不同往日。
He treated me differently from before.
 
但最近两年的不见,他终于忘却我的不好,只是惦记着我,惦记着我的儿子。
But in these two years we haven’t met, 
he eventually forgot the bad parts of me, 
merely concerned for my son.  
 
我北来后,他写了一信给我,信中说道,我身体平安,
惟膀子疼痛利害,举箸提笔,诸多不便,大约大去之期不远矣。
After going north, he wrote a letter to me, 
the letter said “My body is healthy, 
only my upper arm hurts, its painful to hold up 
chopsticks and inconvenient to write. My time is nearing.”
 
我读到此处,在晶莹的泪光中,又看见那肥胖的,青布棉袍,黑布马褂的背影。
When I read this line, my tears were glistening; 
I saw his large body, and his black jacket.
 
唉!我不知何时再能与他相见!
Oh dear! I don't know when I will be able to meet with him again!
 
1925年10月在北京。
(原载1925年11月22日《文学周报》第200期)

*To me this story seemed to tell the importance of appreciating 
one's parents, despite their imperfections. Chinese culture, 
and asian culture in general stresses the importance of filial piety.
Your parents, grandparents, and older people in general need to be 
treated with the utmost respect. In korean, you even need to conjugate 
your verbs differently based on who you are speaking to. The narrator 
of the story looks back on his treatment of his father with regret 
(if you look at the part with the porter), especially at the end. 
We can see that the narrator is "playing it cool" by not showing 
his appreciate or love for his father to his father's face, 
and only crying when he turns his back. This is something that 
I think everyone can relate to, because even I did this in 
order to look "cooler" in front of my friends. But the author 
tells us that we should show our love and appreciation 
for others while they are still around because 
we never know when they will not be here anymore. 

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