Revolutionary Literature in China: An Anthology

By John David Berninghausen; Ted Huters | Go to book overview

A Day

By Ding Ling

translated by Gary Bjorge

Dawn.

. . . This is a bustling city, a semi-colony where people of many different countries and races live together, an area governed by these several nations for their own benefit. For this reason, when the sun's first rays emerged from the eastern sea, the full spectrum of colors and hues were washed and highlighted beneath that pale blue sky shared by all. In one area tall buildings many stories high lay quietly, each pointed tip silhouetted against the sky like a cubist painting, made all the more so for the thin smoke rising from smokestacks like a painter's added embellishment.

Within the square rooms those enticing yet slightly lewd red lamps have just been extinguished. Beautiful glasses that held sweet liquor for the drunken guests and an assortment of cigarette butts are scattered in complete disarray on top of the exquisite tables. Easy chair cushions are strewn everywhere. Having become tired, these people have gone to sleep wherever they pleased, their indolent limbs sprawled akimbo on smooth soft bedding. Made of raw materials from the Far East that were processed by Western workers, this fine bedding had passed through several storms at sea and been handled by hands of several different complexions before finally being placed in this building. Here it is used, for the most part, by some potbellied yellows, whites who like to wear top hats, drunken foreign soldiers, and women with long drawn eyebrows and faces soiled by rouge.

At the end of the long broad street made so dark by the screen of tall buildings, young girls who failed to do any business walk with slow steps. Sighing deeply as their bodies sway to and fro, they return dejectedly along this street where the streetlamps still glint to their small rooms.

In another area, beneath the shadows of a forest of large black smokestacks, small shacks housing hundreds of thousands of the yellow race are crowded together. Just now the men are getting up from where they slept beside their thin hungry wives. Using their sleeves of that coarse blue cloth worn by workers, they wipe the grime from their faces. Their hair is disheveled. Their shoes have holes in them, revealing toes that protrude through their socks. Hurriedly they leave in a mass from their homes and hurry along a muddy road skirted by a canal of putrid, filthy water on their way to a factory that makes money by crushing and squeezing them. In that foul smelling channel, many small boats are tightly packed together. The situation on them is even worse. A small number of these pitiable people have been blessed with a degree of good fortune and they thus can come forth to join those moving along the shore. With empty stomachs they rush to the factories for the morning shift.

From the factories set up by a few hundred caucasians, overseas Chinese and, of course, some of our own greedy people, all of them people who somehow had the capital to invest, the whistles send out a unified chorus of sharp sounds. The factory gates stand wide open, filled by these dirty people who crowd in. Shortly thereafter they disgorge an even dirtier group, those who worked all night without sleep in place of

-53-

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