A Paradise of the Birds
After we finished dinner at Chen’s little school, the heat of the day had already diminished. The sun retreated behind the hills, leaving brightly colored clouds hanging in the sky, over the hills and trees.
“Let’s go boating!” Chen proposed, as we watched the mountain view by the pond in front of the school gate.
“Great,” the rest of the group answered enthusiastically.
We walked through a gravel path, and before long we reached the bank, where a pavilion stood made of straw. Filing through the pavilion, we found several small boats anchored under two big trees along the bank.
One after another, we hopped into one of the boats. One friend loosened the rope, pushed the bamboo pole against the bank, which moved the boat to the center of the river.
Three friends were rowing; Ye and I were sitting in the middle, enjoying ourselves in the scenery surrounding us.
In the distance a pagoda was erected on the top of a hill, surrounded by many green trees. It was rare to see such a pagoda, and over there it was the hometown of my friend Ye.
The river was wide, the water glistening without a ripple. The boat was steadily floating on the water, the three oars pulling in rhythm.
Then the river narrowed at a certain point. Clusters of leaves stretched out touching the water’s surface. The leaves were in a lovely green color. There seemed to be many lush banyan trees, but I couldn’t make out where the main trunks of the trees were.
My friends immediately corrected me as I referred to them as being many banyan trees. One of them said it was only one banyan, and another said there were two. I had seen many enormous banyans before, but it was the first time I saw such a gigantic one.
As the boat drew nearer to the banyan, I finally got a good look at it. This was a huge tree, with countless branches, on which grew aerial prop roots. Many of the roots were dangling to the ground, some all the way into the soil. There were branches hanging above the water. Seen from a distance, the tree seemed to be reposed on the water.
It was in the lush season (the tree bearing little fruits, many of which had fallen.) The banyan seemed to showcase its vibrant life energy to us. There were many leaves, clusters over clusters, with not even a tiny hole existing. The emerald green shining brightly in front of our eyes, it was like on each leaf there was a new life dancing. What a tree it is growing in the beautiful southern part of China!
The boat was moored under the tree for a moment, but we didn’t get onto the bank because it was so wet. A friend said it was known as the ‘paradise of the birds’ here. The local peasants forbade anyone to catch these birds. I thought I had heard some sounds of flapping wings, but by the time I shifted my eyes to that direction, I didn’t see any birds. There were many roots sticking out on the ground, looking like stakes. The soil was wet, perhaps for the tides frequently washed onto the shore. There were no birds in the “paradise of the birds,” I thought. The boat moved again, as a friend pushed the boat, and it drifted to the center of the river.
Along the path in the crop fields on the shore there were some litchi trees, with clusters of the red weighty fruits hiding among the leaves. Our boat was heading towards there. A friend pulled the boat into a ditch with an oar. We moored the boat at the path, and jumped onto the bank.
Two friends swiftly climbed up the trees, throwing down several clusters of litchis with leaves. Chen, Ye and I were down below catching them. After they came down, we ate the litchis as we headed back to the boat.
On the following day, we boated to Ye’s hometown, the place we had seen the hills and the pagoda. Setting off from Chen’s little school, we passed the ‘paradise of the birds’ again.
This time it was morning, and the sun was pouring over the water, as well as the branches. Everything was extremely bright. We stopped under the tree for a moment.
It was very quiet at first, but then a burst of chirps broke the silence. Chen clapped his hands, and we saw a big bird flying over, then a second, and a third. We continued to clap, and soon the woods became very boisterous. Bird chirps were all over the place, and so were the birds, the big ones, small ones, variegated ones and black ones. Some perched on the branches, chirping; some were flying up; some were flapping their wings.
I busied myself by watching them. Just as I saw this one clearly, I already missed the other one, and when I turned my eyes to the second one, the third one had flown off. A thrush flew out, but was startled by our clapping and then turned back into the woods. It stopped at a thin branch, and started to sing enthusiastically. The sounds were so beautiful.
“Let’s go.” Ye rushed me to leave.
As the boat was floating to the village under the pagoda, I kept turning back to look at the lush banyan left behind. I felt a little melancholy to leave this place. Yesterday, I was cheated by my eyes. The “paradise of the birds” is a real paradise for the birds!
June, 1933 in Guangzhou.
船在树下泊了片刻，岸上很湿，我们没有上去。朋友说这里是“鸟的天堂”，有许多只鸟在这棵树上做窝，农民不许人捉它们。我仿佛听见几只鸟扑 翅的声音，但是等到我的眼睛注意地看那里时，我却看不见一只鸟的影子。只有无数的树根立在地上，像许多根木桩。地是湿的，大概涨潮时河水常常冲上岸去。 “鸟的天堂”里没有一只鸟，我这样想道。船开了。一个朋友拨着船，缓缓地流到河中间去。