"He is an old rural man, who is simple, kind and learned." when talking about the days spent with Shen Congwen during the "Cultural Revolution", Wei Tiezu who was nearly eight years old, always said like that.
Shuangxi, a small town of Xian′an District in Xianning City, was surrounded by Shuangxi River. The Wei Tiezu family lived in the central room of "Chen Junping" Field (the Ninth team of Gaofeng battalion in the former Shuangxi District) by the river. In February 1970, Shen Congwen was sent to work at Shuangxi from Xiangyanghu Lake Ministry of Culture— the May Seventh Cadre School. And he rent one wing-room beside the courtyard of villager Chen Kegang′s old house, which just adjacented to the Wei Tiezu family. At that time, Mr. Shen was 67 years old suffering from hypertension and heart disease, silver- haired, wearing a dark grey Zhongshan hat, with a pair of deep myopia glasses, a smile on the face, a double-breasted vintage quilted jacket, a Beijing dialect with Xiangxi accent, and a walking stick: What a country "pedant"!
Every day the Wei Tiezu family passed in and out of the Chen′s old house, they usually passed by Mr. Shen′s doorway. In the daytime, Mr. Shen′s door was half-closed, and a small desk with various books on it was close to the window. In the evening, Mr. Shen writing at the desk was silhouetted by the dim light in wing-room window. Wei Tiezu, a literature-lover, had been admiring the writer since he read Shen Congwen′s early works. He had never thought that he could be Mr. Shen′s neighbor in the mid-life. One day, he paid a visit to Mr. Shen, and said "I′ m a reader of your some works, may I have the honor to borrow the books you brought？". Mr. Shen sighed: "All my books were left at the courtyard of Beijing. I wish they were still there." Since Mr. Shen came to the strange place, there were rare people but Wei chatting with him, so Mr. Shen talked about literary anecdotes as boundless as the sea and sky. Once again, when getting to Mr. Shen′s hut, he saw that Mr. Shen was working on the paper, full of beautiful regular script. The first line read: study on Chinese ancient drama costumes. Pointing to the paper, Mr. Shen told Wei: "In 1964, Prime Zhou gave me the task, to fill the blank in clothes aspect. In only a year, we have finished the ‘pilot edition’. Because of the Cultural Revolution, the study had to be suspended. Now, I’m free to complete it. "Without the data, Mr. Shen had to write by the memory. It renamed "Study on Chinese ancient clothes " when published.
Wei′s daughter Wei Min, a beautiful girl, was in primary school. Every day, when she passed by Mr. Shen′s house, she would greet Mr. Shen with a sweet and crisp voice. Shen smiled to her and said, " Hello, little sister﹗"Curiously, Wei Min asked her mother: "Grandpa Shen is in such an old age, why did he still call me little sister?" Her mother explained with smile, "Silly girl, because your grandpa Mr. Shen is so unobtrusive！"From then on, Wei Min would visit Mr. Shen when available. Once, noticing that Mr. Shen′s book was vertical traditional character, she queried with great curiosity “Grandpa, how did you do your book vertical? It is hard to recognize.” Mr. Shen replied patiently "This is an old book. Years ago, the typesetting was vertical and words were not simplified. So you could hardly recognize. When you grow older and read more, you will make them out"
The Shuangxi River flowed still. With sun rise, it welcomed the disport of naughty children, the sound of woman’s clothes-washing as well. When Mr Shen was free and it was shiny, he would walk along the river, playing with the children. Sometimes, he liked to pick cobbles in the riverbed or shoals, especially the little cobbles with pattern. It was lucky that the headquarter of the May Seventh Cadre School of Xiangyang Lake permitted his wife Zhang Zhaohe to visit him twice a month. One day, Zhang was doing her laundry at the riverbank. Suddenly, her handkerchief was washed away by the torrent. Zhang exclaimed" Handkerchief, my handkerchief ！"Wei Ziyu (the eldest son of Wei Tiezu), who was playing near the river, soon jumped into the river and got the handkerchief when he heard the cry. Eventually, Zhang shifted fear into joy. She showed the great thanks to him again and again.
Mr. Shen lived a peaceful country life in Shuangxi, and developed friendship with the villagers. Gradually, Wei Tiezu became Mr. Shen′s bosom friend. One night, the Wei Tiezu couple chatted with Shen Congwen family. Mr. Shen said to Wei,"Jiang Qing(Wife of Chairman Mao) is my student in Qingdao University, we are familiar with each other, but I never ask her for help" He specially told that it could not be known by the third people. After listening, Wei Tiezu was surprised but admirable. For one thing, Mr. Shen and Jiang Qing were such a relationship. For another, Mr. Shen didn’t cling to the power. In addition, Mr. Shen mentioned a conflict between Lu Xun and him. Anyone who studied modern Chinese literature all knew that the conflict was caused by Lu Xun′s misunderstanding and Shen Congwen′s loftiness.
Mr. Shen′s personality impressed Wei Tiezu deeply.
Anecdotes between Shen Congwen and the Wei Tiezu family were never-ending. I asked Wei Tiezu : "Was there a pity when you stayed with Shen Congwen﹖""Yes, Mr. Shen gave me the porcelain of the Song Dynasty. I looked over it in my hand; it was not very big but the pattern was exquisite. Shy to accept the porcelain he brought from Beijing, I returned it to him. "Waving his hand, Wei laughed.
Mr. Wei was my respected senior and his children and I shared the brotherly feelings. I often went to his home. Having seen two old photographs—a whole-family photo and a photo of children, I wondered why there was no photo of Mr. Shen with Wei′s family. Mr. Wei answered, "In 1972 or others, Mr. Shen′s son and his girlfriend came to visit the old with a portable cameral in their hand. Mr. Shen called out villagers to take pictures in the threshing-floor, choosing Shuangxi Bridge as the background. Then his son photographed us one by one. My families were so glad that we forgot to take photos with Mr. Shen, which was the biggest pity of my life."
As time went by, the memories were still fresh. Although no photos left, but Shen Congwen′s smile would remain in the landscape, in the countryside, and in our heart, never fading away. (Written by Luo Yong)