Editor's note: With the advent of the Autumnal Equinox, one of 24 China's solar terms to guide agricultural production, farmers should be busy with the harvest and Xinya College's labor-based study should come to an end. But due to COVID-19, Xinya College decided to conduct the 2020 labor-based study on campus. Under the instruction of teachers from the garden department, students enrolled in 2019 carried out a two-week labor practice on the Tsinghua campus. During the day, they worked on weeding, plowing and trimming hedges; during leisure time, they read theAnalects of Confuciusin groups. After the labor-based study, they wrote down their feelings and thoughts.
Before the activity, Iwas reading lines of a short poem by Saito Mokichi, which said, "In a vast farmland during early Spring, I am playing with a crawling insect", "people who are leading a lively life are wielding their axes in the world". These beautiful verses created natural and lovely images in the mind of people like me who were in a modern room with air conditioners. Later, I really came across a big crawling insect hidden in the grass near the river, but I got frightened and jumped away, leaving the lovely images aside.
I read Saito Mokichi's collection again that night, and picked out the sentences that amazed me and replaced them with the unpleasant experiences I got during the labor-based study. "Misty mountain, dusk, and light rain" made me imagine the wet trouser legs and the longing for taking a hot shower; "vast fields and shining grasses in May" made me conjure up the mosquitoes falling on people's necks in hot summer and when I closed my eyes, I seemed to even see the victims were covered by intertwining and rustling grasses and roots; when I really stood under a tree with "a bird pecking at cherry-red berries", it was such an unpleasant experience because of the stinky smell from tree trunks coated with lime sulfur, and my aching back and legs. I did this for more than an hour. Then I smiled, realizing that it's difficult to appreciate the real nature, especially for people like me who have gotten used to living with air conditioners and mobile phones. By the way, I even believed that I tried to not use mobile phones too much.
Later, I just put it behind. The next day, we did some weeding in Zijing Sculpture Park. Thinking about nothing, I weeded the lawn while singing with a mask on my face for the first two hours. The sun was rising and the sunlight glared on the wet lawn. The disappearing dew made the grasses look darker, and the warmth from the sunshine on my back was so comfortable that I wanted to lie down and fall asleep. Now, my wet and wrinkled gloves were dried and stretched out. The grasses embraced the blue sky with their large leaves and I enjoyed myself pinching their tips and pulling them up after I pretended to say sorry to them, giggling and realizing that it's easy to feel the real nature and the dizzying pace of changes in the world.
What a magical experience it was! It's normal to have much to say when I left my AC room, hung out in a park, and got close to nature. But I still felt energetic on a sunny day despite a lot of work to do and annoying mosquitoes. I felt the same way when I wandered around the Zijing Athletic Field at night and saw stars and moon, with a light wind breezing through my collar. As said in Saito Mokichi's other verses, "the wind is breezing through trees and the sky is shining with the sunglow from the setting sun". One day, when I cycled back from the west of the campus to my dormitory after a day's labor, I felt as if I became a gust of wind, flying above the ground with the light of the sunset's afterglow though I cannot see things clearly.
After returning, I transcribed againQi Yue,Odes Of Binof theClassic of Poetryexcitedly.Maybe it was because after I firsthand experienced how it felt when clothes were wet because of "going along the small paths and looking for the tender leaves of the mulberry trees" and how painful it was when being pricked by the thorns of the "the millets, both the early sown and the late, with other grain, the hemp, the pulse, and the wheat," Then I felt the things depicted in the verses were much more delightful and extraordinary, and thus the scenes described in the last verses ofQi Yuealso became more stirring, i.e. "...And go to the hall of our prince, There raise the cup of rhinoceros horn, And wish him long life, - that he may live for ever." "The Jiang has the Tuo. Our lady, when she was married, would not come near us." When I was readingJiang You Siof theClassic of Poetry, it occurred to me that it is difficult and unimaginable to establish and maintain connections (or to put it simply, "waiting for someone") without smartphones when we have a lot of work to do and face the barriers caused by mountains, fields, and rivers. During the labor-based study, the mobile phone was not permitted. If I had an appointment with my classmates in the morning, I always worried about whether they would stand me up when I did the weeding, and if so, I would feel very disappointed.
Actually, just as mentioned above, I didn't feel any sense of achievement throughout the whole activity, and even the aforementioned personal feelings were not strong enough to make previous work or experience mean anything to me. Tiredness and no sense of achievement came as a natural result, because I didn't work hard enough perhaps. Moreover, those relaxing and exciting moments I got from the process were also predictable. True, the activity enabled me to know the working principle of the engine of a lawnmower and the differences of aster leaves between premature and mature periods, and observe the changing of clouds at night, but they were still separate pieces of knowledge or inspiration, which are hard to be connected as a whole. But it's fine for me. Just as it's described inButokai, or The Ball,by Akutagawa Ryunosuke that the young writer could recognize Lady Akiko as the inspiration of Madame Chrysantheme, the protagonist of another novel of the same name by a French writer Pierre Loti (perhaps it's not an appropriate simile), the knowledge or inspiration would create a possibility for some inspirations in the future. Besides, it occurred to me several times that happily, I would not have to do the labor a few days later and I should make up my mind to "study hard in the future".