Relying on Each Other for Survival by Mo Xiaomi ~ 莫小米 《卖花盆的老人》 with English Translations


莫小米 《卖花盆的老人》







Relying on Each Other for Survival
Mo Xiaomi

Everyone who has visited the place considers it a miracle.
It is a tiny old town with a strip of river, a little stone bridge and a 500-year-old camphor tree. The bridge is also age-honored, probably built 200 or 300 years ago. But no one can say for sure. It is situated right beside the old camphor tree. Two of its main roots have stretched under the bridge, like two steel girders, to the other side of the river. This makes the bridge a “stone and wood structure” that is true to its name. And no one knows if the bridge was there before the roots crossed the river, or the roots stretched to the opposite bank first, along which the bridge was constructed.
What is clear in the memory of the local residents is that, in the 1960’s, some people intended to fell the tree as firewood for smelting steel. Yet, as the tree had grown into an integral part of the bridge, cutting the tree would most likely destroy the bridge. Thus, the old camphor tree escaped a disaster.
Then in the 1980’s some people who were setting up a stone-bridge museum offered a high price for the bridge in order to put it on display. Just when they were about to dismantle the bridge, they found that tree roots, thick and thin, had crept into all the cracks and crevices between and in the stones. Without the tree, the bridge would become a pile of meaningless stones, which could by no means be rebuilt into a bridge. This time the bridge had a narrow escape.
The small town is located in a prosperous coastal area. During the 1990’s neighboring old towns competed to put on a new look as the local people’s wallets bulged. Residents of this small town also wanted to upgrade it in a big way. But then they were reluctant to tamper with the bridge and the tree, legacies passed down from their ancestors. What’s more, they were afraid that such reckless action would ruin the feng shui of the town. They gave the matter a great deal of thought, but could not come up with a feasible plan, in the course of which they even refused some investors. As they continuously postponed a reconstruction plan, there came a golden age of restoring and preserving ancient civilian residences.
Now the small town has become a famous scenic spot. The 500-year-old camphor tree stands with a lush green crown. The old stone bridge, having experienced many vicissitudes, still functions perfectly. And the civilian residences have remained intact. Most fortunate of all, the town dwellers still remain a simple, natural and honest lifestyle. They do not desire much, but enjoy a cheerful and harmonious life.
All these things are interdependent for survival. First of all, the bridge protected the tree from being felled. Then the tree saved the bridge from being torn down. Finally, the bridge and the tree together have helped preserve the town. I cannot tell for sure whether the people have saved the environment or vice versa.

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