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Homechinese poemsGood Words by Zhang Xiaofeng~ 张晓风《一句好话》with English Translations

Good Words by Zhang Xiaofeng~ 张晓风《一句好话》with English Translations

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Good Words

When I was a child, the elders took pains to teach me how to express good luck wishes for the Spring Festival. Decades later, I find myself doing the exactly the same thing to my children. And I have come to realize that besides clichés such as “wish you a promotion at work”, “wish you to be rich”, or “wish you have more children”, there are other good words which give me much food for thought. What, then, are these words I have heard? I often try to recall them on many a winter night, and they flash in my mind amidst the crackling of gingko seeds being roasted in a pan.
“Good coffee is always to be found in hot cups.”
When I traveled through Rome, a new friend of mine insisted on giving me a treat on coffee.
“It’s good coffee. Makes one remember it the rest of his life!” he observed.
We followed him through streets and lanes. Walking for a long time on the stone-paved streets, pleasant and labyrinthine, we almost forget where we were heading for, as if we have come out only to tread on the stones.
Suddenly there came a waft of fragrant coffee, and, without the host’s telling us, we knew we were approaching our destination.
The coffee was poured in a thick white porcelain cup. Compared with the delicate chinaware the Chinese prefer, it looks sturdy and heavy. Everyone in the coffee house was focused on his coffee, totally oblivious of the surroundings.
A waiter took some cups out of a heated container and gave one to each of us. I exclaimed:
“How come the cup is hot!”
The waiter turned around, bowing slightly. “Madam, good coffee is always to be found in hot cups.”
He was neither excited nor conceited, nor being in a mode of exaggeration, as can be seen in advertising. He was simply stating a plain truth.
Indeed, good coffee is always to be found in hot cups. A cold cup may cool off the coffee in it, thus reducing its taste. The same is also true of warmed liquor and good tea.
I came to realize that even “things” have self-respect and tend to be reserved. The legendary good bird, according to Zhuangzi, chooses the right nest to rest on. In a comparable western context, the sword stuck in stone waits for a hero to draw it out. Both stories show that “things” with integrity refuse to lower themselves to vulgarity. It is known that the Zen Buddhists try to enlighten the masses when giving them food and drinks, but I don’t know what that Roman waiter want to reveal to me. I wish I could become something fragrant the way coffee is after being roasted and grounded, and carefully poured into a hot white cup, thus making a morning delicious.

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