Fanatical

Fangirling Chinese Novels

The Healing Sunshine (一厘米的阳光) — Chapter 3.1

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I think one of the big challenges about translating this novel is explaining the everyday culture of that period in China and sometimes even more specifically, in Beijing.

Jǐ Yi has her eyes opened to how life is not equal for everyone.

Chapter 3.1 — Too Many Things of the Past (1)

This story was translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. All forms of reproduction, redistribution, or reposting are not authorized. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the copy is unauthorized and has been taken without consent of the translator.

 

Little Uncle Jì soon left. Supposedly, he would not be coming back until the Lunar New Year period.

So that meant it should be during winter break.

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

Time seems to always pass very slowly during your student days, especially in primary and middle school, when you practically count each passing day on your fingers. By the time winter break arrived, he had already somewhat faded from her memory, and she was beginning once again to look forward to being able to go to Dad and Mama’s home for winter break. At last, in that break period of approximately twenty odd days, there were two days where Mama had time to have her at their home.

Since a young age, the concept of “home” to her was “Dad and Mama’s home” and “Grandfather’s home.” To her, there had never been the concept of “my home.” Her parents’ home was very unfamiliar to her. She would come here only once every several months, but each time, she would feel very comfortable. Perhaps this was the power of blood relation.

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She arrived here by shuttle bus and very smoothly found her way to the door, carefully opening it with the key that hung around her neck.

At this time of day, there was still no one here.

Changing into slippers, she stepped inside and made her rounds through every room before setting down her schoolbag and beginning to survey around to see whether there was anything new that she had not seen before. One at a time, she took in everything, but she merely looked with her eyes, not daring to casually touch or shift anything. She carried on like this until she spotted two large gift boxes of Nestlé coffee out on the balcony. Suddenly, she remembered… a taste.

That taste that, on that night after her fever, had caused a whole night of sleeplessness for her.

She wanted to open it up and try it, but she had to wait for her mama to come home first.

The one downside to staying here was that no one would cook at set mealtimes, because there was no one at home during the day. However, she soon found in the fridge a box of rice and many dishes that had already been premade. They should have been prepared specifically for her. Those dishes, though, were all too healthy, and she did not like them. So, she only took out the dish of green chili peppers with pickled vegetables, which was Mama’s favourite to eat with her rice porridge for breakfast.

Super spicy. She was super happy as she mixed it with rice and ate it. This was what Mama liked to eat, so of course, she definitely had to like it, too.

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

Later, her mama came home, and she finally curiously asked whether she could bring the coffee back with her to drink. Mama did not seem to think there was anything wrong with this and agreed to her request. Therefore, the next day when she went home, she carried two large, red gift boxes of Nestlé coffee onto the shuttle bus with her. The number of people on the bus was particularly few. The uncle-like soldier who had been driving the whole time looked at her, chortling hilariously, “Xixi, who are you bringing these back to give to?”

Who was she giving them to?

Why hadn’t she thought of that? She could give a box to Little Uncle Jì.

She beamed. “I’m giving away one box and keeping one for myself.”

“This stuff isn’t for little kids to drink, eh.”

Her lips were pursed in a smile.

No one would care what she did.

Since the things she carried were so heavy, the uncle-like soldier deliberately modified his route after driving into the military dependents’ residence area, detouring to stop in front of the building of her grandfather’s home. After she hopped out of the bus, whether she ran into a salesperson of the supermarket or uncles and aunties whom she was acquainted with, she would still greet everyone. Regardless of the number of stripes or stars the person wore on his shoulder or whether that person was simply a family member who provided support in the background, there was no difference to her.

At that time, she had thought that all people in the world were equal, until an incident three days later completely overturned this belief of hers.

Rank insignia of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has changed throughout the years. This may not be an exact representation but is approximately what the insignia showing rank would have been for the PLA in the late 90s, when this scene is taking place, and is what Jǐ Yi is referring to by the “number of stars or stripes a person wore on his shoulder.” (Image credit: globalsecurity.org)

 <>This translation is to be posted on hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only. 

Every weekend, she and Nuannuan had a scheduled morning where, basically rain or shine, they would go to the Beijing Children’s Palace within Jingshan Park[1].

She went there to learn dance, whereas Nuannuan was just bored and went to learn model airplane and ship building.

The shuttle bus would pass through Beiheyan Street, where there was a Zheng Yuanjie[2] specialty store. After their classes were finished, the two would always go stroll through the store and then take the shuttle back to the military compound. Pipi Lu and Lu Xixi were their huge favourites and were also Zhao Xiaoying’s huge favourites. Therefore, every weekend when they left, Zhao Xiaoying would always enviously see them off onto the noon shuttle bus and then promptly wait for their return again at five in the evening in that same place where they had gotten onto the bus.

It was during this winter break that Jǐ Yi finally felt they needed to take Zhao Xiaoying there to have some fun.

While Zhao Xiaoying’s mother was not at home, she and Nuannuan worked together, enticing and tempting Zhao Xiaoying until they were at last able to dupe her into getting onto the shuttle bus. The entire way, the three girls were crazily happy and took turns singing to the uncle-like soldier who was driving. Their emotions were riding on a high the whole drive, and when they arrived at their destination, Jǐ Yi even very excitedly brought Zhao Xiaoying to look at where she went to class.

Although right now it was not as beautiful as the summertime’s red walls and green trees, it was still the world outside of the compound.

Zhao Xiaoying patiently waited for them to finish their classes. Then, together, they walked into that specialty store, which had everything from toothpaste to hats. This place was simply paradise for children. She took it all in with her eyes; carefully and meticulously, she looked at each and every thing.

“Hey, landlady, hurry and get your money out,” Nuannuan urged Jǐ Yi.

Nuannuan’s parents were afraid she would always be out running around everywhere, and so they truly gave her not even a penny. Therefore, every time they came, it was Jǐ Yi who, like a rich, little landlady, paid for things.

Jǐ Yi felt as well that this was right and to be expected. Every time, she did not even know what she should use her spending money on anyway. Hence, Nuannuan was responsible for picking out what to buy and Jǐ Yi was in charge of paying, buying some daytime and nighttime toothpaste as well as a hat and a short-sleeved top for Zhao Xiaoying. They were in such elated spirits, like it was the Lunar New Year. The result, though, was that they missed the shuttle bus.

And so… they could only take the late shuttle back to the compound.

Along the way, Zhao Xiaoying began to grow nervous, worried that she would not be able to make it home before her mother arrived back at home.

“It’s okay.” Nuannuan hugged her shoulders. “Your mom really, especially likes me. If I’m there, she won’t yell at you.”

Jǐ Yi was feeling uneasy as well. After all, Zhao Xiaoying’s mother was very fearsome and really would give her a beating.

In the end, the situation did develop in the direction of the worst-case scenario. When the three stepped off the shuttle bus, the sky was already completely dark, and Zhao Xiaoying’s mother was standing at the bus stop, her complexion ashen from fury. Without a word, she strode forward and twisted Zhao Xiaoying’s ear. “I told you to stay at home and do your homework! Why is it all you know is to go out and run about everywhere, huh?!”

“Auntie…” As Jǐ Yi took in this sight, she was a little frightened.

“Auntie, we just took her out to have a look around…” Nuannuan threw back her shoulders and stepped forward, beginning to take on the responsibility of stopping this scene.

But it seemed that Zhao Xiaoying’s mother truly was enraged and knew only to berate Zhao Xiaoying, not paying any attention whatsoever to these other two girls off to the side. Ever since she was very young, Jǐ Yi was afraid of seeing people quarrel or yelling at others, and hence she was now somewhat frozen in shock. As Nuannuan watched from the side and saw that Zhao Xiaoying’s arms had turned purple from being pinched, she finally could restrain herself no longer, shouting, “Auntie, if you hit her again, I’m going to tell my mom!”

Everyone fell silent.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

A primary school teacher was being yelled at by the daughter of the primary school’s principal. Such a blatant threat… In reality, Nuannuan did not understand the connotation of her own words. She merely knew that Zhao Xiaoying’s mother was very fierce, but in front of her mom, Zhao Xiaoying’s mother was very good-tempered… She had thought that when she said this, it truly would have a good effect and she would be able to rescue her good friend.

The result, though, was very terrifying.

“You hear that? Did you hear that?!” Zhao Xiaoying’s mother swung a vicious slap onto Zhao Xiaoying’s back. “How can you even compare to other people? When Jì Nuannuan, here, goes to her maternal grandpa’s home for a visit, she takes a private plane. You just get to take the public bus! You can’t even afford to take the metro! Her mother only needs to say one sentence, and then your mother does not dare at all to not listen! Jǐ Yi is a little genius, and her paternal grandpa is a university graduate! Your paternal grandpa is a farmer! Know what the difference is?! Even if she knows absolutely nothing, there will still be tons of military academies waiting to accept her! But you with your rotten grades?! And you’re not even willing to study hard! Don’t study hard, then, and just wait—wait to pick through the dregs of the leftovers!”

This long bombardment of words seemed to have been fired off for all of them to hear. Jǐ Yi understood what she heard; she understood each and every word—and her heart weighed with sadness from hearing them.

Those things she bought to give to Zhao Xiaoying were thrown onto the ground. In the end, not a single one was taken away.

Nuannuan was so angry she began to sob loudly, and picking up those items into her arms, she stuffed them all into the garbage can by the roadside.

Jǐ Yi only dazedly stood where she was.

Some adults came and placatingly urged Zhao Xiaoying and her mother to leave first, but no one dared go near and provoke that little overlord, Nuannuan. Someone did, on the other hand, give Jǐ Yi a pat on the back of her head, saying words along the lines of “Auntie Zhao’s words were cutting but her heart was actually soft, and she was not yelling at them”…

After that, she did not dare even once go to Zhao Xiaoying’s home anymore; she did not dare step inside it again. Actually, she genuinely had a particular like for their home. Even though it was small, displayed everywhere inside were the school crafts and artwork that Zhao Xiaoying had made since kindergarten, as well as all sorts of stuffed dolls. Furthermore, Zhao Xiaoying’s mother would nag on and on every day, telling Zhao Xiaoying she should eat her food, do her homework, go take a bath…

Such a warm, cozy feeling.

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

It was noon the following day. She had woken up very late. Even as she brushed her teeth, she was still thinking about what had happened last night. She did not understand the difference between a two-mao [0.2 yuan] public bus ride and a three-yuan metro ride because she had always taken the shuttle bus that did not cost anything…

Quietly, she finished brushing her teeth. Then taking the key for the milk box, she went downstairs to grab the milk.

It was actually snowing.

She had run out from a room kept at 20 degrees Celsius and unexpectedly stepped into a snowfall of thick, tumbling flakes. The snow should have fallen for an entire night already. The withered, yellow lawn, the bicycle storage shed, and the bicycles parked outside of the storage shed were all blanketed in a thick coat of snow. She placed the empty milk bottle into the box and pulled out another bottle filled with creamy-white milk. She should have been heading back into her home now, but instead, she all of a sudden stepped outside. With her head down, she trod on the snow-covered ground next to the building, making a meandering circle on it.

Last year at this time, they were having a snowball fight. After what happened last night, Zhao Xiaoying wouldn’t stop playing with them, would she?

Suddenly, she felt a weight drape onto her shoulders. And then, she was enclosed within an atmosphere of warmth.

Bewilderedly, she turned her head back.

Her gaze took in the sight of Little Uncle Jì, whom she had not seen for six months already. As before, a cigarette was clamped between his teeth, and with words that were somewhat indistinct, he asked her with a smile, “What are you doing with your head down? Looking for gold?”

As he had taken off his down jacket and wrapped her in it, he, of course, was garbed only in a dark brown, plaid shirt.

A large suitcase still sat by the entrance to the building, and a layer of freshly fallen snowflakes covered it.

……

She suddenly discovered that his appearance had changed. Or perhaps it could be said, she wanted to have a close look at his face.

It turned out he actually had double eyelids.

Hugging the bottle of milk, she shook her head.

Since she had seen him, Jì Chengyang was not in a hurry to go home and first escorted her back to her own home.

Jǐ Yi poured the milk into a pot and heated it. Then, peeling an egg that was already cooked, she placed it into the milk. After she had finished preparing her breakfast, she pulled out the coffee and Coffee-mate creamer one after the other from the gift box and prepared a cup of coffee for him. When she carried the cup out to the living room, Jì Chengyang was a little surprised, and lowering his head, he took a sniff. “Coffee?”

“Mm-hmm.” With a spoon, she stabbed at the egg that was in her bowl of milk. “But the one I make isn’t as good as yours…”

He could not hold back a chuckle. Picking up the cup, he took a sip. His brow creased. “It does taste pretty bad.”

She continued stabbing her egg…

“I’ll teach you how to make it. But at your age, you shouldn’t be drinking coffee. The people in your family…” He wanted to ask why nobody looked after her, but after thinking about it, he decided to drop that question. It was basically equivalent to asking some useless drivel.

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He truly did stand and walk into the kitchen, where he poured away the coffee. Noticing that only a little more than half remained in the jar containing the coffee granules, he was astonished. He had not expected that she would have drank so much already…And then, he began to teach her: when making coffee, you needed to keep a ratio of half a spoonful of coffee to one and a half spoonfuls of Coffee-mate for it to taste good. Actually, Jì Chengyang himself would definitely need one spoonful of coffee and two and a half spoonfuls of Coffee-mate, but taking into consideration that Jǐ Yi was still a kid, he cut that in half.

Nodding, Jǐ Yi muttered softly, “Oh, so I was drinking it down so fast because I was actually using too much.”

“If you think it’s bitter, you can add sugar.” As he stirred with the spoon, a thought flashed across his mind, and he contemplated whether he should give a set of coffee mugs to little Jǐ Yi as a gift… But such a little kid drinking coffee… He sighed.

“Do you add sugar?” Her hand on the cupboard, Jǐ Yi lifted her head to look at him.

He tilted his face down. “No.”

“Then I won’t add any, either.” She felt that the way he drank his coffee must be the most authentic way.

Jì Chengyang laughed. He then remembered to ask her whether something had happened again earlier on that she would be in such low spirits. “You didn’t do well on your exams?”

Jǐ Yi’s lips pouted slightly. “I’ve always been first in the class.”

“Then what’s wrong? You weren’t inside your home enjoying the indoor heating and just had to run out to the snowy ground to go look for gold?”

“I went to get the milk.”

After deliberating for a moment, she told him everything, including what Zhao Xiaoying’s mother had said and also what had happened.

The way she described it was a narrative recount in a voice that contained tinges of emotions. But they were unlike Nuannuan’s type of hot-tempered emotions; rather, intermixed within hers were confusion and sadness. Jì Chengyang seemed to understand. Crouching down, he brought the coffee up beside her lips. She leaned forward and took a small sip.

Mm… That familiar taste.

“What her mom said was right. You can eat things that she can’t eat, go to places that she can’t go to, and play with things that she’s not able to. That’s something that was decided the instant you were born.” Jì Chengyang leaned in and took a drink from the cup’s other side, dispelling away the chill from being out in the snow earlier. “But, if you believe that everyone is equal, then you can do this one thing: you can’t control other people, but you can control yourself. Or maybe you can think of it this way: the advantages that you were born with allow you to better help other people—and that is your duty.”

Jǐ Yi felt… she seemed to understand what he was saying. “I get it now, Little Uncle Jì.”

Moving in close again, she took another sip of coffee. “Nuannuan is especially sad right now. Little Uncle Jì, if you go find her in a little bit and say a couple of things to her, I’m guessing she’ll be happy again.”

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

[1] 少年宫 “shao nian gong.” Children’s Palace locations in China are facilities where children may go to take part and receive training in extracurricular activities, such as music, arts, sports, etc. Jingshan Park is directly north of the Forbidden City in Beijing and was once an imperial park. The Beijing Children’s Palace occupied 寿皇殿 Hall of Imperial Longevity (Shouhuang Dian) within Jingshan Park from 1956 until December 2013, when it relocated out of the park.
Note: The Hall of Imperial Longevity was built some time in the Ming dynasty. Historically, it was for the emperor to worship his ancestors and contained portraits of past emperors.

The Hall of Imperial Longevity (Shouhuang Dian) in Jingshan Park and also the site of the Beijing Children’s Palace until 2013. In this photograph, the sign over the door reads “Beijing Children’s Palace.” (Image credit: Baidu Baike)

[2] 郑渊洁 Zheng Yuanjie is an acclaimed Chinese children’s author known for his fairy tale writing. In 1984, he founded the children’s magazine《童话大王》 King of Fairy Tales. Generations of Chinese have grown up reading about Pipi Lu and his younger sister, Lu Xixi, characters in his stories. For ten years, from 1992 to 2002, Zheng Yuanjie did have shops that sold a variety of specialized products for children featuring characters he had created. There truly was a Pipi Lu store on Beiheyan Street in Beijing during this period of time. (The story is currently in approximately January 1998.) The address I found for it would be slightly further south than the map above, but I have not been able to find confirmation that was the actual address.

Covers of two books featuring Pipi Lu and Lu Xixi. Over time, the drawing of these two beloved characters has evolved, and they were completely re-vamped in the 2000s. These particular covers are from the latter half of the 1980s. (Image credit: Douban).

 

 

This story was translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. All forms of reproduction, redistribution, or reposting are not authorized. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the copy is unauthorized and has been taken without consent of the translator.

 

 

Completed:
5 of 69 Chapter segments
0 of 1 Epilogue

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18 thoughts on “The Healing Sunshine (一厘米的阳光) — Chapter 3.1

  1. Thanks for the chapter hoju ❤️

  2. Hoju unnie! Hai! Okay thing is that I am in lurv with Ji Chengyang!!! Gosh I’m so fickle that I actually abandoned my God Gun lol. Nvm tho bc God Gun has his little Squid. I on the other hand am lonely. These long hot summer days and cool nights, while i wait for my college decisions to be released, I’ll get by by thinking of Little Uncle Ji….

    • He’s wonderful. ❤
      *gasp* Well, God Gun has Squidie and doesn't want you anyway. But I thought Zhousheng Chen had your heart?? Fickle kids…

      • Zhousheng Chen has She Yi tho. And I got nobody *cries* So I’m making up an imaginary guy who is crazily in love with me but happens to exist only in the MFBF-verse called Ji Chengyang TT

  3. Wow. You have done a lot of research for this. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    • Beijing in the 90s is so unique from what I know that I just had to research it. Sure, in the long run, it doesn’t change the plot, but it sure helps with the feel and visualization. 🙂 Happy to share!

  4. At least Ji yi can share her feelings with uncle JCY and he is there to listen to her n comfort her… the unexpected feeling of warmth when his down jacket was draped over her..
    are they drinking frm the same cup as JCY took sip frm other side of cup *fangirling mode*

    • That’s something new to Ji Yi, too. She has never had any adult to share experience with her prior to Ji Chengyang.
      And yes, they are drinking from the same cup. 😉 While I love how the romance will develop, I’m sure there are no romantic thoughts toward the eleven-year-old girl from this twenty-year-old man. LOL. What it does show, though, is that his care for her has reached the point he doesn’t think of her as an outsider. ❤

  5. A soothing conversation over one cup of coffee 😀. Sweet scene.

    Thank you for the chapter, Hoju 🙂.

  6. JCY is getting really considered or perhaps only toward JY for now
    thank you

  7. Ji Yi’s longing of a warm cozy house was heartbreaking. For a small and lovely child, she had to live a lonely life, a desolate life, and grew up fast. She longed for the nagging, the chaos of a household, and the proud parents to display her achievement.

    Fortunately, JCY came to her life and be the ray of sunshine. She remembered every single gesture and word of JCY. She listened and learned from him. My heart slowly ache again, for her. For a lovely and wise girl whom ignored by her own family.

    • I find the childhood scenes in this early part of the novel terribly heartbreaking. When she realizes the neglect, the moment is sad, but then I find it becomes less melancholy because Ji Yi looks forward to making her future better and knows who truly treats her with care, i.e. Ji Chengyang. ❤

  8. Hojuuuu… yes you’re right. I think this novel was so mellow more than any MBFB’s.

    I’m so sad with J Yi condition. No wonder she’s becoming mature more than her age. Hopefully little uncle ji never gives her a heartbreak experience, because i know a part of her there is him.

    • I find the beginning more melancholy for sure. It does get better for me later on, when Ji Yi isn’t in the dark about the way her family treats her anymore and doesn’t have false hope.

      This novel is definitely about real people with real feelings, which means they have real flaws. You can never be pain and heartbreak free when you are with real people. That’s a reality. But what people have to choose is to make their happiness greater than their unluckiness. 🙂 Ji Yi is a wise girl who grows up learning from a, though flawed, wise man. 🙂

  9. Thanks for this chapter. Everytime i read your trans, i actually look forward to the footnotes and your explanation/thoughts at the end. Somehow ive learned so much of China because of those things you write at the end, so again thank you

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