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  • Oceana Wenxin Jin

We Cannot Walk in the Same Snow Again


The central element of this post is a short poem by Oceana Wenxin Jin, whom I have met at an Italian course in Venice. She is currently a PhD student in Asian and African studies at the Ca’Foscari University, and works on a comparative study between Chinese and American confessional poetry. In order to accompany the poem, she has written a short story, also included in this post. The collaboration, between her and Thought Magicians, is part of our search for philosophical value in places that are not strictly understood as philosophy. While not wanting to say too much and limit interpretation, I would like to remind the reader, before starting, about their own capacity to ask questions and wonder. How does the instant disappearance of one’s own footsteps as a result of the falling snow relate to being lost and being incapable of finding your way, or that of the other? How can solitude be transparent? How do transparency, cold and solitude relate to one another? These are just examples of my own wondering – an activity that always happens in relation to something else, whether that is a certain landscape, interlocutor, or poem.

- Lex

 

我们无法在同一场雪里行走

我们无法在同一场雪里行走

并且在各自的黄花阵中挣扎

妄想走出荒原就会再次相遇​​


亚寒带天气,孤独是透明的钟罩

我们奋力敲钟,却从来无响


 

We cannot walk in the same snow again

and struggle in our labyrinth alone

dreaming that we would meet once more

if going out of the wasteland


In a subfrigid climate, solitude is a transparent bell

We struggle to toll the bell but never hear the sound


 

It was a snowy day in Beijing, about three years ago. I had just finished a presentation at Peking University. When I left the conference hall, the campus was already covered in thick snow. The reflection of the white snow lightened the dark sky late at night. Many young people went out to appreciate the snow. Some were friends, walking on the paths. Some were having a snowball fight. Some who were lovers stayed under the lampposts, whispering as the snow was falling. But I, myself, was just an outsider, a passer-by in the beautiful classical gardens which were once part of the Summer Palace of the Qing court. I did not have any friends here. After the conference, everyone had come out to interact with each other. But I did not know anyone and it was hard for me to join the conversations. I just went back immediately.


I didn’t have a good sense of direction and got lost in one of the gardens, like it was a labyrinth. I struggled to find my way on the anfractuous paths. But eventually I did and I left the garden around midnight, in the chilly wind of Northern China. I swore that I wouldn’t go back there again! And, in fact, I didn’t. The gardens got closed shortly after. Due to the pandemic, people were not allowed to get in for two to three years. The gardens just belonged to themselves. Even though I wanted to take back my words and get into the gardens again, I was not allowed.


Actually, I had a friend at Peking University at one point, though today we are not friends anymore. He is Mongolian. He seemed to be an exception to most of the students at Peking University, who are always busy with many things. Every time I went there, we met each other and only he had time to meet me in this elitist university. However, at some point we cut off all connections, due to some stupid reasons. Many days after my visit to the garden, he told me that he also walked in that garden on that day, in the same snow. And I just said: “Look! That’s fate. God led us to the same garden, in the same snow, but he did not let us meet. That’s the sky’s answer. Under your eternal sky (the literal translation of the Mongolian God Tengri in Mandarin), I couldn’t find my way.” In fact, we did not walk in the same garden. Rather, we walked in our own worlds, our own wastelands. We struggled in our own bubbles. I don’t know if it’s Jesus’ will Tengri’s, or maybe just fate. Thanks to the great Khanbaliq city let us meet and go in our own ways.


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