31 December 1999
Today is the last day of the 20th century. I am in Nepal.
I arrived last night. It was already very cold, and the hotel had a charcoal stove. I lit another candle by the fire and went back to the ancient winter without age. I was so tired that I blew out the candle to sleep and blew it out for a century.
Exactly ten years ago, I was still the youngest university president in China, but I resigned from my post and traveled far away in surprise from top to bottom. At that time, no one could understand the reason why I resigned, saying that I was “looking for the footsteps of a thousand years ago”. Therefore, I resigned more than 20 times without success. At last, however, a lone walker appeared on the Gansu plateau, dressed in gray and thin cotton-padded clothes.
At that time, the traffic was extremely backward. The lonely walker was covered in mud and sand and extremely tired. No second figure could be seen within a hundred miles.
However, everyone knows that most of the great roads that can be compared with Chinese culture are now shrouded in the dark clouds of terrorism. Before me, there was not a humanist in the world who dared to cross all of them.
Do I dare? If you dare, can you come back alive?
My wife knew she couldn’t hold me back, but she was very worried and tried to stay with me. She was not allowed to enter the Iran-Iraq war, so she had a life-and-death farewell in the Jordanian desert. We both pretended to be calm, but we thought of the same sentence in our hearts: I hope we can meet again in this life.
When I woke up early this morning, I felt a strange light in the room. The light came from a small wooden window. I could see the window from my bed and was shocked at the first sight. A magnificent mountain range I have never seen before is outside the window.
The early morning sun shines on the towering mountain wall, which is extremely cold and brilliant.
I dressed quickly and came out of the house. It was true, Himalayas!
I know that behind the Himalayas is my father’s country. Today, I finally came back alive. Now I just want to say one thing to the Himalayas: for the Chinese culture behind you, I only understood her far away from her.
“I read her only when I was far away from her”, this sentence contains deep remorse. Just like a foolish son who looked at his mother’s tired back one day, he suddenly felt great guilt.
Yes, we have been snuggling with her, sucking her, but complaining about her, despising her. She had a hard time avoiding many turnovers and took a road, but we often accused her. Why not take another road? She managed to keep a share of the family fortune in thousands of years of war and chaos, but we are muttering, why do we keep these things? At one time we thought she had too many wrinkles; at another time we thought she looked pale; at another time we thought she lacked grace.
In the eyes of our successors, she seems to be everywhere. But this time, after walking tens of thousands of kilometers away from her, I saw the dilapidated cemeteries left by prominent civilizations of her age, as well as the barren hills and trenches beside the cemetery. I was finally surprised, finally understood, and finally upset.
We were born too late to beat her back and rub her waist when she was most tired. However, there is still time. The new century has just come. Today, I finally arrived in time.
Therefore, I decided to spend a long time again to study European culture systematically.
Now that I have walked away, there is no obstacle that can become my boundary. This is the so-called “endless traveler”.
I think that only by adding together the “one thousand year sigh” that reveals the bright side of Chinese culture and the “endless traveler” that reflects the drawbacks of Chinese culture, can the “cultural journey” be a complete and deepened version.
These two things are very urgent. I want to return home quickly and leave quickly. It is my destiny to travel in a strange world forever.
Well, Himalayas, thank you, please make way for me.