The Story of an Ancient Elm Tree and How it Connected the History of a Small Town in China

  There were only two things I really had to do in Malcom.
  One of them was to see a tree.
  Yes, a tree. It is said that this tree is an elm tree, which comes from the distant Wutai Mountain in Shanxi Province.
  Of the nearly 20,000 residents living in Malcon, probably only a few are aware of the connection between the history of this tree and the history of Malcon.
  This tree is in the yard of the Aba Prefecture CPPCC dormitory area. Neat and clean cement square tiles are inlaid around the tree roots. In the past, I often visited this place because in this courtyard lived many legendary figures related to Jiarong’s past. After liberation, they bid farewell to the hereditary territories of their respective families and began a different kind of life as united front men that their ancestors could not have imagined in the past.
  At that time, I went in and out of this courtyard just to sit around in the homes of some elderly people. Occasionally, their words would reveal a little nostalgia for the past era. What interests me is, of course, not the nostalgia they feel when they are old, but the emotional fragments of their past lives that they can capture in their inadvertent nostalgia. Our history has never lacked such sentimental fragments, not to mention that the entire Jiarong itself does not have a slightly complete history.
  That’s when I noticed this big tree. Because this is a tree that does not exist in the entire Jiarong area, I will always look at it intentionally or unintentionally.
  An old man told me that this is a tree from the Han area, an elm tree, which was brought back from Mount Wutai by an eminent monk many, many years ago.
  I asked: “Who is this eminent monk?”
  The old man shook his head and said: “I don’t know, it was a long, long time ago.” On
  one side of the building I often go to is the courtyard and the elm tree in the center of the courtyard. , and on the other side of the building is an open-air stadium with thousands of seats. This place is an important public place in the city, with thousands of terraced open-air seats surrounding the stadium from three directions. On the side of the mountain, there is also a public place: the Palace of Nationalities and Culture. There are some art exhibitions on the three floors of the Palace of Culture during festivals, and more often than not, those spaces are often used as conference venues. When the meeting gets bigger, it will be moved from the Palace of Culture to the stadium outside.
  I think every city in China, regardless of its size, will have similar settings and similar public places. If that were all, there would be no need for me to describe it here. Although many people who have stayed in this city for a longer time often use the changes in this public place to reflect and condense the changes of a city, saying that it was originally just a large dusty square under a dirt platform. In front of the magnificent building of the Palace of Culture, there is an earth platform built according to local conditions. At that time, leaders stood on it when delivering speeches, judges stood on it when sentencing prisoners, etc. Many people had heard of such topics. But when I sat in the building that separated the stadium from the elm tree, I learned about the longer history of this place.
  This history is related to the elm tree and the origin of the name of this mountain town.
  The old people of Canghai said that there used to be a temple where the stadium and National Culture Palace were located. The name of the temple is Malkang. The temple was very prosperous at that time, so it got such a name related to light.
  Markang Temple was once a Bon temple.
  After more than ten years of the Jinchuan and Jinchuan wars in the Qianlong Dynasty, because the chieftains and the local dominant Bon religion supported and relied on each other, after the war Qianlong ordered all the Bon temples in the Jiarong area, especially in the Dadu River Basin, to convert to Buddhism. The statues of gods enshrined in Malkang Temple were changed from Xinraomiwo, the founder of Bon religion, to Sakyamuni of Buddhism and Tsongkhapa, the master of the Gelug sect who wears a yellow monk’s hat.
  After Malkang converted to Buddhism, he still maintained a patronage relationship with the local chieftain who was awarded a reward in the Battle of Liangjinchuan. Many important rituals of chieftain Zhuo Keji were held in this temple.
  At that time, in front of Malkang Temple, there was a broad river beach with poplar trees. The most memorable thing is that every winter and spring, a ceremony to drive away evil spirits and pray for peace and auspiciousness in the area is held in front of the temple. Every time, there will be unfortunate believers who are identified as “ghosts” by the lama who performs the ritual, and are driven into the cold Somo River. In such a mass gathering, the unfortunate people have to endure inhuman fear before they accept death; and for more people, it must be a barbaric and exciting game.
  Every year, religion provides the numb public with a farce about life and death, humans and non-humans, in the name of a very noble thing.
  People enjoy it too.
  Now, the most exciting thing in this place is the occasional death sentence pronounced in the current stadium. There, people can see the color of death and smell the smell of death in advance from a person who is deeply afraid of death. Times have changed, and the death of those who are sentenced is not the choice of others, but the choice made by the sin in their hearts for their lives. However, the psychology of spectators has not changed much from generation to generation.
  One or two of the old men who told me the story had the power to control the lives of their people in the past. However, now they have calm faces and tell me the stories of the past in this square. They told me that the place where these CPPCC buildings are now is the daily residence of the monks of Malkang Temple.
  Among them, a lama went on a pilgrimage to Mount Wutai and came back with this tree.
  There are two opinions among the old people about this tree.
  One theory is that the lama broke off a section of a branch to use as a walking stick during his long journey. After returning, he inserted it into the soil, and new branches and buds sprouted in the next spring. This means that it was an accident that this tree traveled thousands of miles to a foreign land.
  The second theory is held by a late eminent monk. He said that the lama brought back a seed from the front of the Buddhist temple in Mount Wutai. When he came back in winter, he just put the seed on his pillow and he dreamed of a tree. Big branches with lush leaves. After studying the dream, I realized that it symbolized the prosperity of boundless Buddhism in Jiarong. So, when the ground thawed in the spring, he planted the seed in front of his door.
  Now, the tree has grown up, but the Dharma may not cover the world as the dream predicted.
  Only this tree is still standing here, in a cramped space, working hard upwards, seeking sunlight and the caress of birds and wind. When the wind blows, the broad leaves of that tree always seem particularly noisy.

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