有一位“老外”，他比很多中国人更加了解中国。他就是美国人Peter Hessler何伟。出于对中国的好奇，1996年，何伟来到四川的一个小镇——涪陵——教英语。一开始，他很不习惯这里的生活。因为这里和他在美国的故乡有很大的区别。这里的环境很喧闹，人和人的关系也不一样，特别是同事之间的关系。但是慢慢地，他试着和当地人交朋友，走进他们的生活，了解他们真实的想法。于是，他就把这段故事写下来，叫做River Town《江城》，作为对这段日子的纪念。
离开涪陵以后，何伟在北京工作。因为工作的关系，他开始更加全面地了解中国。他对甲骨文产生了兴趣。他访问了考古学家和语言学家。在这个过程中，他听到一个人的名字——陈梦家。这是一位科学家，他在文革中受到了迫害。这段故事非常感人，何伟就把它写了下来。与此同时，何伟和他以前的学生保持着联系。在中国经济快速发展的背景下，西部的年轻人离开家乡，来到东部沿海城市寻找机会。一方面，他们的生活变得更好了；但另一方面，他们远离家乡，努力地去融入当地的社会。在北京，何伟认识了一位维吾尔族朋友，叫波拉特。他不喜欢国内的环境，千方百计移民去了美国。可到了美国之后，却同样遭受了失望，最后还是在华人餐馆里工作。何伟把这些平凡却又典型的故事写成了第二本书The Oracle Bones《甲骨文》。
He Wei and His Chinese Technology.
Chinese people often call foreigners “old outsider”. I think this is a very interesting word. “Old” means cordial, like “Old Li”, “Old Wang” ; but, the word “outside” reflects a sense of distance. This sense of distance comes from language, culture and way of thinking. However, no matter what kind of barrier, there is a way around it, this is affection.
There is a “foreigner”, who, more than many Chinese people, understands China. He is the American Peter Hessler, He Wei. Out of curiosity for China, in 1996, He Wei came to a small town in Sichuan – Fuling – to teach English. At first, he was not used to life there. Because Fuling, and his hometown in the United States, are very different. The environment there was noisy, and the relationship between people was not the same, especially the relationship between colleagues. But slowly, he tried to make friends with the locals, got into their lives, and understood their real thoughts. So he wrote this story called “River Town”, as a memorial to these days.
After leaving Fuling, He Wei worked in Beijing. Because of his work, he began to more fully understand China. He developed an interest in the Oracle bones. He interviewed archaeologists and linguists. In this process, he heard about a man – Chen Meng Jia. He was a scientist who was persecuted in the Cultural Revolution. This story is very touching, He Wei wrote it down. At the same time, He Wei and some of his previous students maintained contact. In the context of China’s rapid economic development, young people in the west left their hometowns and came to the eastern coastal cities to find opportunities. On the one hand, their lives became better; but on the other hand, they’re far from home, trying to integrate into the local community. In Beijing, He Wei met a Uyghur friend, called Borat. He didn’t like the domestic environment, and did everything possible to emigrate to the United States. Once arriving in the United States, he was still unhappy and very disappointed, and finally found work in a native Chinese restaurant. He Wei put these ordinary but typical stories into his second book “The Oracle Bones”.
After that, He Wei got a Chinese driver’s license and started an adventure story on the highway. China’s urbanization and industrialization have had a particularly large impact on rural areas. There are some places that have kept up with the development of society; there are some places that have been forgotten. Some people choose to stay in the countryside, and changed themselves to adapt to change around them; while others choose to leave the countryside and go to the city to find opportunities. He Wei drove back and forth in China’s rural and urban areas, the Southern area and the North. His careful observations are summed up in the book “Country Driving”.
He Wei’s books have no strong prejudice, and are full of understanding and tolerance. Even when Chinese people read his books, they are surprised and moved. If you want to know more about China, He Wei’s Chinese trilogy is worth a look.
Carmel James (firstname.lastname@example.org)