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Manoa 15.2 (2003) 169-202

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Under the Spell of the Gangtise Mountains

Ma Yuan

1. Stalking A Bear

Believe it or not. It's all up to you. Nobody can make you believe a hunting story.


I knew you'd swear at me for coming this late. If you want to curse me, then go ahead. I couldn't help it. This is important.

Hey, open the door. I'm getting soaked. It's raining. Come to the window and listen. Hurry, get up. That's not me pissing.

Don't pretend you're asleep. I saw you shut off the light when I was getting off my bike. I've got something to tell you. Just heard it myself, and I couldn't go to sleep.

Who's making a mystery of it? I want you to come on the expedition I'm organizing. I'll be the leader. That old writer will be coming too. He's lived in Tibet for thirty years, and he's going to find us a Tibetan guide. We need some guns, a couple of good cameras, a few brave men. You're the first one I thought of, the first one I've asked. You've got guts.

How do I know that? I read that tale about you and your little brother—so I know Lu Gao's the epitome of truth and courage. See? I'm flattering you to your face.

I only said that because you won't open the door. I came to invite you. Oh, maybe you think I'm another Yao Liang, huh? Well, I'm not. Yao Liang wrote that story about Lu Gao in Tibet that let us know about you. I have to thank Yao Liang for that at least.


Come in and sit down. Have some tea. Let's talk about this business, shall we? This is Chungbu. Chungbu can't speak Chinese, and you can't speak Tibetan. You young fellows came here tonight as soon as you heard. You must be very excited. So am I. I'm fifty years old, the age when, as Confucius says, one knows that all is determined by fate. I was in the old Eighteenth Army that entered Tibet in 1950. It doesn't take any tough math [End Page 169] to figure out that was thirty-three years ago. I was just a newly enlisted private when we entered Tibet. I'd just gotten my uniform. Chungbu, have some tea. No, I didn't want to leave Tibet. I was assigned to be in the second batch of men they were transferring out, but I had no desire to leave, so I asked to stay on. I've got stomach trouble, don't have a wife—never married. Look, my hair's almost gone. I know what they call me behind my back—Melonhead. But when you get as old as I am, it doesn't matter what they call you.

I'm used to the life here. It's peaceful. I can read and write and nobody will bother me. I know you laugh at me, you think that I don't deserve to be called a writer, that I'm ridiculous. It's true, I haven't published anything for a good while. My plays all came out in the fifties—songs of praise, you young people call them. I'm not a cultured person. I just studied three years in a little private school, and then, after I became a soldier, I took a course in culture. I come from a poor background. It was the Communist Party that educated me into an adult. That's why I sing the Party's praise. I'm speaking from my heart now. Have some more tea.

I don't smoke, and I didn't get any cigarettes to offer you. I know young people all smoke nowadays.

I started out in the army cultural section, writing comic skits and songs about army life for the soldiers in my...


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