|I was one of eight students who joined Prof. Long 龍 (middle) for her research.|
We cooperated and finished the entire sample collecting first. Then we went to Xian, Shanxi Province (my father’s hometown), north of my province, for lab work. We worked together for a whole month. We went sightseeing on weekends since both of us had never been to that city. We went to see Emperor Qin’s Terracotta buried army. I was more interested in Huaqing_Pool; Tang Emperor Li Longji (李隆基) built it for his favorite consort Yang Guifei(杨贵妃) who he stole from his own son. He loved her and did everything in his power to please her. She loved fresh lychee fruit from her hometown Chengdu where I was born. The emperor used the fastest horses to relay the fruit, without stopping for a week from a thousand kilometers away. She was a victim of power struggles. You would think the Emperor had all the power, when all his soldiers and his commanders surrounded Emperor Li Longji’s (李隆基) pavilion, kneeling down and forcing him to put consort Yang to death. He did not really have many options. He refused first, so they killed her brother and his whole family. Consort Yang was hanged on a pear tree in a buddhist shrine in Mawei. She was buried there with a bag of her favorite perfume. A year later, Emperor Li Longji (李隆基) secretly sent eunuchs to rebury her in a coffin. When they found the body, the perfume bag buried with her was still fresh. The eunuchs returned with the fragrance bag to Emperor Li Longji (李隆基) who wept and was lonely ever after. The commander apologized to the retired Emperor since he saw that he missed Yang so much, and told him that was the most regretful thing he ever did. Li Longji (李隆基) killed our Shangguan Wan’er before he took over the power, then regretted it later. He regretted again at the end not being able to protect his love. “Song of the Everlasting Sorrow” (長恨歌), was written by the poet Bai Juyi describing the Emperor’s love for her and perpetual grief at her loss became an instant classic.
|Although it was the first time I was ever on a horse, it was as if I knew the horse all my life. I was on the vast grassland, speeding along, feeling the wind on my ears|
Our graduation was a great experience although it was different than here in the U.S. The students celebrated together. Parents or relatives did not come even though we didn’t know who was going where. We just wanted to enjoy our last time together. The college had a big ceremony for graduation followed by a free banquet for all the college students. Then our departments gave banquets for us also. I still remember most of my department chairperson’s farewell speech. Since she taught forest ecology, she applied ecology to our near future. Our large country is an ecosystem full of different kinds of people who use different strategies to survive or live just like a “forest ecosystem.” Some work itself from a little seed breaking through rocks and soil, grow and through fair competition become a big strong tree reaching the canopy that functions in its duty within the population and communicates. Some decide to take a free ride from a trunk or large branch of a tall tree. Some cooperate and are beneficial to each other. Some are dedicated to taking advantage of others, becoming parasites. Some decide to use the big tree as a support and climb all the way to the top and kill the tree. And worst of all, some will never get a chance to grow due to some accidental reasons.
Now, the most important thing for all of us in entering that real world was how to find our own “niche” and keeping that “niche” balanced by adjusting ourselves throughout life. A healthy forest ecosystem allows the best composition of life to fill all the possible “niches” along with “time.” And most live either self-supported or in cooperation. Too many “parasites” or pests, herbivores, or carnivores would result in none surviving and the whole forest ecosystem could collapse.
She asked us to apply our knowledge and think before we did anything. Life is a work in progress; learning does not stop after we graduate. Those who know how to balance relationships between themselves and their surroundings and take the opportunity to grow will reach the canopy. Others might have to take whatever they can get along the way. But remember killing others is equal to killing oneself.
We were so focused on her speech that we forgot to clap our hands after she finished. Everyone was in deep thought for a moment.
After, it was our turn for celebrations. We had a party every night. We either went out to eat and drink or stayed in our dorm. One thing that I did find out for myself was that I couldn’t deal with drinks just like my father. A few glasses of champagne already made me hot and I had a pain in my joints that night and could not go to sleep. Later on, I just made sure to do my share of eating and listening to others’ romantic stories. In the daytime, we went to the parks, all the corners of the college, and the college farms to take our last pictures. Finally, I was sent as I had wished to the Sichuan Forest Research Institute