In Chinese, we have this term called ‘远下南洋‘ yuǎn xià nán yáng, derived from back in time, just before the end of the Qing Dynasty, the corruption of the Chinese emperor forces many southern Chinese to move down to Southeast Asia to start a new life. Bare in mind that in the old days , people have this very conservative mindset that if they have a piece of land they would rather stay in one place forever, so 远下南洋 to start everything from scratch is an incredibly brave act on their side, and it wouldn’t being done out of choice.
远 literal means far away, 下 in this context is to go down to, and 南洋, the literal translation is ‘the Southern Ocean’,typically referring to all parts of the Southeast Asia.
Despite settled in the same continent and not so far apart from each other, China actually shares a lot of differences with the Southeast Asian countries. For instance, their exotic island lifestyle. Since long ago, a great deal of Chinese travellers, writers, with a sense of curiosity and an adventurous soul made their way 远下南洋, in search of memorable stories from our island neighbours. Most of these stories are fictional, however, originated from real life events.
Today, I would like to introduce to you to one of the most poignant and sorrowful stories I’ve come across in my readings. The story is picked from a Chinese book called 《誓鸟》Shì Niǎo written by 张悦然 Zhāng Yuè Rán after her trip 远下南洋 （誓鸟 literal translation is the promise bird, an alternative term for it is 精卫鸟，click to watch Chelsea’s video about this bird)。
Let’s take a look of the story:
yī gè jiào chūn chí dě nǚ zǐ，yuǎn xià nán yáng shí yǜ dào le hǎi dào，
一 个 叫 春 迟 的 女 子 (woman)， 远 下 南 洋 时 遇 到了 （met）海 盗 （pirates），
A girl called Chun Chi, on her journey down to Southeast Asia she encountered with some pirates,
liǘ luò huāng dǎo, shī qǜ jì yì. tā yù dào le yī gè nán rén, tā hěn ài tā.
流 落 荒 岛, 失 去 记 忆。 她 遇 到了 一 个 男 人，她 很 爱 他。
and was being left behind in a desert island, and lost all of her memories. She made a guy, and fell in love.
Dàn shì nán rén shuō, rú guǒ Chūn Chí zhǎo bù huí jì yì, tā jiù yào lí kāi.
但 是 男 人 说， 如 果 春 迟 找 不 回 记 忆， 他 就 要 离 开。
But the guy says, if she Chun Chi cannot find her memory back, he will leave.
Chūn Chí tīng shuō bèi ké lǐ jì zǎi zhe rén de jì yì, tā jiù sì chù xún zhǎo bèi ké.
春 迟 听 说 贝 壳 里 记 载 着 人 的 记 忆， 她 就 四 处 寻 找 贝 壳。
Chun Chi heard that seashells keeps people’s memories, so she goes everywhere to find them.
Wèi le dú dǒng bèi ké, tā cì xiā shuāng yǎn, shǐ zì jǐ néng gèng zhuān zhù;
为 了 读 懂 贝 壳， 她 刺 瞎 双 眼，使 自 己 能 更 专 注；
In order to read and understand seashells, she made her eyes blind, so that she can be more concentrate;
Bō diào zhǐ jiǎ, shǐ shǒu zhǐ néng gèng hǎo de chù mō bèi ké.
剥 掉 指 甲， 使 手 指 能 更 好 的 触 摸 贝 壳。
She also peeled off her nails, so that her fingers can feel the seashells better.
Dàn shì tā yī zhí dōu bù zhī dào, nà gè nán rén, shì hǎi dào zhōng de yī gè.
但 是 她 一 直 都 不 知 道， 那 个 男 人， 是 海 盗 中 的 一 个。
However she never knew that, the guy was one of them pirates.
Zhǎo bù huí jì yì, zhǐ shì tā lí kāi de jiè kǒu.
找 不 回 记 忆， 只 是 他 离 开 的 借 口。
Cannot find the memories, was just an excuse to leave.
Luckily she never get to find out the truth. She lived her life with the sole purpose of finding her lost memories, and she stayed alive a year after a year…
Jì yì rú cǐ zhī měi, zhí dé líng hún wéi zhī fěn shēn suì gǔ.
Memories are such fascinating things, it is worth to break a soul.