xi's moments
Home | From the Readers

Scent of lilacs recalls memories of university days

By Liu Jin | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-05-05 00:27

A lilac tree in front of Building No 7 at Shandong University still blooms on campus. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Building No 7, which is home to the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, is the most fascinating building on the old campus of Shandong University. Featuring red doors, grey walls, a gable-and-hip roof and bearing a classic style and an antique flavor, the building has borrowed vitality from the greenbelt along the sunny side windows, the walking path, the tall empress trees, the cypress garden and the nearby bamboo grove that I always thought grew from the touch of a deity.

The most memorable thing to me is the clusters of lilac trees against the wall. It is unknown when the lilacs were planted there, but they seem to have kept well with the age of the building. One or two lilac trees in each cluster grew exceptionally high, stretching up to the windowsill of my second-floor room. Their top twigs used to move and touch the frames, casements and panes of the window, as if they were peeking into the room and attempting to attract my attention.

Each time when a light rain ended, the lilac leaves were washed spotlessly clean, vivid and verdant, reminding me of the description of "flourishing plump leaves and withering lean flowers" by the ancient Chinese poet Li Qingzhao. The lilac flowers had been bathing yet not destroyed by the rain and held up stamens and demonstrated their thriving liveliness amid the "fat" verdant leaves. The lilac flowers were seen crystal clear as they were just behind the pane glass. Some were open, some were semi-open and others were still closed in buds. But all of them were plump and strong, carrying the vigorous atmosphere of spring.

I often wondered why such lovely flowers had always been used to describe and express people's melancholy and plaintive moods as in the lines of Li Jing of South Tang Dynasty: "The lilac flowers tie knots of bud in vain to show its melancholy in the rain ", or as in the lines of Li Shangyin of the Tang Dynasty (618-907): "The banana leaves stay coiled and the lilac flowers remain knotted in buds. While they are stroked by the same spring breeze, they have their own concerns". There also are the lines of the contemporary poet Dai Wangshu: "a lassie with entangling melancholy like lilac flowers with knotted buds".

As vibrant as the lilac flowers seemed, the air outside must be refreshing. I reached out my hand to open the window. It was an old-fashioned casement window, with an iron bolt below to lock it. The scarlet paint over the window had been chipped off here and there. I pulled up the bolt hard and the window opened. What amazed me, which has been vividly lingering in my mind for so many years, was that a lilac twig with leaves and flowers flapped into the window with its elastic force as soon as it lost the hold of the glass, like a student running into the wrong classroom. The rainwater on the twig splashed on my face, my front, and the windowsill. My room was soon pervaded by fresh air with the delicate scents of lilacs and rain.

Many years later, I went to Germany and settled down in a beautiful city named Bad Homburg. The mayor told me with particular pride, "The slogan of this city is Champagne-Luft (Champagne-scented air)". I quietly smiled and thought to myself: I was soaked long ago in the floral scent in Building 7 of my alma mater.

Today, in front of the building, the bamboo grove and the empress trees have been removed. The lilac trees are fortunately still there and have the chance to treat us with their fragrance in the right season, a fragrance I wish to savor again someday.

Mr. Liu Jin is Executive Director, President of China Everbright Bank (CEB).

Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349