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An elevated view

By Yang Yang | China Daily | Updated: 2023-02-23 08:20

Writer Gezi at Dule Temple in Jizhou district, Tianjin, this year.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Through a collection of essays, newly published author, Gezi, applies his unique rural perspective to a plethora of contemporary subjects, Yang Yang reports.

In the early 1990s, when Liu Shaohua was still a toddler living in Liuzhuang village in Weifang, East China's Shandong province, his mother would take him to the fields where she grew corn, peanuts or cotton plants, since there was nobody else to look after the boy.

One summer afternoon, when the hungry mother took a break and held him up from the cushion on which he lay prone, she found a big speckled snake coiled beneath the cushion.

It "seemed to have spent the morning together with me", writes 34-year-old Liu, under his pen name Gezi, in an article, The Boy on the Tree, which is one of a collection of essays that appear in his recently published first book, Renjian Yige (New Driver).

The mother was so terrified that she grabbed a nearby shovel and beat the 2-meter-long reptile to death. To avoid further peril, she decided to perch him amid the branches of a big willow that ramified at the height of 1.8 meters, "unaware that snakes actually could climb up trees".

In the following two to three years, Gezi would stay on the willow when his mother worked in the field, and gradually acquired a new perspective of the village and the world from above, just like Italian Italo Calvino writes in his 1957 novel, The Baron in the Trees, "that anyone who wants to see the earth properly must keep himself at a necessary distance from it".

Gezi writes that he remembers his childhood started from those days spent on the tree. Up on the willow, the little boy got to scrutinize the wetland of the Lizi Bend and the surrounding fields for the first time.

He saw how a boy chased after a panicked sparrow that, forgetting to fly high enough due to its long stay in the reeds, died from exhaustion, and how the spring returned life to the land gradually and spectacularly after a dead winter. With this elevated perspective, observing all below like some minor deity, it is, perhaps, only natural that Gezi would become a writer, displaying a gift for it since middle school.

After spending a warm and happy childhood, into his teenage years, in the rural area, at 18, Gezi left the village for Wuhan University in Central China's Hubei province to study journalism, and continued his study with a postgraduate degree at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He then landed the job as a journalist, based in Beijing, and traveled around the world.

Unlike many young people living in metropolitan cities, who increasingly tend to shun the occasions to meet people in person, Gezi saw the world as his village, where people are interconnected with each other in a tremendous web of kinship.

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