Karoline Kan

Karoline Kan is a journalist in Beijing at Radio France Internationale

Posts by Karoline Kan

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The House by the River

My grandfather and his generation – nonfiction by Karoline Kan

 

My grandfather was already an old man when I came into the world, in a small county town near Tianjin. He was bald; he had to hold the radio very close to his ears when he listened to Peking Opera; he wore a pair of glasses when he read the newspaper and often stopped after reading a few lines, complaining that “the simplified characters lose both the meaning and the beauty of the language.”

The only property my grandpa owned was a countryside house near a river. In the summer, soft wind blew into the house and the ladybugs lay on the brown wooden windowsill. Through the window you could see trees with blossoming flowers, dragon flies resting on wide grass leaves, and across a river the rice field was a waving green sea. Grandpa would narrow his eyes, point his fingers to the field and say to me, “look, that land used to be ours. A long time ago, before your mother was born, even before the PLA liberated this place.”

“You’re lying,” I told him, standing on a chair to catch the ladybugs so I could put them on grandpa’s white beard. “Then why aren’t you rich anymore?”

Grandpa laughed. “Sometimes being poor is luckier than being rich. You’re too young to understand.”

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My Father

Family history of the first gaokao after the Cultural Revolution – by Karoline Kan

 

For years, I despised my father. In my eyes, he was the most irresponsible dad in the world. He wasn’t earning money to support us. He didn’t enjoy family gatherings, and was always the first to leave the table. He didn’t care whether his kids were happy in school or not, but would be angry if we didn’t perform as well as he expected. He often quarreled with my mother, for reasons I didn’t understand.

“Who can you blame? It’s your own fate!” My mother would shout at him. Father would just stay silent, turn to the other side of the room and light a cigarette, while my mother again repeated the story from more than thirty years ago which in her mind led to father’s bitterness.

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