About The Book
The same year I was born, my father was labeled a rightist for defending a colleague who was wrongly treated, finding himself expelled from the Central County Hospital. He took me to a small mountain village and became a village doctor. The year I was admitted to Beijing Chinese Medicine College, he fell to the ground and died instantly after reading my letter of admission and crying out “Heaven has eyes.” In 1985, I returned to my province after earning my post-graduate’s and got a position in the Health Department office. From then on, I started a “career of rivalry” with my colleague Ding Xiaohuai, but I was always the one outmatched each time. To rectify the market of Chinese medicine in the province, the Department sent Ding Xiaohuai and me to Wushan for investigation. The area was inundated with counterfeit goods but it was the hometown of Director Ma. After returning, I reported the situation to the Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs, but Ding Xiaohuai told the chief that the information is inaccurate. When I revealed it to Yan Zhihe, a senior clerk in the department, he advised me to act smarter.
The department bought an imported car for 300,000 yuan. In democratic life meeting hosted by the party branch, I gave a detailed account of the transaction but referenced nobody. And as soon as Director Ma left, everybody decided to criticize me, even my closest friend Xiao Mo. Not long after, I was transferred out of the department office to the Chinese Medicine Society. My girlfriend broke up with me immediately after hearing about this.
I was at the Chinese Medicine Society for no less than four or five years, during which time I married and had a son with Dong Liu, a nurse from No. 5 City Hospital. This was a part of life necessary for me to go through. At this time, Ding Xiaohuai had been promoted to the position of vice director, moving from their run-down house to an apartment.
By the time my son was three years old, I had tried every possible means of getting him into the provincial government kindergarten, failing each time. But somehow, Ding Xiaohuai managed to get his son in without any trouble. My son did finally get in however, but the credit went to Dong Liu’s brother-in-law, making me feel shameful and incompetent.
In accordance with the Health Ministry’s unified deployment, the provincial health department assigned a team to investigate schistosomiasis cases in the lake area, me being one of the members. As suggested by Director Ma, the investigation team carefully arranged sampling sites and concluded that spread of the disease was on the decline. However, I can clearly see that the data is unreliable, yet an unable to comment on the matter given my humble position. Upon returning home, I write a letter containing the truth, hoping to send it anonymously to Beijing, but Dong Liu stops me.
This filled me with despair, my heart aching in anxiety.
Later on, Director Ma’s granddaughter came to the hospital for a transfusion. Several on-duty nurses found themselves too nervous to perform the task properly, so when Ma’s wife learned that Dong Liu is gifted in this area, she sent for Dong Liu without delay, the job getting done both neatly and efficiently. Mrs. Ma had Dong stay in the ward for a few days and offered to transfer her to the provincial People’s Hospital. Dong Liu cries, her dream for many years being realized overnight.
Shu Shaohua, former director of the Chinese Medicine Research Institute intended to disclose Director Ma’s dirty deeds and had already got over 50 signatures in support, and now wanted me to sign. I confided my situation in Yan Zhihe, who suggested that I tell this to Director Ma that very evening. After a painful choice, I went to Ma’s home and told him everything. Director Ma assigned me a few things which I completed overnight, bringing about Shu Shaohua’s downfall the following day. Each one of his signatories then visited Director Ma in repentance. Director Ma prompted me to apply for an associate senior professional title and take the PhD entrance exam. All the tests I took were green-lighted through and by the end of the year the health department had approved my transfer to the Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs, where I would assume the position of vice director. My family also moved into an apartment.
My wife was transferred with a year after that, my place of residence improved, and my professional title and official position were secured. My salary grew and I received my doctoral degree. People followed my orders for once – it’s all like a dream. After some time, nominated by Director Ma, I was appointed vice director in charge of the Chinese Medicine Research Institute.
One day, Director Ma told me he would like to have me be his successor. I thought “At long last, my time has come!” and eagerly awaited my opportunity to suggest he go on an academic tour after leaving his post, sweetening the suggestion by saying he could visit his son who is doing PhD studies in Los Angeles. But the truth is, I wanted to remove his last bit of behind-the-scenes control while he was away.
Standing in front of my father’s tomb, I searched myself for why my original ideas and ideals have been pushed so far down this other road, and how they’ve been pushed so imperceptibly. And the answer I reached was that false esteem and tangible benefits are what lied there. It was for these very things that I renounced my principles and was forced into nihilism.
Eventually, I kneel in front of my father’s tomb and pull out a book he gave me long ago – Outlines on Past Chinese Cultural Celebrities. Then I set it aflame.