Publishing Date: April 1st, 2016
Impression: 1st impression in March 2016
Product Dimensions: 210mm×148mm
Publisher:Daylight Publishing House
Edition: 1st edition in March 2016
First Print Run: 50000 units
Fax: 010 58110470
At was six years old, You An was sent to an orphanage called “Ye Mang Po”, where he made a lot of friends and experienced the threat of plague and losing his friend. Though raised by the priests and friars, You An did not find he could be saved by the power of God. His artistic talent inspired him to fight against his destiny, and finally he found where he should go in his life. It’s the story of how he explores himself and seeks direction in his life. This novel tells a story in a specific historical period that still resonates in the hearts of modern readers through centuries.
Her main works include novels “The Paper Man”, “The Childhood in Moon Teahouse”, “Mai on the Wheel”, “Orange Fish”, “Dragonfly, Dragonfly”, “Cherry in the Wind”, “Thousands of Tomorrow”, “Young Xia Zhiqiu in 1937” and “Sweetheart Xiaomi” Series, and essays such as “Love between My Granny and I”, “To You in Future---15 Letters to Girls”, “To You in Growing---15 Letters for Youth” and so on.
She won a number of prizes such as Bingxin Book Award, Chen Bochui Children’s Literature Award, Giant Magazine Children’s Long and Medium Novel Award, and New Century Children’s Literature Award in the past few years. She was also nominated for the First China Publishing Award and for International Astrid Lindgren Memorial Awards in 2013 and 2014.
From female perspective, the works of Yin Jianling, portray the confusion, lost, joy and achievement during the growth of children with delicate and elegant words. The writer is good at revealing the secret and twisted mental world of children. With diversified visions, she writes about realistic themes in calm and elegant style, with humane concern. She was honored as “growing mentor” and “the spiritual ferryman” by media.
You An: leading character
You An’s mother: died of difficult labor when You An was born
You An’s father: a mute
Stepmother: a woman so cruel that she had You An’s left hand burnt on purpose, and You An had to flee away
Xiao Man: You An’s half-brother
Zhuo Midou: You An’s good friend in the convent
Mother Camille: a nun in the convent
Mother Emma: a nun in the convent
Ju Sheng: You An’s good friend in the orphanage
Father An Renzhai: head of the orphanage
Friar Ge: a friar in the orphanage
Friar Elgar: a friar teaching music in the orphanage
Friar Xia: a friar teaching shoe-making in the orphanage
Lorenzo: a former friar teaching painting
Xu Axiao: a child in the orphanage
Xiao Bao: a child in the orphanage
Tang San: a child in the orphanage
【You An’s mother died of giving birth to You An. When he was three years old, You An’s mute father married a new wife, who had a son, Xiao Man, one year older than You An. You An’s granny took You An to the countryside at Chinese New Year when he was five years old, and gave him a beautiful rabbit lantern as a present to greet the New Year. Xiao Man destroyed the rabbit lantern out of jealousy. You An lost his temper and pushed Xiao Man into a freezing river by his head, but he soon realized his mistake and asked people around to come to the rescue. Angered, his stepmother beat him up, while his father did not say a word but walk away. Several days later, as You An did not recover from his wound, he had a spinning device broken inadvertently. So furious at what he had done, the stepmother set fire to You An’s left hand. You An got very disappointed and left home.
You An, with pain and sadness, walked into a church and was sent to a convent out of town by the gatekeeper. In the convent, nuns took good care of You An. He made friend with Zhuo Midou there. He heard from Zhuo Midou that when boys became six years old, they would be sent to Ye Mang Po to study skills for living. In the winter of the next year, the six-year-old You An went Ye Mang Po by boat and met a group of companions there. He began to follow friars there to study carpenter, but soon discovered his interest in painting.】
In the darkroom, there was little light. But it’s the light in You An’s heart. As soon as he was free, he would rush there. When the evening came, the day just began for You An. Though the work here was as tedious as shoe-making, You An found his joy in this tediousness.
Father An required him to develop the photos in clean water. These photos were taken by Father An, where left silver nitrate after fixation. If not developed completely, the photos would go yellow afterwards. The big porcelain basin with a diameter of 60cm was to develop photos, which was big enough for a boy bathing in. The darkroom prevented almost all the lights except a red little lamp. You An always appreciated the figures on the photos while developing photos. The camera of Father An seemed to be interested in everything: the group photo of the kids in Ye Mang Po, the performance photo of the military band, the picnic photo, the photo of the friars having dinner in the canteen. He even took the panorama of Ye Mang Po, and the picture of the gingko trees in front of the convent, the indoor scene of St. Ignazio, Mang Cao Po in distance, the fence flower windows of Ye Mang Po, even a part of withered tree falling on the river, a flower under the blue sky…on this earth, Father An would take photos of everything. You An watched the photo of friars having dinner. The serious Friar Ge was sitting in the corner by the window, with his face in the light, his hands cupping his cheeks on the table, with a naive boyish look You An had never seen. You An would never get tired of watching all these figures and scenes in the photos. He wondered why these people and things he had accustomed to would become so different in photos. They were familiar but strange. An ordinary tree seemed so beautiful and extraordinary in the photos.
He was eager to ask Father An for the reason.
However, he seldom got the chance to meet Father An, as he was always
alone. However, he felt free in the darkroom, appreciating the photo
works of Father An like the sculptures and paintings in churches. The
tedious work had become an enjoyment for You An, as he felt these photos
were as beautiful as those paintings.
In spite of enjoyment, to develop photos was a labor work. When developing photos, he had to carry the big porcelain basin full of water to a ditch. It’s too difficult to carry such a big basin as You An was very skinny. He strained every muscle to carry the basin, but always poured the water down to the ground due to losing his balance. After several failures, You An figured out a method. He found a curved long bamboo tube in the backyard, with the high end into the porcelain basin filled with water, and the low end sticking into the ditch. In this way, the water would flow from the high end to the low end into the ditch, which saved his strength.
One day, Father An came in and saw this. He smiled: “You are really a smart boy. I am really pleased.” You An was very happy. Therefore, he made more efforts.
It’s so quiet in the darkroom, just like completely cut off from the world. Sometimes, You An would remember the times he had spent in a little dark room many years ago when he had been wounded, his body ached in hunger and thirst. What’s hurt him most was not the pain in his body. The fear and desperate were more unbearable than the physical pain, which was a deep pain in his heart. But at that moment, when he was in the darkroom of Father An, You An knew the little light in the dark, was not from the cracks of the window, but from the hope he left for himself, even he couldn’t see it very clearly, but he believed it’s there.
After many years, he would think of his mute father, his stepmother
and Xiao Man occasionally. Maybe they had already forgotten him.
Currently, thinking of them, You An was peaceful in his heart, no hate,
or any other feeling. He even felt that it’s a good thing if they had
forgotten him. Only that he was missing his granny, missing the
brightest Chinese Lantern Festival in his life, missing that pack of
fried broad bean his granny had given him when leaving. Whenever this
point, he would take out the “rabbit foot”, which had been glossy as
glazed by his touching, the pattern of plum blossom which he had
drawn on it when he was little had been blurred. In old China, most
women were illiterate. His granny had asked someone to tell him a
message about her address in Ningbo after she left, and no more news
ever since. “Is granny still healthy? Is she missing me?” Watching the
rabbit foot, he shed tears silently, along his cheeks into his mouth,
salty. You An wiped off his tears with the back of his hand, shaked his
head, tried to open his eyes wide, and looked at the black ceiling. He
thought, “I must be strong. I can’t cry anymore, especially in front of
other people.” He swore to himself.
On a Sunday, You An was developing photos in the darkroom as usual. Father An walked in.
“It’s sunny. Why don’t you go out with your companions and get some fresh air?” Father An said.
“I haven’t finished my work, Father An.” You An glanced at Father with gratitude.
“Feel bored here?”
“Not at all, Father. I love looking at these photos.”
“If I give you more work, will you do it?”
“You will give me new work? It’s my pleasure.” You An said sincerely.
“I mean, do you want to learn photography and modify films?”
“What? You teach me photography?” You An was filled with joy.
“Yes. I know you like painting. Maybe, photography would give you same feeling.” A smile lifted the corner of Father An’s mouth.
The canteen was just like an ordinary Chinese eating-place, if not hanging the copying oil painting of “Last Supper”. The copying painting of “Last Supper” was drawn by Lorenzo, though he had left Ye Mang Po, his traces everywhere. When having meal, friars would gather here. They sometimes would laugh at his stubborn and mean character, but nobody would deny his artistic talent. When they were having dinner under his painting, they would sometimes look up to watch the painting and appreciate the shocking, angry, anxious or excited expressions of the twelve apostles. Often they would talk various topics as many big events had happened that year, the explosion of the Revolution of 1911, Chinese cutting their pigtails to show their determination on Chinese revolution, and the disbandment of the imperial kinsmen cabinet of Qing Dynasty. What would happen to this nation? How would Ye Mang Po be affected by the change? French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese argued on that loudly, holding their own opinions without compromise.
An Renzhai would always stand by when friars were arguing, taking no sides. Restraining and practice for years had forged his patient personality. He never fiercely opposed or angrily criticized anything. Also he never overjoyed either. This French was like a Chinese ancient jade, moist and plentiful, elegant and introverted. However, that day, he had to do something as someone had straightly challenged him.
This was during a western snacks, An Renzhai told the kitchen staff to toast croissant and boiled coffee. Friars sat by ones and twos by the Zelkova table, chatting very relaxingly. Friar Ge Lifeng stood on his feet, left his seat with a cup of coffee and walked to An Renzhai.
“May I ask you a question?” said Ge Lifeng.
“Go ahead, please.” answered An Renzhai.
“You once said, the good order of Ye Mang Po today is not only attributed to the blessing of God, but also the rules we made. The rules here are supreme.”
“Yes, it’s my word.”
“But now, it’s you who broke the rules first.”
The sounds around stopped, the attentions were all focused on the talks between them.
“What do you mean?”
“I think you understand what I am referring. For years, boys are assigned as apprentice in the workshops by branch friars. They should be concentrated on learning craftsmanship for future living after they entered the workshop. In Ye Mang Po, every workshop is equal, no matter shoe-making, hardware-making, or printing, no distinction. You know that very clearly, boys here can’t change workshop. But now, you broke all that we have built.”
“Go ahead, please.”
“The boy named You An, was originally assigned to shoe-making workshop. However, this half of year, he has been doing as your assistant. Do you agree what I said, Friar Xia?” Ge Lifeng turned back, glanced at Friar Xia, who was drinking coffee.
Friar Xia lifted his eyes, said nothing.
“Indeed, You An is a child addicted to art. He was assigned to shoe-making workshop. I respect your assignment. Meanwhile, I respect the decision of Friar Liu Zhenshan, who obeys the rules and isn’t willing to take the boy as apprentice though he begged him very hard.” An Renzhai turned his eyes to Liu Zhenshan, “But, for me, since the boy begged me, it’s his gift in art and persistent desire that made me agree to let him do something on photography in his leisure time, which may realize his wish a little.”
“What if every boy comes to beg you, what would you do?” Friar Ge questioned.
“As far as now, it hasn’t happened.” An Renzhai said peacefully.
“Therefore, Father An, after half a year, how do you think of the artistic talent of this boy?” the silent Liu Zhenshan, interrupted.
“He, though not a genius, but has enough gift on painting. He is willing to endure hardship.” said An Renzhai.
“May I say something?” Friar Elgar teaching in military music band joined the discussion.
“Please.” Ge Lifeng said.
“You An, the boy you mentioned, once played military drum in my band. He has good sense of rhythm.” said Elgar.
“What’s the point for this argument? Rules top the first! The person who set the rules broke the rules!” Ge Lifeng extended his hands and said angrily.
“But, the rules are made by human. They are not the truth, which should be more humane.”An Renzhai said slowly, “It’s the boy named You An that made me realize it. We can change rules today, as they are made by human. The rules should comply with the reality. Thank you, Friar Ge! Today you raised this issue confusing me for a while. It’s great that everyone could join the discussion and give me suggestions.”
Ge Lifeng shrugged with a long sigh and turned back to his seats.
“I haven’t finished my words.” Friar Elgar continued, “I agree with Father An. Rules can be changed to be more humane. But, the change should have basis that can convince everyone. ”
“What’s your suggestion?” An Renzhai asked.
“These kids should have their right to choose at their will. However, they have to pass a test if they want to switch their major.”
“Passing a test?”
“Yes.” Elgar turned to Liu Zhenshan, “For example, the boy, You An wants to learn in painting workshop. He has to pass the test for painting of Friar Liu.”
Everyone nodded as they seemed to be persuaded. Friar Ge didn’t say anything more, a slight of loss flew in his pale blue eyes. He picked out a match from the match box, lit it idly.
Everyone turned their eyes to Liu Zhenshan. While he stood up, pulled his beard, and said: “Ok, the kid has to paint a sketch about one of our friars here.”
“Sketch? How can the kid without any training make it?” Friars whispered to each other. Sketch, the painting skill originated from the west. How could a kid using Chinese brush and without any training make it? Before the result unveiled, many people had held the negative answer in their heart.
A sarcastic smile floating on the corner of the mouth of Ge Lifeng, he lit another match.
The test was arranged in a morning of November. Father An announced the news to everyone. Many kids came to see it outside the test room. The witness and the examiner of the test were all friars in Ye Mang Po. As it’s an unprecedented rule-breaking test, they have to keep it fair and convincing.
The test gave You An the right to choose for the first time, which decided his destiny. Without much painting skills, he painted on instinct. After the long one-hour test finished, a portrait of Friar Ge was shown in front of everyone beyond all their expectation. Besides the facial lines of the figure, the work demonstrated the expression of Friar Ge vividly, with unskillful strokes, revealing his talent in art.
You An’s work was convinced by every friar at present including Friar Ge. This was his first time to win in his life.