Scenes From Beitou
Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz,2008
Last summer, not long after the plum rain season ended, termites quietly invaded my house through cracks in the wooden floor of my bedroom. They built mud tubes for cover along the dark corners of the walls and attacked my book shelves and kitchen cabinets all at once. They did not only build nests under the bed that I sleep in every day, but also chewed on several packs of drawing paper that I had been reluctant to use. Yet I didn't have a clue. When I accidentally discovered the termite invasion, it had already spiraled into a disaster almost beyond repair. Although I immediately turned over boxes and cabinets in a bid to thoroughly rout the enemy, they concentrated their troops within a few days for another full-blown attack. My house immediately looked like an utterly defeated place. Only then I came to understand how powerful a comeback after defeat can be.
On the surface the things inside my house still looked quite okay, so it was actually difficult to sense that termites were digging tunnels into it day and night. Cicadas were chirping outside on a July day and I kept wiping away sweat inside the sweltering room as I cleaned a broken wooden scaffold, box after box of books, already mounted drawings, unfinished oil paintings and cartons of paper materials, all by myself. When I caught sight of the garbage that I had cleaned out I sighed with regret and at the same time angrily wished these countless still greedily gnawing termites dead. When I ripped open the floor everywhere to look for traces of termites, I seemed to be hearing the snickering sound of legions of termites poking fun at me! I was surprised to find that several wooden file cabinets for artwork were fortunately undamaged, since the termite tunnels had only just reached their feet, or else this would have been an even bigger disaster!