As we reported earlier today, journalists at The Beijing News sent a strong message of support to their colleagues in south China yesterday when they chose (against an explicit directive) not to publish the hardline Global Times editorial on the Southern Weekly incident. The paper, apparently brought to heel, finally ran the editorial today.
But the spirit of principled resistance is still very much alive at The Beijing News, and it can be glimpsed in this piece posted online today in the paper’s lifestyle section — a classic example of the time-honored practice of conveying deeper meaning through sublime and ambiguous writing, or chunqiu bifa (春秋笔法).
The piece is a loving tribute, yes, to porridge. In particular, to the porridge of the south. But it is really a song of love and support from The Beijing News to similarly embattled colleagues at Southern Weekly.
In Chinese, the word for “porridge,” zhou (粥), is a homophone of the first character in “weekend,” zhoumo (周末), the second half of Southern Weekly‘s publication name. The shorthand for Southern Weekly is nanzhou (南周), which sounds very similar to “porridge of the south,” or nanfang de zhou (南方的粥).
“Zhou,” also known as congee, is a food eaten widely in Guangdong and Hong Kong.
A selected translation follows:
Hot porridge in an earthen pot, hailing from [China's] southland. Just placed upon the table, the porridge writhes still with heat. Perhaps it has a heart of courage yet. In the deep of the cold night, you open your mouth and white steam billows. There are so many troubles in this world, and all you can count on for warmth is this bowl of porridge.
It is said that this year is the coldest winter for decades . . . from the south all the way to the north — like a person chilled from head to foot. In the lingering cold of the night, what can offer us a bit of warmth and comfort?
Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is a steaming hot bowl of porridge. And there is nothing better than the earthen pot porridge of the south.
. . .
Just a bowl of porridge, but in this bitter winter, we gather round this bowl of porridge and warm ourselves. This food bears the weight of hope. In olden times, running porridge shops was a tradition passed down for generations. Porridge can bring us prosperity. It can satisfy our hunger. Perhaps a bowl of porridge seems not worth talking about — and yet, how many destitute and homeless has it saved.
Hot porridge in an earthen pot, hailing from [China's] southland. Just set upon the table, the porridge still writhes with heat. Perhaps it still has a heart of courage. In the deep of the cold night, you open your mouth and white steam billows. There are so many cares in the world, and all you can count on for warmth is this bowl of porridge. A bowl of hot porridge tells us of the power of love and consolation.