After A Heavy Snow
By Parker Po-Fei Huang
A bank of whiteness
Is all I see. Have I
tossed away the world
or the world me? Or
is it just a single
moment that I stand on
a sheer precipice
with clouds passing
Some mists sweep the
sky. Some stars elicit
serenity. I feel that
I am gathering the
reflections of a flower
in the water and that of
the moon in the mirror—
no scent, no motion,
yet I sense eternity.
I stop breathing lest
I wake myself. From
where, of what world,
have I come here? I
turn my head and see
there are only footprints
that follow me.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Dear Mr. Huang,
Forty five years on,
I think I have an inkling
Of how much you knew,
And how much I didn't know,
And how hard it must have been for you to have to
Talk "Special English" or "Special Chinese" to me,
In your unforgettably resonant voice,
About the tiniest tips of the Chinese icebergs
That I still struggle to understand,
Forty-five years on.
But all in all, if we could meet now,
I think we would have much more to share,
About China and about life.
Perhaps you would even feel that I had improved with age.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
I remember him doing Tai Chi in the driveway most mornings. I remember him taking slow walks around the neighborhood - walking and thinking, walking and thinking. You would almost see him turning over the words of a poem in his mind as he walked.
I'm not sure how the conversation started but one day when I was 9 or 10 years old we met on the sidewalk in front of my house. He was probably returning from one of his walks, perhaps with a Chinese newspaper tucked under his arm. I asked him about "Chinese writing." He very patiently took a piece of paper out of his shirt pocket and drew a couple of characters explaining what they meant and how they came to be. Being a visual person this form of writing made complete sense to me, really more so than abstract English letters.
This story epitomizes Mr. Huang to me. His patient teaching, of course. But also his openness with me. I never hesitated to ask him a question because he treated everyone with deep respect. Even a 9 year old riding her bike down Day Spring Avenue in Hamden, CT.
The world is a better place for your having lived Mr. Huang.
Peace, Marion B. Visel
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
Ben, I read the Blog and commend you for writing such a wonderful story and expressing it in a most inspiring and beautiful form. I have such fond memories of playing card games with your father when I was young that I decided to write a poem about it this morning. It is a family poem but I think those who read it will enjoy it on the Blog, as it expresses a real light-hearted frivolity that none others had ever experienced. I hope I will be able to read it at the service as well. It is in Iambic Pentameter style which I have always written all my poems. Chris has probably already printed out the program, but I will ask permission to say a few words.
Cousin Doris Frank-Liu
Here is the poem:
FOND MEMORIES OF UNCLE PARKER
By Doris Frank-Liu
When my sister Ellen and I visited Uncle Parker back then
He was teaching at the Army Language School in Monterey to men
I remember Salinas was cool and foggy and Alan was three
Nighttimes Uncle Parker taught and played fun card games with Ellen and me
There was a real easy game to teach others to play called "The Nose Game"
Uncle Parker told us that the way we were playing was rather tame
Since he recalled that some got so excited they'd punch their nose to bleed
We laughed so hard because he would act it out as he noticed the need
And to this day whenever I teach that simple card game to my friends
They all ask, "Where in the world did you learn this fun game that beats all trends?"
And then I smile and proudly say that it was Uncle Parker who did
Prompting me to act out the players he told of when I was a kid.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
PARKER PO-FEI HUANG
When I heard of Parker Huang’s passing, my immediate response was a tearful smile. The tears were heartfelt – he was a remarkable man, who made a deep impact on me as he did on all students, and now he is with us no more. But the smile was just as deep – he was someone who urged me to do more than study and think, he also prompted me to muse about things Chinese, to find real joy in the process. It certainly was not rote education, nor just cerebral education, it was cultural and emotional education as well.
Although I only took one course with Parker Huang – a tutorial in intermediate Chinese back in the summer of 1965 – it was a most unusual experience. Yes, we went through the texts, and it quickly became apparent that I was not a natural linguist. I really tried hard, too hard in Parker’s mind, because I ended up making translation an exercise in scanning dictionaries and trying to get the details right. What I remember best was the way in which he tried to loosen me up, to get me outside the characters and the sentences, to try to see the broader shape of the language, to get a sense of what was being conveyed even if I didn’t get every nuance right.
“Think of it as a journalist,” he said one time, “it’s a story, you don’t get it all, but it’s a puzzle, and it’s fun to figure it out.” He then leaned back and told me about China back a couple of decades, before the Communists had gained power, back when Chinese journalists were trying to figure things out in a very confusing period.
I suddenly realized that Parker was so much more than a language teacher; he was really a remarkably-successful thinker and writer displaced from his original profession by the tumultuous course of 20th-century Chinese history. He told me of his own poetry writing and even showed me some samples on various scraps of paper. One day, during a break from our reading, he smiled and began chanting some ancient poetry, his voice filled with vigor and vibrancy, his student transfixed with wonderment.
And so, our tutorial proceeded in most unexpected directions, mixing attention to my unsteady efforts in reading intermediate Chinese with his insights and anecdotes about a China that I had never visited (and in 1965, it seemed quite unlikely that an American student would get there in the foreseeable future). Curiously, I must have seemed like the super-serious Confucian-style student, learning how get beyond the task at hand from a remarkable gentleman who clearly represented the best of traditional China, but also the best of an urbane, cultured modern China.
One day, when I was really bogged down in a text, Parker suddenly stood up with a twinkle in his eyes. “How about doing something new? Would you like to learn taiji?” Stunned, I also stood up, and watched him move, smoothly and gracefully, through the first few segments of a taiji exercise, describing each movement as he did it. I followed him shakily, listening to his words – “slowly now, it’s about balance, about breath, about being centered, about emptying your mind. If you can find the spirit of the exercise, it’s more important than getting all the little gestures right.”
Yes, I am tearful that Parker is no longer with us. But I am smiling as I remember what I learned from him, all that I learned from him. Our text was in Chinese, but the course was not just about language or even just about China. It was an education about life and learning, about unleashing the potent force of curiosity. Parker Po-fei Huang was a man of many parts, but he was, perhaps above all, a great teacher.