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

                                                               through me?

                                                      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.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Roger Des Forges Memories

I just received the news of Parker's passing from his son and want to share my thoughts with his family and friends.  
I was fortunate to study Chinese with Huang laoshi back in the late 1960s, and I still remember very well those individual sessions on Hillhouse Avenue.  I would come to class with a text and Parker would explain the parts I could not make out, writing characters on pieces of paper that seemed to have many doors leading in different directions, only a few of which lodged in my mind.  The gap between the beginning or even intermediate student of classical Chinese (wenyan) and an accomplished literatus and poet such as Parker was so great that I often thought that it could never be closed.  Of course I was right, it could not, but Parker was never fazed, he just kept on sharing his insights, often moral and natural as well as technical and academic. I remember one session in which we read and discussed an article on all of the many names that have been given over the ages to the polity we call, all so simply, "China," and the impact of that article has shaped my entire intellectual life in the field of Chinese history.  

In a recent session with six Chinese colleagues from many disciplines here at the University at Buffalo on the question of "what does it mean to be Chinese," I began my short presentation with some of the terms that had figured in that article.  After I completed my dissertation on a late Qing official and turned my attention to a late Ming literatus (whose historicity turned out to be highly problematic) I remember sharing one of my articles with Parker and his delight at some of the resonances with earlier history I thought I had discovered in the late Ming materials.  

I remember joining James Lee, one of Parker's prize students and one of my own, and visiting Parker and Mrs. Huang in California some years ago and finding the same quiet and amiable humaneness that I had remembered in the more formal classroom of decades earlier.  I remember the Huangs' more recent visit to Buffalo when they were visiting old friends but remembered that i was here and their calling me and having me to dinner (when my wife Alison was on one of her many trips looking after human rights in Africa).  

In short, I have many vivid memories of my relations with Parker, all of them pleasant and uplifting.  I will never forget him and will continue to try to live up to the pedagogical legacy he left behind.  Another true junzi has left this world in body but he will live on forever in spirit among his family, friends, and students.  

With great respect and affection, 
Roger Des Forges

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