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True Story
6,000 Steps to Paradise (7)

9 December 2006
 

1, A Stone Ladder
2, A Beautiful Bride
3, A Forbidden Love
4, A Life in the Wilderness
5, A House on the Hilltop
6, Six Thousand Steps To Paradise

7, A Love Story that Never Ends

 

Xu and Guojiang today before their hilltop home, viewing the mountain shore that stretches beyond sight

The construction of the stone ladder finally had been complete. When Guojiang went to market, Xu would descend down the ladder to arrive at the single-plank bridge waiting for his return, then together they climbed 6000 steps to their paradise on the summit. When Guojiang carried out maintenance work on the stairs, which he kept doing so twice a year, Xu delivered drink and food to him, and wiped sweets off his face.

Forty-five years had past ever since they settled their love nest in the deepest of this primeval forest, and it had been good 42 years since they moved into their cozy brick-tiled house on the top of the desolate hill. Occasionally, Xu would go with Guojiang to the town to visit their children at school, and later, when they got married, visit their homes in the villages. And their children would also come back to help with some heavy household chores. But there was never an outsider to intrude into their safe heaven, not until one day in the autumn of 2001.

At the moment they strode out of the woods and found a group of strangers wandering around, they were equally taking a back as those wilderness explorers.

Since then, the story of a forbidden love told through a stone ladder spread across the nation, and eventually they were visited by some journalists who braved the wild and tortuous trial to a remote corner of the planet to knock at their front door.

Learned that the journalists came so far just to talk to them, the hosts scurried through their work at hand and warmly prepared a meal for the guests.

"We have a lot of pork meat left from the New Year," said Xu, inviting the guests to sit by a homemade square table. Before long, delicious Sichuan dishes of hot spiced pork and salted pork and quick-stir-fried herbs were presented.

Guojiang poured everyone a cup of rice wine, and the guests toasted to the health and longevity of the hosts. The conversation quickly turned to the stone ladder, and one journalist asked how the long stairs were actually done.

"He did with steel chisel and hammer," Xu set her sight on Guojiang’s hand, gently touching the thick callus on his palm. "All together he has worn off seven chisels …" The reflection brought tears to her eyes.

Goujiang raised his hand to wipe tears off her face. "We’ve already made an arrangement," said he to the guests. "Now I’m 69 and she is 79, when one dies one will be buried here, and the other will go to live with our sons, but after death, the one left behind shall also be brought here to bury, so we can be together forever."

The untamed wild mountaintop was always quiet, and for a long while inside the house was equally quiet. Something lingered in the air. Finally it was Goujiang who again broke the silence. "Come, come, bottom up," he urged the guests, and led the way to empty the cup. Then he refilled the each cup again.

"Let me sing a ditty for you," he volunteered and, lifting his cup to his lips, emptied it again. Cleared his throat and pitched his voice, he began:

"初三早起去望郎,
衣袋兜米来望郎......"

"The third day of month,
I got up earlier,
Pocketed some rice,
I ran to see my lover……"

Xu cackled, and then joined him:

"左手牵郎郎不应,
右手牵郎郎不尝.
我又问郎想哪样吃.
郎答应:
百般美味都不想
只想握手到天亮 …"

"I held his hand with my left hand,
He could not say a word;
I fed him snack with my right hand,
He could not eat the food.
I asked him: My lover,
What do you like me to bring to your side."

Guojiang let his pitch drop and sang with his true voice:

"My lover said:
I wanted nothing else in the world,
Only to hold your hand
Until my last moment….."

 

Guojiang (69) and Xu (79) today

(The End)

1, A Stone Ladder
2, A Beautiful Bride
3, A Forbidden Love
4, A Life in the Wilderness
5, A House on the Hilltop
6, Six Thousand Steps To Paradise

 
 
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