Across China: Love immortalized in granny's handwritten novel
HEFEI, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- Love does not dissipate because of distance. Zhang Ailan, 83, has an invincible faith in this.
After her beloved husband Xu Guocheng passed away of illness 37 years ago, Zhang penned a novel of more than 600,000 words to memorialize their undying love story.
The couple got married in Wuhu, a city by the Yangtze River in Anhui Province, in 1963. In Zhang's memory, Xu was a considerate, diligent, and knowledgeable man. "He was proficient in drawing, music, and writing, and was even good at needlework."
With no grand wedding or expensive rings, they lived in a merely 10-square-meter dormitory. The beds, tables, and chairs were all borrowed, and their only new furniture, a five-drawer cabinet, had to be repaid in five installments.
But none of these mattered for the couple who loved each other. In the first year of their marriage, they made a promise to jointly write a novel based on their life and love stories on their 50th wedding anniversary.
Zhang didn't expect that after being happily married for 22 years, devastating news would come like a bolt from the blue. Xu was struck down by cancer when he was only 50 years old and at the peak of his career.
During Xu's last days, Zhang sat by his bed and read the poems she wrote for him. Xu apologized in tears: "I'm sorry for you the most in this life. I only left you with debt and three growing daughters."
Xu told Zhang three last wishes. "You should live for yourself for the rest of your life; I hope my ashes get scattered in the Yangtze River; After my death, forget me and regroup a family," Xu said.
Zhang fulfilled her husband's wishes, except for the last one.
Zhang decided to complete their wedding promise of finishing the novel. She opened dozens of diaries that had been sealed for many years and 142 love letters Xu wrote to her. Zhang wrote with tears and laughter for two years. She felt that the man who had loved her for more than 20 years came to life from the tip of her pen.
After Zhang completed the entire manuscript of the 600,000-word novel with 30 chapters, she refused to publish it because she regarded the novel as a unique memory between her and her husband.
This year's Qixi festival, or Chinese Valentine's Day, falls on Thursday. It is the annual date for a mythical Chinese couple, separated by the Milky Way, to reunite on a magpies-formed bridge.
On this occasion, Zhang's story came under the spotlight, touching the hearts of many netizens and inspiring them to take a new look at love.
"It is possible to live your entire life only loving one person. I see the beauty of love through their story," wrote a Sina Weibo user named "Toutingrenjian."
"I was moved. We should cherish people we love and be kind to those who love us," said a netizen nicknamed "Victory VV."
Every time Zhang walks alone by the Yangtze, her eyes rest on the river for a long time. "Death parted my husband and me. But by writing down our story, he will be with me forever," she said.