On the third anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Sichuan, the Southern Metropolis Daily wrote a powerful editorial, which also sends a message in support of imprisoned artist Ai Weiwei. The editorial has since been removed from the paper’s website (but see update below). China Media Project has translated the full text:
They came from four directions, and departed in eight directions. We feel regret mingled with self-reproach. They should have had better deaths, with calm and unhurried remembrances, tears permitted to fly like the rain. In such haste, such haste, they departed forever from villages and cities left in sick-heartedness. Now, across mountain slopes where new green rises over the stones, they remain in the schools, on the roads, underground, in the nameless places. They are together with each other, the way wheat grows together. In the summer, in the midst of their final twilight, they went to a place we cannot see. They are the only anguish and the only comfort left to the survivors [NOTE: comfort by virtue of their continued presence in spirit].
In our hearts, we lowered our flags to half-mast for them. On the day of mourning we called them home and wished them peace. We gathered together all the human evidence of them we could. We read their names together [NOTE: This seems to be a reference to Ai Weiwei’s piece “Missing,” in which volunteers read the names of students who died in the Sichuan earthquake]. We promised that we would bear them constantly in mind, never forgetting, over and over again. We did so much, and yet we did too little. Those of you who were lost and did not return, where are you? Can the light we kindle shine across your path? We cannot do more. We can but present steel zodiacs, and offer up porcelain sunflower seeds [NOTE: This is a presumable reference to Ai Weiwei’s exhibit at the Tate Modern, which incorporates sunflowers seeds and the Chinese zodiac], symbolic memorials to your lives once so tangible. What else would you wish us to do? [NOTE: Many would read the above passage as a reference to the collapse of school buildings and the work done by Ai Weiwei (艾未未), Tan Zuoren (谭作人) and others to remember the children who died in the quake and understand the underlying causes.]
We know these deaths have already happened, but to forget is to heartlessly hope they endure a second death. If we do not cherish their memory, oblivion [or forgetting] will only grow in strength. The sacrifices of this day are done to spurn forgetting, to avoid losing them all over again. Our future memorials are proof again and again before them: we will never be far from you, we will always be together, even though we meet with death and fear. This is a promise that we must bear firmly in mind. People are eternal, and they are always with us. As citizens of conscience, this is our duty to these [destroyed] villages and cities.
Update: China Media Project reports that the article is back up:
A daring editorial on commemorating the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which disappeared yesterday from the website of Guangdong’s Southern Metropolis Daily, has been re-posted at the paper’s site today. The decision to re-post the piece is a puzzling one, given that sources say the editorial has resulted in intense pressure on those responsible.