About Me

Born in the central part of city Beijing, China and lived there until 2005, bringing my daughter with me, I moved to Nova Scotia, Canada.

I am a non-fiction writer, author with over thirty-year natural science background.    

I grew up in a big family with parents, grandparents (mom’s side), uncles, aunts and cousins. Three generations living together was common in Beijing at that time. Although everyone played certain roles for my growth, my grandparents influenced me the most. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is grandparents-yard.jpgHere is an old family photo taken in 1960, grandpa, grandma, cousin Lily and me (front). Grandpa had retired when I was born. One of his hobbies was gardening, so flowers, bushes, trees, flying insects and creeping creatures were my natural friends. The background in the photo was a huge mock orange bush, fully blooming in a corner of our garden-like courtyard. Grandpa told me when I was two years old I often carried a tiny water can while following on the heels in the garden.

Grandpa was also a well-organized person. When I grew up grandpa said to me garden tools, after used, must go back to where they came from. After grocery shopping, any change, even a penny, must be recorded in his accounting book. What grandpa said to me benefits both my personal and professional lives. 

Grandma was a housewife and cooked each day for the whole family. She could neither read nor write, but taught us by her selflessness and hard working. She and grandpa sent three of her seven children to university. This was uncommon at that time in China. Grandma liked Peking Opera (live performance) and Charlie Chaplin’s movies, “Modern Times” and “The Great Dictator”.

There were always some hens in a coop. Every day, as soon as grandma said: “go to check the eggs”, I would be the one racing to the coop. After I grew up and lived in concrete apartment building, raising chickens became a long-held dream.

A big bag of books, fairy tales, fables and short stories, accompanied my childhood, too. I still have some of them that I have carefully kept for over fifty years. Mom often read to me or with me. I still remember if a story mom read sounded scary to me, I would put my index finger tightly into each ear, but still urged mom to keep reading. When I could read, mom borrowed many books from the library at her workplace.  

At the time, nothing seemed special in my childhood, but no doubt, books or reading raised my potential for writing. At grade seven, it was my Chinese teacher that identified my outstanding skills of writing. Often he read my homework assignments as good examples in class.

Grandpa’s garden cultured my love for nature resulted in macro biology (living things seen by the naked eye) becoming my particular interest and entomology, the study of insects as my major for a Bachelor Degree.

Since graduation and before moving to Nova Scotia, I had explored in two scientific fields. One was vector biology, the study on infectious disease related insects (mosquitoes, fleas and more) and some arthropods, like ticks. Along the path, integrated pest management (IPM) and certain disease epidemiology extended my knowledge in this field. Another was instrumental analytic chemistry focusing on the determination of trace pesticide residues in food.

In Canada, a Master thesis study on a beetle, the black vine weevil, at Saint Mary’s University brought me back to entomology, my favorite field. However, even with a Master Degree, a science job staring out in Canada would be no higher than a Research Assistant. Thus, I had assisted for the studies that had nothing to do with insects, such as drug delivery by nasal using rats, Nemann-pick II disorder using mice and blood coagulation using human plasma.   

Alongside this multi science journey, my writing grew, too. In 1996, my first essay “Mock Orange Blossom” for a non-fiction contest was published in the “Beijing Evening News”, the city focused newspaper. Many more personal essays have been published in print media, or heard on radio broadcast since then in China and since 2006 in Canada.

Among them, there are a few about Nova Scotia. I write about what I see, hear and experience on the beautiful peninsular, such as my own stories directly related to St. Margaret’s Bay, winter diversity in Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy and a story of how my life in Canada became connected to the Halifax Explosion.

Since 2016, I have become a full-time writer.   

After my long-held chicken dream had come true in Nova Scotia, a creative non-fiction book for children, “Running Wild with Bossy Boy” was published in 2018. It focuses on chicken’s personalities through the stories of 15 chickens my friend Bob and I raised in a beautiful semi rural setting. In the book, there are seventy story-matching photos chosen from the hundreds I took during the chicken’s growth.

As social birds, chickens do many things together, searching for worms, taking dirt baths, crowding on an old wooden bench or roosting on trees. However, they are different from each other. Some are brave and some timid; some are fighters and some peace keepers. Being individuals, chickens have personalities, or to them, “chicken-alities.

The success in writing, book design, photographing, self-publishing, marketing, promotion and distribution provides me with a high level of confidence to continue writing more non-fiction books, especially for children.

Please visit the page “Running Wild with Bossy Boy” for more information about the book.

I am a Council Member at Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia and involved into the program, “Writers in the Schools” (WITS). If you are interested in what I share with school students, please click here Writers in the Schools (WITS) and scroll down. Once you see a photo of “Sunflower”, you find me.

Being a freelance interpreter and translator (English/Chinese), I am associated with some local service providers, the Canada Justice System (2016-2019) and various businesses. I am a member at ATINS.

Gardening, a heritage from Grandpa, remains my favourite pastime.


Updated on May 10, 2021

Essay Samples



Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

 This essay was published at Magazine, China Surveying and Mapping

Volume108 (2007 Jun): page 74-77

      圣·玛哥瑞特海湾(St. Margaret’s Bay)是加拿大大西洋地区、努瓦·斯苟莎省(Nova Scotia)的许多海湾之一。从努瓦·斯苟莎省会哈利法克斯(Halifax)市沿103高速公路西行约20分钟,圣·玛哥瑞特海湾便出现在眼前。派吉斯·寇夫路(Peggy’s Cove Road)和圣·玛哥瑞特路(St. Margaret’s Road)一左一右蜿蜒在海湾的两岸。

圣·玛哥瑞特海湾是离哈利法克斯Halifax最近的海湾。尽管它不是港湾,但可停泊吃水位很深的大船。如遇特殊情况,船不能停靠在哈利法克斯, 可转停在圣·玛哥瑞斯海湾。它因此有很重要的地理学意义。它的出口面对大西洋,但是内陆海,且具有与其它海湾不同的特殊性、重要性。我的朋友鲍博(Bob)住在那里,我的周末几乎全是在那里度过的,所以有机会接触和亲身体会圣·玛哥瑞特海湾。它尽管小但是无论在加拿大,还是在世界上都很独特。

圣·玛哥瑞斯 海湾和大西洋之间的莎汀岛朝向大西洋的一面。岛的左侧被海浪冲刷得几乎秃了,正因为此,它成为圣·玛哥瑞斯 海湾的保护神                                                       一个称作莎汀(Shut-in)的大岛屿像门户把守在大西洋和圣·玛哥瑞特海湾之间,当大西洋上季风肆虐,海浪咆哮时,海湾里的海水依旧温柔地舔着沙滩,轻轻地叩击大大小小的岩石。圣·玛哥瑞特海湾和大西洋之间的莎汀岛成为屏障保护着圣·玛哥瑞特海湾。

世界著名的旅游圣地派吉斯·寇夫灯塔(Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse)面向大西洋坐落在圣·玛哥瑞特海湾的入口。那里的海水远没有圣·玛哥瑞特海湾的驯服。

大印第安岛(Big Indian Island)是海湾美丽的景致之一。但是一定要等到低潮时才能步行登上岛屿。因为只有在海湾的水位退到最低时,从印第安·普印特(Indian Point)通往圣·玛哥瑞特海湾大印第安岛的一段沙滩才露出水面。而且一定要赶在涨潮之前回来,除非你愿意过一下从大印第安岛游回来的瘾,或耐心等到下一个低潮(一般是12小时以后)。

st margarets bay 177st margarets bay 130加拿大感恩节(Thanksgiving Day)长周末的一个早晨,恰是海水最低潮,我和朋友鲍博在那段沙滩上留下两串湿漉漉的脚印、穿过一片树林去看圣·玛哥瑞特海湾。尽管已是秋天,那天的海湾非常暖和。清澈的海水在太阳的照射下闪烁、蒸腾,天空极其蓝。微风拂面,带着海特有的味儿和温暖。走在海滩上,不时弯腰捡拾贝壳和石子,我竟觉得热了。我们坐在岩石上,面对海湾,背靠树林。目及对岸的山坡和两岸之间的小岛,捕捉欧鸟从海面掠过的身影,迎送张满风帆的小船由远而近又由近而远。远去了城市的嘈杂,忘却了昨天的烦恼,一味地沉浸在这耀眼的宁静中、呼吸海的气味……。我想我很幸运也很奢侈,因为我享有这阳光、这温暖、这海湾、这宁静……和这并非人人都能拥有的圣·玛哥瑞特海湾的金秋。



spring 2008 023春季,“清明”前后当我们在北京“种瓜种豆”时,这里的土还没有完全解冻。已经是5月,枝头的芽苞还睡眼惺忪,却是人们剪枝、修整的好时机。而6月才是的种植季节——在自家的园子里播种、购买花、草和蔬菜苗移栽到地里。真正的夏天要从7月开始算。



也许是为了有意地把夏天拉长,人们称9月22或23日后为秋天。这正是我们的农历“秋分”(9月22或23昼夜平分)。还有巧合的是加拿大的感恩节是在每年10月的第二个星期一。今年在10月8日,恰好是我们的节气“寒露”。它比美国的感恩节(每年的11月的第四个星期四)早近2个月。10月初的感恩节好像是专门为加拿大大西洋地区或圣·玛哥瑞特海湾设的似的。感恩节前后是收获的季节。人们忙着摘苹果、刨土豆、掰玉米、收南瓜和多种蔬菜。随处可见大大小小的南瓜“展览”。丰收的南瓜绝大多数南瓜是为万圣节(10月31日)准备的。鲍博家的土豆全都出土、入库。三棵苹果树今年一共结了大约十个苹果(去年接了不下千余)。玉米早已被我们和美洲浣熊(North America Raccoon),鲍博家菜园里的常客之一,分享。拉秧的黄瓜依然碧绿,樱桃西红柿还在不断挂果,橙红的南瓜摆放在他今年搭建的一个中国农村式的小凉亭下。亭里还挂着阴干的辛香植物,如薄荷(mint)、茴香(dill)、鼠尾草(sage)和其它多种我必须查字典才能知道中文名字的植物(用于做菜的调料)。晚熟的耐寒作物或蔬菜在地里依然郁郁葱葱……。

st margarets bay 080 而枫树在此时也凑着热闹红得恰到好处,鲜红、猩红、橙红、淡红……把圣·玛哥瑞特海湾的秋渲染得最像加拿大的秋。我想,这是再好不过的时机来感恩大自然的馈赠,感恩辛勤的劳作和尽情感受圣·玛哥瑞特海湾独特的秋。

此时,我想起女儿小时唱的一首儿歌“小鸟小鸟落落,请来这儿唱歌,这里的风景最美,有山、有树、有河……”。是啊,我的中国朋友,一旦有机会来努瓦·斯苟莎(Nova Scotia),无论如何一定要从你匆忙的行程中挤出点儿时间到这里,圣·玛哥瑞特海湾坐坐。

Grandpa Santa

 Grandpa Santa 


If one child in the world calls Santa Clause “Grandpa Santa”, it must be our daughter, NiuNiu (pronounced NewNew, in Chinese a cute little girl). Her stories with “Grandpa Santa” started during her childhood in Beijing China.

Six-year old NiuNiu with one foot left kindergarten and another stepped into primary school. Wow, the outside of kindergarten was so different and amazing! Her curiosity for the new world was rapidly accumulated and eventually overflowed: only 15 days after her enrollment, she skipped school at lunch time with one of her classmates right under their teacher’s nose and played the whole afternoon in a public garden nearby.

“What was wrong with NiuNiu?” We asked ourselves. It seemed nothing. She was just like a little tree eager to reach the sky. How could we “trim” it without hurting the tender growing tips? “Yes, why don’t we bring Christmas to her life and let her know Santa watches year round”! In China, Christmas was not (is not) an official holiday, but we decided to celebrate it for NiuNiu.

Thus for the first time, at 6, NiuNiu heard about Christmas and Santa. Little NiuNiu at once loved the incredible myth, liked the white-bearded old man, HoHoHo and insisted on calling him “Grandpa Santa”. She did not skip school again and everything was maintained quite well since she knew Santa was over there.

One day, however, NiuNiu shared me her worry: “Mom, does Grandpa Santa mind a mistake in my homework?” “What’s up?” I asked. “Mom, is 5-3=2 right?” “Yes.” “Why did Teacher Hu still mark an “X” beside my “2” that I have erased and re-written twice?” When I glanced at her 5-3=2, I almost burst out laughing. Her “2” was backwards! No matter how many times she corrected, the “2” was consistently written backwards. No wonder Teacher Hu kept giving her “X”. “Oh, my dear, Grandpa Santa couldn’t love it more, I am sure!” I cheered her up and saw the little one badly tortured by the “2” breathed easily.

On Christmas Eve, after solemnly hanging a bag on the balcony of our apartment, NiuNiu unwillingly went to bed. The next morning, she got up much earlier than usual. Still half asleep, she smiled secretly and walked cautiously towards the balcony with both hope and uncertainty. When she touched something in the bag, she fully woke up: “Mom, Dad, gifts from Grandpa Santa!” Her little voice rose: “Look! A pencil box with pencils, a ruler, eraser and a pencil sharpener……two bars of chocolate, too!” That special morning, NiuNiu, carrying a school bag full surprise and excitement, hopped joyfully to school, the only child there connected to Grandpa Santa!

The next year, I suggested a bigger bag for Grandpa Santa. In the morning, she absolutely found her Christmas gifts which fitted the bag perfectly. She was excited while questioned: “How did you know, mom I needed a bigger bag this time?”

Even though the question about the “bigger bag” has not been a question for a very long time, we still keep the myth as a joyful secret between NiuNiu and us. So no matter how old NiuNiu is, she can always ask: “Mom and Dad do you know about any gifts from Grandpa Santa this year?” The same answer: “Depends on if you have been good or naughty.”

Since my daughter and I moved to Nova Scotia, Canada in 2005, we have explored real Christmas and become part of it. Still, nobody among our three has pointed the secret out.

Thus, with our love, the stories of NiuNiu and her “Grandpa Santa” are kept writing……

Zhou Hui, in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Dec. 18, 2008, revised in Dec. 2015


Defensive Driving and Defensive Walking 


The night on Nov. 17, 2008 after work, I drove in Halifax.


It was my third road training with an instructor at Ha’s Driver School, and my first time of running a vehicle in the darkness. When we were closing to Sackville Street on Barrington Street, the instructor showed me the site where a young woman was struck under a dump truck when she was crossing the street that very samemorning. The first response of mine was if my daughter was at home. Yes, she was. One hour ago we talked on the phone. Although I confirmed and ensured my daughter was safe, the news had made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I felt extremely horrible that life was taken away in the blink of an eye! However, if the driver checked one more time, if the woman checked one more time, the tragedy might never have happened.


The rest of the driving at that night was filled with more “mirror, signal and shoulder check”. My eyes had never been as busy as they were. “Defensive driving” hit every object it could reach, and its echoes never died away in the dark as if the driver school teacher emphasized it again and again during the 25-hour in-house education sources. By the end, the instructor summarized and commented on my night performance-I did not see people emerged from the back of a parked car once, I almost missed a “stop sign” once, I skipped “mirror check” twice before brakes, I ignored road signs more than three times, I did not read the road ahead when I made turns, I should be much more alert than I had been while driving……All in all, to me there would be a long way to go in terms of a good driver and then a defensive driver which is my goal. 


Honestly, the original reason why I decided to go back to a driving school was for car insurance. When I was thinking about buying a car, I checked with insurance companies, the insurance to me without any insurance record and driving education in Canada would be more than $3000 a year though I was issued a class 5 Nova Scotia driver licence in 2005. Therefore, I registered at the driving school in October. Now looking back the education and trainings obtained, the value is much more than its price, $595, and the significance is far beyond getting a low insurance.


In addition, the necessity taking the education, or returning to a driving school may not be just to me only.


One of my colleagues, I am sure she has been driving a car or cars for many years, told me that she would like to go back to a driving school to refresh or update the knowledge and improve her driving techniques if she had time. If it became one of the priorities, she would do it soon, I believe.


One of my Chinese fellows and good friends, whom I met at the Kentville Research Station of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in 2005, offered me rides when I went home sometimes since we both worked at the station and lived in Wolfville. First time when I showed him Winter Street where the house I lived located, he hit the brake and stopped the car just in the middle of the street near Winter Street. I thought I interrupted him, so he stopped (parked) suddenly. However it happened identically at the second time. This time I could not help but asked him why his curb-side wheels were about two meters away from the street curb, instead of within or close to 15 centimetres according to the Nova Scotia Driver’s Handbook. I could barely stand this though he was a good friend, and was also surprised how he passed the driving road test and received a driver licence of Nova Scotia. He perhaps was terribly embarrassed because of my outspokenness. However, it is the rule everybody must obey for the safety of lives, his, mine and others (My dear friend, if you read here, please do not be mad at me).


There have been a lot of stories of conflicts on road heart from people around me.  I also saw some drivers driving as if they were number one on the road drove beside me. I did encounter pedestrians showing up on the street at very wrong places when I drove. The tragedy that happened on the corner of Barrington/Sackville Street on the 17th of Nov. has not been forgotten.


Therefore, I would like to pack defensive driving and defensive walking in a box as one of my Christmas gifts because I am starting to play two roles, in other words, I will be the both, a driver and a pedestrian on streets after I have a car.



Nov. 22, 2008, Halifax






我不知道是在那个朝代我们中国人将英文名John翻译成“约翰”的。我们好像已经很适  应冠John这个极其普通的英文名字以“约翰”,而且似乎从来就没质疑过。类似的例子还有我们将Mary念成“玛丽”,将Paul发音成“保罗”,将加拿大的城市Vancouver叫“温哥华”Montreal赋予“蒙特利尔”之称。仔细琢磨“加拿大”是否有更接近Canada的念法? 


有一天我和一个加拿大朋友谈起“尼古拉斯·凯奇”,他很长时间没有反应过来我说的是谁,最后我不得不搜肠刮肚地找出尼古拉斯·凯奇主演的一些电影情节,他才恍然大悟我说的是Nicolas Cage。如果写成中文,其更接近原文发音的应该是“尼古拉斯·凯至”。我曾在Saint Mary’s University读硕士学位,它的中文名:“圣·玛丽”大学。自从我的“尼古拉斯·凯奇”故事发生后,我怎么都觉得它应该叫“圣·麦瑞” 大学,John和“宙恩”贴边,Paul称做“炮” (其“l” 不发音),Vancouver应该是“皖库斡”, Montreal-“蒙垂欧”,而Canada为什么不可念做“开拿大”。这些貌似生僻的中文译名,其发音不更接近英文原名么?



有的英文名是很难和中文对上号的。我最近为一本书所感动,作者Paul Chiasson,中文book-of-the-island-of-seven-cities2名保罗·恰森,书名The Island of Seven Cities (中文译为“七城岛”)。作者以独特的思维方式和手笔揭示给众人他的发现:加拿大Nova Scotia省的Cape Breton岛上的历史遗迹-存在于意大利航海家哥伦布(Christopher Columbus)据传发现美洲新大陆(1492)之前。他经过查阅大量历史资料,包括当时各个国家航海技术水平,推论这片历史遗迹很有可能属于中国人。我试着为他的姓Chiasson(源于法文)寻找比“恰森”更合适的中文字,发现“桑”比“森”更接近原发音。而Chia如果按照我们的汉语拼音规则应该拼写成chei,遗憾的是我没找到与其相对应的中文字。所以Chiasson就只好还是“恰森”或“恰桑”。 


我们将英文名义译、音译相混用的情况也时有发生。这种译法不论不类且费解。比如上面Paul Chiasson书中提到的地名Nova Scotia被译为“新科西亚”(“恰森与七城岛”,李文政,«人民日报» 2007-08-01 第16版)。Nova无疑是New-中文意思“新”,这里做义译。但后面的Scotia显然是音译(是否接近原发音且不论)。当我第一次看到这个译名时丝毫没有辨别出它就是Nova Scotia。而我恰恰就住在Nova Scotia的一个城市,一天里恐怕有无数机会碰到或用到这个名字。Scotia的意思是“苏格兰”。如果也被义译,那么Nova Scotia的全名应该是“新苏格兰”。对于我们“新苏格兰”翻译正确、无可指摘。令人担心的是有多少英文名字是被义译的?而且有多少英文名可以被义译?如果我们可以将加拿大最东端的省Newfoundland音译为“纽芬兰”而不是“新芬兰”,为什么不遵循同一准则而将Nova Scotia音译成“努瓦·斯苟莎”? 


最近一篇有关重金属汞污染的报导中文译文(翻译:李雪玉,http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_490dfe9901000a5x.html)是这样开场的:“CBC新闻2007年8月15日,科学家说……在努纳武高纬北极地区雷索卢特湾附近的湖泊中汞含量呈现上升趋势。来自环境加拿大的科学家在近20年的时间里对雷索卢特湾以外的十几个湖泊进行研究,雷索卢特湾位于康沃利斯岛伊魁特市北部1570公里。研究者也在观察常年栖息在这些内陆湖泊中的北极鲑鱼……”。文中涉及了四个地名:1)努纳武高纬北极地区、2)雷索卢特湾、3)康沃利斯岛和4)伊魁特市。除了“高纬北极地区”和“环境加拿大”可以推论故事可能发生在加拿大或加拿大附近的北极地区。而这4个中文译名,至少对我来说,因为没有英文原文可参考而使原文的信息价值大打折扣。也许是我过于缺乏地理知识、孤陋寡闻,且在加拿大逗留的时间太短?为此我专门请教了一个在加拿大生活了多年的中国朋友,对该译名他也不知所云。我不甘心,又拜访了一个加拿大朋友,他对我提供的这4个名字的准确的中文发音没有任何反应。“金山词霸”词典上没有它们对应的英文名,从Google网站的地图上也找不到它们的踪影。我相信原作者的初衷是报告汞污染发生的水域,并提醒人们钓鱼时应避免该水域或不食该水域中的鱼。而译者的意图是将英文转化成中文以便于中国人获得这一信息。无论作者还是译者恐怕都不会想到带着他们良好初衷和意图的信息因为这4个地点的中文译名走进了死胡同。而文章的主要价值恰恰体现在这4个地名上。另外译文中提到“环境加拿大”。什么是“环境加拿大”?我猜测是Environment Canada-加拿大联邦政府的环境部或环境局。但是假如读者是一个不熟悉加拿大的中国人,他或她将如何诠释“环境加拿大”?
















     在中国,但凡冠以“洋”的东西,一定是舶来品――“洋取灯(火柴)”、“洋抢”、“洋烟”、“洋酒”、“洋文”和“洋人”。“洋姜”想必在此之列(原产于北美,菊科、向日葵属,Heliantthus tuberosus L., Jerusalem Artichoke,多年生草木植物,耐寒、少病虫害且高产)。我本该知道的,但却从来没感觉过“洋姜”属于这一族。尤其作为远离故土的老北京,当我意外地在加拿大的一个菜市场(名叫Pete’s Frootique)发现“洋姜”时,这化为异物、化为稀罕物的“故知”勾起我儿时温馨的记忆,让我想念北京,怀念故去的姥姥、姥爷,父母,还有那伴我长大的小院儿。因此当年的秋季,我将从Pete’s Frootiue买来的“洋姜”留了几块做为种子试着种在了朋友家的院里(我还不属于有房有地族)。






From Heritage to Heritage

From Heritage to Heritage


As I have learned, people in China usually have heard about British Columbia and Ontario more than Nova Scotia. Halifax, too, is far less popular to most Chinese people than Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa. I had been one of those Chinese who knew nothing about Nova Scotia until one day in 2004, my feet touched the land, and I was thoroughly embraced with the waters, the woods and the fields, the colour, the sound and the smell. I was especially attracted by the stories related to its history – the unique treasure in Canada.


Without knowing its history, I would have no feelings to the word “Acadian”; I probably would never stop with intention on Barrington Street in Halifax and look up to the north face of the City Hall Clock which was permanently stopped to 9:05 a.m.; I would never think about the significance behind the beauty of the New Ross Farm, the charm of St. Margaret’s Bay, the well-preserved properties of the Annapolis Royal, “The Island of Seven Cities”- Mr. Paul Chiasson’s discovery of the remains of a possible ancient Chinese settlement on Cape Breton Island, and the scenic waterfront of Halifax Harbour……which are our heritages in Nova Scotia.


What I have seen and felt in Nova Scotia reminds me of the ancient City Wall and Gates in Beijing, which were built in the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644). Sixteen city gates connected the city wall with Inner City and Outer City of Beijing. Most gates were demolished in the 1960s-1970s because the government wanted to develop or rebuild the old city, starting with an underground railway system right beneath the Wall and Gates of the Inner City. I fortunately still remember the Wall and the Gates, since I was born in Beijing in 1950s. My sister, six years younger than I, has very dim impression about them. My daughter never had any opportunity to view their majesty and magnificence. Not only the City Wall and Gates, but also other historical buildings, such as Si-he Yard (the unique style of houses/yards in Beijing, and  most of Hu-tong (the system of Beijing city streets) have been replaced by huge concrete apartment or commercial buildings.


Perhaps the impression about Beijing as a well-developed and quite modern city, as shown during the Beijing Olympics in August 2008, is still remaining. However, there is little left for people in the world to feel and enjoy its ancient rhythm, the heritage identities, and the taste of real Beijing. The demolition of historical structures was one of unforgivable human mistakes, and a huge tragedy to the history of Beijing, China, and the world.


I worry about less and less heritages left for our future generations, no matter where heritage is wiped out amidst the conflict between development and the protection of historical properties. Without the concern and worry, I would not be easily brought to a halt by some pictures, books, and a talk between walkers and two members of Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, which happened just outside of the entrance of the Halifax Farmers Market on one of the busy and beautiful Saturday mornings in October, 2008. The members of the Heritage Trust were worried because the Armour Group had applied to completely demolish two buildings in the central block of Historic Properties: the wooden Peter Martin Building at 1870 Upper Water Street and the Imperial Oil Building at 1860 Upper Water Street. In addition, almost all but the facades of other heritage buildings, the Fishwick Express Building at 1861 Hollis Street, the Harrington Building at Hollis Street, would be demolished in Halifax……After having listened for awhile, I joined the talk and told them the stories of City Wall and Gates in Beijing. I also voluntarily signed their petition and promised them I would write to Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly and Members of Regional Council.


Halfway through this essay, my writing was stopped by a terrible cold. When I had energy to go back to the essay, I discovered the news on Page 1 of the Metro, October 22, 2008, that Regional Council had rejected demolition of a block of heritage buildings on the Halifax waterfront. I was extremely glad to hear that and believed the two members of Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, whom I met on that Saturday, must have a big relief while learning the good news.


Could we have a break? Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia president Philip Pacey said he was “absolutely delighted ” by council’s decision, but there was still work to do because Armour owns the buildings and had applied for a demolition permit for one building and holds a permit to demolish another. It seems there is no break for Heritage Trust of Nova Stotia, for Mayor Peter Kelly, and Members of Regional Council, nor for people like me.


Therefore, I keep writing, starting this essay with the story of broken Heritages in Beijing, China and closing it with the unfinished story of other Heritages in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.



-October 25, 2008, Halifax, Nova Scotia





     今年(2007年)是哈利法克斯港湾大爆炸(Halifax Explosion90周年。1917126日(第一次世界大战期间)早晨905爆炸发生在哈利法克斯港湾。这是在原子弹发明之前人类历史上最大的人为爆炸事件。爆炸波及整个港湾和它两岸城市哈利法克斯和鞑茂斯(Dartmouth)。方圆几十公里的房屋被摧毁,80公里以外的城镇戳柔(Truro)房屋的玻璃被震碎。几百公里以外可以测到爆炸的震波。哈利法克斯城市中离爆炸地点最近的地区(Richmond & the Devastated Area)被夷为平地。当幸存者从震撼中苏醒无法辨认哪儿曾是他们的家。有的人成了家里唯一的幸存者。爆炸夺去了近2000人的生命(许多人是死在自己的房子里),9000人受伤或终身致残。他们包括城市居民、士兵、海员、消防员、警察、工人和政府官员。






     爆炸前,温森特·寇曼(Vincent Coleman,一位Richmond 火车站的工作人员预料到可能的爆炸,并果断地向各个火车站及时发送电文,成功地阻止了一辆驶向哈利法克斯的客车。也正是由于他发送的电文,使加拿大铁路系统及时反应,当天便迅速从努瓦·斯苟莎(Nova Scotia)省的其它地区和邻省调集6辆救援列车解救哈利法克斯。爆炸后人们在车站发现了温森特的遗体和随身遗物。温森特工作和牺牲的Richmond火车站和它所属的Richmond & the Devastated 地区离爆炸地点最近。爆炸后废墟一片。重建的地区成为哈利法克斯城市北端的一部分。哈利法克斯大爆炸纪念钟塔就坐落在附近。除了纪念钟塔,整个城区有21处与大爆炸有关的纪念场馆供人们悼念遇难者,纪念这一罕见的人为灾祸。温森特的照片和他的遗物就保存在港口的海洋博物馆里。


     而我第一次见到文森特的照片是在詹妮特(Janette S.)女士的家里。这张照片使我开始知道哈利法克斯海港大爆炸,并从此引出一系列的有关故事。


the-newspaper-and-the-photo-on-the-wall3     我和女儿在20052月移居到加拿大。落脚在努瓦·斯苟莎(Nova Scotia)省美丽的沃缶(Wolfville)小镇。我们和詹妮特住在一栋两层的房子里。楼下是厨房和起居室,楼上是卧室。住进去不久,我发现楼梯的拐角处挂有一篇镶在镜框里的从报纸上裁剪下来的文章,文章上附有一位男士的照片。报纸已经发黄。有一天得机会我站在拐角读了这篇文章。它讲述了1917126日的哈利法克斯海港大爆炸和温森特·寇曼舍身救列车的故事。他被人们称作哈利法克斯大爆炸的英雄。我就是从这儿知道哈利法克斯大爆炸的。这时我想起起居室的墙上有一张和报纸上一样、放大的温森特的照片和一位女士的照片。好奇心趋势我一定要知道詹妮特保存那张报纸的缘由。


 janette-my-daughter-and-me    詹妮特是个护士,在镇上的一家养老院工作。工作很忙。我们很少有机会坐下聊天。她休息日的一个晚上,我们终于有机会坐在一起,便聊起了墙上的报纸和照片。詹妮特告诉我温森特·寇曼是她的外祖父,那位女士是她的外祖母,弗昂茜斯·寇曼(Frances Coleman)。大爆炸发生时,詹妮特的母亲只有一岁,是幸存者之一。这些照片就是她留给詹妮特的。我尽管料到了温森特可能是她的什么亲人,但还是震惊了-哈利法克斯海港大爆炸的这段历史竟离我这么近,这么可触及!由于詹妮特,这段曾经和我没有任何关系的历史悲剧和人为灾祸开始和我有了牵连并逐渐走进了我的生活。当我再次上、下楼从温森特的照片经过时,我的感受不一样了。


     那天晚上詹妮特还介绍给我一本书,书名“哈利法克斯的大爆炸(The Halifax Explosion)”。作者曾经就为写这本书采访过她。书的扉页上的一行字“此书奉献给我的丈夫道格(Doug)”并没引起我特殊的兴趣。我通读了这本书,从中了解到更多情节和真实故事。我希望能有这本书,便到镇上的书店去找。书已脱销。我便买了另一本描写哈利法克斯大爆炸的书,“发生在哈利法克斯海港的大爆炸(Explosion in Halifax Harbour)。作者戴维德·弗莱明(David B. Flemming)


     有一天,我和学友,戴碧(Debbie)谈起哈利法克斯大爆炸和我读的有关的书。戴碧问我是否记得作者的名字,并告诉我我的硕士学位导师道格的妻子宙伊斯·葛莱斯娜(Joyce Glasner)写了一本有关哈利法克斯大爆炸的书。我当时实在记不起作者的名字了。记英文名字始终对我是件不易的事。晚上到家后赶紧翻出那两本书,发现詹妮特借给我的那本书的作者正是宙伊斯·葛莱斯娜。当我重读扉页上的那一行字“此书奉献给我的丈夫道格(Doug)”时,我意识到我和哈利法克斯大爆炸又多了一层关系。之后,我的导师将我介绍给他的妻子宙伊斯。她送给我一本有她签名的“哈利法克斯的大爆炸(The Halifax Explosion)”。


     由于女儿从蒙·圣·温森特(Mount St. Vincent)大学转到圣·麦瑞(St. Mary)大学,我们搬到了市内维斯街(Veith Street)上的一座只有6户人家的小楼里。小楼是上世纪60年代建的。房子背靠哈利法克斯海港。一个晴朗的早上,我站在阳台上看着对面的海湾,突然觉得到我左手边不远的海域应该就是1917126Mont-Blanc船爆炸的地点。我翻开戴维德·弗莱明的“发生在哈利法克斯海港的大爆炸(Explosion in Halifax Harbour)”,书中的地图上标着的爆炸海域分明就是我现在天天都能目及的那片海!那90年前的浓烟和在爆炸中消失了的温森特工作的Richmond火车站仿佛就在我的眼前。我还发现地图上标着的21处与大爆炸有关的纪念场馆,现在对我来说大多数近得可以徒步参观。



     我曾用整个一个下午的时间逗留在海洋博物馆 (Maritime Museum of the Atlantic) 哈利法克斯大爆炸展室里,坐在放像机前看那些书上没有的有关大爆炸的照片,听幸存者讲述当时的惨状和震撼。不时潸然泪下或毛骨悚然。


      我在车如流的拜润彤(Barrington)大街和丢克(Duke Street)街的拐角仰望哈利法克斯市礼堂(City Hall)顶楼上为纪念哈利法克斯大爆炸而人为地将指针永远停在905的大钟。


     我轻轻推开圣·炮斯·艾格里肯教堂(St. Paul’s Anglican Church)的大门,寻找那块爆炸时从Mont-Blanc船上崩解的、穿过教堂的玻璃窗、死死地镶在窗对面墙上的金属碎片。








2007年11月10日完稿,于哈利法克斯 (November 10,2007,Halifax, Nova Scotia)