Our car departed from our hotel in Changsha, crossed the Xiangjiang Bridge, and headed west. What greeted us was the city’s majestic landscape: a magnificent bridge, spacious roads, towering buildings, neat green fields… We drove past Ningxiang, the hometown of China’s late leader Liu Shaoqi, then took a turn in the northwest direction before slowing down along the tapering road; the buildings on the roadside gradually lowered in height, and the sky loomed brighter and bluer in the background. I sat close to the driver, held a SLR camera in my hand and waited for the optimal time to focus my lens on the scenery through the windshield. There was an inexplicable anticipation and excitement in my heart.

Street scene of Yiyang, Changsha - New Naratif
Street scene of Yiyang, Changsha

Finally, I saw a road sign that read “Yiyang”, suspended at the height of a street lamp, hanging at the centre of the road. Trolleys, bicycles, tricycles, and distinctive motorcycles with umbrella sheds lined the two-way driving lane, moving seamlessly along the smooth traffic, adhering to the rules of tacit understanding. When our tour guide identified the traditional characters of “Henglong Bridge” in vertical lines by the roadside, they exclaimed: “The crossing is here!”. Their voice prompted excited looks to the window. Some people almost stood up in excitement.

Then, the road, sparsely lined with vehicles, tapered to a narrower lane. The vehicles carried all kinds of construction materials: iron pipes, bricks and sand to name a few. Tractor-modified small trucks trundled along, making “dudu toot” noises. The road was lined with low-rise houses and the fields were bare with mud and puddles that reflected the blue sky and white clouds above. The green trees were no longer a single cluster of French paulownia, but an assortment of unknown species surrounded by a sprawling growth of shrubs.

Members only

Log in or

Join New Naratif as a member to continue reading

We are independent, ad-free and pro-democracy. Our operations are member-funded. Membership starts from just US$5/month! Alternatively, write to sponsorship@newnaratif.com to request a free sponsored membership. As a member, you are supporting fair payment of freelancers, and a movement for democracy and transnational community building in Southeast Asia.

Hai Fan is a Singaporean publisher and writer. In 1976 he joined the Malayan People’s Army, and returned home after the Peace Agreement was signed in 1989. His collection of stories, “Delicious Hunger” (《可口的饥饿》), was selected as one of the "Ten Major Chinese Novels of 2017" by Yazhou Zhoukan (亚洲周刊).

In 2018 Malaysia’s Sin Chew Jit Poh published his article about Suara Revolusi Malaya on its special column in serials.