An excerpt from a satirical Guangdonghua love poem named “Elegy to Cigarette” and shared by folk in South China during the American boycott of 1905. This was a general protest against the United States’ exclusion of Chinese labourers.
You are really down and out
Look at you down and out.
I think back to the way you used to be
In those days when you were flying high.
Who would have rejected you?
Everyone loved you
Saying you were better than silver dollars
Because your taste overwhelms people
And is even better than opium.
Inhaling it makes people’s mouths water.
We’ve had a relationship
In which up to now there has been no problem.
I thought our love affair would remain
Unchanged until earth and sky collapsed.
You have the word American in your trademark for everyone to see
So I must give you up along with my bicycle.
Our love affair
Today must end.
Cigarette please don’t harbor resentment.
Perhaps a time might come when we meet again,
But it must be after Americans abrogate the treaty.
Then as before I shall be able to fondle you.
A romantic, ironic tragedy to be sure! The forbidden fondling of American cancer crutches. There’s a whole novel in that.
Excerpt from Lang, Che. 1960. “Tiao yin-chai”, in A, Ting (Ed.). A collection of Anti-American literature relating to the exclusion of Chinese labourers. Peking.
I published an opinion article in the Friday, August 21 edition of the state-owned Global Times titled “Selling China’s Beer History”. It is in the Metro Beijing section.
The print version can be viewed here, the online version here.