For her friends and families, it is not easy to describe Sanmao. Interestingly, she seems to assume quite different, even contrasting, appearances in their memories. Just like a desert rose. In the gusty and sandy desert wind from whence she was born and came, she was like a handful of soft grains; yet once out of the desert she became an enduring stone flower, peculiar and proud.
The most peculiar thing about Sanmao was her attitude toward money. She had seen harder days, and yet barely had a sense of number; neither would she work for money’s sake. In those difficult years, she just lived by plain rice mixed with soybean sauce; when she had some money, she spent it all on books and traveling. But could you say she was senseless? She was surely not. In every pocket of her clothes there would be some cash she’d forgotten, and when she found it she’d head straight for the bookstores.
She was not that senseless about number as her father said, for she was very exact when it came to honorariums. Yet she was tender-hearted: she might first be mad about how she only got two hundred NT dollars for one thousand words and rejected such offer; but then she would remember that the magazine was run by some idealistic young men who did not have much capital, so she changed her mind and showed her support. When other publishers were more courteous and gave her larger sums of honorariums, she just tucked them away without much care.
Everyone knows the famous Sanmao; yet the way we saw it, those credits did not seem to matter to her. She had always been Chen Ping, a soul that was honest to herself and always retained some childish innocence.
She said, in the desert there was almost no physiological need, but you still had a rich spiritual life…. She was attentive and serious when she said this, but her laughs, her hand gestures, even the movements she made when flicking her cigarettes, were so adorable and frank; all her experiences in life seemed to have brought her back to innocence.
It was her that made me envision the feel of freedom so vividly, made me realize what the world’s end meant for a writer…. Whenever I think of her, I still can’t regard her as simply a popular writer; instead, she showed us some measure of limited freedom with her own frail power; she showed to the mundane world that it was possible to live and die so fiercely.
Sanmao was ever so sensitive and tender. She always did what she could to help and support, to give what she had, to her friends, any friend. Even to the point of being dictatorial that she did not allow others to give back in return. How so unbelievable.
If you have ever read Sanmao, you’d know she was a good storyteller…when you talked with her, you noticed how innocent, and yet how mysterious she sometimes was, almost as she was a fictional character, and you couldn’t see clearly. Frankly, I only wish I could really keep her, and imagine her in my fantasy.
Sanmao was ever so sensitive to everything: people, nature, and things around her. Very few people have the same passion as she possessed—she was just like a candle burning brightly, and burnt out fast, before she could spread that light and warmth to too many people. At the end of Le Petit Prince, her favorite book, the Little Prince finds a way to return to his world…. Sanmao was that Little Prince (or Princess if you like). Maybe she was too fine to belong to this world. Now she has returned home, and I miss her. But I know: someday we will meet again.
I believe that the best way to commemorate Sanmao is to discard her legends and everything outside of her literature, and to read her writings from an objective and cool-headed point of view; to study her unique style and aesthetic quality; to examine her intensive artistic quality and inner energy—that is the most important way to understand and interpret Sanmao.