Shi Tiesheng

Posted May 17th, 2012 and filed in Human Condition, Human Mind, Life, People

Shi Tiesheng, a Chinese writer, says: “To write is to prevent suicide.”

He died on the last day of the year 2010, four days before his 60th birthday. Having spent 38 years in a wheelchair, making matchboxes with other unskilled workers for a living for over a decade, he knew what he was talking about. Shi is one of the most profound and unpretentious writers inChina.

He had not expected to live to almost 60. His illness had brought him to the verge of death more than once. Daily living was difficult. He had to rely on medical help to clean his blood every two days, after his kidneys failed. Energy was of limited supply. If a friend was to visit in the afternoon, he dared not move much the whole morning, in order to save energy for the visit. It was a thoroughly tortured life, a life without health and all the pleasures health bestows. How could you buy the pleasure of taking a walk? He found he could not even recall the sensation of walking. The memory was gone soon after the departure of the function.

It was not a life lived by common standards. There was no feeling well or looking well. Yet he lived. And he wrote.

He lived and died in abundant, genuine love, love from his wife, his friends, his doctors and nurses — some of these health workers were his lifelong caretakers and lifesavers. Instead of a funeral, his friends gathered and celebrated his 60th birthday, in their brightest and handsomest clothing. They brought him colorful fresh flowers. “This time,” said his wife to these friends, “he has plenty of energy for the party.”

In his work, Shi says, “Death is something we don’t need to rush to. Death is a festival that is bound to come.” It had finally come.

He donated every part of his body to anyone in need of a transplant and to medical research. He hoped an autopsy would finally discover what went wrong in his spine at age 21. At that time, everyone was praying it was a tumor, which would mean it could be removed and he cured. Yet whoever he prayed to with all his might did not grant him this favor.

People say his profession is writing. He corrected that view. “My profession is being sick. I write in my spare time.”

A hot-tempered youth who yelled at his doctor and threatened to chop the doctor up alive if he could not be made to walk again, he came to a profound peace with a fate that seemed most unjust. If such a life is the price to pay for a mature soul, he made the price worthwhile. His writing is free of pretense, of shallowness. The clear, simple, earthbound words awaken deep sorrow and love in his readers. It is the soul behind the words that his readers feel.

A translation of his famous prose work Wo Yu Ditan is here. The Chinese original is here.

2 Responses to “Shi Tiesheng”

  1. Suqin Zhang says:

    Thanks for sharing the story. It’s very beautifully written. Sorry for being so ignorant. I always thought Shi Tiansheng had something to do with the Cultural Revolution and I never knew he was a writer who had such a profound struggle. Will try to learn more about his personal stories and definitely his books. I might draw my conclusion too soon but I felt that he had swallowed in his pain for too long and too deep. There are so many kinds of pains in life and everyone has their own stories. Sometimes we can’t give ourselves too much pity. But again, I might read it wrong from just a superficial reading.

  2. Alexey says:

    Thank You very much for your interesting post!!!
    I will read his books soon!

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