In our glorious border areas there are some people who claim that we are no longer in the age of the tsa-wen. I too wish that there was no need for the tsa-wen to stage a comeback, for if there were no tsa-wen then there would be no more of that dreadful darkness or of those evil, nauseating abscesses. If there were no tsa-wen surely all the world would be at peace? Surely we would be certain of final victory in the anti-Japanese war of resistance? But facts are rarely as rounded as hopes, and however much effort we spend on making our thought as brilliant as the sun, it will still be easy as the years go by to find dark, dank corners, full of decaying curios.

Experts in the study of historical evolution commonly claim that the old-fashioned ideas and forms of behaviour handed down across the millenia are not easy to uproot at one go. Certain clever gentlemen exploit the gap opened up by this theory as a bolt-hole in which to indulge themselves, happily wallowing and submerging like pigs in a stinking, filthy pool of mud. Since they themselves are not afraid of getting dirty, they see nothing wrong with smearing passers-by. In actual fact there is nothing at all ‘clever’ about such crude behaviour. Then there is the other sort of person who, although he hides in the same hole, is always bandying phrases around and makinig dazzlingly brilliant speeches. It would never occur to natural intelligence that inside that lustrous and armoured shell there hides a lump of boneless, sluggardly, timorous flesh!

Generally speaking, it is easier to deal with things when they are out in the open. For example, we can find ways and means of removing an obstacle that impedes the road to progress. But if you are caught in a thick fog which completely obscures your vision, you will inevitably feel confused and unsure of your footing. Those people who have lived for a long time in the desolate mountains should realize that fogs of this sort not only appear frequently over Chungking, but here (in Yenan) too.

Yes, it is true that ‘Yenan is the place with the highest level of political awareness.’ But if you constantly wear the same elegant clothes, and are too lazy to wash them, sooner or later they are bound to get dirty. It is clearly a basic principle of human behaviour to demand that people practise what they preach, and a revolutionary should pay even more attention to this principle. Otherwise, what use is there in hanging a sign round your neck saying ‘vigilance’ if you are going along the wrong road? Your own fate may not be so important, but please have some consideration for those who are following you!

I often think of Mr Lu Hsün when I am on this subject. The dagger he used to smash through the darkness and point the road ahead is already buried underground and rusty, and those who know how to use this weapon are in reality very few. But it is nonetheless still the age of the tsa-wen.

Comrade Ting Ling, editor of the Literature Column, has planned to revive the tsa-wen. She herself has already presented her own efforts in that column, although I find they lack strength. As a reader, I hope that from now on the column will be transformed into a dagger to make men tremble with fear, and at the same time gladden them.