Memorial 2023-04-07 Liang Zhu Speech
Thank you, Rice University, Department of Transnational Asian studies, for holding this service. Thank you all for coming today, to celebrate the life of a remarkable woman, my mother, Nanxiu Qian. She was a great scholar, with research in many areas. she was peerless in two of her specialties. She was a prize-winning novelist, teacher, and translator. She was the best Chinese chef in Houston. She was a mother, a grandmother, and a friend. As a playwright, her Yue opera, Li Qingzhao, had a public performance in Nanjing, China. Her other play, Guan Lin Sang, is about the life of a musician and scholar, JiKang, who lived about two thousand years ago. Alas, the story is too closely reflects the reality of modern-day China, and it was not produced. no one was daring enough to make the movie, because the movie would not pass political censorship.
Because of the political environment in the 50s, 60s, and 70s in China, my grandparents unjustly passed away early. At age 19, my mother raised and supported her three sisters and two brothers. When my mother was 6 months pregnant, she was arrested on suspicion of involvement with an anti-government movement. They had a policy of guilty until proven innocent, so she was placed in a maximum-security prison with 14 other women in a single jail cell, the room was so crowded, they all slept up right. Three months later she was found innocent. But before her release, the government forced her to watch the execution of a young woman who was my mother’s age, that poor girl just gave birth. My mother was publicly criticized and denounced in front of 10 thousand people, in Nanjing’s biggest sports arena, as an anti-revolutionary. She also did four years of forced labor.
She has been to hell and back, but she never lost her energy, optimism, and zest for life. My mother was a fighter. She had just two settings: full throttle, and sleep. Everything was ok after 8 hours of sleep.
In 1978, she finished second in the Nanjing University graduate school entrance exam, with the first-place finisher only having a better grade in Communist ideologies. She was the only high school graduate to take the exam, while everybody else had a college degree. Besides my mother, I do not know anybody else who can skip that many grades, having gone directly from high school to graduate school. Later, my mother was the first person after 1949 from mainland China to be accepted into Yale’s department of East Asian Languages and Literatures.
The cancer did not scare my mother. She still wants to help others, In April, when she was discharging from the Anderson medical center, one of the medical workers who pushing her wheel chair out the hospital was 27 years old, does not have college degree, have very low self esteem, and fear that she may failed again when she goes back to college, my mother spent about half hour with her, and told her that to be brave and be a fighter, fight through every life obstacle. Also, two days after mom discharged from the hospital, she got right back to her teaching and research.
She was a mother-figure to a lot of people. Baobao. I found that that my mother did not limit that term of endearment to just her family. She called her students, and even some of the younger scholars, Baobao. There are young scholars who sent their gratitude for my mother’s mentorship and nurturing.
My mother was a good mother and grandmother. She taught me many things, especially how to be a fighter when times get tough. Like she had done for me when I was a child, my mother spent numerous hours teaching Emma, her granddaughter, to enjoy art and literature. Like every proud grandmother, she loved to brag about Emma’s every achievement. My uncle joked that when my mother started talking about Emma, he would cancel the rest of his day; the conversation would last a while.
My mother is a great mother and grandmother her son and granddaughter can ask for, in our grief, we smile knowing that she is in her mother’s arms and holding the hands of her three sisters again.
April 7, 2023