Lynn | Floating Chinese Worlds

She looked at me. I looked like her. That semblance of our youths was striking, even in a blurry dream state.

December 2019

Shuri, Okinawa 

Okinawa’s winter was easy. On a day in early December, it was just about 68 Fahrenheit. Kinjo-san was feeling much better. Ever since the castle fire, she wore a visible layer of sadness. Nevertheless, she carried on with life. Unexpectedly, or perhaps expectedly, after exploring the Chinese world as deeply as I could, my initial spontaneous sprint out of it has me exploring a world, a culture at the peripheral of it, so deeply intertwined and influenced by the Chinese, yet so uniquely independent of it.

I was impelled to travel to seek something. As a Singaporean Chinese, I was brought up to speak communicable Chinese and held customs and beliefs from the Chinese system. Yet, I knew very little of the Chinese, or should I say, I did not know deeply and consciously the shape and texture of the bones beneath my yellowish skin and deep black hair. It never really did bother me, though I was acutely aware of it as I grew older until I finished school.

Yet, there was this restlessness, this gaping hole that appeared one day, and I felt it more and more as time passed. I could not point my finger to it until my grandmother passed on one day, and I dreamt of her younger self waving goodbye to me. She wore a white cotton qipao, and uncannily, like how I used to wear my hair at her age, she had her fringe pinned up to the side. She looked at me. I looked like her. That semblance of our youths was striking, even in a blurry dream state. When I woke up, I was crying. I knew then I was a descendent of those who have left their ancestral birth grounds to form floating diasporas that dot our world. I knew then that I had two umbilical cords. I knew one well, but I barely knew the other, and I had to seek it out, my subconscious umbilical cord, the in my blood past.

And so, I packed a bag and left home. I started in Beijing and went through all the major cities and sites in the Chinese world until I could tell apart from one Chinese to another. Along the way, I met many interesting people traveling through China. Some traveled to seek regardless of nationality or ethnicity, while others traveled to flee from something back home. Many traveled to both seek and flee.

I was physically and emotionally exhausted when I reached Xiamen, Fujian. I got on a ferry to Gulangyu, a quaint island off the coast of Xiamen, and stayed quiet there for a couple of weeks.It was time to leave China and explore somewhere new. Yet, after almost half a year in Okinawa, I finally learned that I have not really left the Chinese world after all.

One day, Kinjo-san chanced upon me, cleaning the tiny photo frame with a painting of a woman in a faded pink hanfu, and said, almost carelessly, “That’s the Moon Princess from China.”

I beckoned her to tell me more. Kinjo-san sat next to me and took the tiny photo frame in her hand; she tugged a small latch and opened the bi-fold frame to reveal a hidden painting of the Moon Princess in a hibiscus red and orange flowery patterned ryusou. She had her hair bunned up like the shape of a spiral shell, fastened from the back to the front with a long gold hairpin. She looked dignified and solemn with her half-smiling expression.

Kinjo-san continued, “There was a war, and her dynasty fell. With the help of magical creatures and the flaming pearl, she fled China and came here. My grandmother used to tell me because we are her children, we will forever be blessed by her and the flaming pearl to live long and winkled.”



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Amy | Taking Control

Present-Day

Lynn sat down and spoke of the time when she first visited Okinawa. She talked about touring the Castle, meeting Kinjo-san and attempting to catch a black butterfly with her, cleaning Kinjo-san’s antiques, and listening to her fascinating family stories. When she spoke, her eyes lit up. She captivated everyone easily, even without the theatrics or illusions one can conjure up in the metaverse. She continued to share with Benny and Amy her trip to the medicine hall with Kinjo-san and the day Kinjo-san developed a fever. It was a day of sadness and anguish as the pair witnessed the burning of the Castle on television. It was a story Lynn had never shared before, which surprised Amy. Lynn recounted every detail of the burning Castle. She drew her audience in, including those observing them on screens. To the point that not a single one of them noticed the kitchen stove catching fire. The fire spread to the wooden cabinets and walls and then onto the main door. It was then that those observing on screens of the metaverse took notice of the fire. Two of them took down notes while the rest watched intently.

The fire continued to spread until it surrounded the trio, seated amongst the orange furniture. Lynn made no attempt to acknowledge the fire and continued her storytelling. Finally, the fire moved in and trapped Lynn. Amy screamed and composed herself. She directed massive gallons of running water from the taps and showerhead to the fire, and within seconds, she put out the fire.

Amy spoke with her adult voice, “What were you thinking!”

Lynn yelled back, “I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT!”

“You could have gotten hurt!”

“My brain would only be tricked to feel pain on my skin and flesh. But this! What is all this?”

Lynn looked at the house with broken furniture, burnt wood, soot, and smoke. She looked at Benny and then at Amy. Amy transformed back to her adult self and waved for Benny to go. In a split second, Benny disappeared into nothingness.

“Why are we in here?”

Amy thought for some time. This was her last chance with Lynn, and she had to make it work. She had to.

“Ma, I’m… sorry.”

A long silence fell between them.

“I don’t know what else to do. This is the only way-”

“What are you talking about?”

“Ma, I know I was angry with you, angry with everything, and I left.”

Lynn slowly sat back down. She did not feel so strong anymore. She spoke slowly, “I know you were angry. Angry and hurt. I regret it very much too.”

Amy sat next to Lynn and buried her face in her hands. She composed herself and said, “Ma. I need you to trust me. We don’t have time to talk about it now. I want to make this right for others.”

Lynn looked weary and asked feebly, “What do you want?”

“I need you to tell me everything you know about the flaming pearl.”

” The pearl seeks you; you do not seek the pearl.”

“Tell me from the beginning. Every detail. I want to know.”

“You will not find the pearl.”

“I need to at least try.”

Lynn nodded her head understandingly. She walked to the main door and beckoned for Amy to follow. As she opened the door, they walked into Lynn’s youth, at a time when she first met Kinjo-san in Okinawa.



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