Chapter 22 Extra 4: Nine Sounds to Sleep Peacefully To

There’s a scenic spot in Hangzhou that I really like a lot. It’s called “Evening bell ringing at Nanping Hill”.(1)

When the ancients chose names for scenic spots, they definitely didn’t do a sloppy job. Instead, they chose beautiful and majestic names.

Words are the medicine that guides human thoughts and imagination. Language—even if it’s just a word—carries power in human society. Even names are a kind of spell, which can freeze the scenery at a certain moment in time. Just look at the two words “evening bell”. When the solemn and lonely sound of the bell rings out at sunset, you can’t help but feel emotional.

In the village, I had also tried to choose some names to memorialize certain moments in time. For example, there were times when the sun was setting over the fields or when it was sinking behind a waterfall. But whenever I saw the most beautiful sunset, I often felt that the beauty of nature was overbearing and my words were inadequate. After thinking about it for a long time, Fatty and I eventually came up with the name “Great Water Rushing Towards the Sun”. When I recalled it the next day, the image that popped into my head was that of a giant called Dashui charging towards Japan. (2)

I soon gave up on this troublesome idea of trying to name the beautiful scenery.

In the village, the only things I felt that I had succeeded in naming were nine kinds of sounds. I never drew the window curtains because the fresh air here enabled me to sleep well. As a result, I basically didn’t feel sleepy when I woke up at sunrise. Every night before going to bed, I would look out the window at the moonlight, the lights in the courtyard, or the lightning.

At that time, I would enter a kind of meditative state. I eventually concluded that there were nine kinds of sounds that helped me enter this meditative state.

I won’t mention the regular sounds of rain, wind, and thunder, but on typhoon days, the patter of rain was very reassuring. Even your heart would feel at ease when you heard the sound of the wind blowing. After all, knowing that you and everyone else couldn’t escape it, you worked hard to reinforce the house you had built. This was a feeling that came from knowing that the fruits of your labor were protecting you. But it also felt like you were an animal burrowing into the ground in order to avoid a natural disaster. And in the face of thunder—the sky’s pulse—you would accept your own insignificance.

After all, accepting your own insignificance was good for your health.

One rain, two wind, three thunder and lightning.

Burning bamboo in the fireplace could easily dehumidify the room when it was particularly humid. When burning, the oil from the bamboo would make a crackling sound. The heat and the crackling sound, combined with reading a book that was kind of boring, would soon make you feel sleepy. Of course, it was necessary to sleep on the sofa.

During the summer, the sounds of insects calling could be heard one right after another. Crickets would get into the cracks of the village house’s walls, so you could hear them from the other rooms. There were also big insects, golden bell crickets, and long-horned grasshoppers under the house. As long as they weren’t on your window, they had a good effect at putting you to sleep. Moreover, if there were fireflies at that time, you’d feel like you were living in a fairy tale.

If there were no other noises, you could even hear the sound of the waterfalls from the village house during the rainy season. It was a sound that easily soothed people. Of course, if it was raining in the mountains, that meant it would soon rain in the village.

Four fireplace, five insects, six falling water.

The last three kinds of sounds all required a certain state of mind.

The seventh type was the house groaning. When a wooden house expanded with heat and contracted with cold, it would create some strange noises that were a bit like the sound of marbles clinking together. When we were building the house, we put cattle hair at the joints to avoid any loud noises, but the softened noises sounded like the house was whispering.

The eighth kind was falling snow. This could only be heard when it snowed, but that was a very rare occurrence. The sound was very slight, so there needed to be silence between heaven and earth. That was the only time when you could hear the sound of falling snow.

The ninth kind was rustling leaves. In terms of names, falling snow was definitely the coolest, but when it came to sound, the friction between the trees and the leaves blowing in a small breeze was what made people feel that life was better. You would feel like something had come, passed by your window, and then left again.

Seven groaning house, eight falling snow, nine rustling leaves, ten fingertips.

In fact, there was actually a tenth one, which was the sound of your fingertips turning the pages of a book.

But in the end, for some unknown reason, I only used nine instead of ten.

Fatty once asked me why wind chimes or frog calls weren’t included in my list.

This was because when it came to sleep, I was subjective. I couldn’t fall asleep when frogs were calling. In fact, if there were frogs around me, I would get up and grab a broom to drive them away. As for wind chimes, they didn’t have a magical effect on me.

Fatty also asked me if the sound of him getting up at night counted as a peaceful sound to sleep to.

He then proceeded to add a few more according to his own ideas:

Eleven frequent night urination, twelve apnea (snoring is a syndrome of apnea), thirteen live broadcast that hasn’t been turned off, fourteen cats caterwauling at night, fifteen Little Brother getting up early.

Based on Fatty’s selections, you could actually include the sound of him cooking to the list. As you laze on the sofa, listening to the sound of water and oil sizzling and smelling the fragrance permeating the air, you would find yourself feeling drowsy. You would slowly fall into a daze, only waking up when you heard the sound of his chopsticks moving around. Fatty would scold you by saying, “Sleep, sleep, sleep. If you sleep anymore, you’ll die.”

<Chapter 21><Table of Contents><Chapter 23>


TN Notes:

(1) Pinyin is “Nanping Wanzhong”. Here are some pics and people’s reviews here. In olden times, the temple bell resounded throughout Nanping Hill every day, summoning people to pray for good fortune at Jingci Temple. Emperor Kangxi once said that the temple rouses one into deep thoughtfulness, and modern monks of Jingci Temple still adhere to their daily sutra-chanting and meditation.

(2) Pinyin for “Great Water Rushing Towards the Sun” is Dashui Benri (大水奔日). Dashui can also mean flood. Characters 日本mean Japan.


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