can and cant see is up to fate. I love my fate. She is closest
to me; she is designed for me. She is the only door designed to close
Zhou Yunpeng is a poet and folk singer. He was born in 1970 in the
city of Shenyang, in Chinas Liaoning Province. He lost the ability
to see at the age of nine, learned to play the guitar at 15, went
to college at 19, started writing poems at 21 and started leading
a nomads lifestyle at 24. Temporarily residing in the city of
Shaoxing, Zhejiang, he made his living by singing and playing the
Through his involvement with a charity event called Red Bulldozer
for children who are blind, he was nominated as one of the candidates
for 2010 Mr. Fashion. In 2011, his ballad, A love
that cant talk, won the Peoples Literature Award
in the category of best ballads. Yunpeng reminisces about growing
up blind, how blindness is often perceived and what its like
to be celebrated artist:
I remember being in a small cottage off an alleyway in the Tiexi District.
My father is lying down on the warm side of a heated brick bed crying,
while my mother is on the less heated part of the bed doing the same.
When I crawl to my dads side of the bed, he says to go to mom.
When I crawl to my moms side of the bed, she says to go to dad.
Since the beginning of my life, this scene has remained frozen in
my memory bank. It was on this day the doctor diagnosed me with glaucoma.
Later, after traveling thousands of miles to find a cure and trying
numerous kinds of medicine, I still lost my ability to see. I lost
my vision in Shanghai. I am fortunate to have seen such a brilliant
city before losing my vision. My last two visual memories are: watching
elephants play the harmonica at the Shanghai Zoo and seeing Shanghais
flashy skyline at night while riding on a big ship.
Accept that it exists; accept that you wont be able to surpass
Reporters care so much about how I cant see that
they often ask me, This topic must be difficult for you. Please
describe to me what you were thinking when you first lost your vision
at the age of nine. If you word it this way, I will start to
think of it as difficult. They are asking this question with the premise
that people who are blind have a lower status, even though these are
people who are just as merciful and just as filled with curiosity.
People who are blind are also concerned with how much they cant
see, which is why they often put on a brave front and say that
theyve never felt any different from anybody else.
Even now, I still feel very different from other people. When I stumble
on a rock while walking in the street, I am reminded of what I lack.
That feeling permeates through me, making me feel that I am unable
to go beyond my disability. The biggest anxiety is how one will hobble
through the crowd with a blind cane. In the meantime, one also has
to keep in mind not to run into the table or step on a little girls
We try very hard to be just like everyone else. For example, we write
like famous authors such as Mo Yan and Zhang Ailing. These famous
authors write in a world that does not have any feeling for what a
person who is blind goes through. If thats not you, then you
cannot reach that height. If you want to be an ordinary person, then
start living life from the angle of your own unique perspective.
When you start writing from the angle of a person who is blind, then
thats when you truly become like an ordinary person. If you
cant see, then you cant see. This is your obstacle and
also your direction; dont try so hard to erase this fact. For
instance, in my music, my disability is my unique perspective. Also,
look at Shi Tiesheng. Nobody sees him as a disabled writer. People
remember him as a writer, even a great writer; everything else is
In literary works, people who are blind are often portrayed as prophets
or psychics. It is as if the fact that we cant see makes our
hearts more connected or in tune with the spiritual world. But most
of the time the opposite is true. When we cant see, we feel
more chaotic inside. If outside perceptions of us were true, then
wouldnt we be more at peace if we could not see or hear? Tranquility
and peace come from a variety of sensory perceptions. This function
is no different from what an ordinary person experiences. These portrayals
are just a way to comfort others. There is no true understanding of
what a blind person actually experiences. Its like saying its
poor here, but the air is nice. Other people can say this, but
you dont have the luxury to be that carefree. You cant
act like money lost is a blessing.
I dont want to be a role model, but I do listen to a recording
of Beethovens Fifth Symphony (The Destiny Symphony) every day.
Before high school, I studied at Shenyangs school for the blind.
I learned how to give massages, but there was no beauty in that kind
of work. The image of a person lying there is like kneading dough;
you rub and rub and rub. If a 250-pound person came in, my hands would
get so sore from massaging, and I would get a back pain from it, too.
When I was in college, I studied as if my life depended on it. There
were braille books in the library, but they were all old. For example,
some of the works included Chinese classics such as the Selected Works
of Mao Zedong, massage books, and some older literature, like a revised
version of Dreams of the Red Chamber by Yugin Cao, but with all the
love scenes deleted. I despised the people who revised these books.
For example, they cut out the part where Jia Baoyu experiences his
first sexual encounter. Even the subtitle was changed to Cunning
Attacker, the death of Lin Daiyu. A lot of braille books are
like this. But my desire for reading remained strong. I wanted to
read more books. For example, I read the Strayed Bird anthology (Rabindranath
Tagore) so many times that if you were to read one sentence, I could
recite the next sentence back to you. Later on, I had people read
to me in exchange for giving them free guitar lessons. When they were
reading, I would frequently say, Stop, let me copy this part
down, and I would use braille to record what was read to me.
To a person who is blind, reading is very helpful. When in a dark
tunnel, only reading can light the path. Imagination can come from
reading, regardless of whether you can see or not. Even if you dont
have any specific skills, you can strengthen your language skills
through reading, learn to communicate with others and create friendships.
This is why I later participated in the Red Bulldozer
project. I wanted to help children who are blind to learn how to read
and encourage them to read more books.
Society always loves to showcase more vulnerable groups such as individuals
with disabilities, women, and children, and then demand that we have
a greater sense of responsibility and morality towards them. Before,
I was so oppressed by my blindness that I only had one
motivation: to be strong in spirit, since I had a broken body. It
is good to be admired, but why do I have to be perfect all the time?
I dont want to be a role model and listen to the The Destiny
Symphony. I want to leave this world and its so-called values.
Later, I started reading Albert Camus The Stranger and felt
that I really connected with his liberal minded thinking. After graduating
from college, I couldnt bear the humiliation of doing factory
work and making only 150 RMB (Renminbi) per month, but I also couldnt
bear the humiliation of staying home and having my father try to find
me a wife. Hence, I fled from home.
I dont really like the strength conveyed in my name by the Peng
bird wings (which is the meaning of the character Peng).
Therefore, I changed the Peng character of my name to
the ancient grass definition of Peng (these
two Pengs sound the same when said out loud in English,
but they have totally different meanings). The ancient grass
Peng is often read about in traditional Chinese poems. I like the
accidental and arbitrary meaning this cloud-like grass exudes. It
conveys skepticism towards fate, which I like.
Todays technology has become increasingly advanced, so people
who are blind now have more options. Why should they be limited to
just giving massages? Follow your interests! This is the best way
to live. I have impacted others by pursuing my poetry and my music.
They are like my hands and legs. In fact, they are more solid and
practical than my body and house. They lift me through the crowd of
people and provide me with bread, milk, love, and alcohol. When I
ran away from home all those years ago, my parents didnt understand
me. I bought my mom a house in Shenyang last year. She was very happy.
Just like what I wrote about in my lyrics: She gave birth to a son
of darkness, and raised him to become a bright source of hope.
What you see is beautiful, what you hear can also be beautiful.
It seems that of all our senses, our sense of smell is the most sensitive.
To a person who is blind, the world is a bunch of smells flowing back
and forth. Even though in my lyrics I write about how blue the sky
is and how green the leaves are, the colors in my dreams are all black,
gray or brown. But I still love the color green, particularly a type
of light and dark green, like the front cover of the book Green Cover
Train. This is the vibrant green that fills one with anticipation.
Many people say that my music has become more gentle. Actually, the
way I sing has become more gentle. One cannot always continue to be
angry. It is not in my nature to be hot tempered. When I was writing
China Child, a song dedicated to disadvantaged children,
the contents were real and raw. I feel that by being a person who
is blind, even the littlest things I do can inspire a whole group
of people. As I get to the point where I can enjoy some special privileges
with my success, my ability to move a large group of people has increased
even more. But that kind of success will not exactly help me pay the
bills. People put all kinds of hats on me. For example, the most
humanistic, ideal folk singer or the citizens singer,
These hats are way too big for me. I realize that all the
labels are for the publics benefit. Therefore, I must try harder
to maintain a private life that is truly mine. For example, romantic
relationships are between two people, so there is no need to put on
a show for everyone else to see. Since our lives as artists are broadcast
on television, we have to keep trying to make ourselves interesting,
which ironically has the effect of making us pretty boring.
When people who are blind search for partners, they want to find someone
who is sighted. I dont feel this way, because you cant
determine whom you will or will not love. When we fall in love, we
dont have many requirements as far as appearance goes. However,
the sound of ones voice is very important. If one looks beautiful,
then they are beautiful, so why cant a person who sounds beautiful
be beautiful, too? If they have a beautiful voice, arent they
beautiful? If what you see is beautiful, why cant what you hear
be beautiful as well? This is a visual age, so the beauty of ones
voice has been weakened and overlooked. Cosmetics can improve a girls
beauty, and listening to a beautiful girl speak is also like looking
at a beautiful girl with makeup. A good voice is not determined by
the sweetness and beauty of its tone, but also by how it makes you
feel. There is character in a beautiful voice.
If I were given three days of sight, I would go to the streets of
Chengdu or Chongqing to see the beautiful ladies. However, the beauties
of the natural world are not nearly the same as the beauty of a person.
The beauty of a person is one of the most impressive kinds of beauty.
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