"The Memory of Trees"
DAY-3 IN KIUKIANG. Before I left the hotel, I remembered this photo (See above left) taken from an angle that could tell the Perkins' house's relative orientation to the Pagoda in 1932.
The Perkins took a leave during the last stages of the WLH construction. When they returned, the house was still not quite ready, and so they temporarily boarded in the housing for female WLH staff near (or within) the WLH Compound. Doesn't that wall look like the one I took two days ago (See above at right)? Based on Mrs. Perkins' captions, her approximate camera angle, as well as the location of where she was possibly standing, would come quite close to the wall I had walked around (See the map at right).
What are the chances?
Examining this photo ever so closely now, I suddenly wondered if that "Pagoda Lodge" (the building next to the Pagoda) looked anything like those buildings in the Catholic Church Compound and that the house for William Nast faculty was the one on 53 S. Ta-Ling Road.
I could not tell for sure as they did not match completely. I began to consider a possible second trip to Kiukiang. The William Nast faculty house appears to be on the same street side as the Perkins’ house. It would be the house inside the wall by the man bending towards a leaning wooden pole in the photo at right (See also House-4 on the map), although teh city could have altered the precise street alignments over these many decades.
In any event, I must find 53 S. Ta-Ling Road! And thankfully, the rain had finally stopped.
One could appreciate how hidden the house was behind these walls and stores.
The right side of the house: Upper front corner - the filled-in arch.
House-5 on the map
Front side of the old entrance.
A marked and protected old tree: See the photo at left.
The two chimneys no longer there.
The right front side of the house facing South Ta-Ling Road.
This says "50 S. Ta-Ling Road".
A narrow alleyway as a result of the adjacent building.
This time up the hill, I sensed that I was much less inconspicuous. I could feel people were taking notice of me. A couple of women even poked their heads out of the front door of their stores before quickly ducking back inside.
I would again pass by this older man whom I had seen numerous times yesterday. He was again sitting on a small stool with dozens of books spread out evenly on a big blanket laid out on the narrow sidewalk. I took a peek at his books and their titles at one point yesterday - they are very old and interesting - and I will leave at that.
I decided to see if he knew anything.
"大伯,不好意思,请问您知道曾经有个美国传教师叫裴敬思医生,裴医生曾经是山下的那个生命活水医院的院长.他和他的夫人就住在这条路上,您知道他们的房子在哪里吗? (Big uncle <for lack of better translations for '大伯'>, so sorry for bothering you, do you know of an American missionary named Dr. Pei Jing-Si - he was the Dean of that hospital down the hill called Water of Life Hospital. He and his wife had lived on this street many decades ago. They had a house nearby, and do you know where the house is?)" I asked.
He slowly opened his eyes, which were wide shut as if he had been meditating, and he took a long look at me. I began to ponder what he was thinking – perhaps - "hey man, I am not that much older than you, and you are calling me uncle; or hey kid, you should be calling me Grandpa to be polite?" I was not sure which, but I politely bent towards him and patiently waited for his answer.
He said in a very deep tone, "先生呀,我仔细的想了一想,我不知道,没有听说过 (Sir, I am thinking very hard here, but no, I don't know – I have never heard of such name)." He quickly added, "我虽然不是这地方生的,但也住了四五十年了 (You know, although I was not born here, I have been living here for nearly 50 years)."
I thanked him and decided to move on before drawing further attention. It would be the third person in Kiukiang who does not recall such events and names despite being at least old enough during that era. I was more than a little disappointed by that moment.
Just as I was walking away, a woman, who had been standing there – right behind me - listening to our little exchange, asked, "您需要知道什么关于生命活水医院? 我就是刚从哪个医院退休的,我那里工作了好多年 (What are you asking regarding Water of Life Hospital? I just retired after working there for many decades (she looked like a nurse)!"
I was both startled and delighted. "是吗? (Really?)" I said, and proceeded to ask, "那您知道生命活水医院的第一个院长,裴敬思医生,一个来自美国的传教师吗? (Do you then know the hospital's very first Superintendent, Dr. Pei Jing-Si, who was an American missionary?)"
She too thought about it carefully, and finally replied, "我也不知道有过这件事 (No, I too really have not heard of this story before.)"
You could not imagine the magnitude of my disappointment at that moment. I nodded my head in gratitude and headed up the hill. I thought, "Maybe I should stop asking people in such great details, and instead, I should just ask where '行署大院' (The Administrative Yard) is."
At the top of the hill by 53 South Ta-Ling Road once again, I noticed this small entrance kiddy-cornered across. I had passed it several times yesterday but ignored it completely because there are no street numbers written on it and that there are several low-to-medium rises aligned directly behind it. In short, nothing behind the entrance resembled anything of cultural values, let alone historical landmarks worthy of protecting.
However, I was mindful that if 56 S. Ta-Ling Road exists, this should be the approximate location. When I asked the doorman where '行署大院' is, he casually lifted his left arm and lazily swung it back to gesture that I should go inside.
Yes, at least I found '行署大院 (The Yard)'!
Once inside, I was dumbfounded! There is a massive residential compound hidden behind this rather tattering looking small front entrance and some helter-skelter medium-rises. This compound has nothing to do with "administrative" business of any kind – just a name, I guess.
To my left, a small road appears to lead to an area lined with a few dozen high-rises likely built in the 1970s based on well-weathered concrete surfaces. These buildings are packed very closely together to maximize living space while creating crisscrossing narrow tunnels. The small road to my right drew more of my attention because I saw an old Western-styled house (See photos below center and right, and House-5 on the map above).
But that was not the Perkins’ house either.
When I walked back towards the road on my left, I began to see trees, very old trees. Winding through a few concrete medium-rises, I saw this house nestled - or rather buried among - pardon my language - essentially an equivalent of the modern-day slum. What a mess the surrounding was!
Original Captions By Mrs. Perkins: "Our house on the hill - and the memories thereof...."
The third one from left is photoed at right.
The back of the original front entrance - boarded up with bricks.
I circled this house many – many times – carefully matching it with photos I have. Perhaps I was overly cautious this time around, but it just did not seem to match in its entirety besides the location was almost certain. I was very tempted to talk to people in and out of the house, but I restrained myself.
Well, people still live in this house! As a result, I guess people have modified so much of it over the years to the extent where it is no longer recognizable. That is a distinct possibility. The trees are labeled as "百年树 (Century Old Trees)." Still, unlike anything it has been said on websites, the house has no plaques or labels of any sort to indicate that it is being projected as a cultural and historical landmark.
All the while, I had been looking for a sign that says, "裴敬思医生别墅旧址 (Former Residence of Dr. Pei Jing-Si)!"
In any event, these trees seemed to be telling me that I have found it – I have found The House.
After spending hours inside this residential compound, I slowly came out from the same entrance. Oh yes, before I did so, I went towards the other direction through those tunnels between high-rises. To my surprise and also a delight, there is indeed another entrance for the compound at the other end located on East Xun-Yang Road (浔阳东路). It explains the address of 86 East Xun-Yang Road (浔阳东路86号) found on one website!
Now finally facing the front of the house – hidden behind an assortment of add-ons, the old (and likely original) wall, and a row of small stores, I began to believe more that this was indeed Perkins's former residence – the old front gate added further proof. As I snapped away with my 2009 cell phone, a woman about my age or younger came out of one of those stores (hers?) and walked towards me. As she approached, she looked in the direction of my cell phone camera. She smiled and said, "先生,您对这些树很感兴趣? (Sir, you seemed to be very interested in these trees?)"
I looked at her with amusement but didn't respond. So she continued, "这些树可老了 - 这些树可有历史了 (These are very old trees – there is a tremendous amount of history behind these trees)." That was when my ears perked up, and I asked, "是吗? 那么–哪棵树旁边的那个房子呢? (Yes? What about the house next to that tree?)"
"那个房子也一样的古老,也一样的有历史 (That house is equally ancient and also has a very interesting history behind it)!" She replied emphatically.
By then, she had my complete attention. "真的? 那个房子是哪个美国传教师裴敬思医生和他夫人从前的住宅吗? (Really? Did that house belong to an American missionary named Dr. Pei Jing-Si and his wife?)" I asked eagerly.
She smiled and said, "就是这个房子! 裴敬思医生曾经就是山下的那个医院的院长; 他和他夫人住在这里都快百年前了 (Yes, absolutely it is! Dr. Pei Jing-Si was the Dean of that hospital down the hill, and they had lived in that house nearly 100 years ago)!"
As she turned around and slowly walked away from me, the song The Memory of Trees by Enya came to me...
Original Captions From the Right:
"1.Our new house. 2. a new house belonging to a William Nast faculty. 3.'Pagoda Lodge' our first home in Kiukiang (rented).
This was taken from the ladies' home where we boarded when we returned from furlough."
A Later Photo of the House with New Additions at Right
Center Portion of the Back of the House.
The left side corner of the house.
The Front of the House