I have yet again come to visit Zhang Qiang at his residence. Though I find his constant persistence to court me rather frustrating at times I simply cannot resist the slight comfort being in his presence offers me. Chen Ching’s separation from me has left a void within my heart that can only be filled with the presence of another man, yet when I leave Zhang Qiang’s side after attempting to fill this void with his presence it feels even emptier than in the beginning. Zhang Qiang is so deeply tied to the reality of this world, he only believes what his eyes allow him to see and questions the universe no further than that. He is the very opposite of my beloved Chen Ching. His cold outlook on life and reality makes it far more difficult to achieve the intimacy I so easily experienced with Chen Ching. With his poetry and his beautiful mind Chen Ching was able to transport me to other worlds. He filled my heart excitement and wonder with every beautiful word he spoke. My moments spent with my love were full or vibrant passion, but with Zhang Qiang I simply sit against his chest feeling as if I am not even truly here. He feels as lifeless and still as a board beneath me. How can I feel passion for him when his spirit and mind pale in comparison to my Chen Ching? Zhang Qiang must know I feel this way. I continually resist him and his romantic advances and scold the way he so callously addresses me and my beliefs. Even now after our passionless moments together in bed he leaves me here laying alone rather than staying by my side. Zhang Qiang seems upset I cannot return his affections, yet how could I ever achieve intimacy with someone who views the world in the opposite way of the man whom I love the most?
It was the dead of night in a land far from what she knew or understood. Crickets chirped in the foliage surrounding the house, a small manse perched on the edge of a lake, with just a hint of mysticism in the air. Moonlight fell dappled through open windows, watching without care, but not understanding. She had come to this strange land of his for something she deeply desired but could not picture in her minds eye. A reassuring word, perhaps? A steady rock to rest on? A warm chest to lay on? She didn’t know for certain, but she wanted it so bad. In her world of entropy, poetry, and larceny, any reprieve was all she could hope for. A steady force to see her hand through this uncertainty and guide her to some semblance of happiness. She got her wish as they made love, earnestly and dutifully, not stopping once to think of what could’ve been. As she lay on his chest, she finally felt fulfilled. Her desires emblemized; her motives justified. It had all fallen into place.
“I saw Chen Qing”
Zhang Qiang: My childhood friend Lao Liu’s words are still existing in my mind. His original means are friendly jokes; however, everyone should notice that this lie can become true if you listen to a lie thousands of times. I was confident that Zhou Yu already fall in love with me. Otherwise, she did not need to stay with me, cook food for my friends, be concerned about the deep meaning of “good friend,” or even kissed me. I did not believe Chen Qing is a real person rather than Zhou Yu’s imagination. Thus, I went to Chongyang to find Chen Qing’s home and to check his reality. The fact told me; Zhou Yu’s words are valid. When I faced the window, I saw someone.
“I saw Chen Qing.”
I am a distinctive person to Zhou Yu’s Chen Qing. I can find or create a place as the immortal lake, but Zhou Yu only looks for the immortal lake, written by Chen Qing. In Chen Qing’s poem, Zhou Yu transforms into goodness and how unrealistic it is. She might choose to stay with me and not look for an immortal lake anymore, but I do not know when and how. Unfortunately, I can’t have sex with her right now. To be honest, I am not too gentle to avoid sex before marriage. Zhou Yu chooses to stay with me sometimes to prevent the harsh fact that she cannot chase Chen Qing anymore. Zhou Yu does love me while she loves someone else.
It seems it has all come to fruition. Zhou Yu did not go to Chongyang and here together they lie, Zhang Qiang and Zhou Yu. But it is not as Zhang Qiang had hoped. Zhou Yu is inches away and yet she may as well have gone to Chongyang. Perhaps it is the disappointment that comes in getting what you have longed for. No. She’s here, right where he wants her, but he knows she is not his. How cruel, it seems, to be so close yet so far away. She moves closer, tempting Zhang Qiang to give in to the illusion. The illusion that he has her. The illusion that her mind is him and not with someone else far away. She kisses him, he recoils. Each touch stings, each kiss burns. And yet they entice him to give in. In the back of his mind is a gnawing that this isn’t real. She continues kissing him, but each kiss feels more distant. For just a moment, Zhang Qiang succumbs to Zhou Yu in the hopes that it is all, in fact, just in his head. But rather than finding sweetness and sincerity, he is met with a hollowness. The gnawing in his head rises and becomes unbearable and he pulls away. As much as he wishes he could be right for Zhou Yu, he knows he will never be anything more to her than “right here.” How could he be? She begins to quietly sob, but the illusion is shattered and he remains unaffected. The pain and emptiness is quickly replaced by contempt. Almost vindictively, Zhang Qiang simply states, “I saw Chen Qing,” before leaving the bed to get some fresh air.
Instead of going to Chongyang, Zhou Yu came back to find Zhang Qiang. However, Zhang Qiang went to Chongyang to look for evidence of Chen Qing’s real existence. When he came back, he found Zhou Yu in his room. For a moment, his mind was full of mixed feelings. He seemed to have a little puzzled, a little helpless, and a little overwhelmed. Zhou Yu came out of the bath and crawled into the bed, lying in bed as if waiting for something. The two lie in bed thinking about different things. Zhou Yu tried to make out with Zhang Qiang, but Zhang Qiang is not Chen Qing. She looked at his face in the dim moonlight and lay discouraged aside. She can’t take Zhang Qiang as Chen Qing to deceive herself, and Zhang Qiang also don’t want Zhou Yu to take him as Chen Qing’s double. He said sadly that he saw Chen Qing, then he got up to leave, left Zhou Yu lying alone in bed. In the darkness, Zhou Yu’s eyes glinted with tears.
Zhou Yu shifted uncomfortably in the bed as Zhang Qiang dimmed the lights and walked over to the bed. As he settled in beside her, she began to wonder if she was making the right choice. She did not feel like she belonged in this bed. Not with this man. And yet, she wanted to be here. Zhang Qiang was security, he was a stable future, he was as constant as a force in her life as the deep-rooted trees. Chen Qing was wild and free, an uncertain future that drew her into a spellbinding beauty.
But beauty fades, does it not? As she turned this thought over in her mind, she slowly turned to Zhang Qiang, and began to kiss him. With her kiss, Zhang Qiang’s mind exploded with fireworks. Finally, the woman he had been chasing for so long was revealing her affections. He should be ecstatic, eager, for this moment. Something felt amiss to him, however. Something was wrong. Or maybe not something, but someone. Both paused, giving themselves a moment to reconsider. For Zhang Qiang, he knew what he wanted. Zhou Yu had his heart from the moment he saw her there on the train. Zhou Yu remembered how Chen Qiang loved her but had no plans for a life together. And now that he was in Tibet, she decided to try to love the man in front of her.
As they began to kiss again, Zhang Qiang realized the problem. Zhou Yu did not love him. Or maybe she did, but she did not love him like she loved Chen Qiang. What was he doing in bed with another man’s girlfriend? Another kiss, perhaps the last, and the silence was broken.
“I saw Chen Qiang,” he whispered quietly.
At the sound of his name, Zhou Yu inhaled sharply, the pain of his departure hitting her full force again. She lowered her head in shame, and Zhang Qiang knew the moment was over. He wordlessly got out of bed, leaving a cold vacancy next to Zhou Yu.
“Do I really decide my own fate?” Zhou Yu repeated to herself as Zhang stepped into the room and sunk into the bed beside her. “Am I the one that decides my fate or has fate brought me here to this very moment?” Zhou was lying on the bed beside her, himself uneasy especially after how his friends had made Zho feel earlier that day. “I didn’t even pay her! What was it I did that she’s here now? I do really want to be with her.” He started thinking to himself as she turned toward him slowly, that perhaps the offerings of money, and his own rejected advantages were nothing compared to his words on fate.
“I told her to forget about her ex-boyfriend, but there at the lake she wouldn’t let go of that poem of his. What does a poet see that I cannot give her? Has she finally realized the answer to this question?”
Zhou Yu dared herself to move towards her partner, convincing herself that she was able to make her decision and that fate indeed did not hold her. Yet still unconvinced herself, she clung to his chest. “How fast is his heart beating?” Hers beating with anticipation of knowing, and later accelerating as she noticed his quickening pulse. She went to his neck feel it again.
“Has she made her choice?” thought Zhang as he met her eyes coming up from his chest and neck.
Meeting his eyes, she looked her other option in his eyes and before she could decide for herself finally, made the leap. The mists swirled outside constricting the house and the bedroom windows. Suddenly she felt like this moment had already happened before. “I’ve tried to let go, but I can’t. I see his face again” And it was, she realized in that moment and in some other, she was not kissing Zhang but Chen, miles away and in some other time. When she understood this, she pulled back and away from Zhang who was just starting to believe she had chosen to love him and leave Him–Him being that Chen. As she pulled away and folded her head into his shoulder, a sinking feeling slowed her pulse to its normal beat. “I feel like I have left my future so my times, both here and with Chen. It’s all happened before… I don’t love this man, but I want to fall in love with someone poetic whose future is as bright as how he writes.”
Zhang Qiang: I finally understood that she did not love me, but Chen Qing. What Zhou Yu pursues is romance, the romantic flavor of a poet. What she pursues is an illusion. With me, she can feel a sense of reality for a moment, but it is not what she wants after all. Zhou Yu is out of tune with the secular world. Maybe in her heart, Chen Qing, but those poems can make her transcend the world. I give her, but happiness is short-lived, and what she pursues in Chen Qing is eternal. I really envy Chen Qing. Zhou Yu pursues freedom, just as she doesn’t hate repeated travel on the train. I can’t expect her to be with me forever. I can’t give her the romance she wants; I can’t give her the freedom she pursues. In Zhou Yu’s quiet and boring life, it was poetry that helped her get rid of boredom. How I wish I had appeared before those poems and that poet.
Zhou Yu travels on a train at least twice a week to visit her boyfriend Chen Qing, the poet. While on this train trip, Zhou Yu meets the vet Zhang Qiang. The two of them begin an affair while traveling together every time they are together. Zhou Yu traveling back and forth between the two men, Chen at her destination and Zhang in between, gives Zhou Yu a lot of time to think about where her life is going and the two different interests and values to choose from. In this scene where Zhang and Zhou cannot achieve sexual intimacy, each are thinking a different thing. First, Zhang is now realizing that he is envious of Chen Qing. This is because of the relationship that Zhou Yu and Chen Qing have. In fact, at the end of the movie when Zhou Yu is leaving, Zhang Qiang says that he’s envious of Chen. As for Zhou Yu, she is realizing that settling down by getting married to the vet means she has to give up her hopes and dreams and would become a housewife, which is something she doesn’t want to do. Zhou Yu would rather chase after her dreams than stay with Zhang Qiang because she wants to be remembered for something by the time she dies. Not only does she want to chase her dreams, but when Chen Qing writes poetry about her, she feels beautiful and like she’s the center of the universe, which is something she doesn’t feel when she is with Zhang Qiang. Even though Zhou Yu yearns for a romantic experience, it isn’t with Zhang. Zhou Yu wants that expression through art and inner beauty and imagination. This is something that Chen Qing provides—since he is a struggling poet—and something that Zhang Qiang lacks, as he has no aesthetic interest or moral purpose in life.
Zhou Yu lying in bed and knows of Zhang Qiang’s desires with her and she is very conflicted. She stares up at the ceiling with a concerned look on her face. She is considering sleeping with him, as her lover Chen Qing has seemingly left. Her true desire is to spend her life with Chen Qing, but since he is no longer there, she is considering becoming involved with Zhang Qiang. She is weighing her options in her mind.
Zhang Qiang spends the beginning of this scene walking around the room, sending glances towards Zhou Yu as she lays in bed. He sees the looks on her face and he seems puzzled as to her feelings towards him. He longingly looks in on her, knowing that he is not her first choice in a lover. He is aware of her devotion to Chen Qing and how he will always be second to him in her mind. He knows that she will be loyal to his beautiful poetry rather than his own beautiful house, with the view of a lake. As he looks through the window, he has a desperately hopeful look on his face, as if he knows nothing will happen between them, but wants something to happen anyway.
During the scene in which they are in bed together, it is Zhou Yu who start kissing Zhang Qiang. Through this, we can understand that she has made up her mind and chooses to sleep with him. However, Zhang Qiang surprisingly resists and stares up at the ceiling. Zhang Qiang then kisses her while he has the opportunity, since she has resisted his advances up until this point. He stops however, realizing that this relationship would never work with her prioritization of Chen Qing. This is a difficult decision for Zhang Qiang to make, since the whole film up to this point has showed his desire to be with Zhou Yu ever since they met on the train. They are ultimately unable to be intimate with one another due to Zhou Yu’s undying loyalty to Chen Qing. He is reluctant to engage with her due to the information that he reveals to her later in that scene: he has seen Chen Qing. He gets up out of bed to signify that they will never end up together. Zhou Yu sniffs as if she is beginning to cry because she, too, knows that a real relationship could never happen between them with Chen Qing still in the picture.
The love between Zhang Qiang and Zhou Yu is like two parallel trains, seemingly close to each other but never able to intersect. In this scene, they are lying on the bed. In the picture, Zhang Qiang is dim lit while Zhou Yu is illuminated. Zhou Yu takes the initiative to ask for help from Zhang Qiang, who has been in a passive state. It seems that Zhang Qiang rejected Zhou Yu’s request, but both of them actually have the heart to refuse. Zhang Qiang was very simple, he understood that what Zhou Yu loved was not himself after all, or even Chen Qing. What Zhou Yu loved was a poetic and beautiful love, Chen Qing wearing the aura of a poet. The railway track he laid could not reach Zhou Yu’s heart after all, so Zhang Qiang refused Zhou Yu. Zhou Yu pauses many times in the process of courtship, and she does not know whether she should do so. The restlessness of hormones makes her want to cover up her inner loneliness with pleasure, but this is not what she wants after all. Although she begged Zhang for love from physical activities, in fact, she did not want to do it, just like some people would use nicotine and alcohol to anesthetize themselves, these people do not necessarily like tobacco and alcohol, they just need a medium to fill their inner emptiness.
Zhouyu: What is this love where my world views and beliefs are constantly scorned. Why do I feel such apathy from Zhang Qiang while I am literally lying on his chest. His outlook on life is so harsh and cold compared to that of Chen Qing who I so dearly love, and yet, his persistence in courting me gives me a sense of comfort that I find hard to give up, especially when Chen Qing is so unavailable to me. Chen Qing writes poems that speaks to my heart, he can make me feel alive and hopeful about my life and the hope of real romance. With Zhang Qiang I just exist right next to him and don’t feel the same type of passion, how can both loves coexist in my life at the same time? Do I even love Zhang Qiang? Or do I just appreciate him for taking my mind off the heartbreak I feel about Chen Qing. (Time passes, Zhang Qiang stops Zhouyu’s sexual advances). I don’t regret my love for Chen Qing, however I do regret my endless trust that romance will always win out. I have existed in a state of dual existence and I am paying the price now for my lack of stability. Am I bound to be alone? Or is there a way Zhang Qiang can fulfill my needs? Probably not.