OWMagazine: Small-Town Boxers” by Lin Shanshan 林珊珊

2021-02-01 ☼ translations

You may have visited a few of China’s county towns. The inevitable feeling of hopelessness never seems to bother the people there. The young folk flare with passion before fading into mediocrity. The years go by, crawling infants appear on the floor, trends flicker and pass, and all of this seems utterly immutable on a cosmic scale. I get off the train one clear morning at a Sichuan county town called Yonglang. The mist clings to the low buildings alongside the railway line. I walk along behind Qi Moxiang. He is tall and brisk of step, clearly unfazed by an early morning start after twelve hours of jolting around in the dark from Chengdu. He wears a green cap with a red star, the peak pulled down low over a face with delicate features. When he looks up at you there is serenity in his gleaming eyes. The incongruity comes from the broad scar across his brow, the stitches that are just about visible in his lip, and the faint concavity of his nose. A face that has taken its share of batterings, and reminds me of the fierce boxer he once was. I met him fifteen hours ago. Now we are on our way to a bus that will take us through the mountains to the county town of Huicheng. In the faint, cold light of dawn, the trolley suitcase rumbled between the hills. He has just returned from the Golden Horse awards in Taiwan. Three years ago, the Canadian director Yung Chang made China Heavyweight”, a film about him and a group of young boxers, and it just received the prize for best documentary. The hand that has shaken Andy Lau’s!” his friend chuckles as he holds Qi’s hand, toasting him again and again. He laughs, thinking of who he used to be twenty years ago, when he spent his days in the Hong Kong movie world of Andy Lau and Chow Yun Fat. He and his friends were drawn to Mark, Chow Yun Fat’s character in A Better Tomorrow, who had the gumption to pack his bag and hit the road after an argument with his parents.

Read the full story in Beyond the City, a OWMagazine (单读) collection.