The bio section was rather skimpy, most of it well known: Chinese contemporary composer, conductor and multi-instrumentalist born in Harbin, moved to Beijing when his talent became evident, first public performance at eight years old, graduated from the Central Conservatory of Music, wide range of interest both in Chinese and Western repertories and music theories, impressive list of recordings and accolades. Almost unknown in the West outside a restricted group of peers and critics –what else is new?- until he played with Yo Yo Ma in a concert in London and became an overnight success – more or less twenty years in the making – soon after invited to perform at the Maggio Fiorentino he had since settled in Italy.
On the other hand, the ‘Controversies’ section was quite long: from his White Cranes Over Tiananmen the symphony he had composed for the tenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre to open protests against governmental policies at home and in Tibet, to yesterday’s performance.
And how did you manage to come out more or less unscathed from all that? If it was a matter of guangxi, familial and political connections, his must be among the best around. Unless he was set up, knowingly or not, as a token bad boy to show to the West how tolerant the People’s Republic had become of internal criticism or, even worse, as a lure. Let one hundred flowers bloom, one hundred schools of thought contend , supplied the voice in my head, …until some go too far, and, having already compromised themselves, they are easy to find and send to labor camps. There was a bookstore in town called ‘One Hundred Flowers’, it was a beautiful place, full of light and colors, specialized in children books. Every time I read that sign I felt sick.
Stop it! This was veering into conspiracy theories territory, what I heard the day before had been too honest, too powerful be part of a plot or a masquerade.
I went to have a look at the ‘Young Chinese in Italy’ forum, the chat was abuzz: as usual Prato89 was complaining about the Italian media coverage, with FeiYan arguing against his view, 1moreWang saw the whole thing as a publicity stunt, and Leilei was adamant: “He is a troublemaker, he is not even living in China anymore, should keep his mouth shut”.
Prato89 typed: “ He can do it because he is living outside, don’t be naïve. Haven’t we heard stories like that from our relatives? Aren’t some of us, right here in this forum, illegal children? We should know ”.
" He shouldn’t have used the national anthem that way, that is unwarranted disrespect towards the motherland, I understand political criticism but there is pushing things too far”. complained Marco_Zhang.
" You don’t get it.” wrote ChangE92 “The March of the Volunteers is older than the People’s Republic, it was a song of resistance, the symbol of an ideal; by twisting and deforming it he is saying that bureaucrats and politicians have betrayed the ideal, are using it to their own ends, duping the people. It’s not Hu Xiaowen who’s lacking respect”. Soon after the discussion became a free-for-all with people typing over each other in all caps and chatspeak, I gave up and signed off.
Huxiaowen.com was still down. Finding my address must not have been a problem for him, I was on the phonebook after all, but how could I get in touch to thank him? ‘settled in Italy’ wasn’t helpful at all and I could not phone all the hotels in town asking for him either. Asking Paolo was out of discussion, I loved Lucia but what Paolo knew she knew, and what she knew half the town did too.
Well, it was worth a try. I typed in the address of the on-line phone directory and entered a nation-wide search for his name -five hits? Not bad- a café owner in Milan –I guess not, unless he is into diversifying- a house number in Florence – maybe, but he isn’t there now- an import-export business and a clothing manufacturer –neither, thanks- and an hairdresser salon in Rome – dead-end, Viola.
A question, if you don't mind: every now and then we will have some Chinese words in the text, would it be better, according to you, have them transcribed (possibly with a note), like I did here for guangxi, or straight in Chinese characters (again with a note)?
Thank you for weighting in.