慢的美学 – The Aesthetics of slowness – English

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In 2007, after moving from Guangzhou to Guanxi, I had already lived in the small town of Guilin for almost 3 years.

When I think back about it today, although almost 6 years have passed, I still remember all the details of it, as if things had occurred yesterday. The time of these years was really quiet, like a mountain hermit, going to and from work every day at the same time, with leisure to read, buy and cook food, 悠哉游哉,跟外面的都市世界相比,实在是近于原始生活。

On the shore of the Li river, 有一家名为刀锋书店的小书吧,七八十平米的营业面积,and in the window were a few tables where you could read books and drink tea, there were not many books, but they were chosen with very good taste, 从中可窥见老板娘的眼力。I went there almost every second day, to see what new books and magazines had arrived, and see who else was looking at the books, 那几乎是我接触外界消息的很大一条通道。有时候你翻厌了,走出来就是漓江,江面上或有渔船,或有水草,你可以想象它如何从华南第一峰猫儿山流出,一路漂流向南,形成美甲天下的桂林山水。

你也可以想象,这条江以前的形态和水量,you can imagine how many people through history have come to observe it and pay it homage, what have they seen, and what have they left, how many people have seen this famous river, and in turn, how many different kinds of people has this river seen!. 有了这样的悠闲,你即使是身在一个盆景式的山水小城,没有风云际会和惊天动地,也一样可以安身安心,因为你不单单是只活在眼前,还活在江水逝者如斯的亘古之中。

When the weather was nice, I would stroll to the vegetable market, 看到集市上物品琳琅,青菜是一把把从田间割出来的,桔子上面还带着树枝和叶子,你甚至可以感受得到菜农在田里的劳作状态,会想象得到他采摘桔子时候的力度,你自然会感觉出一种丰盛,心里也会生出一种富足和安定,虽然那东西并不属于我,而只是零零散散地摆在菜市场上,一份份被摆出来,又一份份被卖出去。

Sometimes, I also went to the small alleys around ‘Kind city’, 这座王城是明太祖朱元璋其侄孙朱守谦被封为靖江王时修造的王城,比故宫还早36年。王城周围是几条横七竖八的寻常巷陌,有人来人往,有狗叫,有阳光,有时光在石板路和灰砖墙上漫漶过的痕迹,有名字雅致实则平常的胡同,有炊烟和煎炒声,有煤气罐,有阿婆阿爷打纸牌的声音,市声隐隐,但是听着却很亲切。我把这个山水之外的桂林,称为第二个桂林,这里藏着一些让你慢下来的东西。

I’ve always thought that, when you adopt a slower, less hurried pace, there’s very few things which are not beautiful, and very few things that do not ring true. But when you’re always faced with urgency, when you’re always faced with speed, profit, and material things, that beauty and that truth will often be confused, because there is no time to organise our emotions, and allow our minds to go to these things and back to itself.








In an increasingly fast-paced social life, slowing down requires courage and determination.

There’s a poem by Li Shanyin called “Night rain going North” 夜雨寄北 :“君问归期未有期,巴山夜雨涨秋池。何当共剪西窗烛,却话巴山夜雨时。” He wrote this to his distant wife in Chang’an on a rainy night in Bashu, and we generally interpret it as an expression of affection and longing for his distant wife, but something else in this poem is worth pondering on, and that is, what state of mind is it, that a person on the rainy Ba Mountain will listen to the sound of rain at night outside the window, and think of someone absent?

When we think about it, among the people of today, who will listen to the sound of rain at night? And as the rain falls around them, would they think of someone far away?

The technological developments of our age have shattered our aesthetic enjoyment of dark clouds and moonlit landscapes, mountains and rivers,自然已经被揭开了天灵盖; transport and communications have reduced time and space so much that if you miss someone, you can just phone them, and a video call can make it seem as if they were right in front of you, we’ve lost the habit of lying down at night and listen to the rain on the banana leaf, and we have no time to appreciate the snow falling and melting, confronted with the speed of everything around us, slowness has become a luxury, something outdated, a kind of perversion, like ignoring the world.

The slowness of Li Shanyin seems further and further away from us. And his slowness was not just his alone, the excessive sense of leisure in his mind was also dictating by the slow spirit of his time. Not only was this a pastoral and agricultural slowness, but the period he lived in was the late Tang Dynasty, when the dynasty’s high point of prosperity had already passed, and the regime was slowly declining.

After the industrial revolution took place in 18th century Britain, spread through the whole European Continent, then swept through America, and spread to Asia, in just over two centuries, it has become the engine of the earth, and the whole world has transitioned from the agricultural age to the industrial and commercial age.

All humans are prisoners of this wide, quick and irresistible conquest, hardly anyone can evade it, 我们的衣食住行和生活方式都在被改变着,人类搭上工业革命这列车速越来越快的列车后,突然发现自己再也下不来了,我们被速度、感官、刺激绑架了,我们也许不喜欢,也许已经萌生退意,但是我们却没有办法,一种遍布山河的、消魂摄骨的气氛已经牢牢存在了。

The industrial civilisation pursues speed and efficiency. Franklin’s ‘time is life, time is money’ was once used as a motto for everyone. The worship of speed and quantity has already taken control of our consciences, and become the basis for our value judgements.




After slow food and slow pace came the slow city, the slow city is the old Medieval city of Orvieto in Italy.

1999年10月,在奥尔维耶托的一次慢餐活动上,意大利5个小城的市长第一次给“慢城”做出了明确定义,其成员须满足55项具体规定,如人口不得超过5万,发展和使用环保技术,不得使用转基因种子、作物和食品,必须保持当地特有的风俗文化。慢城运动,是想把慢放大到人的整个生活环境中,protect local characteristics, and resist the standardization and homogeneisation brought about by globalisation.

Milan Kundera has a novel called ‘Slowness’, 米兰•昆德拉有一本叫《慢》的小说,小说只写了一个晚上:一个到某城堡度假时构思作品的作家和他妻子;一个参加昆虫学会的法国知识分子;一个18世纪某个红杏出墙的夫人及她的情人。知识分子的聚会是作家正在构思的情节,而某夫人和骑士是他读过的一本书中的人物。小说末尾这三个时空突然扭曲,知识分子和作家下榻的是同一个酒店,而这也正是夫人与骑士、知识分子与情人共度良宵的地点。而这个作家,似乎就是昆德拉自己。

Kundera’s Slowness spans only a very short time and space, as if to slow down history, and let more people enjoy the philosophy and aesthetics of slowness.

I have a feeling that, the quicker our lives, the weaker our memory, the slower our days, the more startingly profound they become, there is a proportion between slowness and memory, and a proportion between fastness and forgetting. This might be what the Ancients meant of the life of the immortals, “one day on the mountain is like a thousand years in the world”, not that the Gods can span time and space, but that the Gods can very slowly experience all feelings. It’s like fishing, fishing is better than having a fish, what you want is not the pleasure of catching a fish, but the pleasure of fishing even without catching one. Or to take another example, gardening is not just about the pleasure of these days when flowers open, 而是建立起那份侍花弄草的小心和精细。Fishing and gardening bring about these thousand year days.

A friend said to me that the poet Bai Hua 柏桦 called his son ‘Bai Man’ Slow Bai, 柏慢. I was surprised and admirative. Because in this way, he was telling us, he wanted to confront speed with depth, confront strength with density, confront the machine with the person, and confront forgetting with feeling.

Article Revisions:

Sources :

source: Douban, 12 December 2012 (Part I)
source: Douban, 17 December 2012 (Part II)

About julien.leyre

French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact [email protected]