any distinct time period in a sequence of events
His mother tells him something like, It’s only a
a person who gives private instruction
Until finally, irked, she says what his
tutor always says, “You listen but don’t hear!”—distinguishing, the way the Chinese will, between effort and result.
mark as different
Until finally, irked, she says what his tutor always says, “You listen but don’t hear!"—
distinguishing, the way the Chinese will, between effort and result.
a learned person
scholar, the ex-government official, calls him a fan tong—a rice barrel.
a porch along the outside of a building
Or so it seems to his father as, on a fan-cooled
veranda, he entertains apocalyptic thoughts of marching armies, a new dynasty, the end of society as they know it.
prophetic of devastation or ultimate doom
Or so it seems to his father as, on a fan-cooled veranda, he entertains
apocalyptic thoughts of marching armies, a new dynasty, the end of society as they know it.
reflect deeply on a subject
“Too much rice wine,”
muses Ralph’s mother.
marked by prudence or modesty and wise self-restraint
His ink blackens; and in the end he can’t be kept from making a few
discreet inquiries, among friends.
light exercises designed to promote general fitness
I will do five minutes of
characterized by care and perseverance in carrying out tasks
For girls, he knew, were what happened to even the cleverest, most
diligent, most upright of scholars; the scholars kissed, got syphilis, and died without getting their degrees.
not easily irritated
Otherwise he was himself—large-faced, dimpled, with eyebrows that rode nervously up and up, away from his flat, wide,
In sum, he was a doll, and the Foreign Student Affairs secretary, though she
loathed her job,
loathed her boss,
loathed working, liked him.
confidently optimistic and cheerful
Walking home, though, Ralph was less
a remarkable development
Did he confuse this
phenomenon with love?
a facial expression of contempt or scorn
Now Mr. Fitt was a grim man, an enforcer, with a small,
sneering mouth; in another life he might have been a carnivorous fish.
a gradual increase in loudness, in music
Ralph’s heart rumbled like a Peking Opera drum; it was the
crescendo before—crash of the cymbals!—a hero appeared.
mix up or confuse
“You’ve gotten completely hutu”—
muddle-headed—Old Chao went on.
a woman who cohabits with an important man
Sometimes Ralph thought of her as Yang Guifei incarnate—that’s a Tang Dynasty
courtesan for whom an emperor went to ruin.
come to terms with
Research: as his classmates
grappled on with Finite Element Analysis of Structures, Ralph began watching Americans and, his English having improved, even talking to Americans—who, he was surprised to discover, actually liked to sit back, and scratch their sandy chins, and tell him what they thought a young Chinaman should know.
influence or urge by gentle urging, caressing, or flattering
Instead he stood in front of her empty desk in the evening, after everyone had gone home, and touched her things—her typewriter, her scissors, her pencil cup, her blotter—as if trying to
coax them into yielding up what somewhere in their atoms they had to know.
conspicuously and offensively loud
clamorous street had turned private, a blue path such as should rightly lead to a hidden knoll, and so on.
one who is well known or prominent in fashionable circles
He remembered second aunt with her cactus collection, fifth uncle with his beard, eighth uncle with that opium addict,
allowing light to pass through diffusely
They are ancient paper lanterns,
translucent, unlit, strung across the courtyard, too fragile to move—though when he sees Ralph, his father, still a brave man, tries to speak.
an apparatus in which an object is mounted to swing freely
It was Natural Process; it was the slow shift of a
pendulum’s swing into a different plane.
the resistance when a body is moved in contact with another
He felt himself to be small, barefoot, lacking
a clear state of mind
He saw all of this now, with the terrible
lucidity of a strained mind; and seeing it, wondered what there was to live for.
originating where it is found
But the second week he only blanched, and by the third he worked as though
indigenous to this world.
veins in the neck that return blood from the head
A practiced look through the ranks; he’d snap the victim’s neck, bare its
jugular, slit it.
any customary observance or practice
Ralph would wash his hands, a
incapable of being put up with
Scraping noises; and then, like the gates of the Western Paradise, the trap door would open, lowering into the basement an almost
intolerable beam of light.
evergreen tree or shrub having red cup-shaped berries
A big lit globe shone on either side of the doorway, above twin frost-tipped
yews, which in turn set off a short, wide staircase.
to move or cause to move in a sinuous or circular course
Out of this trickled blood, which he watched
meander to the edge of his hand.
occurring or existing before birth
It was as if in some
prenatal rush, they had been dressed in one another’s clothes.
a standard or typical example
It was a
paradigm of Western influence gone wrong.
a handheld collapsible source of shade
The young man could station himself by a certain park gate as Theresa strolled down a path some hundred feet away, carrying a
a deep fissure
The decision, when it came, opened suddenly, a
a woman who cohabits with an important man
In fact, Theresa found out, well before their date in the park, he had run off with his father’s
consisting of tendons or resembling a tendon
Hocked wallpaper, moss green with gold, in a pattern of
sinewy trellises; a matching moss-green carpet; and on the walls, electric torches.
a structure that has a roof and walls
He wanted her to be permanent, an
edifice whose piles touched the heart of the earth.
sudden violent winds, often accompanied by precipitation
During the worst
squall, she had counted thirteen containers scattered around the apartment, each with its own rhythm and pitch.
an unrestrained expression of emotion
Once, in an
effusion of sympathy, a strange American woman had squeezed Helen’s hand (typical American no-manners); the American had wondered then at how soft and smooth Helen’s skin was.
occupied with or fond of the pleasures of good company
It had been a feeling she’d been after, a
convivial solidarity; she’d hoped to murmur to one another, as if sitting at the edge of one of their beds.
healthily plump and vigorous
marked by quiet and caution and secrecy
Helen eyed him surreptitiously as she nodded in Old Chao’s direction.
look at with amorous intentions
Ralph could only
ogle, though, helpless with envy, as Grover balled up his napkin.
pride or congratulate oneself for an achievement
preened, straightening his shirt.
the dead body of a human being
In between school and schoolwork, Theresa pitched in, happy to get away from her
strong feelings of embarrassment