This is Part 1 in a translation of the 1956 reportage fiction piece 在桥梁工地上 (At the Bridge Construction Sites) by the Chinese writer 刘宾雁 (Liu Binyan). Liu wrote the piece during Mao’s Hundred Flowers Campaign (百花运动), and was soon victimised for it and labelled a rightist in the following Anti-Rightist Movement (反右派运动).
At the Bridge Construction Site
Part 1 · Part 2 →” rel=“next)
在河对岸，大桥工程的桥头堡上，我终于找到了桥梁队的罗队长。 On the other side of the river, at the large bridge's construction bridgehead, I finally found Team Leader Luo from the bridge construction team.
他正在对一个领工员模样的人布置著甚么事情，那人吃力地用铅笔朝一个小本子上记著。 He was at that moment sorting something out with someone who looked like a worker, who was laboriously making notes with a pencil in a little notebook.
大概这几年里我变了许多。 I had probably changed a lot over the last few years.
他眯起眼睛辨认了一会儿，才迈著大步走过来和我握手，兴奋地说： He squinted his eyes to identify me, and then took a step towards me and shook me hand, saying excitedly:
“老刘，还在报馆么？来采访我们啦？好！” "Old Liu - you're still at the newspaper office? You've come to interview me? OK!"
他的嗓音还跟六年前一样，稍微有点沙哑。 His voice was the same as six years ago - slightly hoarse.
脸胖了，面色却发黄了。 His face had fattened, but his complexion was still jaundiced.
没等我说明来意，就拉著我跟他一道去巡视工地，要给我看看，对我讲讲。 Without waiting for me to explain the purpose of my visit, he took me on an inspection tour - he wanted to show it to me and talk about it.
在便桥头上，他领了两件救生衣，给我一件。 At the temporary bridgehead, he got two life vests and gave me one.
一面吃力地结著背后的那个扣子，一面笑著说： Whilst he laboriously knotted up the toggle on his back, he laughed and said:
“制度！这是制度啊。不穿救生衣，队长也不许上桥。 "Rules! These are the rules! If you don't wear life vests, even the team leaders can't go onto the bridge.
现在不比从前，甚么都得有个制度。” It's worse than ever - there are rules for everything."
紧靠著这座便桥，一个巨大的拱形铁桥正在建造。 Leaning on the temporary bridge, a huge, iron arch bridge was being constructed.
从下面望上去，这座拱桥的工程显得分外雄伟。 Looking up from underneath, this arch bridge looked exceptionally magnificent.
第一个拱架已经造好，从河南岸起上升成一个半圆，像一条彩虹似的。 The first arch had already been completed, rising in a semi-circle from the south bank of the river like a rainbow.
简直不能想象，就凭这么一根窄窄的钢筋水泥的拱架，能经得住几千吨重的列车不断开过。 I simply could not imagine that, relying on this narrow reinforced concrete arch, trains weighing several thousand tons could pass continuously.
好像看出了我的惊异，我的老朋友说： Apparently having noticed my amazement, my old friend said:
“这是中国第一座钢拱桥。不用钢梁，一个跨度就有五十三米那么宽，不简单哪。 "This is China's first steel arch bridge. If you don't use steel, one span can only stretch to fifty-three metres, and even that's not easy.
从前，连想也不敢想。” In the past, you wouldn't even dare to think about it."
罗队长给我详细介绍造桥的准备过程，施工的现状。 Team Leader Luo explained to me in detail the preparations for the construction of the bridge and its current state.
我们手扶著便桥的木栏杆，脚下就是奔腾的黄河之水。 We held onto the wooden railing on the bridge; beneath our feet, the water of the Yellow River surged past.
比起中下游的黄河，这里河水要清得多了：泡沫是白的，浪花也是白的。 The water here was much clearer thsn the lower reaches of the Yellow River; the froth was white, and so was the spray.
一股奇怪的味道，随著风和水向我们扑来，越来越浓，像水的清香，又像泥土的香味，有时又觉得它不过就是股潮湿味。 There was an unusual scent, carried to us by the wind and water, that got stronger and stronger; it was like the clean fragrance of water, or the smell of earth, and sometimes it was just a moist fragrance.
春天来了。 Spring was coming.
我们顺著河边慢慢走著。 We walked along slowly, following the river.
罗队长对我指点著、解释著几十丈高的钢塔，新来的各种建筑机器，工人自己绑扎的各种把竿，一面不住地说： Team Leader Luo pointed out and explained the steel towers, dozens of feet high, and all kinds of new construction machinery; the workers were fastening up all kinds of rods, and he said repeatedly:
“从前连想也不敢想啊”，“这可不是咱们白天黑夜搞抢修那时候了……” "In the past you wouldn't even dare to consider it," and "This is no longer the era of rushing through things in a day and a night..."
忽然间，从左侧传来一阵比春雷还响的轰响。 Suddenly, a sound louder than than spring thunder rumbled to our left.
接著，有几块小石头从山上一直滚到我们脚下。 Then, several small pieces of stone rolled down to our feet off the hill.
一刹那间，觉得脚下的整个土地都颤动起来。 For a moment, the ground beneath our feet felt like it was trembling.
我的朋友叫我猜猜这是甚么。 My friend asked me to guess what this was.
我说，当然是爆炸，大概是山后甚么地方在炸石头罢。 I said it was obviously an explosion, probably just some stones being exploded behind the mountain somewhere.
他笑了，说：“是爆炸，可不是山后面。这是二三十里以外开隧道呢。 He laughed and said: "It was an explosion, but not behind the mountain. It's a tunnel being opened up twenty or thirty _li_ away.
大─爆─破，这叫大爆破。 Large - explosion - splitting: it's called large explosion splitting.
听见过没有？把几十吨炸药一块填进去，送药的‘眼’儿里能走得开人。 Did you hear it? They fill it up with several dozen tons of explosives at once - a person can walk through the gaps in the explosives.
一炮，就下来几万、几十万公方的石头。 When it explodes, it can bring down several tens or several hundred thousand square metres of rock.
这才真是中国铁路史上前所未有的啊……” Only this is the real, unprecedented Chinese railway..."
两人都有点累了。 Both of us were quite tired.
我们在陡峭的黄土崖壁边上坐下来。 We walked down next to steep loess precipice.
黄河正好在我们脚下面拐了一个弯，拐得那么柔软，像一根随便丢在那里的带子。 Right below our feet the Yellow River made a turn, but it meandered so smoothly that it seemed like a ribbon laid there freely.
“不简单哪，”他无限感慨地说：“解放前，几十年间黄河上只修了三座桥。 "It's not easy," he said with endless conviction, "Before the liberation, in several decades only three bridges were built across the Yellow River.
解放这么几年，咱们就一鼓气儿造了它三座！你写吧，我们造桥，你们报道！” In these few years since the liberation, we've built three bridges across it in a single drumbeat! Write that - we build bridges and you report them!"
我很想听听这位老朋友几年来的经历。 I really wanted to hear about the experiences of my old friend over these last few years.
从我们在解放战争末期一起抢修桥梁那时候算起，过去整整六年了。 Since the late stages of our war of liberation, from when the old bridges were being urgently repaired, six years had passed.
罗立正──当时刚刚改行不久的区委书记，现在成了桥梁专家。 Luo Lizheng - at that time he'd just switched profession to being a regional council clerk, and now he'd become a bridge construction expert.
讲业务，不说是大学毕业，也该是专科学校毕业的水平了。 Talking about his profession, he hadn't graduated from university in it, but he still had the standard of someone who'd graduated from a specialist training school.
据说，这几年他领导过施工的桥梁有三十多座。 I heard that in these few years he'd overseen the construction of more than thirty bridges.
“一万四千多公尺，”他在历数过他造的这些桥的种类以后，竟算出了三十多座桥梁的总长度：“还不算现在同时施工的这五座桥……” "More than fourteen thousand meters," once he'd counted the the various kinds of bridges he'd built, he calculated the total length of those thirty plus bridges: "And that's not counting these five bridges being built now."
许是因为这一天遇到了老朋友，回忆起几年前充满战斗的生活，也许是因为在这么好的天气里能和我一起鸟瞰一下自己几年来工作的全貌罢，罗队长的心情一直是十分愉快的。 Perhaps because I'd met my old friend that day, I thought back to my life filled by the war several years ago, and perhaps because the weather was so fine and he could get this bird's eye view of what he'd achieved in those few years, Team Leader Luo's was in high spirits the whole time.
在我们快走到大虎沟的时候，他竟轻轻地哼起一个歌儿来。 When we'd nearly reached Great Tiger Gulley, he actually started humming a song.
但是，一当我提出了这个问题以后，一切就都变了： But as soon as I asked this question, he changed completely:
“你们队里有个曾工程师吧？” "Does your work team have a Team Leader called Zeng?"
我说：“我这次来，就是要采访他。” I continued: "This time I've come to interview him."
没等我把话说完，只见他双眉越皱越紧，眼睛直视著前方，一股说不清的不痛快在他整个脸上表现出来。 Before I'd finished speaking, I saw his eyebrows wrinkle, and his eyes look straight ahead; I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but his whole face expressed dissatisfaction.
他沉吟了一会儿，使劲揉著眉头，叹了口气说：“你是要找个工程师是不是？” He muttered for a moment, and rubbed his brows, then sighed and said: "You want to find an engineer, right?"
我点头。 I nodded.
他紧接著说：“那好办。我给你推荐另外一个罢。 I immediately said: "That's doable. Let me recommend another one for you.
我们技术室的周主任，可以在报纸上介绍介绍。” Director Zhou from our tech lab - you could write about him in your newspaper."
我想问，为甚么不可以采访曾工程师。 I wanted to ask why I couldn't interview Engineer Zeng.
可是这时我的朋友已向前走去，而且情绪远不适于提出这个问题，我就把话收住，跟著他朝叮叮当当的石场走去。 But then my friend set off again, and it seemed his mood was far from suitable for this question, so I kept it to myself, and set off crunching over the gravel with him.
我住在技术室主任周维本的房间里。 I stayed with Director Zhou Weiben from the tech lab.
这是一幢用土坯造成的房屋。 His room was built out of mud bricks.
黄河边上，这要算是最好的住所了。 Being next to the Yellow River, it was the best place to stay.
它不像帐篷，可以不受任何风雨的威胁，除了大风天气大粒沙石打在玻璃上的响声以外，简直一点也不觉得自己是住在旷野里。 It wasn't like a tent - it kept out any threat of wind or rain, and apart from the sound of sand and gravel flung onto the glass by high winds, you didn't feel like you were in the wilderness at all.
也不像窑洞，一点不觉得有甚么阴沉。 Neither was it like a dugout - it didn't feel gloomy at all.
在我的房间里听隔壁技术室的话声是一清二楚，甚至在我跟别人谈话的时候，隔壁的人打电话都能使谈话中断。 In my room I could hear the sounds of the tech lab next door very clearly; even when I was talking with other people, the sound of people on the phone on the other sound of the wall would interrupt.
各处工地在电话里提出的问题，有许多是要技术室主任亲自回答的。 Of all the construction site problems discussed on the phone, many required a personal response from the lab director.
奇怪的是这些回答都十分相像。 What was strange was that all of these questions were extremely similar.
说得最多的是“这个问题呢，已经请示工程局的技术处了”，“这个问题呢，施工处还没答复”。 What was said most was "This question has already been dealt with by the engineering department," and "This question hasn't been responded to by the engineers yet."
当然，有不少问题，主任还是提出了意见的，但紧接著就一准说── Of course, there was also many questions that the director would give advice on, but immediately afterwards he would always say:
“这是苏联专家的意见”，“这是局里张总工程师说的”，“不，这可不是我的话呀，队长的意思”…… "This is the advice of the Soviet experts," or "This is what head engineer Zhang from the office says," or "No, I didn't say that, the team leader said it,"...
都是些何等重要的问题必须请示，技术室主任自己拿不出意见呢？ How important were the problems that people were requesting advice for that even the director of the tech lab couldn't give any response?
有一回，我正在跟一个装吊工人谈话，隔壁又传来周主任打电话的声音── One time, I was talking with a worker when the sound of a telephone conversation came through from next door:
“哎，别急嘛，不请示局里怎么行呢，王处长说这两天就批示的……” "Oh, there's no rush - don't request advice on how to proceed from the office; Department Head Wang says that these two days are for criticism..."
这时候，那个名叫张广发的起重工人忽然从条凳上站了起来，气愤地说： At that moment, the worker (who was called Zhang Guangfa) suddenly stood up from his stool and said furiously:
“又是这一套！把南岸一个螺丝拿到北岸去都要请示，要你这个主任干屁呢？为了你这请示，我们窝了八天工了……” "This again! You have to request instructions to take a screw from the south bank to the north bank - it all needs a fart from the director! Waiting for instructions, we've wasted eight work days..."
说完，吐了口唾沫，又坐下来给我讲，甚么叫“骑马扣”，甚么叫“鸳鸯扣”…… He finished speaking and spat on the floor, then sat down and told me about what they called "riding a horse knot" and what they called "mandarin ducks knot"... *[?]*
没有多大一会儿，他又站了起来，气愤地说：“哼，灰尘掉下来都怕把自己砸死，还叫工程师，主任呢！ But before long, he stood up again, and said angrily: "Ugh! They're afraid of some dust settling on them and crushing them, but they're still called Engineers and Directors!
曾工程师就不这样。跟你说，干起重工的，就愿意跟这样工程师干。 Engineer Zeng isn't like that. Let me tell you - when you work in heavy industry, you want to work with that kind of engineer.
他敢决定事情，常说：就这么干，我负责任！……” He dares to make decisions! He's always saying: 'Let's do it like this - I'll take responsibility!'..."
Part 1 · Part 2 →” rel=“next)