The Book Scents (Excerpt)
By Wang Hongbin
Trans. by Li Wenjie (李文婕)
The phrase “book scent” can be traced back to ancient times in China. To control the insect infestation, people used to place leaves of rue between pages. Once opening the book, the aroma of the herb would spread out, which was called “book scent”. This phrase was then used to indicate the lifestyle of reading.
The scents of books origin in one’s soul and mind and are appreciated through reading. They could be the fickleness of human nature, the richness of moral sentiments, the inheritance of culture, the magnificence of natural scenery, etc. Each book tells a story tinged with unique feelings. The stories express various happinesses and sorrows and the feelings are about diverse expectations on life. Therefore, I value all books and always try to appreciate the stories as well as the sincere feelings.
Traditionally, people held that “the study of books excels all pursuits”. Today, people believe that “reading brightens and enriches one’s life”. In the past, there were people who tried various methods to guarantee efficient reading, for example, tying their hair to the beam and jabbing their thighs with an awl to keep minds clear, or digging a hole in the wall to borrow some light from the neighbor. Today we also have book lovers who read in the lavatories or with the beam of flashlight late at night. These readers are driven by their thirst for knowledge and reverence for life. A life without reading may not become totally meaningless, but a life with reading is positively more colorful and exciting. What an elegant and pure pursuit the reading is in a person’s life journey!
Receiving new books always delighted me when I was at school. The brand-new books, the fresh knowledge, and particularly the pleasant smell from the newly-printed pages were all so intriguing!
The light fragrance of ink, like a mischievous elf, titillated my sense of smell and lured me to read further and further. Following this fragrance, I feel the spirits of the rivers and seas, find the traces of earth and moonlight, and sense the emotions at the time of parting and reunion. Immersing in reading I become peaceful, sensitive, and open-minded. Various sensations like depression, joyfulness, dissent, or fury all reach out to me. Reading at my desk, I have experienced the excitement of “waves and storms”in history as well as the beauty of flowers blooming and fading, which always make me forget the real world and even myself.
Reading, a form of self-cultivation and also an enjoyment, brings us profound feelings, eternal motivation, tranquility in spirit, and comforts to mind. To get there, we should start from developing positive reading attitude and creating a reading friendly environment. We need more libraries, more reading spaces, and more convenient access to books. Only when people have easy reach to books and experience the pleasure of reading will they be exposed to the book scents and be scented.