An Engraved Chinese Teapot

— Jennifer Wong

Chinese tenses are less obvious, you say. True, there’s so much emphasis on history it’s hard to realise the present needs a life of its own. We use jor for anything that has taken place (that’s liao or le in Mandarin) but it’s different from your ‘-ed’ because sometimes we imply the past even if nothing signposts it. I suppose that the past always hovers around even if we don’t talk about it. Like it is always here, when I write in English, for example, or google words censored elsewhere. This morning, I found in a charity shop a Chinese teapot engraved with 萬壽無疆. I find tenses redundant in the sense that everything exists in the present. Say we can’t find the right tense for certain years in our lives. Say nineteen ninety-seven. And nineteen eighty-nine.


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