Stephen Collington studied English and East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto, and Comparative Literature at the University of Tokyo. His interest in Asian literature dates from his first enchanted encounter with the Chinese character itself, black-ink epitome of Emerson's famed dictum, "Language is fossil poetry." He has never been to Sichuan, but when he visited neighbouring Hunan in the 1990s, the slogans from the Cultural Revolution were still visible on the farmhouse walls. He would like to dedicate "How long is life?" to the betrayed idealists of the Hundred Flowers. May they each find peace at last.