阎先生于2020年11月22日清晨去世，追思会于11月25号中午在位于阿拉巴马州Pelham的Southern Heritage Funeral Home 举行。小型追思会仅限于其妻女及近亲，以及阎先生的一批生前好友通过Zoom参加了追思仪式。
遥想当年，一众神州学子牢记“书中自有黄金屋，书中自有颜如玉”之古训，应总设计师邓公“先富起来”之圣谕，身着毛装，四囊空空，挥泪告别江东父老，搭乘空中“五月花号”前往美利坚合众国，结庐于弗吉尼亚州黑堡，开启留学生涯。闻鸡起舞，凿壁偷光，个个学业精进，大器将成，只待他日金榜题名，玉人相许。惟黑堡地处荒乡僻野，鲜闻丝竹，天长日久，不免抑郁，时发囚徒之叹，惜无车马之喧。乃有好事者杨X标、贺X平、刘X竹等诸君发起空空论坛，美其名曰 “多学科讨论会”，上议天文，下探地理，指点山河，激扬文字，自诩 “天下英才，尽在黑堡。”
In Memory of Runtao Yan
November 22, 2020, hills and mountains collapsed; the sun and the moon lost their light; the heaven burst into tears while the earth was weighed down by sorrow; every creature was shaken by the shocking announcement: Runtao Yan, the legendary genius, had ascended towards heaven on his fairy crane.
Decades ago, following the ancient motto “the beauty and the house of gold are buried deep in the books” and responding to the call of The Chief Architect Deng Xiaoping “to get rich first,” a group of Chinese students, with grand vision in their mind but not a penny in the pockets of their Mao suit, travelled across the Pacific in the “Flying Mayflower” after bidding a teary farewell to their loved ones. Upon arrival, they settled down in a beautiful place called Blacksburg, Virginia, turning a new leaf in their life. In those years, hard work was a virtue – they would arise with the first crow of the rooster and retire after every light went out, making big strides in their academics with each passing day. The American dream of a grand mansion with a beautiful Chinese wife was getting ever closer. Blacksburg, however, was not a place of fun, without anything amounting to music or entertainment. Determined not to allow boredom to get better of them, Mr. Zhenbiao Yang, together with Mr. Baoping He and Mr. Xiaozhu Liu, started a scholarly forum and named it “The Multidisciplinary Symposium of Great Minds,” where they would explore every branch of human learning, from astronomy to astrology, from the art of personal cult to the sociology of matchmaking, from the science of ruling the world to the philosophy of longevity by laundry powder. To the members, Blacksburg, surrounded by the majestic Blue Ridge, was “the land of crouching tigers and hidden dragons.”
One day, a stranger came to the forum and introduced himself as Mr. Runtao Yan. He said that as a country boy his favorite foods were noodles and sweet potatoes and, needless to say, he had no interest in books. With all the great scholars turning their nose skyward, Runtao pretended not to notice the disdain. In a few words, he presented “the theory of new relativity in the universe.” It was delivered with great ease, but the discourse was packed with unmatched humor and profound wisdom. Before long, all the members of the elite symposium found themselves prostrated on the floor, begging the newcomer for forgiveness and heavenly insight, for they knew by now the gentleman who called himself a country boy was an Aristotle in disguise. By the end of the year, word came that Master Runtao Yan was to make a public delivery of his wisdom and the entire Blacksburg, from professors who won Nobel Prize to the teenagers working at McDonalds, all flocked to the sacred pulpit, convinced that even getting a glance of the famous saint would bring immense good luck.
Later, Runtao and his family moved to Alabama, where he devoted himself to the study of Analects of Confucius and Dead Sea Scrolls. Shortly after, the age of social media arrived. New forums sprang up like mushrooms after rain and people who could not tell black from white were posing as wise men from other stars. What was worse, fierce fighting broke out in the cyber space and the ignorant were trying to kill each other with their virtual swords. A kind soul by nature, Runtao decided to save the world at the expense of his serenity. He started a blog at the famed site City of The Illiterate and began to spread gospel-like wisdom. Within days, tens of millions of fans gathered at his portal, asking humbly for guidance to which Runtao obliged with the gentleness and magnanimity of the Buddha.
The United States of America is an exotic place that adores democracy. Every four years, followers of the two political parties – Democrats and Republicans – participated in an election that determines who will be the next ruler of the country. Conversant in the laws of yin and yang as well as the art of Feng Shui, Runtao was able to correctly predict the winner each time. Americans, however, were such a primitive people that they did not even understand the simple language of Chinese, hence their miserable failure in availing themselves of the great wisdom of Runtao. After Runtao’s departure, some of his wise words were translated into English and, upon reading them, the ill-fated candidates, including Al Gore, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, and more recently Donald Trump, were beating their chest with the full force of human remorse: “Why didn’t I see these sacred scriptures earlier?”
As wise as a god, Runtao nevertheless executed his worldly duties to marry and have children. His wife is a beautiful and intelligent lady. A dutiful wife and loving mother, she has a heart as pure as jade. She is also a renowned professor at the medical school of University of Alabama and her scholastic research could fill several ox wagons as well as a rich man’s house. Runtao and his wife raised two daughters who have since grown into maturity. Their beauty is said to be such that at their sight the flowers would fold up and the moon would shy away. Moreover, their intelligence reaches such an insane level that it is almost impossible to find its match. The young ladies have graduated from the Ivy League and become highly influencing figures on Wall Street. Smart and handsome young men all over the world are competing fiercely for their hands. Whenever talking about the girls, Runtao would be filled with joy and pride.
Although we have been separated for merely one day, it does seem like three years. Today we are gathering over the internet and it feels like that it was ages ago when we met last time, but Runtao, your comforting voice and sunny smile are still with us, so are your Buddha-like love and tolerance. It is a pity that life on earth is so short and yet time in the heaven is long-lasting. Runtao, you are just one step ahead, looking for an ideal permanent residence for all the friends from Blacksburg. Would it be an occasion of joy and happiness when we meet again? While you are rising towards the heaven, we wish you a safe trip with auspicious clouds packed along the way. Runtao, take care and the day of the reunion will not be too far!
Yan Gang of Blacksburg