在我的童年世界里，乐园没有边界，也没有围栏，它们便是溪滩、树林、田野、菜园，还有迷宫一样的巷弄；我甚至经常翻过邻家菜园的围墙，躲藏在黄瓜架的后面，让玩捉迷藏的小伙伴好半天都找不到。更有意思的是，只要你循着弯弯窄窄的田埂，在水渠尽头的小叠瀑下，一定会看到成群的鲫鱼（Carassius auratus）在水花中嬉戏，只需用簸箕或菜篮子当渔具，便可满载而归；田头的土丘上常常会有田鼠洞，洞口藏在草丛中，我和伙伴们往洞里灌水，直到田鼠从另外一个出口逃出，正好钻进我们布设的口袋；更大的“猎物”是在白沙溪与婺江交汇处的鲤鱼（Cyprinus carpio），那正是唐代诗人戴叔伦驻足吟唱《兰溪棹歌》的地方：“兰溪三日桃花雨，半夜鲤鱼来上滩。”不同的是，春雨过后，鲤鱼在白天也会上滩，它们先是像飞箭一样，在水草中逆流穿梭，然后迅速消失在百步之外的深潭里，你必须在此之前将其擒住。一群小孩当然很少有成功的，但在溪滩上捕鱼确实有无限的乐趣，至今还常常在我的梦境中重现。
虽然从没有买过玩具，但我的玩具也有不少，比如到村前水塘边挖一块黄泥，把它捏成坦克的车身和轮子，然后在太阳下曝晒，再把晒干的零件组装起来，操纵它在石板桥上隆隆开动；或用黄土捏出冲锋的士兵，再将水菖蒲（Acorus calamus）的叶子做成剑戟。挑选一个理想的树枝做弹弓并不容易，乌桕（Sapium sebiferum）的丫杈是最好的，柳树（Salix spp.）的枝条却不行。用溪滩上的大叶芦竹（Arundo donax）可以做笛子，但最好是用邻家老宅基上长出来的刚竹（Phyllostachys viridis），吹起来声音更加清亮。
早春天，盼着棕榈（Trachycarpus fortunei）花穗从厚厚的叶片包裹中挤出，那是玩打仗游戏最好的弹药，掰下那粟米一样的花粒装进口袋，鼓鼓囊囊的，有种被武装起来的威武感，随时准备与同伴“战斗”；再用花序的苞衣做成帆船，放到水渠中顺流而下。秋天可以做玩具的东西就更多了，我会跟在大人们身后，等他们剥去苎麻（Boehmeria nivea）的纤维，再捡拾白花花的麻杆，用来搭建“房子”；我还会爬上无患子（Sapindus mukorossi）树，摘下金灿灿的果实，把皮剥下来交给姐姐们拿去当肥皂，我则只收藏其中的黑色种子，日积月累，收集了好几罐，偶尔分给同伴们，还因此在他们当中获得了相当高的地位。
What Kind of Play Space do Children Need in the City?
Compared to children in the city today, my childhood might seem lacking. There was no special playground, no reading room with new pictured books, no Legos, no sophisticated robot toys of different shapes, no sandpits or colorful slides. There were no parents driving to school to pick up children and no crossing guards at the school gate. At the same time, there were also many reasons that my childhood was a happy one.
When I was a child, the play space had no fences. Creeks, woods, fields, vegetable gardens, and maze-like alleys were all playgrounds. When playing hide-and-seek, I often climbed over walls to hide behind cucumber trellises in my neighbor’s vegetable garden. What was more interesting, if one followed the winding and narrow field banks, groups of crucian carps (Carassius auratus) could be found playing under the cascade at the end of irrigation canals; they could be caught easily just with winnowing fans or bamboo baskets. There were many carves of voles in crop fields, and I often caught voles for fun by pouring water into the holes. One of the best games was catching carp (Cyprinus carpio) at the intersection of the Baisha Stream and the Wujiang River, where Dai Shulun, a poet from the Tang Dynasty, wrote his famous poetry named A Fishman’s Song of Lanxi River, describing the carps that gathered around and jumped onto the river shoal in midnights after spring rains. To my knowledge, carps also appeared during daytime, passing so swiftly through aquatic plants; it was almost impossible to catch them but always joyful to have a try. Such a great fun still remains refresh in my memory.
When I was five or six, my mother bought me a pair of rabbits and a goat from a farmhouse several kilometers away. I was responsible for looking after them and they became my beloved companions. Young rabbits are always matched in pairs, so I learned to identify their sex, which is not an easy task; I also knew that plants like water pepper (Polygonum hydropiper) or wet grasses cannot be fed with rabbits; when the rabbits grew up and prepared to breed, they would make a nest from grass and mud — living in a cage as a children’s pet nowadays is harm to their habit. Then the rabbit babies were sold on market to help with family expenses. My goat was not selected well. It grew up slowly and gave birth to only one lamb after three years. Later they were both sold, which made me very sad. Nonetheless, the experience of raising the goat and herding it every day after school brought lots of fun. It was a joy to be immersed in nature as I walked with the goat: I explored the undulating fields, the mysterious lands, the mountain creeks with cool air, and the open grasslands behind the willow groves.
Although I never bought toys, I had lots of things to play. The mud dug out of the pond could be made into a shape of tank and then left it to dry in the sun. The dried tank became a fantastic toy along with mud “soldiers” with calamus (Acorus calamus) “swords.” Other times I would make slingshots from branches of Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum), rather than willow trees (Salix spp.). For a flute, bamboo reeds (Arundo donax), especially rigid bamboo (Phyllostachys viridis), are the best for a clear and melodious sound.
In the early spring, the corn-like spikes of palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) were always the best “ammunition” for battle games, which could be collected in pockets, making me feel armed, mighty, and ready to “fight” at any time. Their spathes could float in the canal as “ships.” In the autumn, there were more materials to make toys. I often followed the adults, waiting for them to strip the fiber of ramies (Boehmeria nivea), then picking up the white stalks to build “houses.” I would also climb chinaberry trees (Sapindus mukorossi) to harvest the golden fruits, saving their skins as soaps and collecting the small black seeds for trading with friends, which brought me high status among them.
On the way to school along the edges of fields, I never worried about being hit by a car or needed protection of my parents. The sound of gurgling creeks, splashing frogs, and chirping birds kept me company. Kids from neighboring villages also ran to school, jumping up and down through the fields, where the breezing green crops seemed to echo their cheers.
Today, children in the city are besieged by busy streets and harden water systems full of latent danger, and they often have to stay close to home. Video games create an artificial world for children, artificial play places increase, and the so-called “natural” landscapes in urban parks are nothing but neatly trimmed horticultural plants — now finding a firefly becomes a luxury. I do not want to suggest that such an environment has not engendered childlike joy or enlightenment; but I am afraid that children in the city could hardly imagine a world with jumping carps, inflorescences of palm trees, and the dramatic micro-climate changes within the undulating landform.