“Free spirit” is expressive – but of a taunt, I think, perhaps a rebuttal to those who would project “freedom” in art by seeking applause “outside” the mother-China whereas she goes out of her way to show loyalty/gratitude to her motherland, but not / never in costume. She is a traveler, yes, but always with a sense of where, from where. free-spirit(ed) also in that her life’s love, Jose Maria Quero y Ruiz (d. 1979 drowned while scuba-diving), is (was) also a lonely traveler, and also with unabandoned roots (both in Spain and Taiwan).
More obscure is her self-chosen nom de plume, in English, of “Echo”. her blogsite ….http://www.echochan.net/.
Echo-chan is a mask-name or a code unbreakable for most f her followers: in Cantonese her surname reads Chan; Echo is the name of the nymph whose love-calls to Narcissus go unheeded/unheard because of that shepherd’s fascination with his own image as reflected in a river or pond. A useful decode goes thus:
“Echo, in Greek mythology, mountain nymph. She assisted Zeus in one of his amorous adventures by distracting Hera with her chatter. For this Hera made her unable to speak except to repeat another’s last words. She fell in love with Narcissus, but when he rejected her, she pined away until only her voice remained. In another myth, she was loved by Pan, who, because he could not win her, caused shepherds to tear her asunder; Gaea buried her limbs, leaving only her voice.”
So we are left with a kind of operatic (Abbate-ian) symbol: a disembodied voice, from nowhere or noone, but persisting, in a sense mechanically, regardless…. a persona that even with loss of corporeal existence will not surrender her speech, which is the true “her”. Another kind of freedom: voice free but agonizingly so from any surround/audience. (Abbate, In Search of Opera).
There is also I think a layer of premonition – there is in everything she writes – of how her life is to “play”/play-out: of how and under what cloud she shall meet her end, and why. Echo – the nymph – is unabashed in her desire. She will watch Narcissus day and night, never cease her plea for his regard, an answer, though knowing there will be none. It is called “pining/away” in the old jargon, but that is not jargon in Sanmao’s (and China’s) new neo-romantic subculture. It is a posture that supplicates but eventually solves the no-reply by self-elimination: she dies in mourning, but since it is by choice she is not “victim” but actor.
To assess loss (non-response, rejection by impulse or by design, suicide on the part of loved one) AS loss, to grasp that it is irreversible, (as does Echo), was meant to happen by the nature of the contracted interplay, the frailty of the man who feared the burden of love) is then the logical prelude to the finis.