Just drank Chanpska water.

Now eating Wuckang fish.

I swim across the thousands-of-miles long Yangtze.

Ignoring the wind's blowing and the waves' beating:

Better than walking slowly in a quiet courtyard.

Today I am relaxed and free . . . .

-"Swimming." by Mao Tse-tung

Huang Chen, for 25 years Mao's premier diplomat abroad, is going home. The old soldier and veteran of the Long March, who is 70 years old, says it's time to go home to see his grandchildren.

Huang, for 41/2 cautious years in Washington, has been chief of the liaison office of the People's Republic of China while the United States and the PRC - after a generation of non-communication - established a wary rapprochement. Last night, Huang Chen gave himself a farewell party - one of several - for American friends. His departure is taken less as a sign of Chinese displeasure with the pace of U.S.-China relations, and more as an acknowledgement of Huang's homing instinct.

Huang Chen has been assidiuosly making farewell calls and writing warm bread-and-butter letters. He leaves carefully cultivated friends here - both in power, and out. In late October, he journeyed to San Clemente to say farewell to Richard Nixon. It was discribed is a call between old friends by a well-placed observer.

Hsent, by certified mail, a warm goodbye letter to San Francisco social arbiter Cyril Magnin, chairman of the board of Joseph Magnin stores, who arranged with Huan to have San Francisco added to the 1975 world-wide tour of PRC archeological finds.

Huang' evocative, impressionistic sketches of the oLng March are one of the few visual his outlet, reserven, disciplines life here documentations of that trek. His quiet, reserven, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] life here kept him out of the public's view. He washes his own clothes. ("Chou En Lai and Mao Tse-tung did their own laundry too," says an observer. "So did Chiang before he got rich." He set the out-of-public-view example plaster molding which adorn the liaison office. Often attempts at personal friendship or [WORD ILLEGIBLE] business telephone calls - to him or his staff are bafflingly rebuffed by his office.

One small example: A young American, a State Department lawyer who speaks Chinese well, befriended a newly-arrived young PRC diplomat at a party at the liaison office. The young Chinese man was unusually open, curious about America and Washington. The two young men made a date for lunch - unusual because the liaison office staffers generally travel in groups. The American came to the liaison office a week later to confirm the late, and the young a superior. When the American asked his friend when they could lunch, the superior said, "Where di you learn your Chinese?" Confused, the young American asked about lunch again. The superior replied, "Your Chinese is very good. Where did you learn it?" The American got the hint and left. No discussion. No lunch. Nothing.

"The truth is that the Chinese have no diplomatic relations here," says Van Lung, whose father was the founder of the anti-Chiang Kai-shek Nationalist Party and the PRC's first vice chairman. "If they acted as regular diplomats, they could be charged with generating support for a Communist regime, o they are trying to live quietly and correctly, in low profile, waiting for the U.S. to leap the diplomatic hurdle."

So Huang and his staff of 60 at the carefully named "liaison office," have led low-profile, "quiet coutryard" lives. Huand entertained and was seen often on the diplomatic party circuit.

For security reasons, Huang took his daily three-mile constitutional -- clocked by a pedometer at his waist -- within the walls of the liaison office or at his residence on S Street. "He didn't want to add any problem to the American security people," said Van Lung.

Lung has been one of the mission's closest social contacts in Washington and his family are personal friends of Huang's in China. It was Lung who, at Huang's request, took him to tour Harper's Ferry and the battlefields of Manassas the Gettysburg.

"He's very interested in the American can Civil War," sads Lung. "The question of which way a young republic could go is very important to a revolutionary, which he is." At Harper's Ferry, says Lung, "He was deeply moved by the dedication of John Brown, as an early revolutionary dedicated to another human race."

The key to understanding Huang's personality and role may lie in comments made by the well-placed observer about Huang Chen. He said that Huang Chen is a charismatic figure skilled in interpersonal relationships, yet deferred to by his staff. He said Huang follows the Peking line, yet is undoctrinaire as far as any particular cult of communism is concerned. He said that Huang makes indirect diplomatic statements with severl different levels of meaning, whose unraveling is left to the listener. And finally, that Huang Chen's view of China, his China, is based on a conviction that it is a great nation, of central importance -- a concept formerly questioned by some Chinese with pre-World War II Occidental contacts.

It is these things, he said, that make Huang Chen "thoroughly Chinese."

And wily. And popular. Gracefully, one wishes to say farewell, and as Chairman Mao has written:

Boats sail with the wind. Turtle and Snake mountains stay.

while great plans grow. A bridge flies across north to south,

natural barrier turned into open

road . . .