The selection translated describes Chongqing University at the outset of Mao’s Hundred Flowers campaign that aimed to persuade people to speak out freely. Kong Lingping’s 孔令平memoir was published in CD in Hong Kong and soon as a book in Taiwan.
Below is an English translation of the first pages of “Blood Chronicle” 血纪 You can find the Chinese text at www.bannedbook.org/download/downfile.php?id=224
Blood Chronicle Book One
Chapter One The Newborn Calf Falls into the Trap of Openness
In early April 1957, it already felt like Spring on the Chongqing University campus. At noon one day, the student restaurant loudspeakers blared an announcement from the university party committee — This afternoon at two o’clock, all university students, teachers and staff will hear the chairman of the university party committee pass along an important document from the Central Committee. Bring your own stool. Don’t be absent.
Then a song about the beauty of the four season by Zhou Xuan was played. I took my lunch and walked out the west side of the restaurant. On the steps, my classmate Ma Kaixian was eating her lunch and sunning herself.
This afternoon we will have to listen to another report. Which one of us is bringing the stools? I asked.
She turned towards her face, slightly reddened already by the Spring sunlight answering, Of course, that’s your job. I’ll wait for you here. Then she flicked her pigtail towards me mischievously and made a face.
I passed the Chongqing University Mechanical Engineering Department entrance examination in 1955. Life in college was much different from high school. We didn’t have any one classroom but followed a schedule moving from classroom to classroom. We chose out seat when we arrived and then left as the end of that class. There was no set place for self-study and review work. Apart from going to classes and studying late in the dormitory, students took their book bags and their things to study in the library or in classrooms. Life was much freer than in high school. Having been in the school for two years, I knew all the good places to study and every corner of the campus.
Ma Xiankai and I chose an old building near the pine forest back gate to the school. Most of the chairs and desks were missing; most people didn’t go there. It was quiet, pine trees were all about and the air was especially fresh. In those days, we had just fallen in love and enjoyed having a quiet place to study together and discuss things where we would not be disturbed. We repaired two desks and chairs ourselves and nailed together two stools that we could take wherever we liked whenever we attended a meeting or an outdoor film.
That afternoon, we heard a recording of Mao Zedong speaking at the Eleventh State Council meeting on The Correct Handing of Contradictions Among the People. When the meeting started, the university party committee secretary Zheng Siqun at the microphone announced that we would not be allowed to take notes. He enunciated the instruction very clearly, stressing each word, so that we knew that this was a rule that must be obeyed. Mao Zedong’s difficult Hunan accent added to the noise on the recording made listening difficult. However that were many things on the recording that we had never heard in our political studies that made this special. This freshness added to university president Zheng’s stern instruction, made for a much different atmosphere than before.
In those days, everyone was respectful of this top leader of the party and state. Although the recording was long, repetitious and disjointed yet order remained good and everyone on this ten thousand square meter meeting place listened from two o’clock in the afternoon until 6:30. There was very little talking back and forth and nobody snuck away. I remember to this day listening to that leisurely Hunan drawl as he talked about Khrushchev and the 17th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, about the events in Hungary and Poland, and about the situation in Eastern Europe. During those days, the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was a required course as part of our political training. Students of engineering and science, and in particular those of us who were the children of counter-revolutionary households were not interested in delving deeply into that curriculum. This even though the secret report to the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR, after it was revealed to the world by the CIA and had created a series of earthquakes and divisions in the communist camp, had not made an impression on us.
Ever since my early youth I had been cursed by the tag of being from a counter-revolutionary household. Just hearing about counterrevolutionary riots and their suppression made me feel worry that I was going to be put into a difficult position and suffer for it. In my freshman year, I had run into the movement to fight the Hu Feng Counter-revolutionary group. Every time I heard that fearful label in my ears, I didn’t dare ask Why did Hu Feng want to oppose the revolution? I would simply repeat the dry statement that the Communist Youth League person had given us and never went any further. When I started Middle School, my father was arrested. Caught up in a long series of red terror movements, I always remembered my mother’s injunction Don’t be like your father, don’t ask about politics, just be a good student and discover your talents. That is the only thing. Don’t say anything about anything else, child. Remember the example of your father.
As for the Soviet Union, all I knew was that the socialist camp is impregnable. Nothing is stronger. Communism cannot be defeated. The Communist Party will destroy all the plots of the imperialists.
That day however, we heard from the very lips of Mao Zedong himself that we must opposed personality cults and the hero-worshiping of individuals. We heard that person from Hun an say that the the good deeds and errors of that deified figure Stalin himself were in the ratio of three to seven. That very head of the Soviet Communist Party who had been praised as the leader and father had become an ordinary man who made mistakes! We for the first time heard a new theory, to wit: Serious errors of subjectivism, bureaucratism, and factionalism exist even within that sacred and paramount institution — the Communist Party. There had been strikes and demonstrations in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe because their communist parties had been unable to resolve contradictions among the people. That There are many contradictions among the people, some of them quite serious at times We need to use the methods of criticism and self-criticism, democracy and persuasion to resolve contradictions among the people. The academic world should rely on as its guiding principle the method of Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Compete. Speak out freely and fully and write big character posters.
These principles, like a fresh rain, encouraged all the students since they had been chilled by a steady succession of political campaigns. I noticed the teachers in the front row straightening up and concentrating.
After the meeting was over, the students started vigorous discussions. Some of the students at the student restaurant even launched into a vivid description of Khrushchev secret report to the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party that had been stolen by the CIA.
The library’s copy of Reference News and other publications that had published this report were all taken as everyone fought to read these materials and from them ponder just what was going on in China.
My lover and I were no exception. In the little study room we had made for ourselves we discussed it. An intellectually stimulating Spring had come upon us!
第一節：“大鳴大放” Section One “Speak Out Boldly, Holding Nothing Back”
Two days later, a banner Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend in big red letters hung from the education building.
Then all the Communist Party, Youth League, Teachers and employees of the university participated in a meeting held at the auditorium on Pine Hill called Help the Communist Party Correct its Working Style speak out boldly meeting led by the Chongqing University Communist Party Deputy Secretary Song Dianne. On the buildings around the meeting place there were already hung all kinds of colorful slogans such as Correctly distinguish between the two kinds of contradictions and handle correctly contradictions among the people; mobilize the masses in a mild and caring way to help the Party conscientiously correct problems in its working style; oppose subjectivism, bureaucratism and factionalism; Speaking out is not wrong, listeners should heed the warning, talk about anything you know about and don’t hold anything back.
At that mobilization meeting, Song Dianbin spoke in an unusually mild and sincere way. To express the attitude of the school party committee, he pounded on his chest to pledge that as he led this meeting, he would be open-minded as he listened to everyone’s opinions. He said he would accept any criticism, no matter how pointed.
The day after the mobilization meeting led by Song Dianbin, another big speak out boldly assembly of the entire university was held on the Unity Arena. All the top university leaders spoke out, welcoming everyone and asking everyone to share their views and to hold nothing back. Following them spoke the members of the mobilization committees of the various university departments, years and sections. They got into some detail and urged the entire university teachers, staff and students not to avoid any topic.
At the same time, the national media was getting into high gear, repeating constantly The entire party and the entire people are taking active part in a big speak out boldly debate. The movement to correct the working style of the Communist Party is the the most urgent current task facing us all and that it was particularly important that democratic elements outside the Communist Party participate more actively in helping the Communist Party correct its working style. The authorities employed slogans like a Chinese Communist must be determined to make themselves of one heart and one mind with the people, and work together with the people to build a prosperous New China and to be honest in working together with the people of the democratic parties build prosperous coexistence, to supervise one another, and to cooperate with them as one.
After reading some representative statements from the discussions at the meeting of all the democratic parties and democratic elements of the country convened by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, such as Chen Mingshu’s Seeking Teachers and Friends Outside the Party. I thought that Chen Mingshu’s talks was just flattery of the Communist Party. In particular, the part where inspired by the old saying Among any three people, at least one must be my teacher, he suggests that the Communist Party itself should also seek advice from people who are not party members, which is nothing more than what Mao Zedong himself said. Huang Shaohong’s talk The Party Replacing the Government touched on an extremely sensitive issue of the leadership of the Communist Party. He said while the Party is certain to be concerned about the methods of governance, actually doing everything itself is not a good working style or a good method. It would be strange indeed if the Party trying to do everything did not lead to the ills of subjectivism, bureaucratism and factionalism.
Moreover, Zhang Xiruo discussed the problem of the Communist Party’s four major deviations — being overly ambitious for great achievements, being too eager for quick successes and accomplishments, despising the past, and having a superstitious anticipation of a great future These opinions were offered to Mao Zedong as part of taking the pulse. Didn’t Mao Zedong earnestly call for everyone to present their opinions without reserve? Who could have predicted that Mr. Zhang’s words diagnose Mao Zedong’s mental illness and sensitive taboo?
Zhang Bojun in his talk on A Political Planning Institute suggest that many people should work together on political planning. That four humble workmen putting their heads together can plot a great strategy — is that what Mao Zedong had told us many times in his talks? Didn’t he call for a hundred flowers to bloom? Isn’t calling for a Political Planning Institute just an enthusiastic response to his call?
As for Chu Anping’s The Party Controls Everything made a sensation. The idea grew out of the old joke about the young monk who was always praising the old monk. The Party Controls Everything is just calling a spade a spade, not the servility of Chen Mingshu and speaking more directly than Huang Shaohong about the tyranny of the Communist Party, something that had the Chinese Communist Party’s allies had expresses dissatisfaction with that year.
How could university students under the control of red terrorism understand the world struggle between autocracy and democracy that was underway? Isn’t it a fact that the Communist Party was always deceiving people in matters both large and small? Wasn’t it true that those weak voices against one party rule were saying the same views that the Communist Party had strongly held back when it was fighting the rule of the Nationalist Party?
Luo Longji is his Rehabilitation Committee proposal showed how under the rule of the Communist Party there were a great many injustices. Who was not aware of that, especially people who had been attacked on account of their families? From the perspective of the ruling party, correcting mistaken and unjust cases should be a right and proper correction to make and a forthright opinion to offer.
Now these people who brought up these views and human rights were the old friends who had supported and helped the Communist Party. Mao Zedong himself had acknowledged that without their support, the Communists could not have won. Most of what they said were views that the Communist Party itself used to propose and hold. Now these views, from the perspective of a governing party, were hindrances.
Now the strong anesthetic injection that The nationwide large scale class struggle storm had passed and the new period of peaceful construction has arrived and so the atmosphere of fear generated during the campaigns of the Three Oppositions (oppose corruption, waste and bureaucracy) and Five Oppositions (oppose bribery, tax evasion, theft of state property, cheating on government contracts and stealing) and the campaign against the Hu Feng counter-revolutionary clique had dissipated. Now it seemed that the big democracy of Europe can be used and the mild methods of little democracy can be applied to solve problems.
This is how as the spring flower blossoms opened during the third lunar month of 1957, Mao Zedong spread a deceptive fragrance throughout the country. In the lines of the relaxing tune Correctly Handle Contradictions Among the People describes how under the leadership of the Communist Party the masses made trouble for which the magnanimous Communist Party blamed itself, humbling bowing low as it accepted the criticisms and suggestions of the masses. The Party is like a glorious democratic spirit which for the sake of the state and the people came to the campus to plant a cultivate the beautiful scene of the hundred flowers blooming. The spring is the season for planting. The spring is just the season for showing the wonderful image of the Creator.
We who had already lived for seven years under the red terror of the Chinese Communist Party breathed sighs of relief and felt that in the midst of our fear we have been given an unexpected favor. We had become accustomed to the loss of democratic rights and always felt very cautious about freedom of speech, for hadn’t the Hu Feng counterrevolutionary clique made that error only a few months earlier?
They were used to have the great matters of state being taken charge of by the party’s policy and the governance of the school to be handled by the school’s party committee. So they never thought about those things. Moreover they were afraid of being tagged as someone who came from a counter-revolutionary household or as someone who had counter-revolutionary thoughts, of being investigated, and so kept their distance from these things.
Everyone knew from the Hu Feng case that anyone who listened to foreign broadcasts could be convicted of treason and jailed so nobody dared to listen to them. Conversely, they thought that this dictatorial measure of the Chinese communists was right and proper and that democratic views were dangerous. They became so cowardly that even when their own relatives were condemned unjustly in some campaign that they didn’t dare to speak up for them, thinking that making use of their right to appeal would get them into dangerous territory and so simply gave up. They didn’t dare oppose the arrogant attitude of the Communist Party organization.
Therefore when the party branch organization urged them on, they will unwilling to say anything at the speak out meetings. What did they expect these students of science and engineering to say? They could perfectly well have a passionate debate about some technical issue. They never expected and never imagined that they would be expected to offer advice to the party
In order to find out how the various speak out meetings were going, the branch party secretary called a meeting of the branch youth league secretaries for each year and each class and gave out a notebook to each one of them. He admonished them to be ready to make notes on the meeting of the next day, including the names of all the speakers. They were told that they must turn in the notebooks to his office every evening before lights out.
Not only did the youth league branch secretaries for each class not understand the intention behind all this, their liaison branch party secretary did not know and was just following the directions of the school party committee. The secrecy of the Communist Party was strict and so when the Party center decided on a policy, it required organizations at every level to carry out the policy as stated. They weren’t allowed to ask why!
The speak out meeting of our class was held by the branch youth league secretary Chen Si, in his room, No. 204. In those days there were very few student members of the Communist Party. Among the 1300 students in our department, there were only a dozen or so party members. This meeting in principle should have been chaired by a party member, but on the class level was convened instead by the youth league secretary.
Chen Si didn’t known how to conduct this kind of meeting which was strictly required by party policy. He didn’t know what to do and was afraid of making a mistake if he didn’t do it right, but he didn’t have any idea of what was correct and incorrect. The sophomore political guidance instructor, a Mr. Deng had previously in that same room had called a series of meetings with several people who didn’t know about other meetings on the same topic so as to root out and criticize the Hu Feng counter-revolutionary clique. Then, a teaching assistant said that Study is a matter of fighting alone with all one’s might and so was marked as a Hu Feng element. Later that teaching assistant was sent to away for re-education through labor.
Chen Si had no idea of why it was wrong to say that study is a matter of fighting alone with all one’s might. Where is the mistake in saying that? He himself had seen that teaching assistant being taken away in the prison van. From then on, he was especially on his guard whenever he met party members.
Normally when he conducted political study sessions for his class, he first made close notes of the talk the branch party secretary for their year Cao Ying gave them and reproduced them exactly, never daring to stray from them in any way.
That was not even a year ago. The brutality in political instructor Deng’s voice still rang in his ears. Suddenly everyone is asked to think broadly and told that it is allowed to say anything. People don’t understand that at all.
Chen Si made his opening remarks according to the notes that he had made at the department meeting. Class leader Guo Yinghu opened the meeting record book. The first day’s discussion was cautious, not at all like the vigorous discussions the students had had in the library and restaurant.
This worried Chen Si. How could he present a record of this meeting of the dumb to the school’s party secretary. There was no alternative but to use the old method of political meetings and call on people one by one.
Everyone simply gave a response in line with Chen Si’s opening remarks. Although Deng Yinghua made some revisions for the sake of the record, they were not significant, mere changes in phrasing. If he were to present this record to the school party secretary, he would certainly be criticized. The meetings of all the classes in the department went just the same way. The school party secretary then demanded that the youth league secretaries for each branch think of ways to get people to speak from the heart.
Chen Si returned and called a meeting of the branch committee of the youth league branch. The Propaganda and Education Committee member made a suggestion, volunteering to ask the ordinarily outspoken Lin Juan and Liu Tang speak first. Let them present suggestions on the work of their youth league branch. Organization Committee member Liu Kuize suggested that the person that Lin Juan most despises, Lei Tianpei speak first, then have Lin Juan make a response. This would enliven the whole atmosphere.
This plan was carried out at the next day’s speak out rally. Lei Tianpei spoke first and stopped after saying just ten sentences. Naturally this led to a sarcastic remark from Lin Juan, saying he was just like a poor quality tape recorder and not at a like a real man should be like. Surprisingly, she moved right on to attack class leader Guo Yinghua felt compelled to say that she was really too simple minded and harsh in her attitude. Moreover she was too subjective in the way she organized class activities, just doing things the way she pleases. For example, she said she was going to organize trips but we are already two months into the semester and we haven’t been on a trip. Another class, number five, had already gone on a trip to Longevity Lake and to Dazu — they went on a trip every week. She said she hoped that Deng Yinghua would change this incorrect work style.
Guo Yinghua face flushed red and then went pale for a moment. She put down her notebook, and didn’t know quite what to write in her notebook. She wrote this Lin Juan statement: Criticizes Deng Guohua class leader for inflexible thinking, she has the flaws of subjectivism and dogmatism, she is inflexible in her organization work and must improve.
After Lin Juan dropped her bomb, Liu Tangjin followed up but citing an example to criticize Guo Yinghua’s bureaucratic working style. He said, Last year, in the principles of mechanics class when we discussed gears and we still were not clear about the way a gear transmission shifts upwards and downwards and though that Teacher Lin was moving a little too fast, and asked the teacher to add some additional material to work on in the self-study class, only Guo Yinghua opposed, The self-study class is for self study, digestion of the material on one’s own, and there is no need for the entire class to meet and have a supplementary class on a small matter. This individual subjective view blithely contradicted everyone else’s views. Isn’t is clear that this is subjectivism, that this is dogmatism.
For the sake of being in line with the speak out boldly theme, Liu Tang put two hats on that class leader who was not even twenty years old. Deng Guohua was not a party member and seemingly had nothing to do with helping the Party correct its working style. Although it was off topic, still it made for an argument and everybody brought up a wide range of opinions and so became a genuine meeting for reviewing how democratic their community life had been.
The speaking out boldly of the science and engineering students was confined to those class leaders who they were in direct contact in their daily lives and studies. Chen Si and Deng Yinghua who were not even twenty, not to mention the beloved and well respected school party secretary Zheng Siqun, had no idea what the Party Center’s intention behind all this really was.
Big character posters pasted on campus wall stirred up the quiet campus. I remember the first big character poster put up in the mechanical engineering department. That poster, in polite language, aimed to give a word of advice to Cao Ying. Cao Ying was the class party group leader and a member of the organization committee of the party branch of the department. He was a cadre transfer who had been sent to the department by a certain organization. Although he was ten years old that us naive students but she had no better than an elementary school education and was already the father of two children. He had been sent to the university from the bureaucracy to brush up his resume.
There were many cadre transfer students in the department, much older than the other students who wore the hats of both party members and officials. In the early period after liberation, in order to change the composition of the intellectuals by placing among those students who had been born into the oppressor class some students of peasant and worker backgrounds. That is how the cadre transfer students came to the university campus. It didn’t matter whether they could keep up with the classwork, what mattered was that they spoke up for the interests of the Party and criticize people who had poor class consciousness. Everyone was a little afraid of them.
The person who posted the big character poster, blended sarcasm and irony with humble words that he hoped he that this campaign would wash him thoroughly. However he also hoped that the pretentious people who were criticizing him would study more mathematics and mechanics so they wouldn’t get a zero on their graduation examination and in the future work disappoint the Party’s hopes in them, and so make it hard to achieve the goal of serving the people.
Some with the poor educational background of Cao Ying might not necessarily catch the meaning.
Then came a second poster, a third and then many more. Cao Ying already had a bad reputation among the students. He was thought to take advantage of political examination and a private conversation to often take liberties with beautiful young women who had just entered the university.
During the speak out boldly period, the most controversy surrounded the poster about the head of the university food service. It was said that this 40 some son of north China peasants left the village to fight with the revolutionary forces for several years reaching the rank of company commander. After his return to civilian life, he was assigned as head of the food service at the university. There is no need to get into all the details of what was said during the speak boldly sessions. What got the whole school set aflame was the story of the diseased pork.
Nobody knows where section head Zhang bought several hundred fat pigs, but the next day a big epidemic started on the Chongqing University food service pig pens. After pigs died, they were sent to the student restaurants. The students ate diseased pork without knowing it.
The big character poster about section head Zhang that went up during the speak boldly period made him very ashamed of the diseased pork incident. He couldn’t explain from just which illegal merchant he bought so many diseased pigs. Nor could he explain why he used what he knew where diseased pigs to poison three thousand university students.
Section head Zhang was an old party member and had served in the Eighth Route Army. After he did this evil deed, he became a target of criticism as corrupt official and a murderer. The guilt made him sleepless for many days and nights. He always walked around with his head down.
It seemed as if students’ force of public opinion and ability to criticize people orally and in writing was sufficient to keep a watch over bad working styles within the Communist Party. This student movement resembled the student protests many years later in Indonesia and South Korea. Chinese students had an honorable tradition of protest going back to the May Fourth Movement. However, the tyranny of the Communist Party fostered ignorance and blind hero worship among the students so that they were unable to make reasonable objective judgments.
Section chief Zhang had a backer in Song Dianbin, who was concurrently the university deputy party secretary and university personnel department chief. Song for years had been fighting counter-revolution; fighting in the campaign against corruption, waste and bureaucracy; fighting in the campaign against bribery, tax evasion, theft of state property, cheating on government contracts and stealing; and fighting the Hu Feng counter-revolutionary clique. He always played the role of backstage director in these campaigns. If one were to search for someone who had committed the errors of bureaucratism and subjectivism, not to mention making up charges of murdering someone, he would be the one to choose. The section chief Zhang case came to roots on the head of this man who was used to being the stage director for accusations against others.
However, all the big character posters that went up were in line with policy and did not go outside the box of criticism. The meaning and usage was clearly aimed at seeing people as good and needing improvement. However in the cartoon drawn by the great cartoonist Lin Yusen, director Song became a short and fat fellow with his ears pointing backwards. The cartoon portrayed him going to work everyday, putting his bare feet up on the desk, drinking tea and smoking with a bunch of scattered documents that he had just approved. Some doggerel accompanied the cartoon that said that Secretary Song drinks tea and smokes in the office every day, approves documents hastily, and his not concerned abut the health of the faculty and students. We hope that he will conscientiously change this during this campaign.
Another kind of big character poster criticizing the Party and the Communist Youth League was concerned only their lifestyles and working styles. Sometimes a big character poster would say that professors should govern the school or criticizing the arrogance of the Party committee would appear. Some would criticize the way that elections to the People’s Congress were handled entirely by the party committee or the sufferings of innocent people in previous political campaigns. These posters were cautiously worded, were few in number and lost amongst the sea of posters that confined themselves to criticizing lifestyles and work styles. Later some posters appeared criticizing the behavior of some personnel at the USSR Embassy, Soviet military advisers and consulate personnel who harassed and acted aggressively towards Chinese female hosts at Chinese sponsored dance parties including forcibly kissing them.
Most of the students at Chongqing University were studying science, engineering and technology. At that time, about 80 percent of the students came from families of the oppressor class. Ever since liberation through the anti-landlord movement, the killing of local despots, the three opposes and the five opposes movements, and other movements against counter-revolutionaries, and atmosphere of fear had spread across the entire country. These people stained with an oppressor class background were the targets of these movements. Although they were temporarily in the majority of students at the university, the weight of public opinion against them they already felt as considerable moral pressure.
As someone from a counter-revolutionary household whose father was still in jail, I already felt more pressure than I could ever express. Therefore, I respected and feared politics like it was some powerful spirit and saw myself as a first class dwarf. That feeling of being deeply branded with my class filled me with a purposely created dread. I often thought of my mother’s warning Above all, don’t get involved in politics, you should generally avoid discussing national affairs. Therefore I decided to be a student of science and engineering. I thought if I could grow up to become an ordinary citizen, I would be doing well.
Our caution about politics made many of us children blind and cowardly about politics.
Mr. Dong Shiguang came back from the USA to teach at Western China Normal University. He spoke during a speak boldly meeting. Dong compared China and America including the systems and living standards of the peoples to explain his central point that the Communist Party was acting arbitrarily and dictatorially in its governance of China. Chongqing University invited him to come and talk to the entire school in a kind of democracy salon speech. His speech opened up the world and critical thought to those of us who had grown up amidst the traditional education of the Chinese communists and in the closed world of the university. But I didn’t attend.
Ma Kaixian went. When she got back she told me about it, clearly moved by what she had heard. She said: Mr. Dong compared the two systems using concrete examples. For example, he said that in the USA the students and faculty can bring questions about school facilities, the curriculum, and even the salary of teachers to the school’s board of directors. The board must respond to them. Reasonable suggestions are accepted and carried out with a certain period of time. Moreover, the U.S. government must abide by the U.S. Constitution and respect everyone’s opinion. Everyone has the right to criticize the government and can through their elected representatives impeach government officials etc.
In fact, I had already read of such things in publications and digests. However, I had been taught by the Chinese Communists the distortion of the truth that In capitalist society, democracy and freedom is the democracy of people with money. The oppressed classes live in slavery even worse than the treatment of cows and horses. This, combined with incessant political campaigns, had associated in my mind that worshiping America and fear of America are great counter-revolutionary crimes.
Throughout the period of speaking out boldly I was still caught up in my own foolishness and ignorance. I brought from my class background congenital inhibitions and cowardice that closed me up. I didn’t dare think for myself. Ignorance divorced us from the course of world events and the progress of civilizations, it made us lose our understanding of what a democratic society was, and we lost the motivation to live an authentic life.
Inhibitions re-enforce ignorance and ignorance re-enforces constraints.
The speak out boldly movement made us aware of our long held inhibitions and ignorance. We began to feel that we are pitiful people who have been kept in our ignorance and inhibitions for a long time. Keeping us there was the basic ideological guarantee of Mao Zedong’s dictatorship. Otherwise, Mao Zedong saw democracy as a great scourge that must be wiped out wherever it rears its head. If not, then how, during his lifetime could it have given birth to one political movement after another? Mao’s totalitarianism did not realize that once Chinese people understand their pitiful state of inhibition and ignorance, then dictatorship will be hard to maintain.
We young and isolated students didn’t realize the speak out boldly was just the opening of an ideological campaign that would be storm much larger and broader than the Oppose Hu Feng campaign. Hearing the solemn promises of every level of Party organization that the Let a hundred flowers bloom policy meant that people may speak out freely without fear of retaliation would in the end put those who spoke out into handcuffs and into prison!
It wasn’t until after Tian Tianrong at Beijing University painted a big character poster calling for democracy and freedom, Lin Xiling spoke out at Beijing University about the grievances of Hu Feng, and Feng Zhujun at Sichuan University called for democracy and freedom that finally at Chonging University a metallurgy department student youth league secretary Pu Shiguang put up a big character poster signed editorial board of an appeal on behalf of non-youth league members on behalf of students who were not youth league members and came from a household with a bad class background opposing the theory of the unique importance of class origin.
Even so, university students throughout China still hadn’t managed to escape from the box of ignorance and inhibitions and so didn’t overstep the ideological bounds set by the Chinese Communist Party. Tan Tianrong’s poster ended with the words Long live the Chinese Communist Party and Long live freedom, democracy and reasonable human rights and Lin Xiling’s call for democracy was still for socialist democracy. These kinds of calls made under constraint, this making peace with the cage communist theory did not move Mao Zedong one bit.
Mao Zedong, already swept up in the superstition of his own dictatorship, was just carrying out a big plot in plain sight — an open plot to wildly brandish the butcher’s knife against democracy. Even Pu Shiguang, with his minor point of opposition in opposing the unique importance of class background did not escape the cruel repression. Pu Shiguang was convicted of the crime of organizing a counter-revolutionary group, arrested, jailed and sentenced to 20 years in prison. This even though the so-called editorial board of the appeal on behalf of non Youth League members consisted of only one person — himself.
KongLingping p15 translation continued.wenlin
Section Two My Youth
With the “Liberation Amy” occupation by the end of 1949 of Chongqing and the Southwest came the “democratic reform” movements, the purging of bandits and oppressors, land reform and the Three Opposes and the Five Opposes movements. In 1951 came the large-scale movement to repress counterrevolutionary activity and the capture and murder of millions of people who had served the Nationalist government.
In 1950 I was twelve years old. I often went to the mass rallies to struggle the landlords that were held in neighboring villages. Some of the people who were struggled were still only children. They were forced to kneel with uncovered knees on scraps of iron. Both of their knees bled badly. I couldn’t bear to look at them. The public judgment meeting was led by a commission of military officers. These meetings were held more than once a month in the little town I lived in. Each time some people were executed. On the wharf by the side of the Jialing River at Beibei was enacted the last scene of each judgment. People were shot and human blood dyed the pebbles in the sands along the river. Over time they blackened. Even heavy rains couldn’t wash away the dark spots of blood on the pebbles.
This is continuation of five years of civil war during which compatriots slaughtered and mutilated each other.
In the winter of 1948 my father became the acting president of the Chongqing campus of the Central Political University. The next year he became the president. During the second half of 1949, on the eve of the liberation of Chongqing, he hurriedly sent mother, grandmother, me and my little brother to Beibei where we lived in the home of Liu Hanliang, my father’s classmate and a witness at their wedding.
From then onwards, we settled down in Bebei, a little town on bank of the Jialing River.
In 1951 because of his “crimes against history”, he was summoned to SW Revolutionary University where Liu Bocheng was president to study.
His class was called the “class for especially high-ranking cadres”. After months he graduated and his problems with history were considered to have been “explained clearly”. He was sent back to Beibei and was designated a KMT intellectual who had stayed behind. He was to wait for an assignment.
(1) My family in 1950
[Photo -- the author's family]
My father taught at Central University during the War to Oppose Japan. After the end of the Resistance War, he returned from Chongqing to Nanjing and shortly thereafter became the president of Hangzhou Normal University. During the second half of 1948, he accepted the invitation of Mr. Gu Yuxiu (who had been head of Central University during the War of Resistance) to teach in Nanjing at Central Political University. Our family moved from Hangzhou to Nanjing and later followed father through Shanghai, Guangzhou and then back to Chongqing.
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Unexpectedly, at the end of the year he was arrested by the Eastern Sichuan Military Administrative Office. My mother, who graduated from the Suzhou Women’s Normal University was an educator. The teacher adviser to her class section was Sun Qimeng, one of the founders of the China Democratic National Construction Association. Mother’s schoolmates in those years, influenced by the democratic ideas of Sun Mengqi, became student activists at Suzhou Women’s Normal University who in their day shook up the Suzhou Province educational circles. Those activists became sympathizers of the Chinese Communist Party’s underground activities and one by one left Chongqing for Yan’an.
Only after my mother and father married did they settle down in Nanjing. My mother was devoted to running a school, she gave her whole life to education. In 1943 with the help of the Nationalist government munitions industry chief Yu Dawei she founded the Jialing Middle School in the Shuangbei district of Chongqing. After victory in the resistance war, our whole family moved to Nanjing. We had originally hoped that we could finally live in peace in Nanjing. We didn’t realize that civil war would break out and that the five members of our family would again have to be constantly on the move like a little boat constantly buffeted to and fro by the tides of war.
In 1948, it had become clear that the Nationalists would lose. Father had wanted her to take the family to Guangzhou and then on to Taiwan. But mother was confident that her ‘glorious’ past and her friendship with people like Sun Qimeng would stand her in good stead and that the Communist Party would not give her any trouble. So she decided to stay on the mainland and await ‘liberation’.
After 1950, mother got in touch with Sun Qimeng who led the Sixth Bureau of the Chinese Communist State Council. She hoped that the Communist Party would remember a friend from their difficult earlier days and so give her an opportunity to continues her work in education and live a life as an ordinary citizen. Later events would prove, in the era of Mao Zedong, just how weak friendships formed in the old days of the student movement really were.
In 1951, the municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs named her a kindergarten teacher at the nursery of a Beibei district office.
At the end of 1951, two soldiers from the Military Control Committee came to our home to take my father away and searched our home. They confiscated jewelry and money we had saved for years, insisting that this was money the Nationalist government had given to my father to finance his counterrevolutionary activities. The did not give us any receipt for what they took. Mother was so angry about that that she wouldn’t eat for three days. From that time onwards, our family of four had to get by with difficulty on the 30 RMB per month salary that Mother earned.
My maternal grandmother was born during the Guangxu reign (1875 – 1908) of the Qing Dynasty. Her family was poor. When she was 16 she was married to a loafer from Suzhou but he soon came to ignore her. Later, because she gave birth to a boy, her standing in the household improved. Her son, however, soon died. Then she became a cast off wife — she was driven from the household. Two years later, my maternal grandfather died after living the life of a wealthy, hard-drinking playboy. My mother was less than four years old then. In those days, widows were expected to live a chaste and lonely life. Remarrying was difficult. Fulfilling the role of a virtuous widow was expected. This was the only way to maintain the respect and support of friends and relatives. Although my maternal grandmother was not the brilliant scholarly women of the novel “Flowers in the Mirror”, she did in fact meet the customary requirement of chastity — that she “be determined to hold firmly to her integrity and reputation until death”.
From that day onwards, mother and daughter depended upon one another. Grandmother depended upon her needlework and the help of friends and relatives for her support. She lived life of never-ending hardship. She believed that her miserable fate was the result of evil deeds in a previous life. She turned wholeheartedly to Buddha, ate a vegetarian diet, lived by the Buddhist teachings and held herself aloof from the world. She silently carried the heavy burden of getting by in life. Her diet was short of calcium so she developed a hunchback once past the age of 50. I grew up in her arms and it was under her care that the first seeds of my character were formed.
In 1952, I was fourteen and in the second year of middle school. My younger brother was six and had just begun elementary school. We lived in the dormitory of the nursery school on the third floor of a building set on the side of a hill. My school was about three kilometers away. To help out the family, I started working as soon as I started school.
In those days, in the area between Beibei and Fanbanshan there was no running water. Our household water came partly from rainwater which we used to wash our faces and our clothes. Water for cooking had to drawn from the well half a kilometer from home. After my father was taken away to the “Revolutionary University” to study, I began going up the mountain to get water from the well.
A full bucket of water weighed about 25 kilograms. I could only manage to draw half a bucket. The bucket pressed down on my thin and narrow shoulders. Bobbing back and forth as it did, I felt I could go no further than one hundred paces. I had to stop four or five times as I carried the water from the well to our home and arrived all out of breath. Because I was always shifting the carrying pole from one shoulder to the other, my two shoulders were rubbed raw and felt like hot spices. The pain was hard to take. Rainy days were the worst. Sometimes jolted as I slid down the mountainside, if I were not careful I’d fall over. I often got bloody cuts.
After doing this for a year, I got stronger and stronger. Thick calluses formed where the pole had rubbed and made my shoulders sore and swollen. I was able to carry a 50 kilogram water bucket and make my way swiftly and bravely down the mountainside and to my home in five minutes. From then on, I was the one who fetched the water in our house.
After our home was ransacked, it was very hard to support four people on my mother’s salary of 30 RMB per month. When I was in the third year of middle school, the teacher in charge of our class said that if your family is very poor, you can ask the school for a scholarship and be exempted from paying miscellaneous fees. The scholarship application had to be countersigned by the street committee office. The head of the street committee responsible for where we lived was also the chief of the Chaoyang police station. After I wrote and twice revised the scholarship application, I copied it out on writing paper and took it to chief Chen to sign.
The police station was in what had been an old temple at the foot of the hill below Beibei Park. It was very humid that day and it continually sprinkled down little raindrops. The temple, hidden as it was in the shade of some Chinese parasol trees, looked very gloomy. As I went into the grove of parasol trees, the rain droplets hitting the trees made a pattering sound that gave the place a spiritual feeling. This was my first encounter with grown-ups. I was only fourteen but carried the moral burden of a father who had been imprisoned. This was the first time I made contact with the government and so I couldn’t avoid feeling frightened. As I walked in, I could feel my heart beating like a drum.
When I got to the door, I got control of myself, tried hard to calm down my accelerating heartbeats, halting shyly at the doorway. It was dark inside, I couldn’t see clearly and couldn’t tell if there was anyone there. “Hello” I said, calling out to see if anyone was there. Nobody answered. waited a moment and didn’t see any signs of movement. I looked in side and couldn’t make anything. I said to my self, this is the government office, and someone might take me for a thief, I couldn’t tell. So I yelled out again, “hello!”
I heard a poof and the lights came on. In the yellow light, I could see the desk in the middle of the office. Sitting in the chair was a tall, well-built man, the ferocious-looking Chen Family Register. A year ago, when I was making the household registration on behalf of my father, I had come here with my aunt. He was the one who handled the registration. People called him Chen Family Register
He started to move to get up from the chair with a slight yawn and took his feet down from the desktop. I didn’t know if it was I was just a short kid, and on top of that the child of a counter-revolutionary family, he was very irritated that I had woken him up from his nice dream. He eyed me with contempt and lay down again, resuming his original position.
I went in, but in my nervousness forgot completely what I was going to say. So I stood there like an idiot with my right hand reaching into my pocket holding on to the scholarship application. After I had stood there for three minutes, he looked at my disdainfully and asked “What do you want?” I took the scholarship application out but I felt like there was something keeping my mouth shut so I didn’t say a word. I just handed the scholarship application to him. I felt my hand shaking as I reached out towards him. He finally got up from his chair and with his left hand accepted my note. His right hand he kept behind his back just as if he were facing a ghost on a dark night.
He looked at my application. His right hand slowly stretched out, grazing that fat, evil-looking plump chin. He chuckled coldly “I never heard of the child of a counterrevolutionary having the nerve to apply for a people’s scholarship.” As he spoke he through the paper down on the desk. His hei-hei-hei laugh resounded in the little room. I felt as if he had slapped me in the face, as if bees were buzzing in my head and had a burning feeling in my earlobes. In those days, the pain in my soul was piling up, layer upon layer: that morning when father had been arrested, when the whole family had been scared to death. My mother hid in a corner of the bed with my little brother, who was just seven years old, her face full fear. When they ransacked the house, my grandmother and mother were helpless. That Sunday when my mother had to sell clothes in the marketplace, everything spread around her on the ground. Mother’s colleagues at the nursery school who looked at us with contempt.
In that instant it seemed as if everything between heaven and earth begrudged me my very existence. Innumerable faces turned towards me to spit. If then the earth had split just in front of me, I would have hopped right to be become an insubstantial mist, drilling down into that split earth, too filled with shame to ever return to live among human beings.
Suddenly I felt courage surging into my soul. I abruptly stuck out my hand to retrieve that paper he had thrown down on the desk. I rolled the paper up into a ball, and without saying a word, I turned my head away and rushed out the door of that pitch black doorway. I stepped through a puddle. Mud scattered pitter-patter after me. Even as I ran I could still hear that he-he laugh coming through the trees behind me.
My grandmother was washing clothes. I fell into her lap and started crying loudly.
Ever since, that freckled face, that sardonic smile in that ferocious face, bent down like in some evil crouching posture like a malicious ghost often welled up in my dreams even down to this day.
Part III The Child of a Poor Family Soon Takes Responsibility for the Household
A middle-aged woman surnamed Lin lived near us. She had a pigpen in her backyard, raising four pigs for the neighborhood. Every day she bought some 50 kilograms of green pig feed for 30 cents. I saw my chance and so everyday coming home from school I would cut some grass along the way for the pigs. Fields lay on both sides of the two kilometers stretch of road I walked by each day on my way home from school. There were many varieties of ererchang [?] and amaranth. Every day I grabbed some as a I walked home. I could fit about 15 kilos into my bag and so each month I was able to earn about 3 RMB, just enough to pay my monthly tuition.
I was already fourteen so I felt very ashamed about what I was doing. Every day I brought a big bag to school. I was afraid my classmates would see what I was doing so I went to school early so I would be the first one there. I hid the bag in the narrow 50 centimeter space between the wall of the school and the mountainside. After school let out and my classmates had dispersed to their homes, I retrieved it. I rushed to grab the bag from the rear wall and then filled it with grasses on my way home. On the road home, there were two places that I visited frequently — one was the Beibei Hospital and the other was Li Family Gardens, the big home with courtyard that belonged to the landlord family.
In 1952, the Li Family Gardens were confiscated and became the temporary jail of the Beibei Court. The mess of the hospital and the jail both threw their garbage onto the hillside. A lot of ashes were dumped there. Among the ashes were many little bits of not entirely consumed “second-hand coal”. Although there was a lot of garbage and dirty water dumped among the ashes, I often went there with my sack to see what I could find.
Everyday I came home at seven or eight. One day, after it was already dark, I was carrying a heavy sack home. This time I was carrying not pig feed but second-hand coal and firewood.
Each day as I mounted the stone steps, I could my grandmother’s white hair in the moonlight. She was always there bent at the waist, looking for me. Even before I had climbed up the seven meters or so of hillside she would already be on her way down, taking the heavy sack off my back and together with me we would carry it, swaying back and forth, into our home.
When I got home, a basin of piping hot water for washing my face awaited me on a little square stool. I took off my smelly underwear soiled with mud, ash, sawdust and washed the dust and sweat off my face. After washing my face, I sat down with my grandmother and my little brother to eat supper. Grandmother would always put the best food in my bowl. In those days, we only ate meat once a week. Grandmother, when my little brother wasn’t looking, would hide the best food at the bottom of my bowl since she thought I worked very hard every day. I would always take the food out of my bowl and give it to my greedy little brother. By declining to accept things in this way, we came to feel very deeply the warmth that came from out depending so upon one another. In those days, we never lacked firewood or coal to burn and we never had to buy any.
Sometimes early on Sunday mornings I would put on my backpack and to into the thick forest near the Dragon and Phoenix Bridge to gather wild herbs and fish-wort. Mother would take the herbs to the market to sell. The waters in the forest near the Dragon and Phoenix river were permeated with the stinking odor of decaying vegetation. Whenever it rained it would become very slippery. Sometimes I would stumble across a snake jumping up out of the grass. I was never afraid. Somehow the heavens had blessed me, that poor boy. I never had any accident in all my work cutting grass for the pigs, collecting second-hand coal or gathering firewood.
Behind the school was a brickyard kiln. I used to go there to earn some money when I was young. The neighbors praised me for being sensible. Especially kind to me was our next door neighbor Mrs. Yu. She often treated me as if I were her own child. Her attitude towards me went a long way towards relieving the darkness that had come over my life since the arrest of my father.
Despite the suffering and hardships of those days, I was still fairly happy. My grades were among the best in our class. My brother and I never wore new clothes. We mostly wore cloth shoes or straw sandals. Grandmother every evening would get some old cloth to patch the soles of our cloth shoes. She would put paste over the cloth to make a hard shell and then, working by the light of a bulb, sew it to the sole.
One day when I was cutting grass for the pigs on the way home from school, the skies turned dark and thunder and lightning began. I put on my back-sack and ran for home. When I got to the Li Family Gardens, it was raining so very hard that I quickly hid inside the oven in the kitchen of the detention center.
A man about 40 years old came into the kitchen. The back of his blue shirt bore the character “laborer”. I remembered from my history book that during the Qing Dynasty prisoners wore similar shirts except that the character on their back was “prisoner”. He walked over to the oven and opened the door. He took used a hook to start the fire and a thick stream of coal came curling down from the oven. After he had put the coal into the oven he noticed me. In his thick Jiangsu accent he asked me, “Little buddy, where do you go to school?”
“At the Beibei Number One Intermediate School”
“What is your name?”
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“How old are you?
“Twelve years old.”
The rain came down harder and harder so he invited me to come into the kitchen, and even opened up the steamer on the table and took out two big steamed buns for me. I guessed that with the way I look he must have felt very sorry for me. I unconsciously glanced at my toe already sticking out of my straw sandals where the glue had worn out, and shamefully accepted the steamed buns.
“What about your parents? What do they do?”
I looked at him warily. I knew that this is where my father was confined. Every day going to school or coming home I would always unconsciously look at this mysterious building, hoping I would suddenly see him standing on an embankment or at one of the windows. But I never saw him. This uncle was very kind, so I thought I would tell him my name and circumstances and perhaps he would be able to tell me about my father.
As soon as he heard my father’s name, he stared at me as if remembering something. Then he whispered into my ear. “Your father lives in Room XX. There is another building behind it so you can’t see it. I don’t know why but he wears chains on his feet. He added “People here who are in chains are certainly in serious trouble. If it isn’t wanting to escape, it is that they haven’t confessed or haven’t admitted their guilt.” After he finished speaking, he stared at me.
I was astonished to hear all that. Not only fearing for my father’s safety, but also worried about the dangerous things he had got himself into. I asked, “May I come here to see him?”
“That is difficult. However, if you really want to see him, you can go to the works site at the Zhang Family river bend. He works there every day from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon..”
The rain gradually tapered off and the sky was already a yellow dusk. My had thought that I would take some of that second-hand coal that had just been taken out of the furnace, but I was feeling dispirited so I just grabbed my bag and my book bag and headed home.
I told my grandmother the news as soon as I got home. Ever since father had been arrested, grandmother had been the most broken-hearted of us all. She was the senior member of our household of five and the eldest. Among Chinese people, the love and concern older generation has for the younger generation often exceeds the love people of the younger generation have for one another or for the elder generation.
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She had often been praying and when she thought no-one was there, wailing and crying. “Xiangjia has been gone nearly a year”, she would say to her daughter, “but we still don’t know what he did wrong. Where is he being held? We don’t know how he is doing. What does he need? No matter what, we should go to the court and ask about him. …. If you don’t want to visit him in jail, I’ll go by myself. You get a letter of introduction from your work unit and give it to this old women. What does someone who will soon be dead have to be afraid of?”
This was even harder on my mother. She had to take care of the whole family, who had it harder than she did?
You can just imagine what my mother felt when she heard the news. The nursery didn’t have any Communist Party members then. The leader was Zhang Shimo, the secretary of the Youth League. Zhang thought mother, who had been the principal of a middle school, looked down on her since she had only just graduated from middle school. With that in play, she was especially determined to strict in her education of that “counter-revolutionary family”. Often whenever she spoke with mother, it was in her official capacity, telling her that she should “take the initiative to draw a clear line between herself and her counter-revolutionary husband. Take the initiative to expose the counter-revolutionary crimes of your husband. Only that will the Party organization take her circumstances into consideration.”
Whenever Zhang Shimo made a reprimand to mother, who was twenty years her senior, she seemed to get a strange sort of arousal from the fear and confusion that my mother showed. That arousal was a high for her, so she would reprimand my mother more harshly each time. Mother’s face became grayer by day, at night she could barely see. She often woke to terrible nightmares. Several times she just fainted for no apparent reason. Often when I came home from school I would discover her sitting by a lamp alone with a blank stare.
She was fearful and confused: what crime did I commit? What crime did my husband commit? Is all this because my husband was the principle of a KMT school? While he was principal, he never made “spy reports” about anyone. Nobody, teacher or student, were ever hauled off to jail from his school. Yes, when the students were in the streets demonstrating, he did admonish those hot-blooded children, but that was only because he was the principal of a school. He had to be concerned where human lives might be lost. He did indeed improve the food in the student cafeteria. What crime is that? Were the students opposed to hunger? He got up every morning and took a broom to sweep the entrance to the school. Was that working to destroy the student movement? If these things are wrong, how is someone to be principal of a school? All this considered to be working for the KMT. But wasn’t all that explained to the government while he was still in the southwest? And did the government say that it would forgive past transgressions?
Zhang Shimo’s harshness and sarcasm beat day by day down upon my mother. She was terrified. Would some of her jewelry be taken as evidence that she had “received expense money for counterrevolutionary activities?” Would she be arrested and sent to prison as well?
If that were to happen? what would happen to her two minor children? How would her 70-year old mother survive? The more she through about it, the sadder she got. The more she thought about it, the more she regretted how she didn’t listen to her husband and stubbornly insisted that they remain on the mainland. At that point, death seemed preferable to life and she thought about killing herself.
(4) Mama Yu
Mama Yu was our next-door neighbor. Her husband was the accountant at the nursery school. She herself was a peasant girl from Hechuan and about the same age as my mother. She had five children. The eldest was a year younger than me and her youngest was just one year old. Depending on her husband’s meager salary to support their family of five, she was even worse off than we were. She was fortunate that she came from a poor family and so learned to be frugal from the start. She not only took care of the children, but did all the housework and washed clothes for twenty people in our neighborhood.
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Washing clothes was especially difficult back then since you had to go down to the Jialing River to wash them. She would go off to do her wash and ask my grandmother to look after her three smallest children. For the children of the neighborhood, because she was especially hardworking and always ready to help out her neighbors, she was like a mother. The children in the building always called her Mother Yu.
My grandmother wasn’t about to be going up and down the hill, so Mama Yu bought our rice and vegetables for us. Every noontime I saw her carrying a big bag of clothes on her back and a big basket of vegetables as she struggled her way up the hill.
After Father was arrested, our neighbors kept their distance from our family. Naturally compassionate Mama Yu was the only one who consoled my grandmother and mother.
Whenever she heard my mother weeping, Mama Yu would come over to console her. “What good can worrying do you? Worrying can ruin your health, and so what would grandmother do? What would the two children do?” Mama Yu would take a cloth to wipe my mother’s tears. She’d say “Look, your boy Xiaoping carries water, collects second-hand coal, cuts grass for the pigs and gets good grades in school. How can a mother who has such a son be heart-broken? You are angry, who are you going to be angry with? Anger that makes you ill will only hurt you yourself. These years there are just so many people who have suffered — with the struggles against the landlords, the killings of the local despots, the arrests of the counter-revolutionaries, and the arrests of the corrupt and of the greedy. Just look at Wang Guangying who lives across the way. Her husband was imprisoned and she has two children smaller than yours. She has a heavy burden but still she still get on with life. Grandmother is a good-hearted person. You are a good person, and as for your husband, what did he ever do against the revolution? I just don’t see it.
I am worse off than you are. If it weren’t for grandmother often taking care of my three children, how could I ever get down to the river to wash clothing? People should be compassionate, if you have some problem, just let me know. Grandmother says that she wants to go see someone. Whenever she wants, I’ll go with her to the court. We are honest people so what have we to fear?”
People need to be counseled since if someone got thinking over and over on a narrow track over trifling matters, then if they do not get counseling some unimaginable tragedy could occur. But if a person can just speak up and talk with them, it can be avoided. Mother was encouraged by Yu Mama’s words and gradually came out of it and put aside her hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.
When she heard the news that farther was working at the Zhang Jia Bend, grandmother immediately went to Mama Yu to ask her if she could find the time some day to go with her to the work site to see father. Mama Yu agreed without hesitation. They decided to go on Sunday, since Uncle Yu would be at home and he could watch the kids. I didn’t have school on Sunday so I could go too. I got a walking stick ready for grandmother. Grandmother got some soap, towels and a roll of straw paper and put it in her bag.
From home to the Zhang Family Bend we walked on small country roads. We got very early that day and so grandmother, Mama Yu and I got on the road just after dawn broke.
The air felt very fresh in the countryside that early autumn day. But the mountain road was muddy and so grandmother, who had bound feet, walked very slowly. She had not been out in the countryside for a long time, so naturally she looked around a lot.
I was especially careful since I was very worried grandmother would fall. My hurt was churning with emotions I couldn’t express. How was father, was he healthy? How serious was his case? Will he be able to come home?
Mama Yu was always nodding to the people we passed on the road. She had lots of friends.
By the time we got to the Zhang Family Bend work site, it was already eleven. We could hear some noise in the distance. The clanging of two hammers hitting steel rods. The sound of falling rocks and gravel. The faraway call of the stonemason. Then the jumbled calls of many men together. When the road ended we could make out the shapes of men in a ravine.
The “work site” was the narrow ravine between two hills. In the ravine were forty or fifty men, all wearing shirts with the character “labor” written on the back. I thought that my father must be among them.
I saw that in the thick grass in a crevice there were install two machine guns. When we three, an elderly woman, a middle-aged woman and a child got to the fork in the road, the sentry noticed us. He said that no-one is allowed to stop here. Quick-thinking Mama Yu said hurriedly asked the soldier, “Ah, Comrade, what is the way to Leiyin Rock?” The soldier sized us up, realizing that we were on the way to visit relatives, waved us away, saying. “You can’t walk this way. Go around the mountain ridge.” He pointed towards a bridge to the east and to a small road overgrown with grass that was very hard to make out.
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I supported my grandmother and pretended to try to find our way and started to climb the ridge.
(5) The Last Time I Saw Father
Once we got on the ride, we had a bird’s eye view of the men down below. I nervously searched among the group of men. The sentries weren’t paying any attention to us, they were talking amongst themselves. I squatted in the thick grass and tugged on Mama Yu and grandmother to squat down as well. They immediately bent down. They pushed aside the grass to look in the direction I was pointing.
I saw him — my father!
He wore the gray uniform of Reform Through Labor.