In Chengdu Lonely, Elderly Yin Shuping Took out a mortgage on his apartment to publish his book in Hong Kong, “Autumn Hope” Becomes Despair”
Photo: Chengdu writer Yin Shuping, Chengdu 2011
by Dark Star January 5, 2014 02:46:36
In October 2010, Chengdu writer Yin Shuping, born 1936 and imprisoned as a ‘rightist’ in 1957 and now a lonely old man took out a 100,000 RMB mortgage on his apartment, adding to it 20,000 RMB he had on hand, sent 120,000 RMB to a Hong Kong publisher to publish his nearly 1.7 million word novel “Qiuwang” [Autumnal Hopes] (a three part tune).
The novel takes place in Chengdu, Sichuan and in the Malan Reform Through Labor farm. The novel describes the sufferings of Chinese before and after the 1957 anti-rightist campaign. Not only will those who went through thought reform in Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces in those days, who suffered the physical punishments, who had to endure insults on their characters and self-respect recognize themselves in the stories. So too will those who in their blind ignorance participated in these political campaigns and their descendants see themselves or their relatives.
This novel is a call of the bloodied and the moaning of the helpless. The author put his all into this book. The true names of the people, organizations, work units and places are called out in this book. Important not only as an historical document, Qiuwang moves us as well as a work of philosophy and of art. After reading these volumes, you will not only be angered but wonder who could such deplorable events occur in a socialist republic.
That is why some perceptive people have been calling Qiuwang (A Three Part Tune0 China’s Gulag Archipelago. (Gulag Archipelago was a lengthy work written by the former Soviet Union’s Alexander Solzhenitsyn. “Gulag” refers to the initials of the “Re-Education and Reform Through Labor Management Bureau”. The events in the book take place between 1958 and 1968. In addition to his own story, the author interviewed 227 other people involved. This memoir bravely revealed the darkness and inhumanity of the former Soviet Union’s re-education through labor system. The great influence of this book which awakened the conscience of the world, led to the author being expelled from his country and deprived of his citizenship.) As a result, Qiuwang could not be published in mainland China and so the author hand no alternative to sending it to Hong Kong, where there is freedom of publication and freedom of speech.
The Hong Kong publisher did not strongly promote the book and so most readers never heard of it. Hong Kong did have some exciting book shows in recent years but Yin’s book wasn’t on the shelves there. Although the book was acquired by the Chinese section of the UN Library and by several foreign universities, but the Hong Kong book market and the kinds of books Hong Kong readers prefer tend to be about current affairs, practical and not historical or looking ahead. Moreover, books published in Hong Kong cannot be sold in Mainland China. Mainland readers visiting Hong Kong bookstores may not necessarily go to the bookstore selling Yin’s book. A long book about the anti-rightist campaign in any case has a limited market. And so Yin was not about to recoup the investment he made in the publication of his book. Without the income, he could not pay back the loan. This is something old Yin had not anticipated.
More problems: Hong Kong bookstores as small as is their space for inventory. The contract was for three years. After the end of the contract, the prospects for this book once published with high hopes came down to two: the first is that the author takes the books back to Mainland China. The second is that the books be recycled as waste paper in Hong Kong. Mainland China customs is very strict about printed materials brought in from Hong Kong. A book about politics and history like Qiuwang could never get through customs. (Well, perhaps 10 or 20 volumes might, but certainly not hundreds. Express mail could work, but the number of books that could be sent that way would be limited and expensive.)
As I said, “Qiu Wang” is an account of the author’s life, and is like a child that he raised to adulthood. Sending the book to the trash heap is like killing one’s own child in the cradle, or like throwing money into Victoria Harbor. That is too cruel a blow. Yin Shuping wants to go to Hong Kong, pile up the books in Victoria Square, invite the media to come as witnesses and set the books alight. This is a sad and destructive decision. However, Hong Kong is a place that runs according to law and which maintains public order. A citizen can’t just go to the public square and set something alight. Setting fires would result is a big fines, and imprisonment if there were serious consequences.
At this stage, Yin Shuping isn’t thinking about consequences. But he is already nearly eighty and has not long the physical vigor of youth. For Old Yin to travel from Chengdu to Hong Kong would not be easy. Moreover, if he did get to Hong Kong, he would not be able to carry so many books. If he were to ask someone to transport them, that would be expensive. For the impoverished elderly Yin Shuping, that would not be realistic. Dying for his dream or going to prison – both would hard to accomplish.
The American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald said “Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.” Five hundred and fifty thousand Chinese intellectuals were branded “rightist”. There is a tragedy in the story of every one of them. Yin Shuping wrote and published his book not entirely for himself. Rather by presenting the hard experiences of his own life, he could tell the world and future generations, to tell the sceptics of just how bitter it was to have been branded a rightist and the depths of despair to which they sunk. Yin Shuping is a lucky man. He survived. Many branded “rightist” did not. Some because they could not take it or would not bear it and took their own lives. More were carried away anonymously be sickness in a reform through labor camp. They did not live to see the day when the wrong done to them would be recognized. The French writer Victor Hugo said “Disaster is the wet nurse of daring; tragedy is the breast milk of heroes.” That is not right. It is nothing but an opiate. You just come near this “wet-nurse”, you just try to taste that “breast milk”. You will understand that death is better than that sort of life. The feeling that everyone has been nailed to the cross – that is a feeling that never leaves you for as long as you live.
A bird that soils its own nest is not a good bird. A government that takes the intellectuals of its own country as the enemy in the class struggle is not a good government. Those words in the official history of the Chinese Communist Party — “the struggle against the rightists expanded” (in the latest edition of the history of the Chinese Communist Party the period of the “anti-rightist campaign” is explained and defined as “having been expanded”. ) These words cannot erase or dim the memory of the bloody historical period. Li Dali got it right. He said, “This sin is the content of the secret but the secret is the hotbed of evil.”
The lonely and misery-filled life of Yin Shuping is a portrait in miniature in one man of the story of China’s intellectuals. In their later years, they were unable to escape financial difficulty. Although they lived on the boundary between hopelessness and despair but still they kept on, continuing to offer as they had before to their compatriots, to their hometowns and the their ancestral land their deepest love and devotion. Just as the author wrote on the title page of his book “After the golden autumn of hope for China had died, I present these recollections, descriptions and thoughts from the springtime of my own life during China’s century of difficulties. I leave behind this book for my compatriots, for my hometown and for my country!”
“The Western Lake, though small, has been a witness to history since ancient times.” People who love to read and collect books extend your friendly hand to help Yin Shuping. Help him escape his predicament. He is 78 years old and cannot have many years left. His dream is our dream. It is the dream of all of us who write. His suffering is our suffering and the common suffering of all intellectuals. We might ignore the plight of one man but we must not extinguish our nearly silent conscience. We are readers. Ever since we set out on the path of being readers, our loves and our hates, the joys and sorrows that have arisen in our own lives, we have already given to the Chinese land beneath our feet. Yin Shuping is a dreamer who would give his life for his ideals. Who among does not also is not a “martyr” for their dreams?
Written January 5, 2013 at 2:30 AM
Yin Shuping home telephone number 028-84853645
Cellphone number ： 13618003731