Kong Lingping’s Maoist Labor Camp Memoir: A Decade Spent between Life and Death

Another excerpt from my draft translation of Bloody Chronicles , Kong Lingping’s memoir of his twenty years as a political prisoner in Mao’s labor camps.  In this excerpt, Fang Jianzhi -- A Troubled Soul

Kong Lingping recounts how he first got in touch with his mother for the first time after fifteen years of imprisonment.  Kong Lingping also wrote a biography of his mother Fang Jianzhi  方堅志  entitled My Mother Fang Jianzhi — A Troubled Soul which was published in Taiwan.




You can find other translated excerpts from Bloody Chronicles on this blog by typing Kong Lingping in the blog search box.  The cover photo below comes from the CD publication of Bloody Chronicles in Hong Kong about 2010.


Photo of cover of a CD edition of Bloody Chronicles the author gave me when I visited him in Chongqing and available on my Flickr account.

Section Four A decade spent between life and death

When Chongqing University labelled me a rightist in 1959, expelled me for no reason, and sent me to the Nantong mining region for supervised “reform through labor”, I had in addition anger at being mistreated, I also felt the pain of being separated from my family. How could I handle the pain of separation from my own flesh and blood?

In those days I had no idea of just when the hell stretching before me would come to an end. When I thought of how the old people who had raised me were bearing up under the pain of separation, I felt like a sharp knife was slicing through my heart.

外婆和弟弟在父亲被捕时,已经历了一次心灵的重创,接着又是母亲划为右派,这雪上 加霜后,现在我又遭入狱大难,当时我想无论如何不能告诉他们,给他们层层创伤的心上再洒 上一把盐。
既是中共菜板上的肉,把我们一家赶尽杀绝,我们就只好忍受这“灭门”之灾的降临! 入狱后把一切可怕的后果埋藏在我的心底,万般无奈中,我只有选择不告而别。十九岁

剩下的孤儿寡母会不会踏遍千里寻找天涯沦落的我?常使我陷在不知如何处理的两难之 中!我只能如此了。
入狱开始的那段岁月里,我往往在夜半睡梦中哭醒。 最后,一个决心与命运抗争到底的信念控制了我,当时想,除非我从监狱里沉冤昭雪那
主意打定,我就突然消失了。 从此就再没有向家里写过一封信,告诉他们任何关于我的信息。从那以后,我独自任由

My grandmother and younger brother had already suffered the deep grief of seeing my father arrested. Then, adding to the burden, mother was labelled a rightist and now I was now suffering my own calamity. I thought that no matter what I could not tell them what had happened so as not to sprinkle salt on the many wounds they were already suffering.

Kong Lingping family photo

Kong Lingping’s grandmother (1940), mother (1956), father (1947), and younger brother (photo at age six).  Photos courtesy Kong Lingping via Epoch Times online article.

We were already cut off from any food supplied through the provisioning system set up by the Chinese Communist Party. They spared no-one and so we just had to endure the coming of this calamity that threatened to wipe out our entire family! The consequences of all this I always kept in mind after I went to prison. There was nothing that could be done about this parting without ever having had a chance to say goodbye. From then onwards, I never received a letter from my family and I was never able to share with them any news. From them onwards, I was exiled to distant places in reform through labor brigades. I was sent forever onwards from one gate of hell to the next.

算起来,我在狱中渡过这段日子至今已整整十五年了。每一年的中秋之夜,我都要透过 瓦背上挤进来的月光想念他们。每逢大年卅日晚上我会摆着从厨房端来的饭菜,默默地坐在我

– 363 –

When I added it all up, I had been imprisoned for a full fifteen years. At Mid Autumn Festival each year, I would always look at the beams of moonlight coming through the rafters and think of my family. Ever year on the eve of the Lunar New Year, I would put food from the kitchen and quietly sit in front of my bed, and facing four bowls four sets of chopsticks laid out there, touch them with the palm of my hand, and wish them peace in whatever faraway place they might be.

“风急天高猿啸哀,渚清沙白鸟飞还”,千里孤飞的失群之鸟,终有回巢的时候,“悲歌 可以当泣,远望可以当归。思念故乡,鬰鬰累累。欲归家无人,欲渡河无船。心思不能言,肠 中车轮转”——悲歌·乐府

对亲人长年的眷念,像一杯永远无法喝尽的苦水。屈指算来,我已“三十五岁了。先前 还是一个稚气的孩子,十五年已变成了未老先衰的小老头。如果那倚着竹篱,盼我归来的白发 外婆还在人间,那么她已经是八十五岁了。

有一天,心灵的感应像一股强电流聋击着我,使我强烈地感到一种说不清的预兆,隐约 感到这些我日夜萦思梦绕的人都已不在人世。

一种不能再与他们相会的恐惧催促我,我不能再音信杳无的继续下去。否则,我也许永 远都找不到他们了,那么就算我从这里活着出去,我将要终身负罪,我既对不起日夜盼我归来 的老外婆,也对不起艰辛中抚育我的母亲。

High heavenly winds howl, sad monkey cries resound
Sandbank gulls fly away
A lone bird flies alone far separated the flock
Finally returning to its nest

Singing sad songs is weeping
Gazing far into the distance is returning home
Thoughts of my hometown and now sadness mounts in me.
How I want to return home but there is no one there
How I want to cross the river but no boat can take me.

I cannot put into words how I feel
I put my hands together in prayer, praying that they so far away are at peace

— a dirge from the Music Bureau of the Han Dynasty

For many years thoughts of home have been a bitter cup I have never been able to finish. I counted the years on my fingers. I am already 35 years old. I am no longer young. For 15 years I have been becoming a little old man old before my time. If the white-haired old grandmother I last saw leaning against the bamboo fence still awaits my return, she would be 85 years old.

One day I have in my soul a sharp, electric shock like feeling that gave me a mysterious premonition and feeling that all these people whom I had been thinking about day and night are no longer in the world of mankind.

Fear that I would never see them again came over me. I could not go on without ever hearing from them again. If I did, I would probably never find them. Even if I should get out of here alive, I will alway bear the blame of having disappointed the grandmother who waited day and night for my return and my mother who had endured so many hardships to bring me up.


1973 年春节期间,就在这股寻亲思潮的冲击下,我结束了十五年的固执。第一次提笔向 母亲写了狱中给她的信,全信仅用了一百多字,因为十五年的变迁,我不知现在我到那里去寻 找他们!该怎么去寻找他们?

“妈妈,已经整整十五年没有给您写信了,我仍按十五年前的地址试着写这封信,倘若 你能收到它,就请立即回我的信。我这是在四川西南边陲上一个小县城里给你写信,希望这封 信能接上我们之间已断了整整十五年的联系。
您的孩子 孔令平 1973 年 2 月于西昌盐源 909 信箱六中队。” 这一百字寄走了我整整十五年对亲人的朝思暮想,也寄走了十五年筑成的自闭,我想这
得出,在这个文字狱紧锁,我们间唯一可沟通的窗口上,魔鬼正用怎样的眼睛监视着这些信! 这第一封信,必会受鬼蜮们的盘查,嗅出阶级斗争的火药味。

然而这一百个字,堆积整整十五年的血泪意欲喷溅出来。就宛如一个丢失了母亲整整十 五年弃儿的呼喊,在误入地狱的不归路上,寻找归途!寻找她的喊声!

(1) Searching for Mother

During the 1973 Spring Festival, just as a wave of determination to search for my family came over me, I put an end my fifteen year long stubbornness. For the first time, I took up my pen to write a prison letter home to mother. My letter was only one hundred characters. With all the changes that had occurred during those fifteen years, I didn’t know where to look for them! How should I search for them?

Mother, it has already been fifteen years since I last wrote to you. I am trying to write to you are the address I had for you fifteen years ago. If you receive it, please reply immediately. I am writing to you from a small border county in southwestern Sichuan. I hope that this letter will restore the contact between us that has been broken for fifteen years. Your child Kong Lingping February 1973 in the Xichang Yanyuan Box 909 Sixth Brigade.

Those one hundred characters carried the weight of my entire fifteen years of yearning for my family.

所以我纵有再多的怨恨要倾诉,但委曲和苦都不能露出丝毫,否则一不小心就会徒生枝 节,不但我这一百多字不能打破关闭了十五年的亲情大门,还可能带来意想不到的麻烦。

我这封问亲信,整整过了五十来天,与其说因为她在十五年来从北碚托儿所任教,到目 前在一家乡村医院接受监督劳动,需要辗转传递,还不如说,经过了多部门折信检查层层审阅, 耽误了这么长时间。


I had a great deal more to say but I could not reveal the full story and my hardships or else a moment of indiscretion might cause complications. Not only would my hundred character letter not breach the barriers to familial affection closed to me these past fifteen years, it could also cause me all kinds of difficult to predict problems.

My family letter took two weeks to reach my mother because she had moved from her teaching post at the Beibei nursery school to the supervised labor she was now doing in a rural hospital. The letter had to be forwarded and go through various twists and turns as it went through censorship inspection in many departments. That is why the letter took so long to reach her.

On March 15th, the gatekeeper at the Caijia Hospital called me mother and told her that a letter had come to her from Xichang.
– 364 –
咋闻西昌来信,她心中一惊,自 1967 年小儿子失踪后,已整整六年,她没有收到任何信 件。

从 1966 年文革以来,至今整七年,北京,上海,那些她曾寄托过希望的,她年青时代的
老师和同学们,突然好像从大陆这片海裳叶上消失了,从此再没人给她写信,使她隐约感到, 当年学生时代的好友,也在文革中自身难保。
那么,现在又是谁从西昌给她寄来了久久盼望的信呢? 当她急忙来到门房,从小张手里接过这一封腊黄的信时,她心中交织着一种复杂的预感,

其实自己已没有什么值得当局神经过敏的。这么多年来地处北碚边沿的小镇医院,被强 迫监督劳动的母亲,对所受的人身侮辱,和非人虐待早已习以为常。她的家已被查抄过十几次 了,“革命”群众搜去了他所有稍稍值钱的物品,连一身像样的防寒棉衣都没有给她留下。

She was astonished to get a letter from Xichang. She had not received a letter in the six years since her younger son had disappeared in 1967.

Ever since the Cultural Revolution because in 1966, a full seven years previously, she had hoped to hear from the teachers and classmates she had known in her youth in Beijing and Shanghai. They all seemed to have disappeared from the vast landmass of the China mainland. Since then no one had ever written to her. She had the feeling that the good friends that she had known as a student would have had a hard time getting through the Cultural Revolution.

Now, would write her the letter she had long been waiting for from Xichang of all places? When she hurried to the gatehouse to get the yellow paper letter from Zhang’s hands, she had a complicated premonitions.

“Could this be news of the whereabouts of my younger son?” When she saw that the envelope had been opened many times and torn in some places, she realized that she would just have to face the news calmly whatever it may be.

In fact there was nothing in the letter that the authorities needed to worry about. My mother during her many years doing supervised labor at the small township hospital on the edge of Chonqing’s Beibei district had become accustomed for many years to humiliation and cruel abuse. Her home had been searched and some of her possession confiscated more than ten times. The “revolutionary” masses had everything she had of even the slightest value. They had not even left her her only decent cloth winter coat.

前年就为给自己缝一件御寒棉衣,招来一顿毒打和斗争,使她断绝了生活的念头,那次 她烧掉了珍藏三十多年的老照片,并且决心投湖自杀。

然而苍天却安排了她绝处逢生,她被救生还,并在附近农民们的安排下,一个小女孩在 她的身边伴她聊渡晚年……

然而此刻他来不及思考得太多,捏在手里的信封上所写收信地址,分明是:北碚机关托 儿所,那字迹好熟悉。她的心紧张起来,立刻又去看那信封上所留下寄信人的地址:西昌 909 信箱,邮戳上印着:西昌盐源。这会是谁呢?她连忙拆开了信封,拿着信笺的双手在微微颤抖:

“妈妈”这称谓使她从一场恶梦中惊醒,从她那昏花眼睛里闪出了一束十几年从末有过 的喜悦来,难道是失踪六年的兴儿?兴儿,你在哪里?你真还在人间吗?这么长的时间妈为你 流过多少泪?你可把妈想坏了呀……

Two years previously, a cloth coat she had made for herself brought her a vicious beating. She had decided to put an end to her life. She burned the photographs that she had treasured for 30 years and decided to throw herself into a lake to kill herself.

Heaven itself arranged for her rescue from that desperate situation. She was rescued and was taken to a nearby peasant home where a little girl became a companion to rely upon in her old age.

She didn’t have time to think much about all this. The address written on the letter was the address of the Beibei office nursery school. The handwriting was very familiar. She got anxious and immediately looked for the address of the person who had written the letter: Xichang Box 909. The postmark read Yanyuan. Who could that be? She hurriedly opened the letter and held the letter in her two shaking hands.

The word “mother” awakened her from her nightmare. A joy that had not shown in those eyes for over a decade shone brightly from those dim-sighted eyes. Could this be the son that had lost six years before? My son, where are you? Are you still alive? How many tears had your mother shed for you all these years? You made me sick with worry…

一股暖流溶进了她身上的每根血管,纵使枯木逢春老树新芽,好比行进在沙漠上快要渴 死的探险者,忽然发现了一缕清澈的甘泉;一个深埋在地底下将要绝命的矿工,触到了救援者 的手,那惊喜和绝处逢生交织在一起的感情,千头万绪般钻动在心头!
儿哇,你可知道妈妈活到今天是多么不容易! 一阵激动的初潮拂过心头后,她又重新在老花眼镜背后去分辨那熟悉的字体,写在那发

再翻看那信封的背后写着这孩子嘱咐邮递员的话:“邮递员,如果这封信的收信人已调往 他处,请务必将这封信转到她现在的单位上去。”

现在终于明白了,含愤断绝音信整整十五年的大孩子此刻现身了! “风尘荏苒音书绝,关塞萧条行路难,已忍伶俜廿年事,强移栖息一枝安”,孩子呀,这

– 365 –
么长岁月你到哪里去了呀,你可知道这十五年来,我怎么盼你的音信?然而每次都在黄昏之后, 失望的望着街灯。你的外婆哭过不知多少次了,直到她临终还不停喊你的名字呀!而我熬过了 多少断肠的长夜,有过万千次祈祷么?

Warmth flowed into every vein in her body. It was like an old withered tree with a new lease on life throwing out new buds and leaves in the spring. Or like an explorer nearly dead of thirst walking through the desert suddenly discovering a clear spring. Or like a miner trapped hopelessly deep in the darkness of a collapsed mine shaft suddenly feeling the hand of a rescuer.

The sudden joy of suddenly being rescued from a desperate situation filled her heart with complicated feelings! My son, it has been so hard for your mother to live to see this day! After a wave of excitement that washed over her heart subsided, she once again began deciphering those familiar handwritten characters from behind the eyeglasses she wore for her farsightedness. There were only a few short sentences written on the yellow paper. The letter was signed Kong Lingping.

She looked again at the words her child had written to the letter carrier at the end of the letter. “Mailman, if the recipient of this letter had already moved somewhere else, please make sure that this letter is forwarded to her current work unit.”

Now she understood that the elder son she had lost fifteen years before had now reappeared!

In the words of Du Fu’s poem

In the world’s confusion, time slips by,
Imperceptibly we lose touch with one another
Difficult travel on bleak mountain pass roads
Twenty years alone I have endured
My storm tossed years are ended
Here I will stay

My child, where have you been all these years?  You know that it has been fifteen years. How I have waited for your letter. Every evening at dusk I watch the streetlamps in despair. You grandmother cried I don’t know how many times. She called your name over and over when she died. How many long heartbroken nights have I endured? How many thousands upon thousands of prayers have I prayed.

唉!我的孩子呀,你纵有再大的冤屈和难言苦衷,也该托梦向你的妈妈报一个吉凶吧, 然而你却一点声息都没有。

在那个时侯,为娘的也身遭劫难,我因禁锢之身又不敢多打听,写信去重大问到你的下 落时,他们从不告诉我关于你的情况。
从此生死两茫茫,直到今天,你才突然从地下钻了出来,向我喊道:妈妈,我在这儿呢! 天哪!这是真的吗,这是我在做梦,还是苍天安排的悲剧呢?如果这是一场悲剧,那么

母亲连忙找来了放大镜,又拿起那个腊黄的信封反复看那邮戳,再一次证实是西昌盐源 县发来的,她又拿起信笺……是大孩子的亲笔手迹,一点都没有错啊,十五年了,连这么熟悉 的笔迹,竟一时想不起来了。

泪水再次模糊了她的眼睛。唉!真的老了,没用了!她把那腊黄的信,摆在小桌上,好 久才回过神来,将那腊黄的信收折好,再将它放在自己的枕下。

此时一个年仅七岁的女孩,正挨着母亲身旁。这就是两年前一位附近农妇送来的‘干女 儿’。此时她正瞪着那童贞稚气的眼睛望着她。

Oh, my child! No matter how great the injustice done to you and not matter what you might have been embarassed to mention, you should have sent me a message no matter good or bad in your dreams. But I had no word of you at all.

In those days, when my mother was also in terrible condition, and because I was not allowed in the office I didn’t dare make inquiries, or to write to Chongqing to ask what had happened to you. She picked up the letter again. Yes, it was indeed her elder son’s handwriting. It has been fifteen years, that handwriting is so familiar, I am surprised that for a moment I didn’t recognize it.

She repeated wiped the tears out of her eyes. Oh, I have become so old. I am useless. She put the yellow letter on the little table and waited a long while until she recovered. Then she folded the letter and put it under her pillow.

她认识方兴哥哥,不过那时她仅只有两岁,只记得他长得很高很瘦,但为什么突然走了, 从此以后,就再没有回到母亲居住的小屋子来?

一切都怪怪的,小脑筋里盘旋着一连串疑问:妈妈是那么善良,她成天为医院打扫清洁, 不像其它人偷奸耍滑,医院把所有的重活和脏活都扔给她,而医院的人为什么总是找岔欺侮 她?为什么妈妈在忍受人们欺侮时,总是低着头,好像医院里有一根令她无法解脱的绳子,牢 牢捆着她?

今天还是第一次看到妈妈这么高兴,她注意老人的一举一动,数着她戴了几次老花眼镜, 一会儿取出那腊黄的信封,看看又放回原处,虽然她什么也不懂,但为母亲难得的高兴而高兴。

现在她才知道原来自己还有一个很大的哥哥,他可是在她还没生下来时,便离家出走的, 妈妈从没有讲过的啊!他长得像什么样子?她只能依凭她所见到的方兴哥哥的照片,想一付很 大很大的图象。

She knew elder brother Fang Xing even though she was only two years old at the time. She only remembered that he was tall and thin. Why did he suddenly go away and why had he never returned to see his mother after that?

It was so very strange. Her young mind was full of questions. Mother is so good, she sweeps and cleans the hospital every day. She is not lazy and sly like the others. The hospital gives her all the heavy and dirty work. Although she didn’t understand why, she was happy that her mother who rarely had joy in her life was now so happy.

Today I learned for the first time that I have a much older big brother. He may have left home before she was even born. Mother never said anything about him! What did he look like? She could only only look at the pictures she had seen of elder brother Fangxing and think of an even bigger picture.

他真是一个奇怪的人,听说在重庆大学念书时就离开家了。他为什么要离开家,为什么 离家这么多年从没回过家呢?今天又怎么知道妈妈在这里?

她那小脑袋瓜里翻滚着一连串的疑问,看妈妈在她布满皱纹的鬓角边扑刷刷流下的泪, 心里猜测着,这大哥哥什么时候才回家呀?她知道在这种时候,妈妈不喜欢打断她的思考,就

– 366 –

He must be a very strange person. I heard that he left home when he was a student at Chongqing University. Why did he leave home? Why had he never returned after all these years? How did he know now where mother lives?

All sorts of questions where turning round and round inside her little head. When she saw mother wiping away the tear from the temples of her wrinkled face, she wondered, when will this big brother come home? She knew that on this occasion, mother would not want to be interrupted and would not answer if she were asked.

晚饭以后她躺在小床上,盯着妈妈重新从枕头底下取出了那腊黄的信,然后戴上她那付 老花眼镜,在电灯下面重新细细读起来,彷佛那信写得好长好长,一直就没有读完似的,一边 读,一边又在擦着眼泪。

妈妈为什么还在伤心呢?大哥哥什么时候才能回来呢?她想着想着闭上了眼睛,去了她 的梦乡。


他得马上去找回这个失散了十五年的孩子,最好此时,她能插上翅膀,腾空飞去……但望断茫 茫华夏,他在那里呢?

After supper, she lay on the small bed and watched mother take the yellow letter out again from under her pillow. Then she put on her eyeglasses and turned on the light so that she could read it again. She read it over and over again for a long while as if she had never finished reading it. She wiped the tears from her eyes as she read it.

Mother why are you so brokenhearted? When will big brother come home again? She thought and thought about it, closed her eyes and was off to her land of dreams.

Our thoughts go on and on like green grass bordering a river.

What is too far away to imagine comes to us overnight in our dreams.

In my dreams he is beside me,

When I awake I realize he is in another land.

— Official Music Bureau of the Han Dynasty.

Such an ordinary night. Mother looked at her daughter already fast asleep by her side. She fell asleep without realizing it, returning immediately to bring back the son that she had lost fifteen years before. If only now she could fit herself with wings and fly away but spreading out before her was the vastness of China. Where could he be?

想到这里,于是翻身下床,去抽屉里寻找出那本很旧的地图,这还是兴儿的遗物,在方 兴出走时她就反复地看那本地图,想从那地图上找到孩子所去的地方,可是她一次又一次的失 望了,地图上没有一丝孩子出走的痕迹。

现在有了:西昌盐源。在模糊的老花眼镜后面,她终于找倒了那个位于她所在位置西南 方向,相距她足有千公里的盐源县。

凭着她的灵感,她知道自己的孩子正在崴崴耸山一片,人烟稀少的地方服刑役,她得马 上给她写信。

于是她伏在小桌上,开始提起笔来,但是千头万绪如乱麻股的脑子里,怎么开这封信的 头?第一封信中该告诉他什么呢?
手上的那张信纸,柔了又写,写了又柔。 她知道自己和儿子今天的处境都很危险,纵有千言万语,也是万万不能在信上倾泻的,

“亲爱的平儿:从我收到了你的信后,你给了我很大的力量,我一想到我重新获得了我 心爱的儿子,便全身有劲。热烈地渴望着有一天我们能母子见面,我仔细地翻阅了地图,我知 道你是在四川的边区,离我这里很远很远。但我的一颗心离你是那么的贴近……”

When she thought of that, she got out of bed and got a very old map out of a drawer. The map was a precious relic of Xing’er. When Fangxing ran away she would often take out this map and try to find on the map where he son had gone. But she was always disappointed. The map had no trace of the route that her son had planned to take.

Now there was a place she could find. Yanyuan in the Xichang region. The dim eyes behind her glasses found that Yanyuan County about one thousand kilometers southwest of her home.

She guessed that her son was imprisoned in a thinly populated mountainous region. She decided that she should she should write to him immediately.

She bent over her small table and began to write. With a great flood of emotions and thoughts washing through her mind, she wondered just how should she begin her letter? What should she tell him in her first letter? She caressed the letter as she wrote again and again.  She knew that both she and her son were then in difficult positions. Even though there was so much to say, that was also so very much that could not be committed to a letter. She knew that all letters are opened and examined by the censor in order to discover clues about “class enemies” who are “getting ready to make trouble”. Therefore this is what she wrote:

My dear son,
I received your letter. You give me great strength since what I have always wanted is to get back my beloved son back safe and sound. I can’t wait until you get home. I looked at the map and see that you are in a border region of Sichuan Province and very far away from me. Even so I feel in my heart that you are close by…

“我在这里想告诉你,我于 1958 年下放农村劳动,1959 年又下放工厂车间劳动,1962 年调到蔡家场这家医院,1961 年 11 月 8 日,你外婆在北碚逝世,临死那几天,我和你弟弟守 在她身旁,死前她一直喊唤着你的名字!”

“弟弟于 1959 年在四十四中毕业,考入重庆电力学校,62 年压缩回家,一直跟着我,64


– 367 –
文化大革命他瞒着我,于 1967 年 7 月 14 日离开了我,从此音信全无,生死不明。”

Let me tell you that I was sent down to the countryside in 1958. In 1959 I was sent to work in a factory. In 1962, I was sent to the Caijiayuan Hospital. On November 8, 1961 your grandmother died in Beibei. My younger brother and I stayed at her side during her last few days. Before she died she kept calling your name!”

“Your brother graduated from Middle School #44 in 1959 and passed the entrance examination for Chongqing Electric Power College. In 1962 he was forced to return home and stayed with me until 1964 when he answered the Party’s call and went down to the countryside. He settled down in a nearby commune. We were able to see one another and got by without difficulty. When the Cultural Revolution began, without telling me, he on July 14 left me. I haven’t heard a word from him and don’t know whether he is alive or dead.

“我在这所医院整整十二年了,这所医院离北碚四十里左右,汽车不到一小时。规模不 大,是综合性医院,附照片一张,你妈妈已经老了,希望你也能给我一张像片,要说的话很多, 下次再谈。”

这便是一个在遭到家破人亡后的母亲,同阔别十五年沉沦监狱的唯一儿子写的第一封信, 那中间被压仰得喘不过气来的辛酸,只能“领会”。

她知道,要把家破人亡的噩耗告诉天涯一角的孩子,又让当局放过它,必得写些中共强 迫人们说的“话”。

她微微闭上了眼,想到在中共建国的二十三年中,自己同丈夫,老母亲和两个孩子组成 的平常百姓之家,就因丈夫的历史“罪”,不但他本人入狱至今不知生死,母亲在忧愤和潦倒 中去世,两个无辜的孩子一个在“劳改”,一个生死不明。自己孤伶伶一人被医院的造反派任 意践踏侮辱,这究竟是为那门?

I have been less than an hour away from home at the hospital north about 40 kilometers north of Beibei for twelve years. This is a small general hospital. I am enclosing a picture. Your mother has gotten old. I hope that you will send me one too. There is so much to say. I’ll put more in my next letter.

This letter from my mother after our family had been broken up and scattered to the winds was the first letter she had received in fifteen years from her son languishing in prison. I could only imagine the bitterness that had left her unable to breathe easily during those years.

She knew that if she put in her letter to her son living far away the sad news of the death of her younger son and still wanted the authorities to release her son, than she must put in the letter “the kind of talk” that the Chinese Communists demanded that people use.

She closed her eyes and thought of how as the Chinese Communists built China these past 23 years, an ordinary family — her husband, her old mother and their two children — had, because of her husband’s “historic guilt” had not only landed her husband in a prison where she still didn’t know whether he lived or died, her mother had died filled with anger and anxiety, and her two innocent children had been lost — one to “reform through labor” and the other lost, whether dead or alive she did not know. The Cultural Revolution “Rebel Faction” that ran the hospital constantly humiliated and insulted her. What was all that for?

而今大孩子居然还在人间,就算一种最大的“快慰”了。唉!这种遭遇岂可用“生不如 死”所能概括啊?

她重新望了望那张刚刚才写完的信。拿起那破藤椅上的棉垫子靠在小女儿身边躺下,此 刻脑海里再次回到十五年前,脑子里全是大儿子的音容。可惜,照片已经完全烧掉了,敞若不 是那杨婆婆,自己早成了池塘里的水鬼,这个家就算无声无息在暴政下消失了。

现在想来,杨婆婆的话果然没错,她那时就劝过自己,“像你这样的人中国多的是。凭什 么要走这条绝路呢?就不能长着眼睛看看这世道还会变成什么样?”那话里可是一种预言,一 种普通老百姓在黑暗中的等待,一种希望啊!

她想着想着,脑海子里又呈现出大孩子的样子,活鲜鲜的,宽大而长园的脸旦,白皙的 皮肤,从淘气的童年直到中学时代……背着背兜捡二煤炭的身影,晚上伏灯读书的身影,又重 新回到眼前。

记得他考上大学离家时,几乎整整一夜同儿子促膝交心,谆谆劝导他:“千万不要去从政, 那是一个说不清的危险领域;也千万不要去从事教育,你父亲就是一个活的教训。你选择了工 科,有一门专长就是自己一生一世安身立命的本钱了。”这可是父母从动荡的年代里,为躲避 暴政总结出的切身体验。

Her greatest joy and consolation was that her older child was still alive. How could she express this existence in which “death was better than life” in just a few words?

She looked again at the letter that she had just written. She took the cushion off the broken rattan chair and lay it next to her little daughter and lay down. Her mind returned to fifteen years before. Her son’s face and voice filled her mind. She had burned up the photograph. If it were not for old lady Yang, she would have become a watery ghost in that pool. Her family had faded away under that tyranny.

Thinking back to it, old woman Yang’s words were correct. She had admonished herself at that time, “There are many people like you all over China. Why did you decide to end your life? Why not open your eyes and see that the world can still change?” Those words were a prediction, something that ordinary Chinese people were waiting for, some hope!

She thought and thought. Again to her mind came thoughts of her elder child with his fresh, generous and long faces, fair skin, growing from mischievous to middle school student, carrying his backpack searching for bits of used charcoal, studying at night with the lamp.

She remembered after he got into university, the night before he left home how she had a frank talk with him and had admonished him, “Above all, stay away from politics. That is a uncertain dangerous area. Don’t think about becoming a teacher. Your father is an example of what happens to teachers.  You chose engineering. That is a good specialty that will earn you a living all your life.”

Those were the conclusions that her parents had drawn from the upheavals they knew during their generation.

可惜,这样的躲避,依然没有躲过劫难。为什么中共连这么一个勤奋苦读的孩子也不肯 放过啊?

想到这里她痛苦地翻了一个身,于是又想到自己同大陆上受残害的知识份子一样,她自 己又招惹谁使她家破人亡?想到这里,她只能打住了,唉!今晚被那些痛苦思绪扰得乱麻一团, 总是高兴不起来。


– 368 –
里雁,辞根散作九州蓬,共看明月应垂泪,一夜乡心五处同”(白居易)古人的灾难有今天这 么沉重么?

Unfortunately that kind of avoidance could not shield them from calamity. How could it be that the Chinese Communists wouldn’t free even such a hard working, studious child?

Her pain got even worse as she thought about it. When she thought about her sufferings and the suffering that the other intellectuals in mainland China had suffered, she was moved to ask who had destroyed her home? When she thought about that, she had to stop. The train of thoughts she was caught up in that evening would not bring her any joy.

The days are hard, the land is laid waste, there is no work to be had, and my brothers have all gone away. 

The farmland is desolate and empty after the battles, 

My family wanders on the roads,  separated from one another and lonely like wild geese, far from home and scattered all over China. 

Tears come at the sight of the bright moon,

The scattered are as one thinking of their old hometown

— Tang poet Bai Juyi

Could the disasters that people suffered in ancient times have been as bad as what is happening to us now?

渐渐地,她在朦胧中感应到自己的骨肉,正在无数大山相隔的那一面向她呼唤,于是她 真的腾空飞起来了,穿越那重峦叠障的山脉,在那雾气缭绕的冯虚之境,她找到了自己可怜的 孩子,他褴褛一身,瘦骨嶙峋。不过那一刻,扑进她怀里的依然是那又长又园像鸡蛋一样白净 的脸……

记忆可真是一个怪东西,十五年过去了,处境限涩,音容依旧,就这样母子相逢在梦中, 相拥在幻境。醒来时,泪水浸湿了一片枕头和被盖。她望了望熟睡在身旁的小女儿,替她盖好 露出被外的手脚低声叹了一口气。
当这一封信从何庆云的手中交给我时,他那脸上堆着一脸奸诈的笑。 “现在,你总找到精神寄托了吧!你看你的母亲还健在,她可不像你处处同政府对立,
绝了十五年的联系,终于接上了,不过十五年前那时,负气天真的想法,已被十五年的折磨彻 底纠正,此时此刻我才知道,我日夜牵挂的亲人除了母亲,都已不在人世!欲哭无泪,断肠天 涯。

Gradually she made out, through the mist, her own flesh and blood, calling out to her from far away across the uncountable mountains separating them. She soared into the sky, crossing those chains of mountains separating them, and found, spying through a gap in the swirling mists, her own poor son. He was starved and in rags. That moment that long face fair egg-white face flew into her embrace.

Memory is a strange thing. Fifteen years had gone by. The times were hard. Yet when mother and son met in their dreams, their voices and faces where what they had been as they embraced one another in the dream world. When she awoke, her tears had wet her pillow and bed cover. She looked at her adopted daughter lying beside her, quietly covering her exposed arms and legs and sighing softly.

When He Qingyun gave me that letter, he had a treacherous smile on his face. “Now you have finally found your fount of moral strength. Your mother is still alive and well. She is certainly not opposed to the government like you are. Carefully read her letter and learn from it. Don’t disappoint her hopes in you.”

He said this as he handed me the letter. Getting this letter ended fifteen years of separation from my mother. However I had left behind my naive views of fifteen years before. Fifteen years of hard trial had corrected my errors. At that instant I realized that my mother was my only family member who had survived. I wanted to cry but no tears came. I felt heartbroken as in my mind they receded past the setting sun into the distance, never to return.

从外婆去世的年代,可以判断,因为长期无人照料,饥饿年代死于营养严重不足,而我 的可怜的弟弟,真想不到会惨死在造反派的乱枪之下。我又回想起当年小龙坎的夜。我真没有 想到我和他共进的那一顿年夜饭,竟是和他共进的最后晚餐。临别时没有遗留下一张照片,我 那断肠的追念又向谁表达?

母亲有了下落,我该向她简单讲一下我这几年来的遭遇,以及我生活在监狱的概况。后 来我才知道,母亲所在单位掌权的造反派们,不仅公然无视公民通迅自由的法律规定,把我们 的信件私下拆阅,还因为这些小痞子为表现自己的政治嗅觉灵敏,而把信中他们所不认识的字 句和不懂的词语,拿来集体“破译”,对信中用到“亡羊补牢”,“扑朔迷离”等辞句,整整研 究了一个上午。

他们为此专门找来新华词典,按照那些词的字面解释,一面按照毛泽东的阶级斗争论点 逐一分析,把亡羊补牢说成是我想待机逃出牢房,把“负荆请罪”说成拿起杖棍毁灭罪证,牛 头不对马嘴的解释以后,还要责令母亲作出解释。

可笑的是他们竟会以蔡家医院革命委员会的名义,向盐源农场的革命委员会写来一封信, 要求盐源农场对我严加追查和管教。
在接到母亲下一封回信时,要我写信中不要用成语。 哭笑不得之余,我只好用常人写信的四段式,即称呼、问好、说事、祝身体健康。这大

From the year that my grandmother died, I could conclude that because nobody had taken care of her for a longtime, she had died of severe malnutrition during that famine era. I had never guessed that my poor younger brother would be shot down cruelly by the guns of the Red Guard Rebel Faction. I thought back to that dinner we had when he visited me at school. I had never imagined that that would be the last meal we would ever share. It turned out to be the last supper we had together. We hadn’t had a picture taken when we parted so how could I share that heartbreaking memory with anyone else?

Now that I knew my mother’s whereabouts, I should send her a few words about what had happened to me these past years and what my life was like in prison. Later I learned that the Rebel Faction that controlled my mother’s work unit not only openly ignored laws and regulations about the freedom of citizens, but also when they secretly opened our letters, in an effort to manifest their strong political intutiion, those thugs “decoded” the characters and phrases that they couldn’t understand. They spent an afternoon deciphering phrases in the letter such as “locking the barn door after the sheep has escaped” and “the puffy feet of male rabbits and the half-closed eyes of female rabbits” — a common literary expression meaning two things that are hard to distinguish.

They went to their New China Dictionaries and interpreted these idiomatic expressions character by character according to Mao Zedong’s theories on the class struggle. ‘Closing barn door after the sheep have escaped’ must mean that I was waiting for my chance to escape from prison. They took the expression “serving my time and apologizing for my mistakes” to mean that I would grab my walking stick and go destroy the evidence of my crimes. After they made this incongruous interpretations, they would demand that my mother explain those phrases.

The stupidest thing they did was to write a letter, in the name of the Caijia Hospital Revolutionary Committee, to the Yanyuan Farm Revolutionary Committee, to request that the Yanyuan Farm give me stricter supervision and discipline. After I got mother’s response, I stopped using idiomatic expressions in my letters. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry, I was reduced to writing the ordinary four paragraph formulaic letter with form of address, greeting, message, and salutation wishing good health. That was probably the greatest achievement of the Cultural Revolution in transforming me!


– 369 –
再独唱悲歌。还能同其它有家有父母的流放者一样,收到一小包慈母一针一线缝好,熨上她体 温和关爱“礼物”。

From then on, though still far away from home, my time alone had ended. No longer was I alone without family. No longer sing sad songs alone at Spring Festival time. I could like all the other exiles who had parent, get presents in small packages sealed with mother’s love and feel in it her warmth and love.

她把省吃俭用下来的每一分钱都变成了儿子身上穿的背心,脚上穿的鞋,洗脸用的毛巾, 以及粮票。

我知道在这物质极溃乏的年代,寄来的东西来之不易啊!在那一小块肉,一截香肠,一 包水果糖中凝聚了多少深情!

这一年秋收季节,我在山上那些烂在地里的砍皮瓜中,挖出了许多白瓜子,把它们洗净 晒干,用晚上学习时间,倦缩在屋角落,一颗一颗地剥出它们的仁,再用一块毛巾缝成一个口 袋装好,准备找机会带给她。
(二)一包砍皮瓜子 第二年,刚刚刑满的王大炳,回长寿探亲。我便委托他在途经北碚时将瓜仁带给母亲,

1974 年冬天,王大炳在阔别重庆整整十五年以后,第一次回到重庆,并且专程沿途询问, 找到了北碚蔡家场东方红人民医院,然而,他还没有进入这家乡村医院的大门,便被传达室里 的“门卫”截住了。
“你找谁?”那门卫从黑洞洞的窗口里,向外上下打量着这个农民打扮的陌生人。 “啊,你们有一叫方坚志的吗?我是来给她捎信的。”大炳直言寻找的人。 “你是从那里来的,找她干什么?”门卫死死盯着来人,好象要从来人身上发现什么秘

All the money she saved she put into making for her son a vest, shoes, a towel and ration coupons.

I knew that in that era of great scarcity how hard it was to send things! How much feeling there was in every chunk of meat, every sausage and every pack of fruit drops!

That year at harvest time among the pumpkins rotting in the fields I dug up some melons. I washed and dried them. During evening study time I would sit exhausted in the corner of my cell picking out the kernels one by one. Then I used a piece of towel to sew a bag to await my chance to bring them to her.

(2) A bag of melon seeds

The next year, Wang Dabing, who had just completed his sentence, returned home to visit his family. I asked him to take the bag of melon seeds to my mother in Beibei which was along the way and to ask him to give me an honest report of mother’s living conditions.

In winter 1974, Wang Dabing went to Chongqing for the first time in fifteen years. He asked for directions to the Caijiayuan East is Red People’s Hospital and made a special trip there. Before he even could get in the door of that rural hospital, he was stopped by the “guard” in the reception room.

“Who are you looking for?”, the guard asked from beyond the pitch-dark window. He looked out at that stranger dressed up as a peasant. “Ah, do you have someone named Fang Jianzhi there? I am here to deliver a message.” Wang Dabing said bluntly that he was looking for someone. “Where are you from? Why are you looking for her?” said the guard as he stared at Wang as if he wanted to discover some secret. Wang Dabing felt uncomfortable as if he were being interrogated.

整整十五年了,就像一个隔世的来者到了一个令他恐惧的环境中,他犹豫了一下,只好 将我托他带给母亲的信,一包瓜子仁拿了出来。一面恳求他说:“我是从西昌盐源来的,是方 坚志儿子的朋友。这次因为回家探亲,受他的嘱托给他母亲带来一包东西和一封信,拜托你是 否能通告一声。”

门卫把信和毛巾包接了过去,掂了又掂,满不在乎回答道:“那么你就在这里等着吧。” 说罢,转身进去。

不一会,便走了出来,一脸严肃地向他喊道:“你要见的这个人是我们单位的重点监督对 象,任何没有本单位的介绍信,不能同她单独见面,我已请示了领导,你带来的信和东西,我 们可以代她收下,并且转交给她本人,你走吧。”

这闭门羹,使大炳倒吸了一口凉气,他向门内窥望,那不就是一所普通的乡村医院么? 里面的过道上穿梭着赤脚的普通农民病员。

After fifteen years, it was if he was entering a frightening place in another world. He hesitated for a moment, and decided he had no alternative but to show the letter he had brought for mother and the sack of melon seeds. He implored the guard, “I have come from Yanyuan County in Xichang. I am the friend of Fang Jianzhi’s son. I was going home to visit my family and he asked me to take this bag of melon seeds and this letter to his mother. Please let her know.”

The guard took the letter and the bag, weighed them in his hand for a moment, and said carelessly, “Wait here.” He turned and went inside.

Later he came out and said in a stern voice, “The person you want to see is under strict surveillance by our work unit. Only those with a letter of introduction from their own work unit may see her alone. I have already informed our leadership. We can take the letter and the things that you have brought and then pass them to her. You may leave now.”

Wang Dabing, denied entry, breathed in the cold air. He looked inside. Wasn’t it just an ordinary rural hospital? The people walking back and forth inside barefoot were ordinary peasant patients.

He regretted that he had stopped at the door to ask. If he had just walked directly inside, he wouldn’t have been asked who he was. He had brought this problem upon himself by revealing who he was. It seemed that today he had come so far but he wouldn’t be allowed to see mother today. It seemed like mother was in a very difficult situation.

心中暗暗后悔,如果不去门房打听,径直走了进去,说不定根本没人问他是什么人,今 天自己找了麻烦,先暴露了自己的身份。看来,今天这么大老远的来,母亲是看不见了。如此

– 370 –

当大炳回到盐源,把蔡家医院所见情况告诉了我,顿时对母亲的担忧压在我的心头。她 在信中不厌其烦的写道“要听党的话”,恰恰证明她是多么无奈,母亲所受的精神压力,超过 生活在枪杆子下面的我。

这一年春节,我照样收到了她寄来的一斤猪肉,并在信中告诉我,我给他带的东西已经 收到。一再要求我能将半身的近照寄给她。

在狱中,我们的像片一直由当局摄制。所以,母亲这小小的心愿,对于失去人身自由的 我,还真成了一件大难事。我的身边已有十多年没有保存过一张像片了。为了满足她的要求, 我一直在寻找去盐源的机会。

盐源地处云贵川高原,在这个汉、彝、藏、苗等民族杂居的地方,有广阔的牧场,放牧 的牛羊群,和过路畜群,撒在这一带草地上的牛羊粪一直被农场各队争抢。徐世奎也不示弱, 在春耕栽插完毕后,便派了一个由六人组成的小组,长期驻外拣粪。

这个小组在马路边租了一间公社的小茅屋,六人吃住都在里面,每天所拣的牛粪便堆积 在屋外马路边,等到凑足了可以用解放牌拉上几车的数量后,便临时从场部抽调汽车,再派两 个人跟着汽车一起到积肥的地点为汽车装牛粪,当时装粪的人一般指派菜蔬组的人。

When Wang Dabing returned to Yanyuan and told me what he had seen at the Caijiayuan Hospital, I immediately became very worried about mother’s situation. She had taken great pains to write in her letter “you should obey the Party”. That in itself showed how helpless she was. She was under greater pressure than I was who lived with guns pointed at me.

That year at Spring Festival I got from her as usual the pound of pork that she sent me. In her letter she mentioned that she had received the things that I had sent her. She asked me over and over to send her a recent photo portrait of myself. All our photos in prison were taken by the authorities. Fulfilling my mother’s small request for someone like myself who had lost their freedom was very hard to do. For over a decade, I hadn’t kept any photographs for over a decade. To satisfy her request, I kept trying to find an opportunity to go into Yanyuan.

In Yanyuan, located on the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau, live mixed together people of many different ethnicities — Han, Yi, Tibetan, Miao and others. On the pasturelands graze herds of cattle and sheep. The different agricultural brigades scramble to gather the manure left by these livestock on the pasturelands and on the roads. Xu Shikui himself was no laggard in this respect. The special group from the Sixth Brigade sent out on this task spent a long time outside the farm gathering manure.

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated,with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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1 Response to Kong Lingping’s Maoist Labor Camp Memoir: A Decade Spent between Life and Death

  1. Stephen A. says:

    From 1959-79, I imagine the separation and uncertainties must have weighed on this soul. Appreciate your efforts and reminder of how history had an impact on these individuals.

    Liked by 1 person

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