| CHAPTER THREE: The Cultural Revolution|
Part 1, Home Moving
From 6 up to 10 years old I lived with our family at father’s working unit, though most of the time father was rarely at home as I mentioned in chapter one that “my father, as one of the ‘could be used but never be trusted’ Party members, was constantly sent to countryside from place to place to carry out party’s endless political campaigns. ” My little head was filled with all the communist’s jargons, jargons such as, “Four liquidating", the “stay at one point”, the “ Socialist Education Movement”, the “Three Antis Five Antis", the “Anti Right Wing” the “ 5 .7 Cadre’s School” etc, etc. Anyway, if list all Chinese Communist Part’s political movements, I can’t say that my father had contributed every single one of them, but most of them for sure.
As I also wrote in chapter two that not long after “Tenghao” occurrence, my mother was removed from her working position and transferred to a much lower working unit located at the edge of Changsha city far away from where we lived.
For saving money, everyday mother woke up with the chickens and off to her work place at the crack of dawn by foot. The distance even today takes me a middle aged strong man over one hour by foot. Back from work she was also always in darkness. I can still clearly recall the scene that every evening our three hungry brothers sitting together in darkness anxiously waiting for the sound of our mother’s footsteps.
Father was away from home; mother had to work; Danjin and I went to school; the only person left home was our youngest brother Danfeng. Actually the youngest and weakest was not exactly “left” home, but being locked up at home, the same Danjin did to me during my first days in Changsha.
One day I had a fight with a classmate at school. Danjin had to accompany me staying at school over time. He apologized to my classmate in our parents’ place. Meanwhile our four- year old little brother must be in extreme hunger, he poured a whole battle of oil and a bag of green lentils into a pan and put the pan on the stove. Fortunately there was no fire in the stove, otherwise that could result a bloody tearing story.
Through these entire years Danfeng’s “Frying Oil Bean” as a butt has been one of our family standing jokes. It was also from then Danfeng decided to become a cook when he grows up so that he wouldn’t suffer from starvation again. 40 years later, he has become a cook of a Chinese restaurant, in London.
That “Frying Oil Bean” incident forced mother to make up her mind of moving the entire family out from the provincial government fence to her countryside-work place, a place called Panjiaping.
1964, we moved to a temporary one-storied house at mother’s work place. The house consisted of 8 units. That means 8 households shared the house. Each unit of the house had front and back room; the third room was a kitchen. Two households shared the same back door, that is to say there were 8 doors in front of the house, but only 4 doors at the back. Because the house meant temporary, nothing had been done to the ground, no cement, no wooden flooring, no nothing. That natural fertile soil ground consequently resulted grass growing inside our homes, under the bed for instance. We lived in that temporary one-storied house, temporarily for 8 years, until I became an adult and out to make my own living. For this reason, quite a portion of my following stories was taking place at this scene spot.
Part Two, An Ugly Phoenix Dropped into a Chicken Nest
I said goodbye to my first elementary school “Da Tong Wan Xiao” and transferred to fourth grade of The “New River School”.
During my years in “Da Tong Wan Xiao” I had always been one of the troublesome pupils in the class. When I left the class, there were only four in the class who were not Advanced Youth Team Members, and I occupied 25%. By that time, I was lack of self-questioning ability, therefore could only put the blame on father of being without any official titles but a secretary. For the atmosphere at that school was if someone’s father possessed no color-faded old army uniform, it equals a shame.
However, things changed so dramatically after I moved to Panjiaping. Among all those countryside boys, I was just like an ugly phoenix dropped into a chicken nest, suddenly becoming a favorite pupil of the whole school. I was accepted to be an Advanced Youth Team member in my first school week. Followed I was chosen to be the leader of the class. And soon after that again I was pointed to play a major role in a school drama. Later I was picked up to be a member of various sport teams, such as dash, ping-pong, and swimming. As one of the representatives of the school swim team I was even sent to the Provincial Sport School to be trained. I did also participate a few competitions. Yet the results were all of despondences. For I had always been number one, counting from the back.
All these efforts and failures meant little to me, for what I really wanted, was not special at school among the classmates, but special at home among my brothers.
Part Three, The Cultural Revolution Begins
(Bodhisattvas on Fire)
The year 1966, as soon as I reached the grade six, our great leader Chairman Mao launched the Historically Unprecedented Cultural Revolution.
Everyone who experienced the Cultural Revolution knows the movement began with “Breaking Four Olds”(old thoughts; old cultural; old tradition; old habits).
By the side of our school there was a nunnery with history. One day, when the whole class was animadverting on our teacher, we over heard a voice shouting, “Everybody put on action. Let’s burn all the bodhisattvas in the temple”. Hence, people moved out many bodhisattvas, big ones small ones, heaped them in front of the temple, and then poured some asphalt on the bodhisattvas, one match, immediately a thick smoke roll with fire twisted into the sky. The one who lightened the fire was a man we called Uncle Hunag.
At the time I was 11 years old, did not know what to be afraid of, went to see the crowd for fun with a neighbor called brother Money 100. He showed off his knowledge by telling me that, “This is just like before liberation when the foreign devils burned our Circle Brilliant Garden in Beijing.”
Meanwhile, a few women’s voice vociferated, “My bodhisattva, my bodhisattva…”rushed into the fire. Followed was chaos. I was too small to see anything behind all the adults, only heard people commenting, “Good miserable God! Being burned like that…”
On our way home, we happened to walk close to Uncle Hunag and couple of his colleagues.
One man said, “All these kinds are blocks of the great revolution, therefore should not save them, let them burn to dead. As our great leader Chairman Mao taught us, ‘there is revolution, there must be sacrifices’.”
Immediately after the man a woman commented, “ That’s right, that’s right. Look at them, being burned like ghosts, how can they go on living. May be it’s better to let them die without pain rather than let them live with endless suffering. Ai! Bloody miserable.”
While the opinion of uncle Huang was however wiser, “let them die? That would be too easy for them. Can’t die and can’t live, not human not ghost, let them be worse than not to be, would be the best retribution that they should get.”
(The Death of The Secular Bird Wang)
Since then, like everybody in China, me too personally encountered lots of difficult-to-comprehend happenings, such as those used to be looked down upon suddenly became mount the high horse, while those highly respectable people like Party leaders school teachers were unexpectedly down to the bottom, some of them even forced to swim the streets with a plate sign of bad names hanging on their necks.
For a period of time father was at home, I meant staying AT HOME, not to work in the office. The whole country was paralyzed, the Party, the government, the police except the army. There were red guards everywhere. They were in total power of doing whatever they wanted. They searched some of my neighbors and classmates’ homes.
One day, father found a piece of five-layered plywood. He cut it and made a board, drilled two holes, and tried different ropes, picked up the best rope and hanged the board on his neck.
“Too heavy.” Father said to himself.
And then father changed a piece of three-layered plywood and started all over again from the beginning.
“Are you too going to swim the streets with that?” I worried.
“I’m not qualified.” Father smiled bitterly, “This is for my superior, minister Wang.” Followed father wrote on the board “down to the capitalist-road-going Wang”.
I thought father must have also joined the rebels taking the timing advantage to revenge Wang for what he did to my mother (transferring her to a much lower working unit). Recalling the hatred with his son from the occurrence of Tenghao, I was actually quite excited about father’s doing.
But later I learnt that father was entrusted by Wang to make that board, as he couldn’t make his own because of being handicapped. Wang was one of Mao’s followers. He got shot several times in various wars. Until the day Mao announced the establishment of the New China, Wang also announced that he was a secular bird and would never die. It must be far beyond Wang’s expectation that during his live time in the country he fought for, one day he would suddenly loss everything. Under the circumstance that even all of his family members declared to cut all ties with him, my father, being his faithful old secretary was the last person and only person left in the world he could turn for help.
Wang was an optimistic person. Even under such pressure he comforted my father by saying, “Don’t worry old Chen. I’m not afraid. I’ve gone through everything in my life. I’m a secular bird. Remember?”
But, the secular bird’s day finally came. That day, father’s working-unit held a criticizing meeting against minister Wang. Wang was tied up and being forced to kneel on the stage. People jumped on the stage one after another to make their accusations. That was an age of “Class Above Family”. Wang’s son Wang-Pang as a Red Guard member also shouted slogans together with the others to knock down his own father.
More unexpectedly, Wang’s wife too jumped on the stage accusing Wang cheated and forced her to be his wife when she was young and innocent working at an army singing and dance team. That accusation certainly brought the meeting to a high climax.
Wang was put a high paper made hat and hung up the board my father made and escorted to swim the street. Though the board was not really heavy, but as Wang was originally handicapped plus all the agonizing, it was in no way he could walk with that broad all the way by himself. Therefore from time to time father had to take turn to replace him with the board.
After some distance Wang was rather dragged than walking. When the procession passed by a small garden pond, Wang broke loose and dashed to the pond. He had his final words, “Anti. All anti.” In front of everybody’s eyes, he threw himself into the garden pond. And the revolutionary had gone down to the bottom.
Wang’s wife fainted on the ground immediately like a dead tree trunk, and dirtied her trousers with natural relieve.
Wang’s son Wang-Pang was out of sight for the time being.
Only Wang-Pang’s younger sister was crying like a hell for her Daddy and Mom.
My father was shocked of course. He instinct rushed to the pond for a few steps, and then stopped, turned around, made every effort to conceal his emotion behind his eyeglasses. Reluctantly he followed the ebullitions shouting the slogan, “Knock down the capitalist-road-going Wang. Wang is guilty, guilty for ten thousand death.”
The political conclusion to Wang was “betray the motherland, betray the Party, and betray the people.”
It is said from 1966 to 1976 those ten years, around 2,000,000 people died unnaturally due to political reasons. Besides a huge member of suicides, they were not killed directly by the Communist Party, not by the government, not by any authorities, but by ordinary people themselves, such as students killing teachers, civilians killing Party leaders, workers killing their working heads, farmers killing survival landlords and their posterities, the rebels and the royalists killing each other…
(Old Revolutionaries Encountering New Problems)
“Old revolutionaries encountering new problems” was a popular expression during the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. It is virtually a vivid description to the situation. My parents were of course among those who encountered the new problems. The biggest problem among all was how to adopt oneself to the incomprehensible happenings.
After Wang’s death, back home my parents had a vehemence debate. My mother was one of the most royalists. She was very angry with his husband shouting slogans with others to knock down Wang, especially after Wang’s death.
“Not to mention he used to be your superior, how could you betray such a good comrade, an old revolutionary?” Mother asked.
I was a bit surprised by mother’s words, wondered if I should remind her who sent her to Panjiaping that caused the life change of our whole family.
But father reasoned, “Being a revolutionary, we can’t let our emotion control our reason. The purpose of Chairman Mao launching the Cultural Revolution is to knock down those capitalist-road-going leaders in the Party. Wang used to be a revolutionary, he was our comrade, but today the political situation changed, he has become a capitalist-road-going leader, therefore he is no longer our comrade but enemy. I did betray my small landlord father and follow you to the revolutionary road before, why can’t I betray my capitalist-road-going superior today? This is called ‘continuous revolution under proletariat autarchy’.”
Father was getting more and more excited. He recited Mao’s quotation. The words were more like crying out rather than speak out, “What is revolution？Revolution is not inviting someone for a meal. Revolution is riot, is a violent activity for one class to overthrow another.”
“This, too ruthlessness.” Mother cried out.
“Revolution has always been ruthlessness.” After father finish saying this, he swallowed phlegm in his mouth.
After a little pause, mother emphasized again, “Everything is mad, white becomes black, and black becomes white.”
“Exactly, this is what today we call ‘box-up’, or ‘snafu’. Everything we see is opposite, which means whatever was good is bad, whatever was bad is good.” Although father’s tone sounded positive but clearly could not cover his perplexity.
“Whatever you say still I feel that all wrong.” Mother’s voice became weak and despair.
Father changed his tone to be more negotiable, “Rights or wrong, let the history make its conclusion. The only thing we can do right now, is to listen to our great leader Chairman Mao.”
The family political debate ended that way. Father put the board he made for Wang on the loft, in front a Chairman Mao’s quotation book and a lighter, the lighter that father received from Wang as a private gift many years ago, the lighter that father carried with him everywhere everyday and showed off before people from time to time.
Quite a few days after that debate, mother not only refused to talk to father, but also refused to have meal with father at the same table.
Despite of similar to the most youth, I was too in an extreme perplexity. But also similar to many others, the biggest desire for me at that time was take part in the Red Guard. So that I could also wear a self made army uniform, a red chevron on my arm, a leather belt on my waist. Unfortunately my age was too young. There was nothing I could do. Couldn’t I rebel my parents for that, could I?
The worst thing was my brother Danjin, only one and half year elder than me, being accepted by the Red Guard. What made me even more jealous was he together with a few other elderly neighbors visited the Revolution Holy site jinggangshan.
While the poor little me, no school to go no nothing to do, except every day nested home cooking. If it were not we shared the kitchen with next-door neighbor, if the neighbor’s daughter Hu MeiMei were not cute and sweet, if I could not kill my time by flirting her, I would probably have bored to death already.
Fortunately that situation did not last long. For at last I found something very special that I love, and more importantly I believed that could reach my goal of gaining respect of my whole family, especially of my father’s.
To be continued.