The Crying and Laughing Past of the SATs

In 1972, the university began to resume admissions by means of grassroots recommendations for grade-by-grade political review, which continued until 1976. College and university admissions gave intellectual youth another chance to jump out of the farm gate, but those with gray or even black family backgrounds were still as hopeless as recruitment. By 1973, we suddenly heard that cultural tests had been reinstated for admissions. Of course, it is impossible for us to know what happened at the national level, but the fact that passing the culture test became an important condition for admissions made many Zhiqing who did not have “good” family backgrounds very excited. That year, the quota was also relaxed, and our commune recommended nearly 20 intellectuals to take the exam at once, which seemed to be the largest number of intellectuals recommended since we started recruiting students.

At that time, there was still about a week to go before the examination, and the production team could not give special care to the intellectuals, so I went to work as usual during the day and could only do some surprise revision at night. In the summer, hundreds of mosquito bombers were buzzing around my body, and it was no longer the kind of “refined” “discussion” described by Lu Xun, but simply outright threats and intimidation. Hungry mosquitoes take turns attacking, densely bites on the exposed arms and legs, until they themselves doubled in size and do not leave. It was under such harsh conditions, with a ghostly kerosene lamp lit, that I studied for a week, mainly by raiding on geometry I had never studied before, to prepare for the exam.

The exam questions were surprisingly simple, and I easily completed my answers and handed in my papers early. I was informed by the admissions teacher that my results were good and I had been confirmed on the admissions list.

When I returned to the production team to wait for the admission notice, one night, the commune’s cable radio broadcast the high pitched voice of the announcer, broadcasting the deeds of Zhang Tiesheng, the “hero of the white rolls”. I knew I was doomed. In early 1974, the newly established Sichuan Vinylon Factory Technical School came to Cangxi to recruit students, and they intended to select among the intellectuals who had passed the cultural examination. The commune recommended me again, and gave me their full support, and after many untold twists and turns, I finally returned to the city. I first studied in a technical school, and then joined the instrument maintenance workshop of Sichuan Vinylon Factory as a worker.

When the news of the resumption of the college entrance examination in 1977 spread, I was not impressed. Not because the setback in 1973 caused a psychological shadow, but because: first, I graduated from technical school and entered the factory less than two years, according to state regulations can not apply for the examination; second, at that time, the instrument maintenance is indeed a good job, there is no question of seeking a better future through college.

However, we have two young workers in the workshop to take the test, and are tested, they were suddenly covered with a gorgeous aura, and became all of our young workers admire the “star”. I buried my head and tried my best to control it, but the tears came out in a humiliating way.

It was a huge shock to me that they went to university, instantly activating my early aspirations, and I could no longer be indifferent to going to university; it also activated my confidence in myself, and I secretly worked hard, determined to take the entrance exam in the next year’s intake.

Compared with 1977, the 1978 college entrance examination was changed to a national unified examination, and the subjects of the examination were increased, including language, mathematics, politics, history and geography for the arts. This year, there was no mandatory rule for foreign languages, and those who had never studied a foreign language could not take the exam. I was glad that I was included in the list of those who had never studied a foreign language, which saved me the headache of studying a foreign language and the time to study other subjects.

The Sichuan vinylon factory I worked in was one of the three large chemical factories that introduced advanced equipment from abroad. The instrument maintenance workshop I was in was even more talented, each work area had several college students as our master, teaching us should master the technical knowledge. At that time, the equipment was being shipped one after another and waiting to be installed, there was not enough warehouse in the factory, there were a lot of equipment stacked in a makeshift shed, which was guarded by the personnel sent by the branch factories and workshops in turns.

I remember one night shift, the masters were chatting together. I have the impression that my masters gossiping is also extremely classy, almost never heard them chatting gossip. They were together, either discussing technical issues in the work, or exchanging some of the latest information on the development of technological progress at that time. At that time, even as engineers and technicians, their respective sources of information were very limited, and such exchanges were necessary.

The mystery of genes made me admire the knowledgeable masters from respect to admiration, and while I was ashamed of myself, I also gained a strong motivation to work hard.

Although the factory was not yet in operation, the work was many and complicated, and the task of going out to study was also very heavy, so there was not much spare time. In our workshop, because of the example of two workers who entered university in ’77, the young workers were eager to try, and more than 10 of them registered for the 1978 college entrance exam. The highly educated masters were especially understanding and supportive of us young people who were intellectuals but not really knowledgeable.

During that time, we could bring the review materials to the workshop office, and the masters took the initiative to take up the work we usually undertake, and left time for us to review in the office as much as possible, and also helped us to solve problems after work. The unselfish support and unrequited help of the masters, let me still remember in my heart.

In stark contrast to the masters, the students in the technical school in the dormitory. I still don’t understand their motives at that time, and I don’t want to think of others as dirty. In a short period of time, living in the same dormitory of technical school students, every time I saw me after dinner, take out a book sitting on the edge of the bed ready to review, they invited a group of people in the dormitory neck singing, or deliberately hip-hop to swing the gantry, making a fuss until more than 10 or even 11 o’clock.

It was said that some people were scornful and sarcastic behind my back: “Jiang Rong wants to go to college. I certainly didn’t want to make any headway with these people, and when I couldn’t stay in my dorm room, I went outside to study under the dimly lit streetlights. The good thing was that I took Arts, so I didn’t have to amble around doing exercises except for Maths; and I had the support of my masters, so I could study Maths in the workshop office during the day.

The year 1978 is said to have been the largest year ever for university candidates. With the example of the Class of ’77, many people who didn’t dare or couldn’t take the entrance exam in ’77 for various reasons, signed up. The Kawi plant was far from the city, and the plant was not in a position to set up an examination hall for the candidates, who arranged to take their exams at the Yanji Township High School in Longevity County. Every classroom in the school was packed to the brim, and it was still very easy to make small gestures with two people at a desk. But at that time, people regarded the examinations as sacred, and the examiners were very disciplined, and no one was ever caught cheating in such a crowded examination room.

The examination room was so poor that there was no place to rest after the examination, so I had to sit by the school’s playground and wait for the second examination in the afternoon. Even if there was a place to rest at noon, most people probably wouldn’t be able to sleep, so it wasn’t a problem if they didn’t rest.

One thing I remember most vividly is that I had no place to eat at lunch. I don’t know how others solved it, but I was unprepared for the first day, so I had to starve until the end of the afternoon exams, back to the unit dormitory to eat.

That day back to the dormitory, just push open the door of the moment, I almost fell to the ground in front of a black. I was young at the time and carried it over without incident. The next day I brought my own dry food.

My exams went pretty well, except for the math test until the bell rang, the other doors were handed out early. When answering the questions, the corner of my eye scanned the girl next to me, writing less sweat when more, and inside is still full of sympathy for her. When I returned to the workshop after the test, the masters asked how the test went. I replied that my answer was not so bad. The masters laughed and said, “Generally speaking, a “mediocre” answer is more likely to win.

The day of waiting for the announcement of the results was anxious, although it was different from that of the intellectuals who needed to “jump over the farm gate”, but since I took the test, I had set a high expectation for myself, so it would be untrue to say that I was not anxious.

The most dramatic thing happened on the day the results were announced.

Together with me from Cangxi rural transfer out, and together into the technical school instrument class study friend Zhou Wu Ding, into the factory in the propaganda department work. She had many contacts and a wide variety of sources of information. We had just finished work and were about to go to the dining hall for lunch when she called.

She lowered her voice and spoke in a tone so heavy that it made my heart skip a beat. I felt a bang in my heart, like a huge piece of glass being shattered. She continued on the other end of the phone, “The results were announced. You scored 180 points (the admission line for science was 280 points, and for arts was about 10 or 20 points higher). The last she also stressed the source of the information is very reliable, the original technical school secretary Luo brought back from the county admissions office.

I was stunned, a sentence can not say, put down the phone to the table to lie down, although trying to control their emotions, but still can not control the flood of tears, because of the suppression, it became a full-body trembling, very painful look.

Several young workers in the workshop were extraordinarily sympathetic, and Wang Yaxi and Yang Yuling, who were also waiting for the results to be announced, called for lunch with my help. But I couldn’t eat and just cried. I was able to see the people next to me struggling to answer the questions in the examination room, I was able to finish the various examinations with ease, and I was able to answer the questions after the examinations were over. …… All the scenes about the college entrance examinations were quickly crossed in my mind again and again. Slowly I calmed down and strengthened my confidence in myself that it was impossible! There’s no way it’s 180! I took a leave of absence from the duty master and I was going to check the scores at the county this afternoon. They must have made a mistake!

Just after I had taken my leave, Zhou Wu Ding called again, she kept saying sorry, sorry, Jiang Rong, it’s a mistake, your grades are on the key line. In less than two hours, I was thrown down a deep valley from the top of a mountain, and then lifted up to the top of a mountain, and I fainted. On the score line of a major university, I was only going to take the Southwest Normal University, suddenly qualified to enter Sichuan University. Holding the phone for a time crowing, I once again could not speak, stunned for half a day before replying to her two words, thank you!

I became one of the best performers in the factory that year, and was the first among the candidates in the whole factory to receive an acceptance letter. When the notice came down, my name flew all over the factory like wings on every department. Everywhere I went to do procedures, the first thing I heard was this: you are Jiang Rong! It’s a compliment, such a compliment that it makes you drunk on soup!

When I got the notice at the plant office, my hands trembling with excitement, I opened it, but I was stunned! It was written boldly on the notice – Department of Philosophy, Sichuan University. I felt as if my legs were taken off the bones, so soft that I could not stand up at all, so I had to hastily reach out and hold onto the railing of the stairs, barely able to support my body, but my head was gathering hungry mosquitoes army, a buzzing roar.

The philosophy department of Sichuan University was not my choice, presumably because I didn’t have any one subject that particularly stood out, and because the philosophy department was sparsely populated at the time, the admissions process transferred the candidates who filled out the obedience allocation to the philosophy department. After such a hard struggle and emotional torture, I got a “political science” philosophy department in return. Suddenly, I did not want to go to university.

I had no idea what philosophy was, nor had I ever heard of the phrase “philosophy is about wisdom”, which is a judgment about the discipline that can make people have a beautiful vision. In my mind, like almost everyone else’s, philosophy is equated with politics, and “politics” has been made so repulsive by decades of “political movements” that I’m afraid to avoid it.

Staring at the hard-earned acceptance letter, my frustration overflowed like a fountain, completely overshadowing my otherwise wild joy – studying politics was no fun at all! And I thought, I have already been to the university, the test is the first of the whole plant, the ability has been proved, but also a strong response to those who scorn me, is not to go to university, can also raise their eyebrows. Give it up, give it up, I tried to convince myself in my heart.

However, I am still very torn, I really want to seek the opinion of my family, but no phone number at home at that time, write a letter, time is too late, even if it is too late to send a telegram, I must overcome the confusion of choice and make a decision as soon as possible. Still, I have to thank my masters, they all said, it is hard to get in, the opportunity is rare, should go, it is always good to go to college. What my masters said was also their own personal experience. I decided to listen to my masters.

In any case, I made the final decision is still a little reluctant, just, to go to the factory when the relevant departments to do the formalities, people’s envious eyes unabashed praise, once again to meet my vanity, so that when I left Chuanwei factory, the mood is still relatively high. I don’t know if there are other people like me after entering the university, almost “to go or not to go” tangled up with Prince Hamlet “to live or die” the famous question?

After graduating from college, transferring jobs and moving my family several times, I lost my prized admissions pass and admissions letter, and all I could find was a school badge. Luckily my classmates have brightened up their treasured artifacts as they documented their experience. A memento of the times they belong to, all the same.