My childhood memories of the Cultural Revolution

When the Cultural Revolution broke out, I was just 3 years old. My memory of the world as a whole began with “The whole country was red”. What started out as a frenzy of color and passion turned into an ugly show of loss of sanity and human extermination.

“Three Loyalties”

My first vivid memory of the Cultural Revolution is the words “three loyalties”. One Time when I was playing in front of my house, children older than me were chanting “Three Loyalties”. I said: No. He took out a plastic “red heart” with a pin, the size of a child’s hand, with the image of Chairman Mao and some words I did not know, he said: this is the “three loyalties”, and asked me if I understood. I replied: Yes. In fact, my understanding at that time was that this “red heart” was called “three loyalties”, just like the names of cakes, cookies, washbasins and rice bowls. A few years later, I realized that the so-called “three loyalties” was not the name of a specific item, but an activity, an idea.

Later, at the climax of the “Three Loyalties” campaign, my father and I watched a big parade together, a parade in which many units in Shenyang participated. People marched through the main streets of the city, singing and dancing, with many propaganda vehicles accompanying them, making it very lively. It was like the “carnival” I saw overseas later. My father and I were standing in a high place, so we could see the whole parade clearly. I was very excited and kept dancing, thinking it would be great if we could have such a wonderful “show” every day.

At that time, there were also many people dancing in our compound. People danced in groups on the road in the courtyard during working hours, dancing while walking forward, very “spectacular”. I remember a Tibetan song, singing “Chairman Mao’s light, shining on the snow-capped mountains ……” is the “backing song” often used by these dancers.

The “black hand” and the “cow ghosts and snakes”

One morning, I went with my grandmother to buy Food from the state store in the compound. When I came out, I saw a convoy of cars coming from the street in front of the gate, not from our institute, but from other units nearby. There were a dozen red-flagged Jiefang trucks with people standing on them with big signs. Each of them held up their hands in the shape of surrender, and both hands were pitch black. We were about 20 meters away from the truck, so we couldn’t see whether the hands were painted black with ink or black mud. This was the first time I saw the parade scene, I was very curious and wanted to get closer and see more clearly. But my grandmother, who had just returned from Beijing, had seen enough of this madness in Beijing, so she nervously pulled me along and rushed Home from the other side of the road. When I heard the loudspeaker talk about “xxxx black hands” and so on, I asked my grandmother: What are black hands? Grandma’s answer was a serious “misdirection” to my young self. She pointed to the people in the car and said: this is the black hand. I “suddenly realized” that the black hands are those black hands. Then came a new confusion, how our hands are white, and theirs are black? It wasn’t until I was in elementary school that I really understood the meaning of “black hands”.

After the campaign to clean up the class ranks began. Everything that came into my eyes turned into a horror show. Large-character posters and slogans covered the entire compound like snow flakes, as if it were snowing in June. Our compound was shared by two research units, and my house was located very close to the work area, so I could often see what was happening in the work area while standing on the balcony.

At that time, the daily work of the institute was segregation censorship, and the deafening slogans of the criticism meetings could be heard clearly from the balcony. At the end of the day, my grandmother and I would stand on the balcony and watch the “Western view”. In front of us on the left was the work area of another institute, and after the fight, the cattle, ghosts and snakes were escorted back to the basement where they were being held (only 50 meters away from our residential building), and the guards kept beating those who walked slowly with military belts, yelling at the same time. The cowards and snakes, each carrying their pants, ran all the way. It was later learned that these people had to walk with their own pants because the guards were afraid they would commit suicide and confiscate their trouser belts when they were “off duty”. This is how they live every day.

To the right of my house, at the main intersection of the compound, there is a huge statue of Chairman Mao. At the end of each day, those who had not yet been imprisoned were escorted to the statue of Chairman Mao to ask for their sins. The procedure was to bend down 90 degrees and recite “The dictatorship of the masses is good, the dictatorship of the masses is good, the cattle, ghosts, snakes and gods cannot escape!” Three times each time. Only after that could they be dismissed and go home. During this process, people often did not bend enough and were whipped by the guards with military belts. This happened every day, and people were beaten every time they pleaded guilty.

I remember these “lines” very well, because I repeated them every day for months on end. Later, when we children played games together, we used to imitate the process of “asking forgiveness”.

One afternoon, just after the adults had left for work, I was shocked to see the head of my mother’s research lab being paraded from the work area to the residential area, right in front of our building, tied up with a sign on his balcony. This man lived on the first floor below us and had three sons in his Family, the youngest of whom later became a classmate of mine. His father-in-law and mother-in-law also lived with them. When he was tied up and passed in front of the house, his father-in-law and mother-in-law were watching from the front door of the building. I saw this scene from my balcony and thought to myself: how sad his family must be, how “humiliating” it was. Near the end of the day, around 4:00 p.m., my grandmother and I went out to buy something, and at the gate of the work area, I also saw the director being punished by standing in front of the public, still with his hands tied and a big sign hanging around his neck. This day is really enough for him to suffer, both arms were tied for several hours, I’m afraid they will be senseless. That day, I felt very uncomfortable.

Father became a “prisoner”

Soon, the bad luck fell on us, and my father was isolated and locked up in his own office. The writing desk was used to write explanatory materials during the day and was his bed at night. Three meals a day were brought to him by my mother and me. The purpose of my mother taking me there was so that we could meet as father and daughter. My father’s office building was a three-story white building, “imitation Soviet” architecture, which looked very grand in those days. Some of the rooms inside were laboratories, with many valuable research equipment, and some rooms were offices for researchers to use. When the purge of the rank and file began, the whole building became a prison. Almost every office was used as a prison cell, holding many “censored subjects”. The mail room became the prison guard’s duty room, and every time we went there, we had to be checked. Every time we went there, we had to be inspected. The food we sent had to be carefully inspected by the guards before we could be released.

One morning, we brought breakfast to my father as usual, the guards opened the door of the “cell”, and as soon as we entered, we noticed that my father’s face did not look right, to be precise, a large piece of his face was blue-purple. Mom asked him nervously what had happened. Father replied that he had been beaten up the first night. Several of the subjects in their research room had been beaten, and the task force had punched and kicked them. Seeing my father in this state and listening to his conversation with my mother made me sad and scared. I didn’t know what unexpected things would happen tomorrow.

The next day, for some reason, the building’s doorman stopped letting me in as a child, and from then on, I did not enter the office building for nearly two months while my father was in custody. That night, I cried, I can’t say what I felt, in short, very aggravated and depressed.

During my father’s unlucky days, the rest of us in the family encountered many unbelievable things as well. When Grandma and I would go out to buy groceries, we would encounter many “bad kids” who would throw rocks at us, blow small grains of fruit in our faces with rubber hoses, and insult us with obscene language. On one occasion, they even came to the house. They used a few sticks, topped with a few tiles, to support our door, and then knocked on it. Fortunately, it was my grandmother who opened the door, she is taller than me, the tiles did not hit her face, if I had opened the door would have been miserable, certainly be a head bleeding. Another time, the whole family was eating dinner when someone suddenly threw a stone at our window and shattered the glass. The dining table was right next to the window, and a lot of broken glass fell on it. Mom was nervous, wondering if there would be further attacks, and she told our whole family to get down so we wouldn’t get hurt by the broken glass. Lying on the ground, I was furious and thought, “I wonder which son of a bitch did that. From that time on, hatred began to arise in my heart. As I grew older, this feeling of hatred became stronger and stronger, and it was not until long after the “Gang of Four” was crushed that it slowly dissolved.

“Grabbing” food

After the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, the slogan “grasp the revolution and promote production” became louder and louder, and people’s lives became more and more difficult, with the daily necessities of Life becoming more and more scarce every day. A large part of my childhood memories are related to “food”. To describe it in the language of that era, we often had to “grab vegetables”, “grab soy sauce” and “grab ……”. It is hard for people living today to imagine what those days were like.

At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, there were about 3,000 workers and their families living in our compound. In the east and west gates of the compound, there was a state-run store selling daily necessities for the residents. Further back, the situation was completely different. When my grandmother and I went out to buy food in the morning, no matter which store we went to, there was always only a plate of ginger and a plate of garlic on the vegetable case, and nothing else. We went out not too late, and when we entered the store at 8:00 a.m., there was nothing left, so were the dishes sold out before 8:00 that day? At the time, my grandmother thought so, but now, in retrospect, I think it is unlikely, the biggest possibility is: there is no vegetable supply in the store at all.

Our compound, 1 kilometer long in front and back, is also nearly 1 kilometer wide. My house is just in the center of the compound. If we didn’t get vegetables at the store outside the west gate, we had to go back to the intersection in front of our house, then go through the whole work area and go out from the south gate, and walk along the road outside the compound wall to the store outside the east gate – because the east gate was in the inner area of the work area, and during the Cultural Revolution It was forbidden for family members to enter the inner area. Thus, it was almost 10 o’clock when we reached the store at the east gate. The whole process was almost 4 kilometers of road. Every day, an old woman with a child walked from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. with an empty basket to feed her family of five, and then came back with empty hands. It was hard and heartbreaking. Grandma always blamed herself for going out late and walking slowly. In fact, it wasn’t her fault at all. Over the years, every time I think of such past events, I feel very difficult. Grandma’s life was really hard, from the Boxer Rebellion to the Cultural Revolution, which had a few days of peace!

Since everything was supplied by ticket, we Shenyang residents could only get three taels of meat and three taels of oil per month, “three taels” became the standard language to describe the living standard of our people in the Northeast in those days. For this reason, Chen Xilian, who presided over the Northeast, had the nickname of the times – “Chen Sanliang”. The supply of eggs was half a catty per month, or in more graphic terms, five medium-sized eggs per person per month. Under such difficult conditions, people in the compound began to use various ways to “get” food. Raising chickens was the most common method at that time, not only to solve the egg problem, but also to improve life occasionally by stewing an old hen to eat.

Since the family dormitories were all buildings, if you wanted to raise chickens, you could only do so at home. Moreover, not all residents have balconies, and the winter temperatures in the northeast are too low to keep chickens outdoors, so it is inevitable that people and chickens will be kept in the same room. In our unit, it was a 3 room layout, and during the Cultural Revolution, two families lived together and shared the kitchen and toilet. The aisle of the unit was very narrow (there was no courtyard in those days), and it was a real passage, so it was too crowded for two people to walk side by side. In such a place, it was inconvenient and unhygienic to put a large chicken coop and raise a few chickens (fortunately, there was no bird flu at that time). Not to mention the inconvenience of walking, the smell of chicken manure every day, it is enough for you to smell. We and our neighbors have a few chickens, their nest in the aisle after the home, we have to put our nest on the balcony, in winter, but also to provide some extra warm measures for the nest, pressed on a small quilt, etc.. Since we had chickens, feeding them was part of my daily life, and the most tiring part was chopping up the cabbage, which was done by my grandmother and me. In those days, all families lived like this, and every day you could hear the sound of chopping chicken food coming from everywhere. Raising chickens was hard and chopping chicken food was tiresome, but whenever I saw a big egg fall out of a chicken’s ass, my mood became very happy.

At the end of the Cultural Revolution, even vegetables were supplied by card. Each household received 5 pounds per day, once every two days, or 10 pounds at a time. One card per month, divided into single and double numbers for rationing. The 10 catties of vegetables, not the net weight, is the gross weight with soil. Divided without weighing, the salesman (to be precise, the distributor) with a large rake, a rake on the ground on it. As for whether the weight is accurate, no one cares, it’s good to have a mouthful of vegetables to eat. If it is the kind of cabbage from the field “between” down the seedlings (locally called “cabbage”) will be miserable, the whole vegetable all mud paste, 10 pounds of vegetables can have 5 pounds of soil, purely a pile of rotten vegetables. My grandmother was most afraid to receive this “cabbage”, cleaning too much effort.

Interesting is the process of “waiting for the vegetables”. These dishes, which are supplied by card, are not always available in the store. There is a truck that comes every day to deliver the vegetables, and the time is variable, and the quantity is not enough to distribute. In other words, it can be delivered from 8am to 6pm. So, to get your share, you have to wait for someone at home, once every two days. There is always a time to wait from morning until evening. It’s bad for double-income families, so they have to let their children take care of the food after school. If they came too late, many times they couldn’t get it. One of my closest classmates in elementary school, whose family was a double-income family, was plagued with the problem of “receiving vegetables” and often had three meals a day with chili oil with rice (at that time, even hot sauce and pickles were not available). Our family was fine, grandmother was responsible for this task. During the summer holidays, this task was left to me. It was a daunting task, everyone had to line up before the car arrived, and in the process, there were often people who did not follow the rules and squeezed in a mess. In order not to be squeezed out of the queue, we must desperately “stand firm”. When the car arrives, people are even more frantic, many times a swarm, mad rush! This is not an occasional “experience of life”, but the formation of a regular “protracted war”. The things that needed to be “grabbed” were not only the dishes that were distributed, but also the tofu that was supplied with tickets, the soy sauce that was freely available, and so on. This became part of my daily life, and over time, I got used to it and thought that this was how life was. This state of affairs did not come to an end until 1978.

Speaking of soy sauce, I would like to talk about the supply of oil, salt, soy sauce and vinegar, which were indispensable to daily life during the Cultural Revolution. At that time, there were not many things that did not need to be supplied with tickets, and oil (soy sauce), salt, soy sauce and vinegar were considered a category. However, there was a serious shortage of such necessities for cooking (you can’t call it stir-fry, because the gas supply in the compound was insufficient at that time, and the dishes were “cooked”). Soy sauce was often out of stock, and occasionally when it came in, people had to “grab” some to store. For quite a long time, there were several large bottles of white hairy soy sauce under my bed. Each bottle had a volume of 5 liters. Even if it was hairy, it could not be emptied, and each time it was used, it was “sterilized” by heating it. The supply of refined salt was the worst, and during the late Cultural Revolution, my family used brine to cook dishes, which was a large grain of coarse salt containing sand that was melted in warm water and then consumed the clean brine portion on top. The supply of cooking oil was better than soy sauce and salt, and each person had at least three taels of oil (locally called soybean oil) per month. But to say the least, because of the shortage of cooking oil, people had to find ways to boil fatty meat for oil. At the end of the Cultural Revolution, the staff of the institute often traveled abroad, and if they went to some areas where the ticket supply system was not strictly enforced, such as Beijing, where there was no limit on the amount of pork that could be bought for less than 50 cents, they could purchase some fatty pork by standing in line a few more times and running to a few more stores, or by directly asking friends and relatives to help them out. As the purchase volume was too large each time, some could reach 20 to 30 pounds, friends and relatives in the field called us business travelers from the northeast region “northeast tigers”. In the end, even our compound every business trip, will jokingly call themselves “Northeast Tiger down the mountain.

In the 1980s, the compound began to implement a collective health check-up system, and a significant number of employees suffered from high cholesterol, hyperlipidemia and other diseases, many of whom were not very old. According to the standard of living in those days, these people should not have suffered from such diseases prematurely, and it was all because of lard. When you think about it, this should also be considered the “fruit” of the Cultural Revolution.

Ten years of the Cultural Revolution, the destruction of the food industry production, can be seen clearly from the production of canned goods. Because of the severe shortage of meat products, our family often used canned meat to cope with guests coming to dinner. At that time, the price of canned food was very expensive, more than 2 yuan a can, which was unaffordable for a family with a monthly income of only a few dozen yuan. It was a good thing that my father’s salary was not low, and during the late Cultural Revolution, we often relied on various types of canned food to improve our diet. The original canned pork was pure lean meat, the real deal, and we could eat a small 200-gram can of ground pork for several meals. Later, not, the cans inside are some fat, and then more terrible, all the pigskin. 5-6 small pieces of rotten pigskin worth more than 2 yuan, is too outrageous. From here, we can see that in that period, no matter rich or poor, there was no way to “get” enough food.

In fact, the food of those people in our compound during the Cultural Revolution was not bad compared with some other areas, at least there was still food to eat, not to starve. This experience as a child helped me grow up later. In my life, I will never waste living materials, whether it is food or clothing. This habit of “frugality” still affects my life today.

Preparing for war

During the Cultural Revolution, there were many absurd things happening in our research compound. To a child like me, there was nothing more ridiculous than war preparations, digging bomb shelters and trenches in front of and behind buildings. That happened around 1970. When I think about it today, I still find it very funny.

In 1969, after the Jumbo Island incident, our institute in Shenyang was in a state of war readiness and quasi-war readiness. According to the orders of our superiors, all the windows of our homes had to be covered with a large “rice” cut out of newspaper, saying that the purpose of this was that if the Soviet planes came to bomb, the glass would not be easily shattered. I was thinking: the thickness of a layer of newspaper, can have such power to protect the glass?

The whole family mobilized, young and old, and had just finished all the windows in the house when we received another notice from our superiors that all the residents should prepare 5 days of dry food, saying that there was going to be a war. This news put our family in a very nervous and worried state. My grandmother had steamed dozens of steamed buns, waiting for the order to evacuate and retreat. I was a child at the time and had no fear of war, only curiosity, and looked forward to the evacuation order every day. As a result, when the buns were going bad, the order did not come. In order not to trample on the food, our family had to eat steamed buns every day until they were all gone, and no one mentioned the war again. Six months later, in order to wipe off the word rice on the glass, we were again mobilized as a family, the cleanup was very difficult to do, dozens of large glass cleaning, there is like a project. All this was purely undeserved for us.

Next, it was time to dig trenches around. That year, the Shenyang Military District sent three military representatives to our institute. The one who came to be the secretary of the party committee was a deputy regimental officer, and the other two were platoon cadres. The new secretary, responsible for “presiding over the overall situation”, the specific work, the two small platoon commanders to come out to command. At that time, the situation of war preparedness is serious (later learned that the so-called serious situation, is simply nonsense), each family residential building in front of the front, have to dig trenches and air raid shelters. This was also the case in front of my family’s building.

Having said that, I have to briefly mention the environment of our research compound. Our research institute was built in the early 1950s according to the Soviet model. The entire compound was rectangular in shape, with the work area in front and the family residential area in the back. In the family area, there are 20 three-story dormitories, two of which are senior researcher residences, or senior research buildings. In front of and behind the two senior research buildings are large gardens with various trees and flowers. In summer, flowers bloomed and the scenery was very beautiful. At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, the gardens were also damaged, and the trees and flowers were broken and left in a mess. The trenches mentioned earlier were to be passed through this garden.

When the order was given, men from all units had to come out and dig trenches, and in one day’s work, a long trench appeared in front of the building that ran east to west, about 1 meter wide and half a meter deep. In the evening, two small platoon leaders came to inspect the progress of the “project” in each place and expressed their satisfaction. I was standing by the trench and overheard their conversation. After they left, some children and I jumped in and played a game of “war”. Standing in the trench, I was thinking that a shallow trench was just right for a teenager to play a game as a “trench” and wondered how the adults would act in the trench. Really as a trench with too shallow, there is no shielding in front and behind, how to fight? When it was a traffic trench, I guess people crawled in it to avoid bullets. In retrospect, I can’t guess the real intention of such an approach, but maybe it was a “toss-up”.

A few days later, the air-raid shelter behind the building was completed. In fact, this is only a very small semi-subterranean bunker, more than ten to twenty meters long brick and earth structure, is probably able to withstand a grenade and other attacks. The next step was an air defense exercise. The alarm will go off at any time, and as soon as the alarm is heard, all the people will have to go into the shelter. For children, the first time into the shelter is a new feeling, dozens of neighbors huddled together, the door closed, the darkness inside, only the faint light of candles in the flicker. Sometimes, the candles were accidentally put out, and it was pitch black inside. Slowly, I began to get a little uneasy. Because of the small space and people are crowded together one by one, after a few minutes, there is a feeling of lack of air, we all feel very stuffy. I remember one uncle said: “Stay in such a place for a long time, must suffocate. Maybe this humble hole will even collapse.” Such remarks deepened my fears. In the following days, every time the alarm, I was standing at the entrance of the cave, fearing that a collapse would happen. It wasn’t long before we really heard the news of a collapse of a bomb shelter elsewhere, and from then on, my grandfather and I never went into the bomb shelter, and we secretly hid in our house, drawing the curtains and keeping our doors closed.

Our compound, at this time a total of a dozen air-raid shelters dug, basically a hole in each building, the beautiful environment of the courtyard completely destroyed, there are holes and ditches everywhere. These war “sites” were not completely wiped out until the early 1980s.

The unforgettable impression a woman left on me

The crazy times of the Cultural Revolution left many deep memories in my heart. The one that touched me most deeply was a small criticism meeting. It happened in the summer of 1975, at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

It was an early summer afternoon, with a blue sky and an occasional white cloud passing by. I was playing with some of my friends near the work area of the research compound. Suddenly there was a noise coming from an open window. Instinctively, a few of us kids ran over to see what was going on. In an office in a row of bungalows sat about a dozen men, yelling at a woman standing in front of them, her voice shrill and stern. I stood at the window and looked inside. It was a woman of about 40, with short hair and a tall, thin figure. A gray dress and pants, the most common style of that era. As I was standing behind her, I couldn’t see her face and could only imagine her expression by the tone of her words. The child next to me said that this was the little girl, Chen Yuan, whose mother lived in the building behind us.

When we ran over, the critique session had been going on for a while, so we couldn’t hear what was going on. I was standing in the front of the group of men, I could just see the faces of these people, one by one, cross-eyed, fierce, and from time to time, roll up their arms, sleeves, as if in preparation for a fight.

Living in the era of the Cultural Revolution, I was accustomed to such scenes, but I had never been so close to a criticism meeting. My heart was pounding and I was not breathing very well. I was afraid that the men would get rough with the woman.

Our compound was shared by two institutes, and the people at the criticism meeting belonged to another institute, so I didn’t know any of the people here, except for the woman who was Chen Yuan’s mother. I only know that this woman and her husband were a pair of “current counterrevolutionaries” in the Cultural Revolution, and the charges are unknown. Her son was a few years older than me and never spoke to anyone. Her daughter, Chen Yuan, was a few years younger than me and always had a melancholy face, a bit like Lin Daiyu. Because she had young children to take care of, the woman was imprisoned with her husband for a period of time, and then she was released early, saying that she was being held outside of prison and staying at the Institute to supervise her rehabilitation. (When I was in high school, in the late 1970s, it was said that this Mr. Chen was also released. But I never met him in person.) This time, for some reason, she was criticized by a group of people, who seemed to be asking her to give an account of her problems, and said she was “very dishonest” and asked her to bow her head and confess her guilt.

Faced with a group of fierce men, this woman’s attitude is very calm, answering questions, the tone of voice is calm, neither nervous, nor excited, of course, not to hear a trace of fear. Compared with those who interrogated her, a stark contrast. One side was shouting in anger, the other was unperturbed and calm. This contrast made a deep impression on me, and in that moment, the young me was filled with respect for this woman. In the process, I noticed a very small detail, that is, when those men mouth obscenities to her wanton insults, the woman’s hands on both sides of the body, will unconsciously clenched fists, this action, let me appreciate the woman’s inner feelings. Behind the calmness, is the unshakable will and repressed anger.

How this farce ended, I do not know. It was too frightening to continue watching. This childhood insight has stayed with me for more than 30 years. The interpretation of this woman’s mentality has become more profound with age. Having watched too many bowed heads confessing their sins during the Cultural Revolution, only this woman left a special impression on me.

Years later, looking back at that time, even today I would not be able to reach her level if I were to imagine the same situation. To this day, she remains a role model for me to look up to.

My elementary school life

My entire elementary school years were in the middle and late stages of the Cultural Revolution. From criticizing Lin and Confucius, opposing the dignity of teachers, to reviewing Water Margin and criticizing Song Jiang, almost all of my memories are related to political movements. It was a crazy time, and there was a strong political atmosphere inside and outside the school.

In the spring of 1970, I started elementary school. At that time, there were not enough “regular” elementary school buildings near my home, and all the school-age children in our research institute could not go to elementary school in order. The solution was that the research institute was responsible for finding a place where private teachers could serve as teachers. For the first few months, dozens of our children attended classes in two earthen huts called “cowsheds. The benches used by the adults for meetings were used as tables, and each child brought his or her own bench to school. This was the first time I heard the term “cowshed”, and it was said that this place was really used to raise livestock before, but it was not supposed to raise cattle, as there was no possibility of raising cattle in our institute, nor was it supposed to be a place to raise pigs, as the pig pen was next door. Why it was called a cattle barn is a “question of the century” for me.

Classes began, but there were no textbooks, and the daily content was language and arithmetic. The first language lesson was to teach a few phonetic letters. The arithmetic class was about counting from 1 to 100, and teaching a few numbers each day. The teachers were two girls in their early 20s whose files were stored in the street, and were private teachers by title. I still can’t figure out what this private teacher means, to be a teacher in a private elementary school? Or is the level of the teachers belong to the “private” class?

This winter, it was freezing cold, and the temperature in the barn was not much different from the outside. We kids just couldn’t hold on and had to take an early winter break. After school started, we had our own classroom, a unit on the first floor of the family residential building. The new classroom was in much better condition than the cowshed, at least it was a place for people to live, and with the “funding” from the Institute, the carpentry shop used the winter break to make a batch of simple desks and chairs, so we finally had the appearance of a classroom. Next, the new textbooks were sent out. I still remember the first few texts in the language textbook very clearly. Lesson 1: Long live Chairman Mao. Lesson 2: Learning Chairman Mao’s quotations. Lesson 3: Singing the East is Red. Lesson 4: Down with the traitor, traitor, worker thief Liu Shaoqi. One page for each lesson. Although I learned to read and write, for a long time I did not understand what “traitor, traitor, worker and thief” was. Even Liu Shaoqi did not know who he was. The teacher never explained, and no one asked us, did not know how to ask, and would not ask. Since the knockdown, must be the bad guys, that’s what I thought at the time. Life in the first and second grade was relatively peaceful. The teacher was able to control everything in the classroom, and the naughty children did not dare to be too unruly. We, the children of bullies and snakes, were discriminated against and were not allowed to join the “Little Red Soldiers,” but we were not given too much trouble. Starting from the third grade, everything became different when we entered the official elementary school.

The elementary school building was located outside the north wall of our compound, which was separated from the compound by a river. Outside the three-story building, there was a 100-square-meter playground. Compared with other elementary school of the same period, the conditions were good, but unfortunately the management was a mess and the school was far less orderly than other elementary school. In our class, the students were all children of the compound, and several boys from “working class” families were disruptive in class every day, not only fighting with the teacher, but also bullying female students, and girls like us were the targets of their violence. The daily classroom life started and ended in a chaotic manner.

In the fourth grade, when the criticism campaign began, the school became a mess. Every corner of the school building was covered with large-character posters from teachers and students, but this was only the external manifestation of the movement on the campus, while the “anti-teacher dignity” campaign against teachers was the essence of the movement on campus. At that time, every teacher and student in our school was required to write a large-character poster (or not) about criticizing Lin and criticizing Confucius, which was too difficult for an 11-year-old child to write. I don’t know how other students did it, but my mother helped me write the big-character poster, to be precise, copied from the newspaper, and wrote a basket of big words to deliver. As for the content, I have no memory of it, I didn’t even read it. Next was the criticism of the class teacher of the third grade class. This is their class a “red roots” of the “anti-trendy young general”, in the Parents‘ instructions, to learn from Huang Shuai students, take the lead to make the class teacher “teacher dignity” of the rebellion, in the school The first shot was fired at the school. I don’t know what the teacher’s “crime” is, but I just remember that it was a “big deal” and the whole school knew about the “anti-trend” action that happened in the class. The end result was ridiculous: the teacher “realized his mistake and came to the revolutionary camp”. I couldn’t understand what was going on at that time, but I felt that both the teacher and the student had become famous, and both the “young general” and the teacher had become examples for all of us to follow. It is easy to understand how to learn from the “general”, but what to learn from this teacher? The courage to criticize themselves and correct mistakes? I even have a feeling that I dare not say: I do not know if this two people, is not colluding to play a show, we are famous. After that, this teacher “a higher level”, more than before. No wonder I had such a thought, otherwise, it is really hard to understand.

After that, someone in our class also followed the trend, several students, including the children of the “smelly old nine”, reported to the school revolutionary committee that our class teacher used the political study time to give our classmates remedial beadwork lessons. The situation is true, our class teacher did use the political study time to give us extra lessons. At that time, there were few school hours, and teachers were “jumping through hoops”. This teacher was more responsible and increased the school hours when he could not complete the teaching schedule, and as a result, he was sued by the students and finally forced to review his mistakes in front of the whole class and criticize himself. I felt very wrong at that time, these students are not “revenge”?

From the beginning of the “anti-trend” and “teacher’s dignity”, the order in the school was even worse. As I mentioned earlier, the “kids” in our class became even more lawless, openly beating people in class, fighting with each other, beating female students, and finally daring to fight with the teacher. I remember once the teacher was so angry that she left the classroom to go back to her office, and we, the female students, were made to jump out of the window to “escape”. At that time, I thought, “Fortunately, the classroom is on the first floor, otherwise I don’t know how to end it.

That period was the most distressing time of my student life. I had to be bullied by this class of “little bastards” every day, both inside and outside of school, and I was beaten and scolded all the time, and sometimes I was blocked by this class on my way home from school and humiliated. This chaos continued until the fall of the “Gang of Four”.

After the “counter-currents”, the school was in disorder and public property was destroyed. The glass windows in our classrooms basically had no glass, and the school could not afford to replace them. In the middle of winter, it was hard for us to attend classes in such an environment. Finally, when we were about to graduate, two parents “got” some glass from the research institute and finally put the windows in place.

One of the funniest things in my elementary school life was an old farmer’s reminiscence of hardship twice. This poor old lady gave us two reports in three years about the hardships she and her family had suffered in the “wicked old society”. The same family, the same person, the content of the two reports differed greatly, except for the names and the number of people in the family, there was basically no consistency in the “suffering experience”. I remember the second time I listened to the report, at first I thought: this person is probably too old (actually not too old, in his early 60s) to remember what happened in the past. Later on, I felt that something was wrong, even if she was confused, she would not have misrepresented basic things. She probably thought that no one on stage knew about her past, and it wouldn’t hurt to make it up. Little did I know that there was a student with a very good memory function like me sitting there.

The elementary school years should be a flower-strewn journey for a child. The love of parents, the care of teachers, the friendship between classmates, all of this is like a beautiful symphony that accompanies the growth of the mind. Unfortunately, in that perverted era, no one was able to get everything that should have been theirs for a whole generation. Whenever I see my own children enjoying school life happily and carefree, my heart wells up with an indescribable regret that my wonderful childhood days were all spoiled.

I grew up in an environment where nothing I heard or saw was “normal”, and my thinking and consciousness inevitably carried a deep “brand of the times”. This made me spend a lot of effort to adjust myself to the way of thinking of a “normal society” during the first few years of my integration into Western society. It was also a painful process that I had to go through. Thankfully, I made it through and now I am a normal citizen in a free society.