Shanghai Life and Death(26)

Chapter 4: House arrest at home

A downpour of rain woke me up from my sleep. After clattering for a while, it gradually turned into a drizzling, fine rain.

The whole morning seemed to be very long, and no Red Guards were seen at the door. I wandered aimlessly around the room, there were no more books to read at home. The long bookcase next to the two walls in the study was empty, leaving only four volumes of Mao and the red plastic side of the quotations book. I could neither sew nor knit because the Red Guards had made such a mess of everything that I could not find any wool or needle and thread or anything else. I could write letters or draw, but all the envelopes and papers were shredded, and even my pen was missing. I couldn’t even listen to the radio, because the record cabinet was filled with gold and silver jewelry and sealed by the Red Guards. Therefore, I could only sit in the house and stare at the pile of leftover bones that I dared not touch.

In the afternoon, when the rain cleared, a parade of Red Guards marched past my front door, but they didn’t come in. Old Zhao bought me a copy of the Liberation Daily, which is a daily newspaper, but it always comes out in the afternoon. On the front page of the paper, the editorial of the People’s Daily was reprinted in large typeface. All Chinese newspapers are run by the government and are the mouthpiece of state policy, especially the People’s Daily, so I understood that this editorial was very important. Therefore, I read it very carefully. The whole article was full of revolutionary slogans, which only aimed at arousing the people’s hatred for the bourgeoisie and calling on them to join the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The editorial also mentioned that in some places, government organs and some party leaders were still implementing a bourgeois reactionary line against Mao Zedong Thought, and it called these unnamed cadres “the party in power who follow the capitalist road” and demanded that the revolutionary masses must identify such enemies. Because “our great leader Chairman Mao said: the eyes of the masses are discerning” and “we must trust the masses”.

This editorial does not give a clear definition of “revolutionary masses” and “capitalists”, nor does it explain their nature, so it is an absolutely irresponsible article. The only impression it left me with was that the Cultural Revolution Group was trying to expand the scope of the crackdown and to persecute violently. Since the spirit of the editorial in the People’s Daily was that it had to be implemented immediately, the pace of the Cultural Revolution in Shanghai was accelerated. The Shanghai Party Committee and the municipal government were no longer capable of implementing the ten resolutions they themselves had formulated. I was prepared for the return of the Red Guards, and for their attitude to be even more brutal and rude, and even more difficult to resist. I wanted to dismiss all the servants and send them home.

But the cook said he didn’t usually live in my house anyway, and he could continue to come to me every day until the Red Guards wouldn’t let him stay. Lao Zhao said, “I’m not afraid, I’ll stay. Otherwise you have to go to the market every day to buy food, but it is very unsafe for you to go out alone. I come from a poor peasant background. My son is in the army, a member of the Communist Party, and we are a resounding proletariat. Now, the Red Guards have already smashed you up. What else can they do? If they had ordered me to leave, I certainly would have had no choice. But for now, I’ll stay.” Chen’s mother, on the other hand, sobbed that she would keep Man Ping.

In such a bad situation, it is rare that my servants are still so loyal to me. This touched me very much. Therefore, I no longer insist that they leave immediately. Besides, it was much better to have them with me than to leave me alone in the house waiting for the Red Guards to come. I wrote a letter to Chen’s mother’s daughter abroad on the letterhead the cook had bought for me, asking her to come to Shanghai and take her back. I should be more considerate and responsible to Chen’s mother than to Lao Zhao and the chef.

When my daughter returned, she told me that the Shanghai government had been surrounded by the Red Guards, who demanded that they immediately rescind the Ten Resolutions and accused them of harboring the bourgeoisie. But I wasn’t surprised by the news. She also told me that an old friend of Jiang Qing’s had been put up to lead the cultural revolution in Shanghai.

“His name is Zhang Chunqiao. Someone in our factory said he was a journalist in Shanghai in the 1930s, when Jiang Qing was making movies. Anyone in the factory who knew their cards said that these two were terrible. Some people are already rolling up and planning to go to jail. They think Zhang Chunqiao might have imprisoned them to keep people from hearing about them in the 1930s. Mom, do you think they will really be put in jail? They didn’t actually break any laws!” My daughter was shocked and confused by what she had heard at the factory. I myself, knowing nothing about Shanghai in the 1930s, couldn’t figure out why Jiang Qing and Zhang Chun Qiao were so worried about the actors in the film factory knowing what they had been through and wanted to put them to death.

“Can you stay home tonight?” I asked my daughter. I hoped very much that she could spend the night with me in peace and quiet. I wanted to talk to her.

“No, Mom. I came back in a hurry to see you and to find out if the Red Guards had come back. The other colleagues are at the factory now, and we have an important meeting tonight to discuss the editorial in the People’s Daily. I heard that the article is very important because it represents Chairman Mao’s views.” She looked at her watch as she said, “Heh, I have to rush back.”

Old Zhao brought her a bowl of noodles: “Eat a little, it’s getting cold, you can’t leave on an empty stomach.”

The daughter picked the noodles with chopsticks and put them into her mouth in a hurry, while saying to Lao Zhao, “Thank you. But I really should go now.”

She finished the noodles, smiled and gave me a hug, then took three steps downstairs and left. There was so much I wanted to say to her, but it was too late.

Lao Zhao gave me his own semiconductor radio so that I could listen to the evening news. At that time, every radio station was broadcasting editorials from the People’s Daily. The reporters blustered their voices and displayed a vocal cadence, to which I had become accustomed. I left the semiconductor on, hoping to hear some other news. But I was disappointed that there was nothing but the editorial playing over and over again. By the time I drifted off to sleep, the editorial had been played so many times that I could recite it by heart.

The next morning, I heard the cook complaining about the shortage of food supplies in the vegetable market. The farmers in the suburbs used to send vegetables, fish and shrimp to the city every day, but now they had quit, they had responded to Chairman Mao’s call to join the rebellion and join the Cultural Revolution. They poured into the city in groups and occupied many big hotels in Shanghai, and their leaders demanded free meals and various services from the hotel leaders. When the luxurious and comfortable living facilities in Shanghai, such as hot water faucets, flush toilets, Simmons and carpets, were introduced to the people’s communes, women from the countryside came to the city with their children to take a “vacation”. At the same time, the Red Guards in Beijing and other northern cities also crowded trains to Shanghai to “exchange” revolutionary experience with the Shanghai Red Guards, who, in turn, rushed to Beijing in the hope of being honored with an audience with Chairman Mao. The Red Guards took over all land and water transportation, leaving normal passenger and cargo traffic stranded at the stations and docks, which no one dared to dispute. The so-called “capitalist” officials mentioned in the editorial of the People’s Daily were too frightened to carry out their normal work.

The Red Guards’ accusations against the ten resolutions forced the city government to take a series of corresponding measures. In order to prevent them from becoming discontented with the city government, the city government provided free meals and lodging to the Red Guards entering and leaving Shanghai. Food stalls were set up at train stations and ship terminals, and all restaurants served steamed buns. Western-style bakeries, which had been run by the White Russians and were now nationalized, were mobilized to make steamed buns and bread for the Red Guards. In order to show their discontent with the Shanghai government, the Red Guards were deliberately picky, attacking the Western-style bread as foreign food and refusing to eat it. At the same time, the workers in the factory also took action, forming their own revolutionary organization and joining the ranks of the “rebels”. These workers put forward many high economic demands to make things difficult for the city leaders. In order to gain the support of the workers, the leaders allowed them to receive various bonuses and welfare payments. In just a few days, all the bank stocks in Shanghai were exhausted. Angered by the failure to meet their demands, the workers united with the Red Guards and attacked the city government and its leaders. All this activity was directed behind the scenes by Zhang Chunqiao, who sat firmly in the comfort of his suite at the Peace Hotel. Until the following January, when the Shanghai Municipal Committee and the municipal government were smashed by the rebels, this suite served as the temporary headquarters of the leaders of the extreme left in Shanghai.