Revolutionary Story Preaching Team

Before going to the provincial meeting, at the training session in Shang County Middle School. Front row, first from left is Yang Xinhua, fifth from left is Li Bei, back row, first from left is Guo Anhu, third from left is He Cunsheng, fifth from left is the author, sixth from left is Chen Wenyan, seventh from left is Zhang Baocai

In the spring of 1972, Shaanxi Province was going to hold the first revolutionary storytelling competition conference. The notice was sent to all regions, counties and cities, causing a burst of tension: the “Cultural Revolution” had been going on for six years, the “model plays” had been seen countless times, and people who loved to sing and watch the plays were tired of it. This time to carry out the activities of the revolutionary storytelling, of course, the cultural units are happy: finally something to do, you can make a name for yourself, for the proletariat political service! But in the past six years, who has caught what literary and artistic singing activities? The professional theater group was not withdrawn, but they were busy with the model plays day in and day out. Besides, this was a mass event, except for the professional actors, and the storytellers had to be selected at the grassroots level.

At that time, I was transferred from the bank to the newly established Shangluo Regional Center Culture Museum less than a year, in the bank for a few years, was mistakenly thought to know finance, is responsible for the unit to make tables and chairs, buy paper, sell meal tickets, run liaison. I was not supposed to do the storytelling, but several of the museum’s creative staff were too busy experiencing life and writing playbooks to care about it, and in fact, I couldn’t see it at all. Before the Cultural Revolution, creative writers were also writers, and “writers” could not engage in mass literature and art? It’s too degrading. So, the leader approached me: “You are young, and do not love to compile the playbook, you from now on dedicated to us to grasp the story will this thing, to do their utmost, must be in the provincial competition in the General Assembly to get a certificate.” After that, let me first go to the street to the museum to buy a bicycle, to “flying pigeon brand” weighted type, with self-sharpening electric lights, buy the lubricant on enough, ride a few laps to try, the leader home the day after tomorrow for Saturday to ride, can not miss work ah!

The next day, I began to notify the cultural centers of the counties, saying that the region to open a storytelling session, the selection of the provincial competition storytellers, workers, peasants and soldiers can, have to make up their own storytelling, seven counties have to participate, there must be no mistake. The telephone was placed on the windowsill outside the house, the old-fashioned shaking handle, standing there, shaking while shouting at the top of his voice, long distance, not shouting loudly the other side can not hear. I was busy making calls here, the curator squatting aside and others playing chess and smoking, but also did not forget to praise me for catching: Well, good, good comrade!

The counties are also active. early July, the regional meeting selection, the provincial mass art museum of Zhang Shun, deputy director of personal guidance. Once the selection is complete, leaving the selected storytellers, each county and then leave a cultural museum cadres, I took to live in Shang County High School, the province before the emergency training, and then the selection. At this time, the students have been on vacation, there are ready-made accommodation, but also quiet.

For a few days, the culture museum cadres and storytellers cooperated, while rewriting and trying to tell, and then let me “review”, busy all over the place. The requirements were not too high anyway, as long as the content was revolutionary and could be told in a way that would grab people.

One of the storytellers was Chen Wenyan, a farmer in his forties, who was very modest and could speak and write. A few days ago, when the Shanyang County Culture Museum was reporting the list of storytellers, they whispered to me on the phone that Chen Wenyan was a rightist, so I didn’t know if he could participate. If you can’t participate, our county will not be able to find anyone. I thought, “This Shanyang County Cultural Center also has the courage to report a rightist storyteller! Then I thought, they dare to report, that is, they have studied, there will be no problem. So I said, “Okay! As long as you can tell, come on!

In the training class, Lao Chen was very active, not only did he do a good job of telling his own story, but also helped me tutor others. One day, I chatted with him alone and learned that he, like me, also graduated from this high school, and then stayed in school, only about ten years older than me. I said: you are still young when you stay in school, anti-what can not, but to oppose the party? Old Chen said: old brother, you do not know, because of the young fire, bumped the leadership, to earn a right hat. In fact, at that time also do not care, right wing on right wing it. Who would have thought, down is expelled from the home, and only then know that the big deal. When I returned to the countryside, the village people were nice and said, “Wenyan is a little boy, can he oppose the Party? Can oppose my ass! It was just an assassination. What does it matter, the crops will not starve to death!” Old Chen’s fiery temper changed, in front of people, obviously know things, but also play dumb. Never talk nonsense, leisure time also teach villagers to sing “quotations song”, dance “loyalty word dance”, villagers also do not treat him as a rightist. This time dare to recommend him to participate in the regional storyteller selection, the village leaders are to the county leaders patted chest: absolutely no problem, if there is a problem, give me wear counter-revolutionary hat!

Listen to Lao Chen’s narrative, and then associated with the previous years of the seizure of the “counter-revolutionary”, I blurted out: bad people get their way, good people suffer, so it has always been! The words just came out, I felt bad, and hurried to Lao Chen said: today, you gave me nothing to say, I gave you nothing to say ah! Lao Chen is a resourceful person: “You are the leader, open-mouthed let us follow Chairman Mao, tell the story of the revolution, everyone says you only know the revolution, never and everyone gossip about it!” Listen, in the countryside that set of smooth talk to me used.

There is also a young man Guo Anhu, Shang County selected storyteller, less than 20 years old, two big eyes, a strong body, tiger head and tiger brain, graduated from junior high school back to the countryside labor. The story he told this time was “Catching Qin Dogwa Alive”, a story from the Liberation War era. An Hu speaks in Shangzhou vernacular, spitting a bit stupid, but also has the strength, the people love to listen to the stories told in the local dialect, feel friendly and smooth. In fact, these stories are nothing new, but how brave the PLA guerrillas are and how brutal and cunning the bandits are. But An Hu will perform, no master, one moment is the guerrilla tiger eyes round, shouting stand still, the next is the Qin dog cu down body, all trembling, crooked mouth even called “grandfather spare life”. The partisans did not wait to pounce, Qin Dogwa “swish” and turned over and ran away. Around the “live capture”, Anhu made every effort to get sweaty, attracting me and other team members bursts of laughter. Anhu is a man, not afraid of people laughing, lame performance to win big. After five days of training, we left for Heshan County. That county storytelling activities carried out early, experience, the provincial importance. The selection of Heyang County to open the provincial storytelling conference is actually the biggest reward for them, but also their honor.

Shangluo delegation of storytellers, not out of Shangluo mountains, not to the Great Plains of Guanzhong, not to participate in the event of such a high grade, and excited, and worried. They were excited because they met the head of the province, the uniformed military representatives from the Department of Culture, and the storytellers from all over the province. Ate Guanzhong’s big white steamed bun, but also only pay a little food stamps and money, let loose to eat, not limited. The downside is that vegetables are expensive, and it is said that the vegetables at the meeting have to be shipped from Xi’an. Here has always been drought, less vegetables, the ordinary days of the people, only eat peppers and onions, and Shangluo mountains, home vegetables and wild vegetables are more, just food shortage. The worry is that the mountain people have not seen the world, the dialect is too stupid, afraid of making people laugh, more than ten storytellers, only Danfeng County girl Li Bei in Mandarin. I gave them a boost: “What’s wrong with dialect? As long as the content is revolutionary, our villagers there love to listen to it. The great leader Chairman Mao always speaks Hunan, but still lead us and the people of the world to make revolution?” This enlightenment, everyone will be more courageous.

Three days down the competition, Shangluo delegation is red, passing on the scriptures to send treasure, door to door to worship, make friends to pull the country party relations, invited to their county to preach, can kick through the dormitory threshold. Finally won the third place in the province, so glorious that everyone could not sleep. The military representative of the provincial Department of Culture, Comrade Yu Ji also talked with me to encourage: “Young man, your Shangluo delegation to speak, quite good! Go back and then processing, and then hammering hammering, next year I want to go to listen again, OK ah?” I promised to thank the head of the encouraging teaching, said I must improve, for Chairman Mao to win the glory, for the head of the gas. Turning around to leave, I heard him say to the cadres beside him, “How is it? The mountain people are quite capable, quite spiritual!” Won the award, and the head of the individual meeting to encourage, this is a great joy, and called Shangluo unit overnight to report the joy. The leaders there were also energized, giving the participating storytellers a daily allowance of 30 cents each, and when they returned, they streamlined their teams and went on a tour of the counties, determined to surpass Hep Yang and take first place next time. And tomorrow, they will notify all counties to prepare for the reception and arrange for the presentation. It really looks like a little victory is proud of the flavor, to be overcome by the victory of the mind.

In this way, just after returning from Heyang, the team was reorganized, still led by me, the team members are Chen Wenyan, He Cunsheng, Li Bei, Yang Xinhua, Guo Anhu. After reporting to the regional leaders, we set out on the third day to start the seven-county tour. During the lecture, the dialect stories of Chen Wenyan and Guo Anhu were enthusiastically reflected, and they were even said and performed with exaggeration, which attracted a burst of laughter.

When I sat under the shed to see the audience’s reaction, I saw many migrant workers dozing off as if no one was there. With primitive tools on the site, human tactics, overtime and night work, sweet potato soup, and National Day dedication, it was no wonder so many people lacked enthusiasm for the revolutionary story.

Li Bei shone on the stage, and the audience’s spirits were lifted. Li Bei, in her early twenties, small and delicate, plainly dressed, and a standard Mandarin, speaks of the conflict between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law for the public and private, as usual, the mother-in-law is backward and selfish, but hard-working all her life and will live, and the daughter-in-law? Of course it is advanced and selfless. As the saying goes, three women make a drama. But by Li Bei’s words and acting, the two women are also out of the play very much. I also observed that when the mother-in-law confessed that it was difficult to lead a life and raise children, many listeners sighed and sighed, while the daughter-in-law shook her head and turned her mouth away from the revolutionary truths she spoke. Sometimes the revolutionary truths are really impervious to the practical problems in life.

At the end of the storytelling session, the workers gathered around us and talked about it while watching, a bit of the atmosphere of today’s groupies.

Later, there was an unpleasant incident: that night at the guest house, I received a phone call from the leader of the regional art museum, saying seriously: “What are you doing? In the afternoon, the Danfeng Yu Ling Reservoir called the propaganda department of the local party committee, reflecting that a female comrade of your storytelling team was wearing a pair of patched pants when telling the story, and the storytelling was particularly emotional when it came to the part about the mother-in-law, which had a bad impact, asking about the family origin of the storyteller. The leader did not seem to have much blame for the intention, only to let the future pay attention to the point is.

I heard the fire, immediately to go to the Yu Ling reservoir to find the people who sued. I said, Li Bei on this patch pants, mended neatly, washed clean, how can not wear? How is it to discredit the good situation? There are many unclothed workers on the construction site, is it also a stain on the good situation? The person who complained about the patch on his pants asked him to donate a new pair of “Doka” pants to Li Bei, and I will kowtow to him on Li Bei’s behalf, okay? The leader has taught storytellers to be passionate and emotional. I also said that the family origin of the person who complained had to be checked, and I guess he was deliberately looking for trouble to sabotage the revolutionary story activities. This snark, the leader laughed, said, the person who complained about the big deal, you do not learn from him, also big deal!

The next day I conveyed this to everyone, the boys and girls said I top good. Chen Wenyan was once the people of the sea, quietly advised me: to the leadership can not talk like this, to give the leadership to leave face it! How many things, the leader said to your face, you remember, you can not be sure when to catch you, the new account old account together, the whole you a mute eat. He said that when he was young, like me, the fire is very strong, then the pain, in the end, a permanent unhappiness. Old Chen said a speech, said my spine straight up in a cold sweat.

Once again is in Shangnan County, Qing Ya Middle School. Although this is a rural high school, but the school site in the highway, and therefore, the students are even if they have seen the world, to see the model play, listen to the revolutionary story is not a serious matter. The storyteller, He Cunsheng, is a retired soldier, though he is now a farmer, and has only just become a storyteller this time. He tells the story of a competition between workers and technical authorities, in which there are of course some jokes to mock the ignorance and incompetence of intellectuals, and of course a bit of technical details. In the former case, Cun-sheng was sure of himself, so he was bold enough to talk nonsense; in the latter case, he was not at all familiar with it and relied on memorizing the book. The first few times was quite smooth, but not this time. Facing the small intellectuals on the stage, the heart is timid, a timid, recite the stammering, several times even stammering are not played, simply forget, a face embarrassed, full of hot sweat poked on the stage. This is good, the students are shouting and laughing and booing, to boom him off the stage. The principal could not face up, a jump to the stage, tiger face, named a few of the highest jumping students stand up, but also let those students’ class teachers stand with them, a little nonchalantly admonished.

I saw a big deal, rushed up to persuade the principal to calm down, said let me give the students a few words. I said, the principal teachers students, I’m sorry everyone, I apologize to everyone. Our storytellers these days to speak twice a day, very tired and tired, and some new stories do not have time to practice more, in order to first offer to everyone, please guide you, but instead of tripping. People are not satisfied and have opinions, which is not to blame, or moreover, shows the love and expectation of revolutionary stories. Principal Zhang’s criticism was both a strict requirement for everyone, showing the noble style of an educator, and a profound education for our storytelling team, worthy of our study.

It was only after a few words that the tense situation eased down and ended with all the storytellers and the whole school singing “The Sea Sails on the Helm” together. In the evening, Chen and the storytellers praised me for how well I handled the situation. I said: I do not want to say that, the students are too rude. But do not say that, the principal a fury, and let the teacher accompany the station, can not guarantee that the letter of complaint will be sent to the region. It was a big deal, three sued four sued, the leadership can forgive us?

At the end of the tour throughout the region, the neighboring areas outside of Xunyang County came to me, asking us to visit their county to spread the word. I said okay, in fact, I also want to take everyone to take a look at the Han River, look at the small ship, look at the three sides of the water, known as the “golden line hanging gourd” mountain city of Xunyang. After only a year of the town of Xun highway, and then through the Ganxi River, to Xunyang. County leaders attach great importance, and meet and receive the wind and accompanied by watching the “golden line hanging gourd”, the evening in the theater lecture for two hours, the response was very strong. This county belongs to the Ankang region, the mountains are high and far away, the regional literary groups rarely come, but I can not imagine that the brotherhood of the region in the provincial award-winning story team went out of their way to send Mao Zedong Thought! It was my own idea to “send the scriptures and treasures”, but when the leaders found out about it, they blamed me for taking the initiative, which was inappropriate. But the storyteller said how busy in Xunyang, how hard, and how high the county evaluation, how to reflect to the provincial Shangluo Cultural Bureau leadership of high moral integrity, etc., and no longer say “inappropriate”.

This tour to tell the story of the revolution, thirty-four years ago, the youngest Yang Xinhua should also be more than fifty years old, only in the first few years to see a side, already beard stubble; Chen Wenyan “pin the tail to do people” for decades, and then into the Cultural Museum, and then “take off the hat “. Some time ago, I saw a “Shangluo Daily”, on which there was a picture of Comrade Chen Wenyan after retirement caring for the next generation and telling stories to children and teenagers, he was already in his seventies, right, and still hadn’t forgotten his storytelling profession; that Li Bei was the most unfortunate, after the storytelling team ended, she returned to Danfeng County, still working as her barefoot doctor (her parents and sister were working in Xi’an, she grew up living with her grandmother, but her household registration couldn’t be transferred. When she grew up, she had to marry someone in Danfeng and work as a farmer). She died on August 17, 1973, at the age of 21. She died at the age of twenty-one. Her death made people inside and outside the county who knew her and had heard her stories sigh with sadness. Originally, the county cultural center had already compiled materials for her as an excellent storyteller and would report them to the province, so she might be able to be recruited into the county cultural center by chance and engage in the mass cultural work she loved and was good at, thus changing her fate. However, her death turned all her hopes into nothing.

Guo Anhu (first from left) is giving a trial lecture, and the third from left is the author

Old Photos, Series 51, published in February 2007