In the 6th and 9th, there was never a hot topic about it. As time passes, it’s gradually becoming a term that’s almost obsolete. But it is a proper noun that should be recorded in the history books!
Definition of the Sixth and Ninth Session
The 6th and 9th grade refers to the “junior high school” students who went to the countryside in 1969, and were 6th grade students when the “Cultural Revolution” started in 1966. In that year, school education was suspended nationwide, and elementary school were closed one after another in June, so they had received formal education up to that time, with only sixth grade education. They failed to graduate from elementary school normally during the chaotic times, and elementary schools no longer governed them, nor did secondary schools accept them in time. After missing school for more than a year at the age of twelve or thirteen, they were enrolled in secondary schools in October 1967 under the rule of “enrollment in the nearest school”.
There were no textbooks for the class of 1969. The students of this class did not have their own textbooks, and the curriculum of the junior high school was actually in three parts: first, studying Mao’s works and “Quotations from Chairman Mao”, and reading the “two newspapers and one magazine”, i.e., “People’s Daily”, “Liberation Army Newspaper” and “Red Flag”; second, criticizing the “purging of the class ranks”. Second, they criticized the “class enemies” created in the campaign of “cleaning up the class ranks”; third, they went to the suburbs of Beijing to participate in agricultural labor.
Unlike the students of the “Old Three” class above, they neither attended a veritable secondary school culture class, nor did they “repeat” the “lessons” of the adapted textbooks of the Cultural Revolution, they hardly ever They hardly ever attended a single day of culture classes. Occasionally, teachers who loved their subjects might have taken the opportunity to teach a little cultural knowledge, such as rhetoric through the reading of Chairman Mao’s Quotations, allusions or ancient Chinese through the reading of Mao’s poems, and volume calculations by pointing to grain hoards in rural yards. …… But this was the junior high school they attended for less than two years, and from In August 1969, the mass migration to the countryside began. The “junior high school students” of the sixth and ninth class stayed in the secondary school for an unprecedentedly short period of time.
Beijing’s policy towards the Class of 1969 was particularly unprecedented: unlike previous classes, there was no quota for students to stay in Beijing, and the idea of taking care of them due to special difficulties was eliminated. In the words of the year, the class of 6-9 was “potted” to go to the countryside. They went to the production and construction corps in Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, Yunnan and the Nengjiang State Farm in Heilongjiang.
From late August to mid-September 1969, Beijing Station and Yongdingmen Railway Station ran a number of special trains for the youth, going north, south and west, transporting the youngsters of the 6th and 9th grade to the remote border areas. Most of them were sixteen years old at that time, and some of them were only fifteen years old when they started school early.
Because of their youthful ignorance, the sixth and ninth class was destined to be disadvantaged in the group that went to the mountains and the countryside. In the production work they can still fight, and the older students do the same heavy physical labor, but in the activities that reflect the level of education, even in those years the “statement” “speak with”, they are obviously dwarfed by the lack of knowledge. Their speeches were often plagiarized and illogical. For example, in the “discussion” of the criticism of Confucius and the “Confucian-French struggle,” these people, who had not studied Confucius’ writings or taken classes in ancient Chinese history, often confused characters, chronology, and historical facts. “Alas, what a class of six or nine!” This is a helpless sigh of relief, meaning: I can’t really understand it; or: I am so ignorant.
In those days, oral skills were especially important, and the most popular figures among the youth had to be able to speak like a man. Because of the gap between the oral and written expression of the sixth and ninth classes, few of them made it to the top. Of course, some of the young girls of the sixth and ninth class were arranged to work as typists, secretaries and telephonists beside the heads of divisions and regiments, thus getting away from the heavy physical labor.
In 1977, the resumption of college entrance exams came the good news, the six or nine groups more obviously show weakness. The older three classes had the original cultural foundation and often maintained certain study habits in the midst of hard labor, and their cultural knowledge could be picked up when they said so. The sixth and ninth class did not learn any cultural courses in mathematics, science and chemistry, and few of them knew to pay attention to make up for it during the eight-year-long labor. When the news of the resumption of the college entrance examination system came, they had already become the strong girls and male laborers in the labor force, and suddenly they had to rely on their academic performance for admission, making them “dumbfounded”. The entrance exams gave them a fair chance to compete, but the students of the class of 1969 had long since broken their wings in the absurdity of history since 1966, and their dreams of taking off had long been crushed to pieces even with the opportunity to resume the college entrance exams.
Dictation 1: The first day of life in the Corps
Nowadays, some people say that the formation of the construction corps was due to the tensions on the border between China and the Soviet Union and China and Mongolia, and the need to “cultivate and garrison the border and put soldiers in agriculture”; others say that the millions of young people were sent to the countryside for the sake of the country’s overall situation. I have no knowledge of this.
I am a member of the 6th and 9th class. If the so-called “national interest” requires the sacrifice of a group of young people like the 6th and 9th classes, what is the reason to consider it justified! To let the inexplicable “national interest” dilute and melt away the 6-9 class’s tolerance of history is a false and empty intention.
In the afternoon of September 16, 1969, the train that transported us left Beijing Yongdingmen Railway Station and, after traveling for fifteen or sixteen hours, arrived at Liuzhao, a small station on the Beijing-Lanzhou Line, in the early hours of the following day. The station was unexpectedly small, yet the platform and the roadbed were crowded with people everywhere, the lighting was strong, and there were tweeters announcing themselves to find their luggage. There was no gong to greet the scene, no one to assist in the placement of the luggage, and it was quite disorderly. I was greatly frustrated by the sense of glory compelled up by the propaganda, and all of a sudden had the feeling of being abandoned, a little panic, not knowing where to go.
However, people have the instinct to adapt to various encounters. At sixteen, I quickly followed others in the confusion and found my luggage. What guided me was my mother’s parting words of advice, “A mouth under your nose”. Asking questions when you don’t understand something really solves temporary problems. All the youths who got off at Liu Zhaoge found their luggage thrown on the roadbed within the stipulated time.
The luggage for each of us was a similar large wooden box, so we had to find someone to carry it with us. The partner I was looking for was Hao Zhijun from the 50th grade, we met in the confusion, she was also from the 6th and 9th grade.
There were several large open trucks parked on the Liu Zhaogao station, and there was a temporary platform set up in the open space under the roadbed, where the uniformed “head” announced the list into the microphone, such as “Company 1: 1-1-6 x x x x, Company 2: 50 x x x x x …” He asked the company to let me know. …” He told the people whose names were called to go to the company truck by themselves.
I was assigned to the 10th Company of the 15th Regiment, and Hao Zhijun of the 50th Form was also assigned to the 10th Company. We immediately became friends and helped each other to carry the luggage onto the truck. The front compartment of the truck sat on people, and the back bucket was loaded with luggage, stacked very high.
The man who directed us to load the truck was a retired soldier, later our new recruit’s platoon leader, named Liu Fengyi, 24 years old. We didn’t know him at the time, but we heard him shouting and screaming, letting the new recruits of the 10th Company load the car, with a very hard attitude. I secretly thought, “Why are you so rude to us? The naive expectation of being welcomed, valued and taken care of was a completely different thing from the reality. Only years later did I understand that if Liu Fengyi was not so powerful, even savage, how could he get more than thirty sixteen-year-old boys and girls, along with their bulky luggage, onto the big truck at night when they first arrived in a strange place!
Then finally everything stopped and drove. As soon as the car started, we all felt cold. It was mid-September in Inner Mongolia, and it was early in the morning, and we were on an open truck. It was very cold!
I heard Hao Zhijun beside me freezing his teeth. She, who was very amusing, laughed and poked me and let me listen. I seemed to be able to resist the cold better than she could. I had a pair of clicky pants in my school bag, so I took them out and put them around her body.
The tenth company of the fifteenth regiment is on the south bank of the Wuga River. There was a rudimentary wooden bridge over the river, and the truck with the bucket could not cross and was parked on the north bank of the river. We were in the open-top truck for more than two hours, everyone held urine, once the car, the morning light in the dawn, boys and girls can not avoid all rush to pee. All I could hear was the sound of clamoring. I slipped on the wet clay floor and my clothes were dirty.
Two of us partnered up and carried the box across the river by ourselves and carried it to the compound. Sixteen girls were temporarily housed in a lonely earthen house not far from the Woga River. The house had two rows of large beds facing each other. Fourteen of the sixteen of us were in the sixth or ninth class, and in the absence of management, people instinctively listen to the bigger and older ones.
Wang Yuhua, a classmate of our school’s 68th class, was a big person, so we watched how she did. I saw her take out a pair of scissors from her satchel, cut the grass rope that packed the box, then opened the box and took out the quilt mattress. We then all waited for her to use her scissors and did what she did, unpacked the luggage and rushed to sleep. I forgot where I got some water from and washed my face. I remember Dong Shuangqiao, a classmate of the 69th class, was so thirsty that she asked, “I want to drink some water from the basin, do you think it’s okay? No one answered, she drank a little bit of her own wash water, the next day did not get sick.
When I think back to the first day of my life in Inner Mongolia, I feel a little bitter. I am glad that we were so brave back then and were able to adapt quickly. There was no one who couldn’t bear it, because even though we were young, everyone could understand that there was no way back.
Oral narrative II: Miscellaneous trivialities
When we first arrived at the 10th Company of the 15th Regiment, there were almost no houses built in the camp, except for two earth houses by the river. Due to the sudden increase in the number of young people, the tenth company was a new company that was divided from the first company on the north side of the river. When the new recruits finished their training, we lived in the new houses that were built that year. When we moved in, the new house had not yet been fitted with doors and windows, and the mud-plastered walls and kang bricks had not yet dried, so the walls were covered with white frost after winter.
We have a total of fifteen people living in two rooms inside and outside our class, eleven people in the inner room and four in the outer room, I am in the outer room. My bunk was next to Meng Yanjun from the fifth grade, she was next to Liu Guiyun from our school, and Liu Guiyun was next to Ma Xing’an from the fifth grade. We were all in the 6th and 9th grade.
Ma Xing’an’s father was a general, so she joined the army in 1971. It hit me hard to see that students with family backgrounds could soon leave the Corps. The false propaganda contradicted the reality, but I did not have the courage and ability to think independently. I, Yanjun and Guiyun did not return to Beijing until 1977, when we were “retired from illness”.
At that time, there was often no electricity at night, so before going to bed, we liked to lie down in the dark dormitory to chat and tell stories, sometimes even thinking of childhood songs, and one of us would start to sing them in unison. Once Cai Shunli, a classmate from the 12th class next door, came to listen to our stories and fell asleep at our feet, so no one paid attention to her. In the middle of the night, her class president Wang Qiu Xiang suddenly knocked on the door, saying that Cai Shunli had not returned to class by then, remembering that she had gone to our class and asked if we had seen her.
A few of us tried desperately to recall, also remembered that she was coming. Looking for her a lot of movement, against the wall sleeping at the head of everyone’s feet Cai smooth but did not wake up, we also did not find her. When Wang Qiu Xiang left, we re-entered the nest, I just kicked her and found her. She was too skinny, not even a meter and a half at that time. We yelled and screamed before she woke up, huffing and puffing and crying. Soon after, she was buried by a wall that suddenly collapsed on the stage when she was arranging the sacks in the auditorium, and was seriously injured.
I still have a “letter of leave renewal” sent to me by the company clerk, and at the end of 1971, when I returned to Beijing for the first time to visit my family, my mother had just been paralyzed by a sudden brain attack. My twelve-day leave was about to expire, and she was still alive or dead. So I applied for a renewal of my leave, which was granted, and I stayed in Beijing for another ten days. I kept the “letter of leave renewal” because I was grateful to the company leaders. The letter reads as follows
Hello, Comrade Xu Xiaodi!
I received your letter, and I am fully aware of its contents. In the last few days, your mother’s illness has improved, and from your letter, we agreed to renew your leave for 10 days. I hope that during your stay in Beijing, you still have to study the writings of the President as often and constantly as you did in the company, deal with the matter with the philosophical ideas of the President as expressed in the letter, fulfill your promises, stand the test and return to the army on time. And also to do not forget the war preparations at home, and leave the company should also consciously observe discipline, pay attention to the secrecy and prudence.
Ten companies of the 15th regiment
At that time, due to the inexplicable “politics”, I was not trusted and was treated abnormally, so the occasional “humane” treatment was very impressive.
However, the conduct of our company’s instructors was not correct, and in the summer of 1970 when we slept under mosquito nets, we found several times during the night that people went to the girls’ mosquito nets to touch them, and the people who were touched ran away as soon as they shouted. People sleep in a daze, never know who it is. Some people secretly said that the shadow of the man like the instructor, and dare not confirm, and dare not speak out. It was not until 1974 that the instructor’s problems were revealed, and he had sexually assaulted six girls in the company. At least three of the six were from the class of 1969, and all of them were sexually assaulted because they wanted to return to Beijing through “sick retirement” or “distressed retirement” and had to beg for leadership.
We felt very safe being managed and led by a soldier like the instructor. No one had thought about whether they should come to the frontier at such an age to start such a life, and no one had the experience and life experience to think that they could doubt the character of military cadres. In our opinion, the collar badge and cap badge are the guarantee of their character. Because of this, we lacked the sense of self-protection.
In 2009, on the 40th anniversary of the movement to the countryside, there were many gatherings of old youth in Beijing throughout the year. But it is not clear why, but few of them were organized as serious commemorative events to express our inquiry and reflection on the movement. The sad thing is that we have paid such a huge price, but the memories of the youth have once again become the pastoral songs of anesthesia. I can be sure that the pastoral of “no regrets” is not strictly and accurately taken from memory, but is only some kind of psychological point, a rebound from the regret of youth. Therefore, in this article, I try to give a detailed account, which is not literary and trivial, and cannot cover the whole movement to the countryside, but at least I am talking about my own real experiences and feelings.
Life itself gave us favors. We overcame many difficulties, built unforgettable friendships, grew up to be adults, endured hardships and cheerfulness, and were very strong. We should be thankful for life, not for the “exercise” of going to the mountains and going to the countryside. We should have been educated and lived a normal life! In countries where there was no movement to the countryside, did a generation of young people collapse in corruption and depression?
Dictation 3: The case of the youths around me in the 6th and 9th grade
In the wasted years, the old three were worried about the country and people, and some people had “problems” with their speech and made “political mistakes”. In 1974, there were two major cases in the 15th regiment of the 2nd division where I was working, and both the perpetrators and victims were from the 69th class.
In late autumn, a youth of the 6th grade in Beijing 108 killed a youth of the 6th grade in Beijing 116 for a Shanghai watch worth 120 yuan, and sank the body into a deep pool that night. Ten days later, the victim’s body surfaced completely unrecognized. On February 1 of the following year, a public trial was held and the 21-year-old murderer was shot.
In February, when most of the young people went back to the city to visit their families, the public trial was very quiet. My company still had a workforce that had not returned home, so the boys were sent to dig a pit for the condemned, and the girls were sent to maintain order between the venue and the cars carrying the prisoners.
The side door of the auditorium was closed, so we couldn’t hear anything, so we kicked sandbags to keep warm on the ground. Suddenly, the security officer shouted, “Pull your hands together”, and the door opened with a crash, and the atmosphere suddenly became stern. The heavily handcuffed condemned prisoner was dragged by a soldier wearing white gloves, stumbling towards the execution car.
When I saw my classmates’ bloodless, ashen faces up close, and heard the creepy sound of the shackles, one of my classmates forgot her mission and jumped into my arms with a shout, clutching me tightly. I am bigger, but also six or nine years, see such a scene also hands and feet cold, teeth chatter. The condemned man somehow drooled a lot and his front lapel was wet. He was dragged to the seventh place two miles away to be shot. The weather was too cold, and it was said that the boys from the company had difficulty breaking the soil with their picks, so the pit was dug hastily and was not long enough for the condemned man to be buried with much effort, and the foot end was buried too shallowly, and the cotton shoes were taken off by the local villagers that night.
It was also in 1974 that a classmate of my company’s class of 6-9 suddenly gave birth to a full-term baby one night in early April. She was the daughter of a miner from the Mentougou shaft, small in stature, and the pregnancy was concealed from everyone’s eyes in October. She was a cook in the kitchen, silent, but worked very hard, and during her pregnancy she was still able to lift the six-layer cage drawer, and the birth was at night, so no one noticed. At dawn, she stirred the fire of the canteen and worked as usual. At dawn, we saw the blood on the floor and the placenta, which she had delivered only after she returned to the dormitory, the bloody thing in a washbasin, covered with a pillowcase. What was even harder to believe was that the baby’s father was a 70-year-old man who had been employed at a brick kiln after completing his reformation.
The student spent the “month” in a group dormitory, then was assigned to work as a wet billet worker in a brick factory and was expelled from the regiment. Later, she returned to Beijing’s Mentougou mine according to policy, and was said to have been without a formal job, living on laundry for single miners. When the youth gathering was more hairy in 2009, I heard the news that it had been many years since she died at the same age as me.
Conclusion: “I am from the 6th and 9th class”
In 1999, it was the thirtieth anniversary of the movement to the mountains and the countryside. I had a reunion of my high school classmates, with nearly forty people attending. Thirty years after they parted, everyone was fine, except that none of them went to university after the resumption of the college entrance examination in 1977. I was called an “intellectual” by my classmates because I had received adult higher education and attended a night university with a diploma recognized by the state. I was very sad, because in my unit, my education is not “hard”, it is not very handy. The cultural foundation is too poor, all kinds of tests have to cope with a hard head.
Many of my classmates were laid off, some retired early, and only a few were still in official positions when we met in 1999, and now there must be even fewer. There is no such thing as a “successful person” among those of us in the 6th and 9th classes.
The definition of “successful people” should probably be: having status, fame, power and money. There is no such person in our class. The absurdity of history has limited our development, but we are still working honestly and living decently. I have a classmate named Ma Jinliang, after returning to Beijing from the Corps, has been working as a driver in Dongdan Leather Shoes Factory, and is the class leader of the driver’s class. The Dongdan Leather Shoes Factory, a national second-class enterprise, was operating on a slippery slope, and finally the entire factory was left with one car from more than a dozen, and only two drivers were left in the end. One is very young, the other is my classmate Ma Jinliang, he was more than 40 years old at that time. The two of them took turns driving that one car. Later, Ma Jinliang himself agreed to give the job to the young man, saying: “His children are too young and need money more. I have less burden, I retired to find a way.” At that time, the factory only gave him a living expense of more than 200 yuan, so he retired and went outside to find his own job. He now works for a government agency as a temporary driver, with a monthly salary of more than two thousand. In his case, he has shown what the people of the 6th and 9th have endured, how they accept their fate, and how tough, ordinary and kind they are. He is not a “successful person”, but I am really proud of people like him!
Today, on certain occasions, we people still say with inferiority complex and regret, “I’m from the class of 1969.” However, this is no longer a sentence that many people do not understand.
May the term “Class of 1989”, a proper noun of a bygone era, enter the lexicon, and may more people know what it means.
Revised on August 26, 2011
(From “The Upside Down Years” by Xu Xiaodi, published by Sanlian Bookstore in 2012.