The Long Hate Song in the Countryside

This hatred lasts forever. –Bai Juyi

Forty years after I left the countryside, I still think of Xiuying, her stonemason boyfriend, and his impassioned slogans that night.

The place where I went to the countryside was called Yangping, a production team in Meishan County, Sichuan, a small, remote village. Most of the people there are surnamed Yang, non-Yang family name, many are after the three years of hardship, in order to fill the Yangping reduced population, from Sichuan Lezhi County moved to. Xiuying, surnamed Wang, lives with his mother. I don’t know what her five or six-year-old son’s surname is, but it’s definitely not Yang, they call him Siqingwa.

The people of Yangping said that the boy’s father was the first to come from Lezhi County after the Great Leap Forward. He was an accountant of the production team in his hometown in Lezhi County, and when food was tight in those years, he ran to Yangping in Meishan County. After he came, he found that many people had died in Yangping, and was very desperate. At that time he met Xiuying’s mother – she was trying to recruit a son-in-law to solve the problem of no male labor in the family. Xiuying was considered a beauty at that time: white skin, watery black eyes, not too tall, not too short, but very thin. But what person was not thin in those days? With edema disease will be “fat” point, but not far from death. So, he stayed in Yangping and became the son-in-law of the Wang family.

If they had gotten a marriage license, I’m afraid there would have been no subsequent story.

In those years, more than 300 people died in our production team, leaving only a hundred. After we went to the countryside, we often followed the members of the production team to clear the wasteland – Meishan County belongs to the hilly area, more woodland. To some low land trees, the community members said: here is the original so-and-so family yard, the whole family starved to death in those years, the house also collapsed. Members of the community also said: some people walking on the road, they fell down and died. People who are alive, and more breath, no energy to bury the dead.

In that case, what is a marriage certificate? The young man from Le Chi lived in Xiuying’s house, even if married. No one asked whether there was a license for this file.

The young man from Lezhi can write and calculate, is hardworking, loves to help, and is well liked by everyone. It is said that he also has a skill of playing slingshot, often able to shoot down the passing birds. The slogan at that time was “I’d rather grow socialist grass than capitalist seedlings”, but there was often a lot of corn growing in front of and behind his house. Some people say that he planted the corn kernels from the stomach of the birds. Scared of his “hundred shots” slingshot magic, corn ripening, no one dared to steal.

Yangping has a large pine forest, when the wind rises, the pine waves roar, listen at night there is a mountain overturning the sea momentum. There are many mushrooms growing in the pine forest. In times of food scarcity, these delicious fresh mushrooms can replenish the amino acids and vitamins that the human body desperately needs. The farmers in Yangping did not eat many mushrooms because they were not filling. We, the young women, used to patronize the pine forest, and we could pick a lot of them in a short time and fry them up in a big bowl and eat them as vegetables. But there is no oil, eat to later want to vomit. It is said that the youth of Lezhi also went to pick mushrooms during those years and took them home to boil them in water and put some salt on them to supplement their nutrition.

After the three years of hardship, Xiuying’s belly grew big. In the year she became pregnant, a working group was sent down from above to clean up the four areas.

One of the goals of the Four Cleanups campaign was to “clean up the organization”. The young people in Lezhi were not from the party or the group, and they were not cadres, but they were still the target of the search: where did they come from? What is the composition? The Working Group sent people to his hometown in rural Lezhi.

They found out that the young man belonged to the “children of the rich”, and that he was a fugitive “child of the rich”, living with Xiuying illegally without a marriage license. The comrades of the working group said: He must be sent back to his hometown in Lezhi. The children of the rich are not allowed to run away, they can only accept the supervision and reform of the poor peasants in their hometown.

The working group wanted him to return to his hometown immediately, but the youth of Lezhi pleaded with him to stay a little longer and take care of Xiuying after she had a baby. The production captain also helped to plead, so the young man stayed until Xiuying was full term before leaving in disgust.

After the Le Chi youth left, there was no news. In those days, unless the level of cadres, the general public only saw the phone in the movies. Write a letter? Xiuying can not read, it is difficult to ask someone to read? The young people of Lezhi are also the children of the rich, and a letter can bring disaster to both sides.

Without a husband, a widowed mother, and a young child, Xiuying was born a widow.

In early 1969, when two female students from the same class and I went to Yangping to settle in the squad, Xiuying was only twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old. She had watery eyes, two shoulder-length braids, and white and red skin, which is rarely seen among rural women. However, the frost of the years has left deep wrinkles on her otherwise pretty face. She rarely spoke.

When we took a break from work, both male and female members of the community loved to gather together to joke and jest. At first we didn’t understand the content of the jokes, and only after a long time did we gradually understand the “yellow” connotation. Once when they were joking around, a few male members of the community chased the most unforgiving female member into the production team’s pigsty. Two men followed her in and almost took her pants off. Xiuying never joined their scuffle, nor did she say anything, just pursed her lips and laughed.

Later, a new man came to our production team. This person is about thirty years old, tall and strong, can speak well, farm work well and fast. It is said that he once worked as a stonemason. His surname is Huang, the production team called him Huang stonemason, but also behind the scenes, he is “day white mason”. In the local dialect, the word “Ribai” means bragging and fooling around.

Has he ever bragged? Who did he fool? We have not heard of it.

Not long after, when we went out to work, we couldn’t see any trace of the yellow stonemason. The community members said: he went to another production team, because he “day white”, Yangping people do not like him. What does it matter if a person is a good worker, even if he brags about it? We, the female youths, could not understand this reason.

When we went to the countryside, every family in the village raised pigs. To raise pigs, we had to go to the roadside of the field to cut pig straw, and the cut straw was boiled with rice bran and fed to the pigs. We also raised a small pig, also cut pig grass – back a rattan, in the field roadside to find, cut half a day to cut a full rattan, is very weary.

After Huang Shi maker left, Xiuying began to put her pig straw backpack on top of the chicken coop outside our door. If she happened to run into us, she smiled shyly. The first time she came to put her hogweed backpack, she told us that she would come to pick up her backpack later. This “later” will have to wait until the evening. When she came to pick up her rucksack, she often took out a small cloth bag with pancakes and eggs and other food from her arms, buried it under the pig straw, and then picked up her rucksack and walked towards the small bridge in front of our residence – the path on the other side of the bridge led to a place beyond Yangping.

It was so late, where was she going? Watching her carrying a backpack figure, disappearing in the twilight, we puzzled. Gradually, from the gossip of the community members, the uninitiated, we also know that she and the yellow stonemason good. But the people of Yangping, mainly the cadres of the production team – they are all men – do not like Huang Shishu, so Huang Shishu went to another production team. It seems that the pale twilight, her pig straw backpack and our residence were her cover, and she went to have a rendezvous with the yellow stonemason under such cover. She trusted us, and we willingly covered for her.

In those years of being a youth in the countryside, I never lost sleep. I fell asleep as soon as my head was next to the pillow after a day’s work in the fields, and I slept until dawn.

However, late one night, I and two other female youths in the same room were awakened by a commotion and cursing. Our house was adjacent to the production team’s sunbathing dam, from which the noise and cursing came.

We heard the familiar shouts of the production leader, the chairman of the poor association and the militia leader, and a not-so-familiar voice shouting, “Long live Chairman Mao! Long live the Communist Party!” Among the various voices, there was also the cry of a woman. The chanting of revolutionary slogans immediately reminded me of the film footage of the revolutionary martyrs’ generous sacrifice. In that moonlit, silent country night, such slogans were thrilling. We hurriedly put on our clothes and ran to the sunbathing dam.

When we arrived at the sunbathing dam, we were stunned to see it. The cadres of the production team, who were usually kind to us, were kicking and beating the yellow stonemason who was lying on the ground. As they beat him, they cursed: “Beat this adulterer to death!” “Let’s see if he dares to come and screw our Yangping women again!” . …… Huang Shishu’s hands were tied behind his back and he could not move, but his mouth kept shouting revolutionary slogans. The company’s main business is to provide a wide range of products and services to the public. The three of us were caught by the village cadres in ambush there.

The three of us young women shouted in unison: Don’t hit anyone!

The members and cadres of the production team usually had a good relationship with us. Every time we came back from Chengdu, we would bring some sweets for everyone to eat. One time I was weeding in the corn field and encountered a large snake more than three feet long, I had nowhere to hide and was afraid of being bitten, so I killed the snake with my hoe. The community members who came to watch said: “This is a cauliflower snake, not poisonous. That day, after I removed the skin of the snake, I made braised snake meat, and many members of the community came to share it. During those years, the community members respected us.

Seeing that we interfered with the beating, the captain said, “Okay, don’t beat this son of a bitch anymore, take him to the commune!

The militia captain and the chairman of the poor association dragged Huang Shisha up from the ground, and a rope tied to one end of Huang Shisha’s waist, the other end pinched in the hands of the militia captain, Huang Shisha’s hands were still tied behind him, the three of them together to Huang Shisha escorted on the path to the commune. Although Huang Shisha is tall and strong, but was tied behind the back, can not struggle, can only keep shouting “Long live Chairman Mao! Long live the Communist Party ……”

Xiu Ying cried and went back to his home, we also went back to bed. But the impassioned slogans of the yellow stonemasons echoed through the thin wood-paneled walls of our house and into our room – and we went to bed for a while before the sound faded away.

That night, I could no longer sleep. I imagined three production team cadres sneakily ambushing near Xiuying’s house, waiting for midnight arrests. …… At the end of the day, the sounds and scenes of Huang Shishu shouting revolutionary slogans always echoed in my mind – I had an inexplicable sense of absurdity, and I even I even felt that my life was absurd.

How I wished that everything I had experienced over the years was just a nightmare, and eventually I woke up from my dream to see the sunlight spilling over my crib, a brand new comic book and a new handkerchief by my pillow, and my father looking at me lovingly and saying, “Today is your birthday, you’re eight years old!”

Life, for Xiuying, was perhaps an even bigger nightmare. She didn’t go out to work the next day. When she came to work on the third day, her eyes were red and swollen. Later, she became more and more gloomy. During break time, other members of the community were laughing and joking, but she no longer pursed her lips and smiled. She also did not put her pig straw backpack on top of the chicken coop outside our door – the end of her rendezvous with the yellow stonemason.

Later, the production team held a meeting, mainly to discuss Xiuying’s life event. The cadres said to Xiuying: If you want to get his father back, the matter can be. If you want to marry that “day white maker”, it is never okay. I thought: Because of his bad background, Siqingwa’s father was forcibly repatriated to his hometown during the Four Clean-ups Movement. The cadres of the production team probably didn’t think about this issue. The company’s main business is to provide a wide range of products and services to its customers. I don’t know if Xiuying also thought of these questions. She was silent and did not say a word, ignoring them.

When I left Yangping at the end of 1977 to go back to college in Chengdu, Xiuying was still single. Her cold face always had a look of rejection. I went back to Yangping once in the 1980s, when Xiuying was still alone – I don’t know if she got married later.