In October 1970, I took my father’s leading erhu with me and settled in Bazhong, Sichuan. I was thin, weighed less than 100 pounds and was 1.6 meters tall. However, the consciousness of getting ahead, striving for performance and leaving the countryside as soon as possible was stronger than anyone else.
From the first day I went to the countryside, I took my erhu with me wherever I went, playing everything from solo songs to youth songs, from revolutionary songs to model operas, not missing any opportunity to perform, trying to find a way out in the erhu. The erhu not only relieved my loneliness, but also made me famous and quickly took the high ground among the youth in the whole commune, and even several communes nearby knew that there was a Chongqing youth who played the erhu.
However, I was not satisfied with this and planned another opportunity for self-expression: to organize peasant learning in the fields, that is, to read newspapers to peasants during the short break from farm work. I told the Commune Revolutionary Committee about this idea and got their support. The director told me that he would promote my practice throughout the commune. I was full of confidence and secretly proud of myself.
When I went out to work that day, I brought the People’s Daily to which the production team had subscribed. The production leader also supported my idea, and during the break, under his yelling and organization, everyone slowly gathered around me. The men put the hoes, feel out the leaf tobacco, licking the saliva bar wrapped in cigarette rolls; women sitting on the horizontal back rattan, some in nursing long hungry children, some tied up the soles.
“The editorial of the People’s Daily,” I stood on a rock and read aloud, “earnestly study Chairman Mao’s philosophical writings. Let philosophy be liberated from the classrooms and books of philosophers and turned into a sharp weapon in the hands of the masses.” A loud Chongqing accent echoed in the mountain pass of Daba Mountain. At that moment, the feeling of “making a difference” came to me, as if I had found my place in the “wide world”. I was touched by the wise decision of the intellectual youth to go to the mountains and the countryside, and I was touched by myself.
Suddenly, someone snickered, followed by all the others who laughed out loud. What was wrong? I put down the newspaper, stopped reading aloud and saw a woman holding her face red in blowing up a balloon for her child, the material of which turned out to be a condom. Seeing this, all the people were laughing. I searched for the production captain with a helping hand, and he had long since disappeared.
The next day, it was time to read the newspaper again, I saw the men smoking leafy cigarettes, talking about their own topics; women rushed home, they have to go back to feed the pigs, to seize the time to get their own land.
My idea was aborted.
October is the busiest season in the Daba Mountains, digging red pota, fertilizing and planting wheat. As soon as I went to the countryside, I caught up with the busy farming season. I didn’t hold back, I didn’t slack off, I took it as an opportunity to perform. The day after I arrived at the production team, I asked to work.
After two days of digging red pota, the hoe hand bitten blood blisters, the captain took care of me to carry cow dung with the women. The bamboo rattan with cattle manure, with a large top and bottom tip in the shape of a trumpet, had a large capacity. The man who loaded the cow dung was merciful and only gave me half of it. Nevertheless, I was still sweating and panting, and my back was soaked with wet cow dung and sweat. When I walked on the ridge, the women who came up to me always gave me a pep talk: “You can get it! Old Yu ……” “Old Yu …… can get!”
When I unloaded the cow dung in the ground, I felt that I was not only watering the land, but also my tender body. I just held on and insisted on going out to work for seven or eight days in a row. Finally, one day after lunch, I was too tired to wash the dishes, and I fell asleep.
When I woke up and opened my eyes, where was I? What is this place? The roof above my head was full of cobwebs, the beams were black and oily from the smoke and fire, and the dust accumulated over the years would fall off at any time, and a glass tile let in a beam of dim light that illuminated the dim hut. Oh, this is the home I settled in: a wooden bed, a wooden cabinet, mud pile stove, bamboo gabions woven mud walls, the mud on the wall fell off a lot, surrounded by large holes and small eyes. A strong smell of cow dung reminded me that downstairs was the production team’s cattle pen, and my neighbors were a mother and son of a pair of cows.
I overslept and missed work for the first time since I joined the team. I got up lazily and pushed open the only window.
A few white cranes were feeding in the paddy fields, chopstick-like thin legs, one foot high and one foot low, and I could hear the sound of them treading water. A stone road, curved and disappeared into the unknown distance. A late-autumn sunset, hanging over the mountain tops, blood-red in color, looked so soft and benevolent.
I stared at it, it also stared at me, time stood still at this moment, it seems to want to accompany me for a while, can not bear to rush down the mountain, so quietly hanging on the hillock. A heartbreaking calf call broke the silence, it was the calf downstairs calling for its mother.
Half a century has passed and I have seen countless sunrises and sunsets, but I always have a blood-red, reluctant to set the sunset on the mountain in my heart.