After several years abroad, we are all very homesick. In foreign countries have their own small home, but the home of our parents at home, is where we grew up, no matter how long we left, how far away, always that heart will always miss, miss there relatives, friends, more want to see that familiar land, we were born and grew up in the hometown. My husband and I began to pack our bags, book tickets, and fly to that piece of daily thinking, day after day looking forward to the place.
After more than ten hours of flight, we entered the country, we began to fill out the form, fill in the name, gender, date of birth, these for us, often travel abroad, fill out the content of the form is too familiar, but also accustomed to it. Suddenly, my husband touched me with his elbow and asked, “Do you have an origin?” I said, “What?” He repeated it again and said, “I asked if I wanted to fill in the origin?” I laughed and replied, “It’s a long time ago, you don’t have one, do you?” But then, unsure, I went over the form carefully from beginning to end and replied firmly, “No!” He let out a whoop and muttered, “I was afraid of filling that out, but it’s finally cancelled.”
Yes, the term “birth” is too sensitive, too scary, too ridiculous, too reminiscent of our generation ……
I remember the first time I heard this word was in my junior high school politics class. 1963 I was in my first year. The first is that there are more courses, each teacher teaches only one subject, there are four teachers in a morning in different classes, you can see more than one teacher in the classroom every day, each teacher speaks with different posture, tone, and poise, also make us half grown children have the opportunity to chat about the teachers. I remember one of my classmates also described in his diary that the math teacher spoke with too much saliva, and we all felt the same way and nodded in agreement.
In addition to language, math, history, and geography, which were familiar subjects, political science was the first time we were introduced to the curriculum. We didn’t know what we would learn in politics class, and the textbook was thin, just exploring being a morally, intellectually and physically well-rounded student. The teacher was a transfer from the university’s political science department. (Because our school was a secondary school, many of the teachers came from the university, mainly those students or teachers who had been branded as “rightists” in 1957, and were sent down to the secondary school as a kind of downward transfer and punishment, I guess.) The political science class was held twice a week, while the history and geography classes were held only once a week, which shows the weight of this class. In the first class, the political science teacher asked us to read a lot of material outside the textbook, including the main article from the Selected Works of Mao Zedong, which was “Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society”.
I remember when I went home and asked my parents about it, my father didn’t dare to be lazy and immediately found the article from “Mao’s Selected Works” and told me to put it in my school bag so that I would be ready to use it in politics class. I was just 13 years old, I didn’t feel anything, I simply thought, “It’s just a lesson, why should I be nervous? In fact, the strings of the class struggle were already being tightened, and I guess my parents had a hunch about it, but they didn’t dare to say much, fearing that it would affect their children.
As expected, the first week of political science class gave a general overview of the course requirements, followed by the “analysis of the classes in Chinese society”. I remember that the teacher drew a table on the blackboard, listing the names of the various classes, and then discussed them in the class. The class discussed the names of the various classes, from the bought capitalists, capitalists, landlords, rich peasants, poor peasants, hired peasants…originally, they discussed what was what according to the article. Later, the teacher asked everyone to match up the numbers and put yourself in the table to see which class you belonged to.
At this point, the discussion started to get tense. Some people raised their hands and declared that their families were poor peasants, saying that they had heard it from their families. Then a bold student asked when to count from, from father or from grandfather? The teacher’s answer was that the limit was 3 years before the liberation, and what your family was at that time, that was your origin. The homework after class was to ask the respective parents and then analyze the class composition of their family.
I was confused. It was an article from 1924, before my parents were born, and the analysis was about the class situation at that time, while 40 years later the situation was different, and both parents joined the workforce in the 1950s. Or by grandparents’? I really don’t understand how to divide it. But I didn’t dare to ask the political science teacher, because I was a class cadre, so I couldn’t give the teacher a problem, and I didn’t want my classmates to talk about me.
After going home and asking my parents about my own family, I secretly went to the language teacher because I was the language class representative and was more familiar with the language teacher. This language teacher is a young man who just graduated from teacher training college, in his 20s, single. Although he is not very old, but the man is thick, looks like 30 several. He was very nice to us girls and answered all our requests, which increased my courage to ask him for advice. I secretly knocked on his office door, smiled and greeted him, then sat down to ask questions.
I didn’t dare to complain about the grievances in my mind and asked directly from my own family’s situation. I told him that my father was a university student for three years before liberation and a graduate student for three years after liberation, so if I were classified according to the standard of the three years before liberation, my origin should be “student”. But the political science teacher said that our “composition” was “student” and that we could not confuse “composition” with “origin. That is to say, the two cannot be the same.
The political science teacher said that my origin was considered a “teacher”, but I disagreed, because my father was still in school and was not qualified to be a teacher at all. I also complained that this classification of origin seemed inaccurate, especially in the city. He affirmed my doubts, but didn’t know how to answer. I was just told not to ask any more teachers and that it was better to be careful.
Later, I had no choice but to fill in my form with the origin that was granted to me, as requested by my political teacher. I remember that later, the origin of “instructor” was always changed to “staff”, and I still don’t understand why. I still don’t understand why, but I heard from my classmates that this is how everyone filled in the form.
No matter what “staff” it was, during the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966, it became a non-“Red 5” origin, and since my father was a university professor, I became a descendant of the “stinking old man”. It was not much better than the “black 5” like “rich, rich, bad and right”. The couplet of “I am a hero and a good man” and the high-profile propagation of the reactionary lineage theory intensified the hierarchical division among students, intensified the division of classmates, created conflicts, and turned the original relationship between classmates into a class struggle of “you die and I live”. Some students became “red successors” and others became “enemies” in a day’s time.
This absurd change is dazzling, dazzling, confused in the uncontrollable inner fear …… For a teenager of only 16 years old, this invisible pressure makes me feel depressed, panic, so much so that in a lifetime can not be relieved …… ( (It is easy to understand that my husband was thinking about whether to fill in “origin” when he filled out the entry form.
During the Cultural Revolution, there were many students who were criticized, scolded and humiliated because of their “origins”. What happened to two of my classmates is a real case in point.
One was Ling Ling, who was in the same class as me in junior high school. She was tall and sat in the back row of my class. Whenever I was doing my homework in study hall, she would gently poke me in the back with a pencil to get me to turn back to her for the answers to the exercises. She was very artistic and loved to draw, and presented me with a pencil copy of her drawing of my back as observed from her seat.
Our school was a university annex, and most of our classmates’ parents worked at the university and knew each other, but probably not well. We all knew what our parents did, but we never knew about “family origins”, nor did we know about the privacy of other people’s families that came to light like digging three feet. It was not until the Cultural Revolution in 1966 that I learned that her father had been classified as a “rightist”, and she irrefutably became the “right” of the “Black 5” (the rich, the rich, the bad, the bad, the right). After the start of the Cultural Revolution, the class leader became a “rightist”.
When the Cultural Revolution began, the class president stepped aside and was replaced by the head of the Red Guards, and if they were not Red Guards (students from non-Red backgrounds were not eligible to join), they basically hid at home and dared not go to school. On this day, every student was told to come to the class meeting. I remember the headline: “Sweep away all evil spirits and snakes”. Then the “head” directed the discussion, and let the “red” ones speak, describing how they had “raided” the house, and then pointed the finger at the “black” ones, forcing them to speak. Black”, forcing them to speak and draw a clear line with the family …
At that moment, the “head” shouted: “There are class enemies in our class, rightist brats!” Ling Ling was named in public and yelled at to get up from her seat. Her head was bowed, her face was pale, and her two hands were pulling at the corners of her clothes. I guess she didn’t even think that her usual classmates would treat her as an “enemy”. I really feel sorry for her, what did she do? Why should she be treated like this? If she was the “enemy”, then I was pretty much the same.
I was afraid that I would be the next one to be pulled out, so I sat in the corner and didn’t say a word. Then I heard Ling Ling’s fault, what eyes upward, look down on others; like to read pictorials, curly hair, wear flowery clothes, bourgeois ideas ……. Finally, it boiled down to her family’s influence and the need to break with her old “rightist” son. (At that time I almost laughed out loud because I was thinking, “Where is Ling Ling going to eat and sleep tonight if she “breaks up”? The criticism session ended with slogans led by the “head”.
I kept thinking, “How could a 16-year-old boy have such a deep hatred for his classmates? It was then that I realized that this was the result of “origin”!
From then on, classmates were divided into different groups by “origin”, and the “red” ones would never interact with the “black” ones. The “gray” ones like me also had a group, and since the “gray” ones were already close to the “black” ones, I didn’t care anymore, and I still hung out with the “black” ones. “I didn’t care, but I didn’t dare to be in the open for fear of being called “red” for “not distinguishing class lines”.
Two years later, we “gray” and “black” were all assigned to the countryside to work as farmers. Because of their “origin”, they were punished for their “original sin” at birth.
The other is Fang Fang, my elementary school classmate, who was in the same class with me from first to sixth grade. She was a good student, especially in arithmetic, there was no problem she couldn’t do, and she was so smart that everyone gave her the nickname “Madame Curie”. She was admitted to a major secondary school in the district with excellent grades. What she didn’t expect was that in 1966, at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, she was mobbed and beaten by her Red Guard classmates because of her family background, and suffered physical persecution. Although she was treated for a long time, she got better and worse and was never able to live a normal life.
She spent long hours in and out of the psychiatric hospital, living alone until the end of her life. She was a flower that withered early, but unfortunately a young girl in her prime became a victim of that movement. Her elementary school classmates remember her kindness, purity, seriousness and somewhat obstinate rigidity in everything, eagerness to help her classmates and generosity. Her misfortune not only made us pity and grieve, but also resent the injustice of fate against her and condemn those acts of persecution and lawless cruelty.
What does Fanfan leave us now that she is gone? Wouldn’t she have been beaten if her father hadn’t returned from studying in England as an intellectual? But her parents chose to remain silent rather than pursue blame, burying their grief in their hearts. This is a heartache that I cannot understand …… I have asked myself countless times, if I had gotten into that key high school, would it have been me who was beaten? (That year’s elementary school general examination, I could not do a few arithmetic problems, did not get into the key school) I am glad I did not get into the examination, otherwise I do not know what my fate is ……
Because of my “family background”, when I was assigned employment in 1968, it was impossible for me to stay in Beijing, and the only way out was to go to the countryside and receive re-education from the poor peasants. In fact, I have always been confused about my “family origin”. I remember in 1985, when I was selected to study in Japan, I was approached by the director of the personnel office about the “political examination”. He said that he had read my file and that it was too “dark” and that I had relatives in the U.S., Taiwan and Hong Kong, and asked if I knew. I remembered what my mother had told me about my family.
When my mother was a child, her father, my grandfather, had died. Grandfather had been a famous local lawyer and the family had a house and land. After my grandfather’s death, my grandmother sold the house and land and took the money and the children to Shanghai to join her younger siblings (she was the eldest sister). Forced to live in a rented house, Grandma spent all her money on the family’s livelihood and the children’s education, so that all the children went to college.
I really admire the courage of my grandmother, if she had kept the family property, she would have been classified as a rich peasant or landlord, so she and her children could have imagined the days later. And when she entered the city, she became a pauper, with no house, no land and no job, her composition became better. Is this not somewhat similar to some of the plot of the movie “Alive”? The difference is that the character played by Ge You lost the family fortune gambling, rather than selling it.
My grandmother’s brothers went their separate ways to make a living abroad. I only knew a little about these relatives from what my mother had told me. I asked the director why he had included all these relatives in my file when I didn’t even know their names and had never met them. He said that all these were copied from my mother’s file during the Cultural Revolution in 1966, for fear of missing any trace of “insider communication abroad”, even for a child of 16 years old. Now the reform and opening up, these things are not seized, there are many people still hate to have a foreign relatives. In this way, my political trial passed.
Since then, I have never been “politically examined” again when I went abroad. From digging three feet to search a person’s ancestors to the reform and opening up of a “person”, this is also a big progress of society!
Many years later, I met the Director of Personnel again when I returned to visit my family, and he asked me if I wanted to take my file away. I said, “No, I don’t want it, you can keep it as a souvenir. I told him that in the U.S., personal history is written from college onwards, and even my 10 years of experience in the Northern Territory could not be counted, not to mention my parents, grandparents, and other relatives. That’s the real “performance”! I am who I am, and “origin” and “composition” have nothing to do with me. I really felt free to fly!
Speaking of “origin”, I have to talk about my husband. His father (my father-in-law) was an orphan who was apprenticed to a restaurant in his teens in order to get three free meals a day. After learning the apprenticeship, he left his hometown to find a job in Shanghai, where he worked as a Sichuanese cook in Jinjiang Restaurant. He joined a labor union back then and was a member of the working class. After liberation, he wanted to establish his own business, so he ran to Beijing to open a restaurant (because Shanghai is more expensive), and called a few young apprentices from his hometown as helpers.
In 1953, the restaurant, which had just been opened for two years, was “co-operated”, so he stayed in the restaurant that had been his own and became a chef inside. Since he had an industry (restaurant), he was classified as a capitalist. He was very unhappy and went to the leaders, but in the end, he was classified as a capitalist according to the number of people employed, and those with more than 3 employees were classified as capitalists, while those with less than 3 were classified as small business owners.
Fortunately, one of his apprentices left later to save a life, to grant small business owners. This origin is at most a “gray”, but seems to be close to “black”. So, my husband was also assigned to the countryside and met me. In the countryside, he worked hard, received good reviews, and was recommended for university several times, but each time he failed the political examination because of his “family origin” and lost the opportunity to go to school.
My husband always wondered about his “origin”. If the line was drawn from three years before the liberation, his father was a genuine worker. Why did this rule change when his father drew the line? It became three years after the liberation? Is it possible that wherever “black” is, that’s where you go? He told me more than once that he refused to fill in “origin”. I said: You can fill in “worker”, that’s “red”. He said he did, but he was called by his superiors to talk to them, and he was criticized for not changing his “origin”. The good thing is, I don’t care what “origin”, because I can’t figure it out myself, can’t understand. This is what he appreciated most about me, because I was simple, or for lack of a better word, “stupid”, and if he hadn’t told me, I probably wouldn’t have even asked.
The most interesting thing is that his father’s two apprentices, because they were apprentices, the composition is workers. One was rehired and promoted to the head of the catering department, and the other was asked to make special meals for a senior chief, because “the roots are red and the seeds are right”. However, they were very grateful for the skills taught to them by their master, and they visited him on New Year’s holidays, and often asked for advice and exchanged cooking skills, without the slightest thought of treating their master as “class enemy” or “exploiting class”.
Later, when my husband opened a restaurant in the United States, I learned that it takes at least three people to turn a restaurant around. (In order to save a manpower, he often used me as free labor.) In other words, his father hired 2 apprentices to make the restaurant open. This hired labor brought his father decades of “black composition”, criticism during the Cultural Revolution, accompanying the fight, and directly affected the growth of his children. If he had known that this would be the result, I think he would have gritted his teeth and worked in Shanghai alone (he was determined not to open a restaurant) to get a good “composition”!
The term “origin”, which is unique in the world, was once popular in this hometown, and some people were subjected to inexplicable rejection, discrimination, and cold treatment, so that they were forced to use manual labor and suffer hardship to “pay for their original sin”. Christianity’s “repayment of sins” came after their own repentance, but they were suppressed because of the arbitrary term “family origin” without knowing anything about it. What is the justification for this “suppression”?
In the early 1980s, my father-in-law once again opened a restaurant, and his cooking attracted customers from near and far. Over the years, his restaurant sold at a low profit, i.e., earned money and received numerous customers’ favor and praise, reflecting the old generation of businessmen’s essence of being a human being. My husband entered the College of Finance and Economics and majored in “Business Administration”, which he loved.
Nowadays, when I stand on the podium and talk about the right to education for people with disabilities, I often think about how “family origin” used to be like a label in feudal times, dividing people into different classes and causing some people to suppress others. Under the banner of class and class struggle, “composition” or “origin” restricted and fettered the development of young people, depriving them of the opportunity to study and work, and causing the loss of talents in society.