My father-in-law’s name is Shi Benqing and my mother-in-law’s name is Wu Qinglin. They became my in-laws in 1992, so for the sake of narrative convenience, I will refer to them as aunts and uncles in this article.
I record their painful history because I don’t want their past encounters to be drowned without a trace by the river of time. Yes, in a once very large group of Dalits, their suffering was not the deepest, nor was it the longest. But for each individual, no matter how big or small, no matter how long or short, those sufferings will be a heavy mountain.
To restore the heartbreaking stories of those absurd times, just to warn future generations; pray that those days are like years of suffering, never again!
With this article, I would like to commemorate the two deceased elderly people.
Uncle Shi Benqing was born in Hengxian County, Guangxi Province. Before he retired, he worked as a chief engineer at the Sixth Grinding Wheel Factory of the Ministry of Machinery Industry (which produced artificial diamonds and was a confidential unit of the state).
Uncle Benqing’s father, Shi Hengyi, was the richest man in Hengxian County, Guangxi during the Republic of China. He was a big landlord and a big industrial and commercial capitalist, owning thousands of acres of good land and forests, in addition to industries such as river shipping, textiles, soy sauce processing and leasing. 100,000 taels of silver. The whole mansion has a construction area of about 4,800 square meters, with a total of 98 halls, main rooms, secondary rooms, ear rooms and compartments, and a five-story tower standing in the central axis of the compound, which integrates the functions of viewing and defense. After the completion of this luxurious mansion, it was called the Shi family compound by the locals.
During the land reform, the Shi family compound was confiscated. At that time, Shi Hengyi had already passed away for about two or three years, and his four sons, three of whom were working outside and one of whom had joined the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, none of them asked about the family’s property, and no one knew what units or individuals were assigned to live in the compound after it was confiscated. Shi family’s large family business, in the hurricane of the times, smoke dissipated, only the Shi family compound, although it has changed ownership, but the mansion and its name together intact preserved. In recent years, the Shi family compound was recovered by the regional government and planned to be repaired, becoming an important cultural relics protection unit.
It seems impossible to say that Uncle Shi Benqing, who was born in such a mansion, did not have a little story in his later life journey.
In the autumn of 1944, Uncle Benqing left Guangxi to go out to apply for university. Since his hometown was closed, he went out to see that all the schools he wished to apply for, such as Southwest United University, had already closed their applications, and only Guizhou University was still accepting applications, so he had to settle for the second best and enrolled in the Department of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering of Guizhou University.
In 1951, when the new regime was in urgent need of construction talents, Uncle Ben Qing was recruited to Nanning City and worked in the Provincial Department of Industry. 1955, he was sent as a technician to the 402 Factory Preparation Office (which was later located in Zhengzhou City, Henan Province, the second grinding wheel factory, built with the aid of East Germany, then the largest factory in Asia for the production of general abrasives), and after the second grinding wheel factory was completed and put into operation, Uncle Ben Qing stayed in the equipment section of the factory and worked there. He received the title of engineer in 1960.
In the early 1960s, the Institute of Abrasives of the Chinese Academy of Sciences dispatched scientific researchers to study abroad and brought back some technical information because of the country’s need to develop aerospace industry. After that, the country decided to establish the first independent production of artificial diamond and diamond abrasives factory, the Sixth Grinding Wheel Factory.
The task of preparing for the establishment of the Sixth Grinding Wheel Factory was undertaken by the Second Grinding Wheel Factory. In the mid-1960s, according to the deployment of the third line of national construction, in 1965, the Second Grinding Wheel Factory dispatched the preparation team to Guiyang City and Xifeng County in Guizhou Province, which is located in the southwest, and finally chose the factory site in a ravine 15 kilometers away from Guiyang City.
The factory was built along the ravine, hidden between the mountains, and could guard against the attack of Dixiu. The ravine was named after a small village in the area, called “Xiaoyi”. As a member of the preparatory group, Uncle Benqing was in charge of all the technical work in the factory infrastructure after the site was decided.
The Sixth Grinding Wheel Factory was small in scale, and the artificial diamonds produced in a year could be carried away in a suitcase, but they were worth a lot of money; the abrasives produced with artificial diamonds were of great importance in the development of the national aerospace industry. However, the revolution of 1966 inevitably hit this third-line factory in the ravine: a rebel organization appeared in the factory, two factions fought, capitalists were defeated, power was seized, and a revolutionary committee was established …… stepping on the rhythm of the movement. In that year, the factory director (and secretary) and deputy director sent from the second grinding wheel factory at the beginning of the factory were beaten down, and the factory director was sent to the infrastructure department for labor reform after the mass meeting criticized by the masses.
However, whether it was a storm or a shocking wave, the technical department of the infrastructure, which was under the charge of Uncle Ben Qing, never had a moment’s pause. Uncle Ben Qing led the technical department staff to review the drawings and make changes or redesign according to the actual situation; go to the construction site for specific guidance or project acceptance; dock with the engineering and construction department to exchange opinions or make suggestions, etc.. These intellectuals, who were devoted to national construction, insisted on their normal work in the turbulent environment and basically ensured that the factory infrastructure was carried out in a step-by-step manner. In 1967, when the factory took shape, the families of the early participants moved in one after another, and Uncle Benqing’s family also moved into the ravine from Henan at this time.
Uncle Ben Qing’s wife, Auntie Wu Qinglin, was born in Pingle Town, Guilin, Guangxi Province, and her family was one of the famous local landlords. After graduating from high school, Auntie Wu worked as an elementary school teacher in Sha Tou Jiao and was close to the Communist underground. If not for the sudden change in her family, she was forced to go back to take care of her family’s affairs and break her contact with the Party, she would have been arranged by the underground to join the revolutionary team in the north. If that had happened, her life would have been a completely different landscape. Very often, people’s fate is determined by chance.
In early 1949, Auntie Wu married Uncle Ben Qing. After the marriage, she followed her husband to the north and south, and went from Nanning to Zhengzhou in the early 1950s. In June 1967, she left the Zhengzhou Second Grinding Wheel Factory, where she had lived and worked for more than ten years, and moved to the Sixth Grinding Wheel Factory, in a ravine that was nominally a big city, but in fact had nothing to do with the big city in daily life. Starting over again from scratch.
For many years, Auntie Wu had been applying to the organization to be transferred back to the south, but the south she finally returned to did not give her back the familiar taste she grew up with, but in the next ten years or so, brought her and her family a sadness and trauma that can never be erased.
When the family moved into the sixth wheel factory, the infrastructure was still in progress, and Auntie Wu was assigned to work as an accountant in the logistics office, in charge of the accounts of the staff canteen. After taking over the job, she found that the accounts of Zhao, the canteen buyer, were extremely confusing. Auntie Wu felt that the problem was serious and immediately reflected it to the relevant leaders.
What Auntie Wu didn’t know was that Zhao’s purchasing agent and Zhang Mou, the head of the rebel faction (later one of the leaders of the Revolutionary Committee), who was in charge of the factory at that time, were in cahoots with each other. After she reflected the situation, Zhao purchaser was not only unharmed, he also quickly learned the process and content of the denunciation, so he harbored a grudge, waiting for an opportunity to retaliate.
Zhang, the leader of the rebellion in the factory, later joined the factory revolutionary committee, was a worker in the second grinding wheel factory, transferred out of the workshop because of silicosis, transferred to the sixth grinding wheel factory as a clerk in the office, after the rebellion to seize power, finally climbed to the leadership of the factory. Zhang was narrow-minded, sensitive and suspicious, and also vindictive.
In June 1967, Shi Youling, the eldest daughter of Uncle Ben Qing, came to Liusha with her mother and had just transferred to a new school, where school was not in session and her classmates were unfamiliar, when she befriended the typist at the factory.
The typist was in her 20s and was an older sister. In that remote mountain valley, the two girls quickly developed into good friends. The typist readily agreed and agreed to let the young girl learn on the machine during her break. One day, Shi Youling had lunch and came to the typing room with great enthusiasm. All girls, there is no habit of knocking on the door in those days, she pushed open the door, jumped into the eyes, is the rebel leader Zhang and typist both lying on the bed, although they are not disheveled, it looks as if they are talking. And the problem is that Zhang is married with a wife and children. The 17-year-old girl in her second year of junior high school was beyond horrified! She panicked, “bang” closed the door and fled.
Afterwards, Shi Youling did not mention this to anyone except her own mother, and there was no public opinion against Zhang in the factory.
At that time, the state took care of the third-tier factories, their children did not have to go to the mountains to the countryside, directly into the factory as workers. Shi Youling joined the factory and played guard in the factory basketball team. Once the union organized an outing, organized by the clerk in charge of cultural and sports work, he took the list to the factory revolutionary committee to ask the leadership to sign, Zhang picked up the pen and crossed out Shi Youling’s name. The organizer was puzzled and asked why, Zhang did not explain, only that he did not agree. The suspicious organizer came back with the list and asked Shi Youling, “Where in the world did you offend him?
Shi Youling was thus kicked out of the competition team. The only time she crossed paths with Zhang was when she barged into the typist’s office and inadvertently caught a glimpse of that scene.
Zhang’s revenge did not stop at suppressing Shi Youling, a small female worker.
When the “clean up the class ranks” campaign came, Uncle Ben Qing was like a rafter in the factory, a big tree inviting the wind.
First, he never paid any attention to the great movement launched by Chairman Mao himself, did not participate in any revolutionary actions organized by the rebels, and was headlong in the technical work of the factory’s infrastructure, a bourgeois academic authority who stood in a reactionary position.
Secondly, apart from the factory director, he was the only one in the factory with a high salary. What right did he have to take so much money and enjoy a good bourgeois lifestyle with good food and drink? The plant manager was knocked down, and what qualifications he still has in the leadership of the technical department in the position of immobility.
Third, I heard that he came from a reactionary background, his family is a big landlord, he himself is not a landlord, must be investigated and implemented.
At this time, the leader of the rebellion, Zhang Mou, was already one of the heads of the factory revolutionary committee, sitting in an important decision-making position. After the factory revolutionary committee research, decided to send the staff canteen Zhao purchaser to Guangxi Hengxian to engage in external transfer.
Zhao was glad to receive the order and was secretly happy. Down with Shi Benqing – Zhao Mou has been seeking the opportunity to retaliate, appeared in front of the eyes. As long as this Shi Benqing knocked down, also avenged Wu Qinglin denounced his unclear accounts of a shot.
When he arrived in Heng County, an unexpected discovery made him both overjoyed and gnashing his teeth. Standing at the entrance of the luxurious Shi family compound, he realized that the family of Chief Engineer Shi was so rich and wealthy; such a class enemy had been mixed with our revolutionary team for so many years! And he was allowed to be the chief engineer and receive a high salary! Damn it! He sucked the blood and sweat of the working people before liberation, and he’s still sucking the blood and sweat of the working people after liberation! If we don’t get rid of him, we’ll be sorry to Chairman Mao! Sorry to the revolutionary masses! It is not clear what means Zhao procurer used to change Uncle Ben Qing’s landlord family origin to landlord composition. But he returned to the factory with this huge gain.
One morning, Uncle Ben Qing came to work as usual and was just about to start his work when a group of people barged in, twisted his arms and dragged him out.
Uncle Ben Qing struggled and asked loudly, “What are you doing? Where are you dragging me to?
No one answered.
He was pushed into a separate room on the first floor of the office building, and the door slammed shut.
Uncle Ben Qing did not know what crime he had committed. Although he did not participate in the various activities of the Cultural Revolution, he was aware of the various tactics used in the movement, having heard and seen them for several years. What he did not understand was that he had never been involved in factional activities, nor was he in power. Since he came to Liusha, he had worked hard and devoted himself to the infrastructure work of the factory, and had never said or done anything against the Party or socialism. He was suddenly imprisoned in such a way that he could not understand.
In the evening of the same day, 20 people came to Uncle Ben Qing’s house in a fierce manner, and the originally not spacious hallway was suddenly darkened and blocked. The raid was the most common revolutionary tactic at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, but in this ravine, it was only used for the first time in 1969 when “cleaning up the class ranks”.
Because of the special nature of the third-line factory, although the secretary and factory manager and the deputy factory manager were criticized and sidelined, their homes were not in the factory. A person living in a single dormitory, a few pieces of clothing a bed cover, what can be copied out of the results? This copy of Uncle Ben Qing’s home, is the first and only time in the factory. The participants were all hit with chicken blood and could not hold back their passion.
Several people rushed into the house, lifting boxes, pulling cabinets, opening drawers, pulling sheets, shaking the cover, a time, clothing and paper fluttering all over the house. A person who lifted the lid of the box, suddenly saw a pile of cash, about hundreds of dollars (there was no hundred dollar bill, the largest denomination is 10 yuan), he grabbed in his hand, squeezed tightly, as if afraid to let go of the money will turn into dust, his hand was trembling. The leader glanced at him, the “never seen money” of the subordinates a face of contempt, scolded, put down, that is the living expenses of others. Auntie Wu and the children stood silently, watching these people rummage through the boxes with unbridled excitement.
Uncle Ben Qing’s family lives upstairs, if digging, digging through the ceiling of the downstairs tenants, so, in addition to digging, a group of haunted the house full of wreckage. To their regret, they did not find a suspected incriminating object, nor did they find the gold and silver jewelry, antiques and paintings and damask that they had come to expect deep in their hearts. Auntie Ng had practiced eating and using all her health all her life, and their family did not even have any savings. The raid was over, did not achieve the expected purpose, the participants were quite disappointed and had to take away several large books of Uncle Ben Qing’s work notes and some old photos from before liberation.
The family area of the Sixth Grinding Wheel Factory was in the same ravine as the factory, and all kinds of food and daily necessities allotted by the state had to be purchased in Guiyang City, more than ten miles away. The day after Uncle Benqing was imprisoned, Auntie Wu asked her son Shi Zhi (later my husband) to go to the city to buy the family’s ration of cooking oil.
In the early morning, when the night had just faded and the sky was still stagnant with a cold light, Shi Wisdom wrapped a foreign tin oil can in a large towel and tied it to the end of his bicycle. Wrap the towel is to reduce the friction between the oil can and the bike, as well as the vibration due to the unevenness of the road and the clang clang clang sound. After doing all this, he lifted his leg across the bicycle quickly slid out of the family building area.
He did not know that from the moment he walked out of the house holding the oil can, an aunt (cafeteria staff) on the opposite floor had been staring at his every move with a good eye.
When he came back from buying oil, the whole ravine was already full of rumors like snowflakes: Hey, did you hear that Shi Benqing was a big landlord who had slipped through the net? Do not look at his usual quiet and honest face, but he is still a Nationalist agent! Yes, Shi Benqing was arrested, the family panicked, early in the morning when no one was looking, sent his son on a bicycle to pull the radio station out to move ……
After dinner, the factory revolutionary committee sent someone to say that someone reported that their family had shipped a radio station out and wanted to check.
Auntie Wu stood at the door, coldly said, home you have just copied, turned over the bottom, just left the floor did not dig open to see, there is a radio station, but also our turn to hold out today to throw it?
The visitor asked: then your son early in the morning on a bicycle to take out what is it?
Reply: My son cycled to the city in the morning to buy oil, a round trip of more than 30 kilometers, walking early, which also broke the law? You can see ah, the oil cans are placed in the kitchen.
The man was embarrassed and turned around and left.
Uncle Ben Qing, who was detained in the office building, was not allowed to go home, nor was he allowed to meet with his family, and he did not know anything about what was happening at home. It was not until he was beaten, kicked and abused by a group of people and dragged out to hang a black sign for public criticism that he realized he had two huge hats on his head, one was a landlord and the other was a Kuomintang agent; he realized he had become a class enemy who had been purged from the revolutionary ranks.
A week later, someone from the factory informed the family to send someone to the Second People’s Hospital in Guiyang City, and the family learned that Uncle Benqing, who was suffering from stomach problems, had been tortured to the point of stomach perforation and peritonitis, and his life was in danger.
Two months later, Uncle Ben Qing was discharged from the hospital and returned to the factory without being held in solitary confinement, nor was he allowed to return to the office to work. He was put into the infrastructure team and forced to work in a shed with the factory manager who had been defeated earlier, repairing various small infrastructure tools and cleaning the public toilets throughout the factory.
The focus of the struggle shifted to Auntie Wu. She took on the notoriety of being a landlady and was kicked off from her position as a canteen accountant and relegated to boiling water in the canteen’s boiler room.
Every morning at 5 o’clock, Auntie Wu had to get up and go to the boiler room to boil water. At that time, the coal for boilers was brought by truck and unloaded by the boilers, and there were about three or four tons of coal in one truck. Auntie Wu was relegated to the boiler room, unloading coal became the biggest problem. At that time, Auntie Wu was already a middle-aged woman in her forties, the mother of four children, she had never done such heavy physical work. But she couldn’t help herself, climbing onto the truck and standing on the mountain of coal, sweating like rain. When she saw this, she stepped onto the truck and said to Auntie Wu, “Old Wu, let me do it, you’re a woman, you can’t finish it until dark.
At the beginning of 1970, the factory held a “one fight, three anti” study class. The people who entered the study class were of complicated composition: those who accidentally destroyed the leader’s face; those who fought and brawled; those who molested women as hooligans; the former “bad” head of the rebellion who was caught; and those who cheated at work. …… The list goes on and on.
Auntie Ng was arrested and put into a study class.
A gangster, who had been fighting for a long time, fanned the flames in the classroom: We are the people’s internal conflicts, she (Auntie Wu) is a landlady, class enemy, fight her! A group of people swarmed around her, twisting her arms and pressing her head, hanging bricks around her neck. Some people came forward and stood in front of her, aiming at her face, hitting her hard, as if they had accumulated generations of hatred: Beat you, landlady! Beat you, landlady!
Auntie Wu is a person who refuses to admit defeat easily. She was sentenced to boil water in the boiler room and then to work as a bricklayer on the construction site, and everyone could insult her. She was indomitable and kept looking for an opportunity to go to the office building to appeal to the leaders of the Factory Revolutionary Committee. On that occasion, when she was stopped at the entrance of the office building, she turned to the employees coming in and out and said loudly, “Lao Shi is not a landlord! He left home when he was in high school and never managed the family’s business activities, and never went back after working. He was never in charge of his family’s business activities and never went back after working. He was not even assessed as a landlord during the land reform, so how did he become a landlord now?
A young woman rushed out from the crowd, she was a temporary broadcaster in the factory, Auntie Wu only knew her mother, and she had never even spoken to her. She rushed to Auntie Wu, raised her hand and slapped her with a few loud slaps, filled with righteous indignation: Landlady! I told you to talk nonsense here!
One day after work, Auntie Wu went home past the factory hairdressing room, fat and strong barber suddenly jumped out, stopped in front of her, swinging a fat slap, viciously slapped a few, while slapping while cursing.
This kind of insult and scolding has become almost a routine. Some people who have never crossed paths with each other, at unexpected times, inexplicably rushed up and slapped hard. The evil of human nature was released to the maximum, the trampling of human dignity, to the extreme.
The factory’s warehouse keeper, see Auntie Wu so be criticized, scolded, humiliated and physically punished, Yin Yang hilarious: old Wu ah, if I were you, I went to die.
The wind and rain dark mountains and rivers without light, but Auntie Wu is also stubborn, she is not humble, not condescending, not resentful, not angry, one sentence a reply to the warehouse keeper’s eccentric: Why should I die! I did not do anything bad! I just want to live! See what they can do to me!
Before the Sixth Grinding Wheel Factory went into production, all artificial diamonds were imported. 1970, Sixth Sand, the first national production of artificial diamonds, began to accept university graduates and recruit workers, and officially put into production. After all, it was a key construction project to fill the gap of the country; after all, the development of the national aerospace industry could not do without artificial diamond abrasives. In this year, Uncle Ben Qing was allowed to leave the labor shed and resumed his work, still assuming the duties of chief engineer, but was not rehabilitated.
It was not until October 1979 that the Party Committee of the State Science and Technology Commission issued a document: “To vindicate the major wrongful cases of the Cultural Revolution”, which opened the curtain of the vindication of the wrongful cases of intellectuals by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Taking advantage of this strong spring breeze, Uncle Benqing, accompanied by his son Shi Wisdom, went to the Organization Department of Guizhou Provincial Party Committee to appeal for the implementation of policies to give formal vindication. After that, the factory held a rehabilitating conference and publicly rehabilitated Uncle Ben Qing in front of the whole factory staff. In the 1980s, Uncle Ben Qing received the title of senior engineer and was sent to Germany for a study tour.
As the moon set and the sun rose, Uncle Ben Qing, Auntie Wu, and the old factory manager who was beaten up, finally walked out of the cold through the snow and wind and ushered in a new era of prosperity, and began to write their own new stories in the spring story scroll that was slowly unfolding.