Rural fairs and trade, commonly known as temple fairs, have a fixed time, such as three, six, nine, two, five, eight in the lunar calendar; a fixed location, usually in a town or larger village with convenient transportation. On the day of the temple fair, farmers from villages in all directions gather together to sell their own agricultural and sideline products and handicrafts, buy the large and small commodities they need, learn about various information, taste various food and snacks, and enjoy cultural and entertainment activities as well as the unique atmosphere of the temple fair. The Han people have a long history of farming civilization, and I am afraid that the market trade has a history of thousands of years.
When I was a child, I often followed my parents to catch the temple fair. The largest temple fair in my hometown should be counted as the temple fair of Jacun town, 10 miles away from my village. Whenever the temple fair, early, we were excited to go on the road, sometimes my father took me on a bicycle, and sometimes I walked with my mother. On the way, men and women, young and old, a steady stream of people, shoulders, bicycles, pushing and pulling small flat carts, and driving mules, horses, pigs and sheep, everyone’s face is full of bright smiles, full of easy and festive colors.
The most successful time of the temple fair, about 11:00 a.m., the east, west, north and south of the town of Jia Village several streets, was crowded with stalls and rally people. The temple fair has a food market, selling oil cake, cold noodles, mash, sesame flowers, haggis cut and other delicacies; livestock market, from tall mules and horses, to squealing pigs and children, everything; timber market, large and small materials, tables, chairs, doors and windows, everything; women’s market, small foot old ladies and young girls set out their own woven cloth, embroidery, needle and thread… …the crowd is bustling, shoulder to shoulder, the air is filled with the smell of various cuisines, interspersed with a variety of loud hawking and clamoring, every temple fair, is the carnival in the life of local farmers.
The village temple fair sometimes also invited the opera troupe to help lively. However, most of the market members do not care to watch the play, at most glance at the stage there is no famous actor, they are busy with their own business. There are many other seemingly normal but interesting scenes in the temple fair. For example, in the city of livestock, there are several active middle-aged and elderly men, in the middle of people and livestock shuttle, or take off the head of the straw hat cover, or reach into the sleeves, or lift up the hem of the lapel, silently with others pinch fingers, “eyebrows”, touch and pinch, a cattle and horse trading business will be negotiated. These people’s profession is called the tooth guest.
Teenagers do not know the taste of sorrow. Every time I went to the market with my parents, what they sold, what they bought, I did not worry about. What interested me most was what snacks my parents would buy for me this time. The most important thing is that you can get a bowl of mash, or a plate of fried noodles, spend a few cents, sit on the vendor’s bench, and savor the taste, which is a rare treat.
Once, I got lost at the temple fair, causing a minor fiasco.
At that time I was four or five years old, my father alone took me to the temple fair in the town of Jacun. After eating food at noon, I was sleepy, and my father put me to sleep in the store of an acquaintance on the street. After I fell asleep, he went out to do his own business. When I woke up, I found no one in the house, so I slipped out of the bed and went out alone to look for my father on the street. I didn’t know where I had gone from east to west, north to south, or west to south, as I was swept up in the crowd. When my father returned to the store after his business, he found that I was gone, and asked the owner of the house, who could not answer.
“A four or five-year-old boy is lost!” It immediately became a big news at the temple. My father is a famous local doctor, and also serves as the director of the township health center, many acquaintances, one to ten, ten to a hundred, many enthusiastic people divided at the temple fair to help find, and others rushed back to the village to see if I was led home by acquaintances. My mother at home heard that I was lost, anxiously wept and wept. From our village, to the temple fair in Jachun town, and along the way, people are talking about this file.
I couldn’t find my father on the street, and looked around at the black crowd and cried out in fear. An old lady selling rags at a stall saw me and coaxed me, asking.
“What’s your name, little boy?”
“My name is Feng Yinpu.”
“Which village are you from?”
“My family is from …… Dingfan village.”
“What is your father’s name?”
“I don’t know, my father is a doctor ……”
It’s a coincidence that my uncle also came to the market passing by here, heard “Ding Fan Village” “doctor”, turned his head to see is me. My uncle immediately took me home and asked someone to tell my father that “the child was found”, a storm eventually turned out to be safe. Although it was a false alarm, the social atmosphere of the countryside in the early 1960s was evident.
When I went to elementary school and the “Cultural Revolution” began, my father rarely led me to the market. He was wrongly classified as a “historical counter-revolutionary” and driven back to the production team for labor and reform. By the 1970s, the rural temple fairs were no longer as bustling and lively as they used to be. In 1974, I was 30 miles from home in Yanjing Village Yanjing Middle School high school, the family has a bicycle, but I rarely ride to school, every weekend after school to go home all by foot. If I ride a bicycle to school, the whole week, the bike are idle in the dormitory. So, my father could not ride his bike to catch the temple fair to sell tobacco.
One day, Yan Jing village temple fair. Noon break, I wandered the street, and came to the market to sell tobacco father accidentally met. Father in the street on the ground spread out a package, on top of two bundles of tobacco, bicycle leaning against the corner, the back seat of the car tied to the tobacco has not been set out. My father was dry-mouthed, spitting and selling tobacco to the pedestrians who came and went. I stood next to my father, asking about my mother and my family, while feeling flushed and embarrassed, especially afraid of the teachers and students who passed by and saw that I had a father who sold tobacco.
My father was a member of the Black Five who had been beaten into the lowest stratum of society and was a class enemy. In those days, to have such a father was quite humiliating and humiliating for the children. Moreover, I was politically active and eager to be a “good educated” child, and many times I made a solemn statement on my application to join the league that I wanted to draw a clear political line with my father and was being severely tested by the school league organization.
The sun was shining, and my father’s forehead was soaked with a bead of sweat. At this point, my father said, “Wa, you help me look after the stall, I go to the toilet.” My father wiped his sweat and hurried away, and I stood in his place, temporarily acting as a cigarette vendor. Some customers came over and asked, “How much does this tobacco cost a catty?” I answered mechanically, my voice barely audible to the other side. Some customers came over to look at the dry tobacco leaves, and I didn’t know what to say. Next to me, vendors selling other local products shouted at the top of their lungs, trying their best to show off how cheap and good their goods were. I didn’t dare to look up for fear of seeing familiar teachers and classmates. I am even less able to hawk, and too embarrassed to do so. I hoped that my father would come back soon and that I would be able to sell some tobacco for him. When the time passed, my father came back and said, “Go back to school, don’t delay your classes.” I nodded my head, reluctantly but quickly said goodbye to my father.
Sitting in the school classroom, I felt very regretful, very guilty: the hot day, how I did not think to send my father a cup of boiling water? After experiencing my father’s experience of selling tobacco in the market, I hated myself for not being able to help him sell a leaf or two. My father, on the other hand, had to rush to countless temple fairs throughout the year, rising early, going hungry, running back and forth, selling parcel after parcel of dry tobacco, and then using the proceeds from the sale of tobacco to pay for my high school education, to buy food, oil, salt and vinegar for the family. Like all farmers, my father looked forward to the temple fairs, relied on them, and maintained them while participating in collective labor. Rural temple fair is China’s rural economic development and farmers living conditions of the barometer.
Every time I think of Yan Jing village temple fair that scene, I feel deeply guilty for my own political fervor and the loss of humanity, my father has a sense of guilt that is difficult to wash away.
However, such a temple fair still can not escape the political intervention. The movement of learning from Dazhai in agriculture came in waves, and newspapers broadcasted the propaganda that “we would rather have socialist grass than capitalist seedlings.” The newspapers broadcasted the propaganda that “it is better to have the grass of socialism than the seedlings of capitalism” and that “the tail of capitalism is cut” and that “small production breeds capitalism every day and every hour”. In addition to learning from Dazhai, the newspapers also publicized the experience of banning the traditional bazaar and creating a “socialist bazaar” in the Hetao area of Liaoning Province. At that time, the “head” of the Revolutionary Committee of Yuncheng District was a “Xiyang cadre” transferred from Xiyang County, who stubbornly pursued an ultra-leftist line and ordered the banning of village fair trade in all 13 counties of Yuncheng District.
At first, the members ignored this stubble and still brought their agricultural products to the temple fair. The county and township revolutionary committees carried out the orders from the higher level and sent teams of base-level militia with trucks to the temple fairs, carrying rifles, and shooing the fairs away brutally and recklessly. Those who ran fast ran away, while those who ran slow were confiscated by the fierce militia. They were imprisoned in the commune compound and ordered the cadres of each brigade to come to the commune to identify and collect them, and to hold “Mao Zedong Thought Study Classes” after receiving them back to the brigade to be examined and criticized. In a few years, the former prosperity, peace, freedom, joy of the temple fair, was tossed to the chicken, the wind, and finally a slaughter, disappeared.
The temple fairs that have been going on for thousands of years in China, even during the war years, have not been interrupted, but in peacetime, they have been ruthlessly killed by a two-pronged approach of propaganda and violence. Is this also the fruit of the “Cultural Revolution”? Is this also a reflection of the progress of social civilization? Is this also a sign of the liberation of productive forces? Is this also the working people to turn over a new leaf and raise their eyebrows?
The temple fair is gone, around the “food as the platform”, self-reserved land is not allowed to plant dry tobacco leaves, my father also do not have to get up early and late to catch the temple fair. Those leaders who shouted Marxism-Leninism loudly only remembered that production can generate wealth, forgetting that circulation can also generate wealth, consumption can also generate wealth. Blocked the bazaar trade, a “capitalist road”, insisted on the “socialist road”, the result, instead of going wider and wider, more and more affluent, but into a dead end.
In 1978, when I entered university, our production team received 8 cents of dividends for each labor day. After entering the university to enjoy the national scholarship, in filling out the family economic status form, the school department saw a labor day share worth 8 cents, so puzzled that they doubted the authenticity of my filling out, so they sent a letter to my hometown commune to investigate, and the commune wrote back to prove that this was indeed the case, so I was able to enjoy the 21 yuan per month scholarship. This grant was not only enough to pay for food, but also had money left over to buy books and daily necessities.
The resumption of trade in the country’s village fairs should also be attributed to the cadres and people of my hometown and the news media.
On July 21, 1978, Guangming Daily published a letter from a reader, “Rural Market Trade Should Be Restored,” written by Comrade Wu Qinying of Jishan County, Yuncheng District, Shanxi Province. In his letter, he reflected that it had been more than a year since the “Gang of Four” was crushed, but the local market trade had not yet been restored, and there were still slogans posted on the streets about the “ten benefits” of banning market trade. “This has caused great difficulties to the daily life of the peasants and to the production of family side businesses. He called for the purging of the influence and poison of the “Gang of Four” and the resumption of trade in rural bazaars.
On August 4 and August 18, Guangming Daily published two more letters from readers in the Yuncheng area: “Chen Shouchang’s letter is well said” and “No more “chucking bazaars”, with an editor’s note. On August 29, the Shanxi Daily carried the letter from the readers of the Guangming Daily reproduced by the Xinhua News Agency. Shanxi Province was “hardest hit” by the “Cultural Revolution” in which the ultra-leftist line and the Dazhai movement were implemented. These letters had strong repercussions among the grassroots cadres and the masses in the province, and due to the pressure of public opinion, the market trade was finally resumed in the Yuncheng area a few months later, and the traditional temple fair was revitalized. The traditional temple fair has regained vitality.
The same policy was formulated, one “closed”, which harmed the people; the other “open”, which enriched the farmers. During this period, the rural peasants under the jurisdiction of the dualistic household registration system paid a painful price.
The author is too old to live in the city, often miss the bustling atmosphere of rural markets, miss the small benches sitting at the cold noodles stalls, mash stalls, miss the traditional temple fair that had been lost to me.