It’s strange to say that I am not very sensitive to numbers, for example, I don’t remember my family’s birthday time, except for a few. However, I remember the special day when I was a youth delegate more than 40 years ago very well.
It was February 21, 1975, the eleventh day of the first month of the lunar calendar. It was a cold spring day, and the atmosphere of New Year had not yet dissipated. After an ear-splitting sound of firecrackers, a large tractor pulled us nine ignorant teenagers to the Linshan Brigade of Changtang Commune (located in central Hunan Province), which was dozens of kilometers away.
We were able to enjoy the “honor” of being “intellectual youth” because our parents were either teachers or employees in other industries, and under the specific planned economy at that time, we were able to eat a share of the “state food” as non-agricultural households. Under the planned economy at that time, we, as non-agricultural households, were able to eat a share of the “national food”. Although we were called “youth”, in fact, most of us were 16 or 17 years old, and the youngest was only 15 years old, just a teenager. But because we had been living in small towns and eating “national food,” after graduating from high school, we were unable to go on to higher education or employment, and in the flood of intellectual youths going to the countryside, whether we wanted to or not, going to the countryside became the only choice.
Although we were already at the end of the Cultural Revolution, the movement to the countryside was still in full swing. The district government allocated money to build a red brick bungalow for us on a slope not far from the highway in the Linshan Brigade, and although there was no painting or decoration and no floor tiles, we were guaranteed one room each to live in. There were 9 of us (later, a girl from the northeast was added, making a total of 10), and our families were assigned to production teams, and I was assigned to the New House Bay production team. We were drawn as the labor force of each production team to the brigade tea farm centralized labor.
The Linshan brigade to which we were transferred was located under the towering Dafeng Mountain. A small river meanders out from the depths of the mountain, dividing the village into two halves. The terrain is flat and there are patches of rice fields. Around the village there are a number of towering hills or slopes, the brigade has established a tea farm, the hills are growing patches of tea trees. From a distance, the green tea trees and a variety of shrubs, crops blended into one, a continuous, thick and light, as if it is a wonderful watercolor painting.
The brigade tea farm would have been a small number of people, we arrived, under normal circumstances, there are generally 20 to labor. When it comes to the busy season, and then drawn from various production teams can occasionally reach 30 or 40 people. Labor is intense and hard. Every morning after waking up, walking along the field path more than ten to twenty minutes to reach the tea field, after breakfast will be loaded with hoes out of work. We open up patches of terraces on the barren hills, planted with young tea; to tea garden weeding loosening fertilizer; in order to make full use of the land, but also to improve the composition of the soil, we planted peanuts, soybeans in the gaps of tea trees. During the picking season, we sorted, roasted, kneaded and dried the new tea we picked to make it into simple green tea.
Because it is manual labor, everyone can take a break ranging from more than ten or several minutes in the middle of each half day of work. Used to drink water, toilets, to recover their strength. This short break is often one of our happiest times. We can play with the crowd to make fun of evil, laughing and joking, saying those foul words that make people blush.
During this time, we also occasionally use fresh tea and their own soybeans, peanuts and corn to make ring tea, each drinking a large bowl, then the mouth full of belly, fatigue all gone.
At that time, the tea farm cooking and boiling water are used firewood. Therefore, we sometimes have to go into the depths of the mountains more than 10 kilometers round trip to cut firewood. Cutting firewood to implement the labor-based payment method, each hundred pounds of firewood recorded 10 work points. At that time, according to the general calculation method, a full workforce was credited with 10 work points for one day’s attendance, but most of us were only 16 or 17 years old when we were deported, so we were not considered a full workforce, that is, we could not be credited with 10 work points.
In the first year of deportation, rations were distributed by the state, and in the second year, we were completely self-reliant to solve the food problem by work points. Therefore, all of us wanted to earn more work points, and although it was quite strenuous to carry the weight on our shoulders, most of us male youths cut firewood for more than 100 pounds each time. To be honest, in the three or four years when the youth, if not in the special period down to the production team where the account and only in the brigade tea farm labor, although it can not be said that the labor is easy and not too intense, but we are vigorous, vitality, feel that the body has inexhaustible energy.
In contrast, it is the hunger of the stomach feeling obvious. Because we are in our teens, we are growing up and need to have sufficient fat and carbohydrate intake. In addition, the physical work consumes a lot of energy and needs to be replenished. I remember that in the first year of the decentralization, the state supplied us with 45 catties of rice (and 1 catty of cooking oil) per month, and in the second year, we were completely dependent on our own work, which was impossible for us to eat with an open belly. In addition, because the canteen food is not enough oil, often just eat half a catty eight taels of rice, not a moment and feel hungry.
Every year, during the busy agricultural season, such as spring planting, “double robbery”, lime burning, etc., we were bound to return to our production team to participate in labor. During this time, we often ate at a selected family’s house and were paid a certain amount of food each day. At that time, rice was planted in two seasons, the first season was called “spring transplanting”, which was usually done in April of the solar calendar; “double robbery” was “harvesting and robbing”. -The first season is called “spring transplanting”, which generally takes place in April of the solar calendar. The local slogan is: “May Day” after inserting early rice, and “August Day” after inserting late rice!
In order to hurry up and improve efficiency, the piecework system or contract system is generally applied to such production work as rice planting, which means that each person is assigned a certain task every day. For example, how much area should be planted? If you don’t hurry, or if you’re not very handy, it’s difficult to complete the task. I tend to be fast with the farm work at hand. But to complete the task after all, it takes a long time, the solution can only be to wake up early, late to extend the working hours. This results in a serious lack of sleep, and people feel extremely tired!
Think about it: you have to get up at dawn and go to the field to prepare the seedlings; you have to hastily finish breakfast and bend your back to plant the seedlings; when the task is heavy, it is too late to rest at noon. Especially, in the July season, although you wear a hat, your whole back is scorched by the hot sun, and the heat is unbearable. In the evening, the work is not finished until the light is dim and it is difficult to see the spacing of the seedlings. This situation can last for 20 to 30 days, day after day. It was a luxury to get a good night’s sleep during that time!
The most tiring part is the lime burning.
It is a local custom to apply lime to the rice fields to neutralize the acidity of the soil and to kill the soil, and it is said that it also replenishes the soil with calcium. At that time, the lime kiln of my Xinyawan production team was built in the Dongxia brigade under Yatou Mountain, and there was no engineering machinery, so the raw material of more than ten tons of limestone for burning each kiln relied entirely on human physical strength and shoulders to pick up the high kiln platform.
The way of transportation was that from the quarry to the lime kiln, all the young and strong men were lined up in a row at a distance of several hundred meters, and each man was responsible for a certain distance, and the limestone raw materials weighing about 200-300 pounds were picked up on each man’s shoulder. At this time, you need to gather all the strength of your body before you can tremble and walk through the dozens of meters within their responsibility.
Although I was physically strong at that time, I was not big, so there were always sympathetic and strong people who took a few more steps or picked up a few more steps to shorten the distance I walked to ease my burden. The villagers were so kind! Looking back now, I am still grateful!
At that time, the Changtang Commune, where we were living, established an armed militia company. Probably considering that we youths lived together in one place for easy management, several of us youths were absorbed into the armed militia and were issued with Type 56 semi-automatic submachine guns and rifles. The one issued to me was a Type 56 semi-automatic rifle. I was very excited to have a real gun for the first time in my life. I collected the gun at my bedside, disassembled the whole gun every once in a while, and carefully wiped each part, and the gun became more and more shiny in my hands.
I participated in 2 times of off-duty centralized training, each time about 10 days, hosted by the commune armed minister. The training content is mainly basic formation, weapon maintenance, stabbing practice, shooting aiming, but also engaged in several live firing and grenade throwing.
A local farmer surnamed Yang, who was dissatisfied with the over-left policy adopted by local cadres in family planning work, made his own clay bombs to retaliate, which did not cause casualties, but was a big case in the era of “class struggle as the platform”. He was sentenced to death for “counter-revolutionary bombing and murder” by the county’s “Public Prosecution, Law and Military Control Group” (the legal system was destroyed as never before during the Cultural Revolution, and the Public Prosecution, Law and Military Control Group was replaced by the Military Control Group).
Before the execution, a mass meeting was held for a public trial. The time was around the early summer of 1976, and the place was on an exposed riverbed in the local town. As a member of the armed militia, I was on duty at the public trial, standing behind a temporary podium with my gun. I was told beforehand to be vigilant, especially to prevent any disruptions. The whole process, from the entrance of the prisoners, the speeches of the people concerned, to the pronouncement of the verdict and the execution, went smoothly, and it was the only time I undertook a relatively important task during my time as a militiaman.
In the fall of 1976, I participated in the county-wide “forestation and land preparation war” as a member of the militia.
The battle was held in a place called Tanxi, in Gulou Township, this county. Because of the mountainous area and the backward traffic at that time, it took two days for the entire commune to reach the site. In the past, all activities in the form of organizations were managed in a military manner. In the past, all activities in the form of organizations were managed in a military way. The militia workers in our district formed a battalion and the commune formed a company. I worked as a propagandist in the company headquarters.
More than ten of us were assigned to live on the upper floor of a local farmer’s wooden house. The roof was darkened by smoke and fire because wood was used for cooking downstairs, so we slept and rested in such a place with our own bedding open. I remember that there was no fixed staircase to go up and down the stairs, and we crawled up and down completely by a wooden staircase that could be moved, so you can imagine how bad the living conditions were.
Every morning, along with the revolutionary songs played on the tannoy, everyone shouldered their labor tools and went to work. Each company was responsible for preparing the land on a hill or berg for planting trees the following spring. We first cut down all kinds of shrubs to clear the site, and then built terraces with stone berms according to the terrain and at certain intervals. When we encountered large rocks, there was no machinery to break them, so we had to use steel brazier to poke a hole and then fill it with explosives for blasting.
I was the company’s propagandist. My main task every day was to find the advanced people and deeds in the labor force, and then write them in revolutionary language and broadcast them in the battalion radio station. The next task was to paint the slogans “Fight a people’s war on forestation and land preparation” and “Land preparation and forestation for the benefit of our children and grandchildren” with lime water on all the walls that could be written.
When there was no specific task, I also had to go to the site to participate in the labor. The biggest reward during this period was that I learned to work skillfully with two or three people to make “gun eyes” in the rocks with steel brazier and sledgehammer. At that time, one person held the steel brazier, and the other person wielded one or two dozen pounds or even heavier sledgehammer on the steel brazier, steel collided, sparks flew, and as time passed, a hole tens of centimeters deep was poked in the very hard stone. Later, the technology is also more skilled, can do the hammer to the center of the shoulder, in the air to do 360 degrees flip, and then smashed in the brazier without missing a beat, so that not only can use the inertia of the hammer to save physical strength, but also with the potential energy of the object to amplify the strength of the blow, of course, this is not only physical work or technical work.
Just like the people who left their homes now can’t get a good life, the life of being a civilian worker was more bitter then. The canteen was a big iron pot for cooking, and each person was given a big bowl. I was particularly impressed by the one dish and one soup for each meal. The dish was a big bowl of fried light dried fish with green chilies, and the soup was a basin of seaweed soup, which seemed to be the case almost every day for three meals a day in those days. Strenuous physical labor, not enough meals, no oil and water, people are always in the hunger.
On a hillside not far from where they lived, the local people planted a large area of cold potatoes. As hunger was unbearable, many nights I snuck into the field with some of my better friends to steal the cold potatoes, and later the “stealing” party grew bigger and bigger, and within a few days there were very few cold potatoes left.
During my years as a youth, I also had two experiences as a substitute teacher.
The first time was teaching high school math at the local commune high school. It lasted about four weeks. I clearly remember teaching the trigonometric functions, which was not very difficult. I carefully prepared the content and examples for the next day’s lecture the night before, and I probably taught them in the next day’s class. Another time I substitute taught was at my brigade elementary school. Having the experience of substitute teaching high school math, teaching elementary school classes was much easier. Now that I think about it, I was definitely an unqualified teacher at that time, but where could I find the most suitable teacher in the barren knowledge environment at that time?
At that time, in the age of more than ten or twenty years old, we are very energetic, active stage of thought. But what we faced was, on the one hand, heavy physical labor and, on the other hand, a poor spiritual life. Today, with the advancement of technology and the development of media, people can obtain all kinds of information through multiple channels. In contrast, more than 40 years ago, the average person to obtain external information only by newspaper and radio (from the radio to obtain information must have a radio). At that time the brigade tea farm should be subscribed to the “People’s Daily” or “Hunan Daily” a total of 1-2 kinds of newspapers it. But in addition to some political hangers-on articles and smear scenes, the real and credible things are very limited. Because of financial constraints, we are also difficult to go to that variety of the number of poor bookstore to buy books, those years, the few books read, there is an impression of a long novel of Hao Ran “Yan Yang Tian” was we scrambled to pass read.
The camellias on the hills blossomed and then shedding. With the continuation of time living in the countryside, the heart of the boredom grows day by day. Age from adolescence into youth, thinking is also slowly mature and rational, we all gradually become concerned about their own future and destiny to! In the moonlit sky or late at night, the heart will coldly emerge from a question: how long do I have to stay in the countryside, when can I leave this place?
At that time, there were often some young people from this brigade or nearby brigades who were close to us and came to the youth spot to chat. Those who were close to each other would often give vent to their dissatisfaction with the reality of the time without any fear, and their hearts were full of helplessness about the current situation and uncertainty about their future lives.
I don’t remember the first time I secretly listened to a Taiwanese radio station, but I had a feeling that the music was very good and the news broadcast was very attractive. During those times, many times at night, I would discreetly turn on an old semiconductor radio that I had brought from home under the covers. After a burst of music, either bold or melancholy, a dainty female announcer would report and analyze a certain event. Compared to our groomed newspaper and radio propaganda, I felt that the statements and comments there were so exciting and so much more realistic and objective that I felt enlightened by the closed mind. Especially the disclosure of some “news”, straight to listen to the heart jump accelerated, blood boiling!
In the early days of China’s reform and opening up, Teresa Teng’s songs were once popular on the mainland, her songs were sometimes mellow, sometimes light, sometimes crisp and clear, sometimes high and bold, especially her lyrical songs are fond and lingering, wandering and sad, soothing and ethereal, giving listeners a deep infection and shock! In fact, some of her songs, when I was a youth has secretly listened to, just then did not know who this singer is!
The wheel of history entered the year 1977.
Later on, we learned the news of the resumption of enrollment in the national higher education institutions. There were 10 people at the youth site, and except for a few who were not interested, the others immediately found textbooks to study for their homework after work. One day in the early winter, I took my first entrance examination for science subjects in my life with great excitement and expectation.
According to the practice of Hunan Province at that time, the candidates’ results were divided into “preliminary admission” and “official admission”, and after the results were announced, four students from our youth site were included in the “preliminary admission” list. I was also one of them. But after all, only two people were admitted to the regional teacher’s college because of the results, and I and another student were not selected in the official admissions.
Although I was a little disappointed, I was not discouraged. In the summer of 1978, I was admitted to a financial college in Wuhan with a score that exceeded the admission line of a major university in the province. In this way, I ended my youth life of nearly four years.