LEAD Action News Vol
1 no 3 Spring 1993 ISSN 1324-6011
Lead in Literature - three extracts from the bestselling book:
Wild Swans Three Daughters of China
By Jung Chang, Harper Collins Publishers, London, 1991
Chapter 7. "Going through the Five Mountain Passes"· My Mother's Long March (1949-1950).
[p 143J ... The revolution was fundamentally a peasant revolution, and the peasants had an unrelentingly harsh life. They were particularly sensitive about other people enjoying or seeking comfort. Anyone who took part in the revolution was supposed to toughen themselves to the point where they became inured to hardship. My father had done this at Yan'an and as a guerrilla.
My mother understood the theory, but that did not stop her thinking about the fact that my father was giving her no sympathy while she was sick and exhausted the whole time, trudging along, carrying her bedroll, sweating, vomiting, her legs like lead.
One night she could not stand it anymore, and burst into tears for the first time. The group usually stayed overnight in places like storerooms or classrooms. That night they were all sleeping in a temple, packed close together on the ground. My father was lying next to her. When she first started crying, she turned her face away from him and buried it in her sleeve, trying to muffle her sobs. My father woke up at once and hurriedly clapped his hand over her mouth. Through her tears she heard him whispering into her ear:
"Don't cry out loud! If people hear you, you will be criticised." To be criticised was serious. It meant her comrades would say she was not worthy of "being in the revolution", even a coward. She felt him urgently pushing a handkerchief into her hand so that she could stifle her sobs.
The next day my mother's unit head, the man who had saved her from falling over in the river, took her aside and told her he had received complaints about her crying. People were saying she had behaved like "a precious lady from the exploiting classes." He was not unsympathetic, but he had to reflect what other people were saying. It was disgraceful to cry after walking a few steps, he said. She was not behaving like a proper revolutionary. From then on, though she often felt like it, my mother never cried once.
Chapter 19. "Where There is a Will to Condemn, There is Evidence" - My Parents Tormented (December 1966 - 1967).
[p 334J " .. .I'm going to post it." Then he lifted her head and looked into her eyes. In a tone of despair he said, "What else can I do? What alternatives do I have? I must speak up. It might help. And I must do it even if just for my conscience. "
"Why is your conscience so important?" my mother said. "More than your children? Do you want them to become 'blacks'?"
There was a long pause. Then my father said hesitantly, "I suppose you must divorce me and bring up the children your way." Silence fell between them again, making her think that perhaps he had not made up his mind about writing the letter, because he was aware of its consequences. It would surely be catastrophic.
Days passed. In late February, an airplane flew low over Chengdu spreading thousands of sparkling sheets which floated down out of the leaden sky. On them was printed a copy of a letter dated 17 February and signed by the Central Military Committee, the top body of senior army men. The letter told the Rebels to desist from their violent actions. Although it did not condemn the Cultural Revolution directly, it was obviously trying to halt it. A colleague showed the leaflet to my mother. My parents had a surge of hope. Perhaps China's old and much-respected marshals were going to intervene ... These marshals had been the commanders of the Communist army, veterans of the Long March, and heroes of the revolution. They condemned the Cultural Revolution for persecuting innocent people and destabilising the country.
Chapter 22. "Thought Reform through Labor" To the Edge of the Himalayas (January - June 1969).
[p 382] ... Altogether, some fifteen million young people were sent to the country in what was one of the largest population movements In history ... On 27 January 1969 my school set off for Ningnan. Each pupil was allowed to take one suitcase and a bedroll. We were loaded into trucks, about three dozen of us in each ... We passed through the Chengdu Plain and the mountains along the eastern edge of the Himalayas, where the trucks had to put on chains ...
The second evening we entered a place called Asbestos County, named after its major product. Somewhere in the mountains, our convoy stopped so we could use the toilets - two mud huts containing round communal pits covered with maggots. But if the sight inside the toilet was revolting, the one outside was horrifying. The faces of the workers were ashen, the color of lead, and devoid of any animation. Terrified, I asked a nice propaganda team man, Dong-an, who was taking us to our destination, who these zombie like people were. Convicts from a lao-gai (" reform through labor") camp, he replied. Because asbestos mining was highly noxious, it was mainly done by forced labor, with few safety or health precautions. This was my first and only encounter with China's gulag.
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