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My Confused Sense of Right and Wrong

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  • Interviewer: Thank you for participating in the CR/10 project today. Before we start, please tell me when you were born. You don't need to say the exact year.
  • I was born in the 1960s, in Beijing -- Peking University.
  • Interviewer: From 1966 to 1976, where did you live in China, other than in Beijing?
  • In [the campus of] Peking University. I was born there, and I grew up there.
  • Interviewer: So, you never lived elsewhere.
  • No, I didn't.
  • Interviewer: In the next ten minutes, you can share with us any memories, impressions, or feelings that you wish regarding the Cultural Revolution.
  • OK. I really want to talk about it. Although during the Cultural Revolution I was rather small, there are still a few incidents that left a deep impression on me.
  • One is that my father often, not every day, but often was taken away by the Red Guards. They were really tough, really scary, as they took my father away from our home.
  • I have many distinct memories of this. At the time, I was so afraid that I cried; I remember that deeply.
  • Another thing I have a deep impression of, is that during the War of Resistance Against Japan [1937-1945] my maternal grandfather was in charge of a school in Wanxian.
  • At that time running a school [in Wanxian] would've been incredibly difficult [for someone from the area of the lower Yangtze].
  • Some people suggested that if he joined the Kuomintang [Nationalists], this would make running the school a bit easier.
  • So, my maternal grandfather joined the Kuomintang, and later on this was seen as being counter-revolutionary.
  • During the Cultural Revolution, he was taken to Chadian [labor reform camp]; Tiantanghe [labor reform farm] may actually be Chadian.
  • Then, my grand[mother] and I went to Chadian twice.
  • Interviewer: Where is Chadian? Which province?
  • It must be in Tianjin [city]. I can't remember clearly, but I think it's in Tianjin or Hebei [Province].
  • Interviewer: So, it's not that far from Beijing.
  • Right. We took the train there, and then took a long-distance bus. When we got there, the people I saw weren't Red Guards.
  • Even so, I remember that these guards had wide canvas belts, and they were beating people with them.
  • I didn't see my grandfather being beaten, but the entire situation of that labor reform farm was terrifying.
  • [We] usually stayed there several days, and I couldn't sleep the whole time. It felt a bit like going to hell. This violence during the Cultural Revolution really scared me.
  • Though my father was taken away by the Red Guards, I never witnessed them beating him. However, when they took him away, they were really barbaric.
  • When they came to search the house and confiscate possessions, they just dragged [my father] away.
  • That really scared me, too, since I was so young. These two incidents are my impressions of the Cultural Revolution's violence.
  • Another [incident] isn't about direct violence. I went to the 28 building area, that is, the area where violent struggle happened in Peking University.
  • At the time, there was no violent struggle, but all the windows were broken, with burlap sacks hanging over them, like a military fortification.
  • I heard my older brother and some other people talking about it. They said this was "the new Peking University," that over there was "Jinggang Mountain,"
  • and after they started fighting there'd be a catapult there that could shoot bricks out, so you could imagine it must've been a really big catapult.
  • When I went there, there wasn't any violent struggle, but looking at that fortification was enough to scare me.
  • These three incidents are all related to the violence of the Cultural Revolution. But as for me, though I was small, and I didn't know good from bad, my impression of these things was still quite deep.
  • The first time my sense of right and wrong was first tested was also during the Cultural Revolution. I'd say I really understood things [then].
  • I don't quite remember the year; it must've been between 1968 and 1970. My parents had taken me to the Summer Palace.
  • At the entrance to the Summer Palace, there was a big loudspeaker broadcasting something about Chairman Mao, or maybe it was an editorial or something.
  • In it there was a sentence that said, "Right now, China is in chaos, but we say chaos is good."
  • At the time, I was still really small, not yet 10 years old, and this was the first time my sense of right and wrong was tested.
  • I turned to my parents and said, "China is in chaos -- how can this be good?" But my parents didn't offer an explanation.
  • I have such a deep memory of this; my developing sense of right and wrong was also thrown into chaos.
  • Most of the people [who lived] in our building were Rightists. Nie Yuanzi lived downstairs from us; I remember her quite well.
  • In the winter, or when it wasn't too cold, so maybe it was in the autumn, Nie Yuanzi, in her thick pajamas or a nightgown,
  • would bring a rattan chair with lots of cushions on it outside, and sit on it, soaking up the sun.
  • In our building, other than her [Nie Yuanzi], 99 percent of the people would walk with their tail between their legs.
  • Only she would arrogantly sit outside in the sun. This also left a deep impression on me, though at the time I didn't know who Nie Yuanzi was.
  • Later I asked my parents, but they didn't dare talk about her. She really made an impression [on me].
  • There are [some other things] unrelated to violence. Behind our building was [the office of] Liang Xiao [Peking University and Tsinghua University Great Criticism Group].
  • When I was little, I saw Yu Huiyong come through in a "Grand Hongqi" [luxury car]. When we were small, we thought the Hongqi was really impressive.
  • [As the car] got closer, [we] peered at it. I heard people say, "That's Yu Huiyong." At the time I knew Yu Huiyong was a high official, but I didn't really know what he did.
  • When I was young, Jiang Qing also passed through our area, though I didn't see her or speak to her.
  • The ones who came through the most were Chi Qun and Xie Jingyi. At the time, I thought Xie Jingyi was really good-looking; she wore green army fatigues.
  • She didn't have the cap and collar insignia, but the way the military uniform accented her waist was so...
  • It left a deep impression on me, since at that time, other than Xie Jingyi, the rest of us dressed in formless, gray, worn-out [clothing].
  • No one dared [wear clothes] to show off the waistline. Only Xie Jingyi dressed like that, so my impression of her is really strong.
  • Anyway, I can't say the Cultural Revolution had a great direct influence on me, but from the time I was small,
  • its influence on my sense of right and wrong was really strong -- [my sense of right and wrong] was confused, mixed-up;
  • within this chaotic environment I learned how to understand things. Probably that was [the influence] of these things.
  • Interviewer: Thank you so much for sharing your memories of the Cultural Revolution, these particular memories, which not a lot of people might have. Thanks so much.