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"When [someone] hit me as a kid, it seemed like that person ought to hit me; it seemed like he was just in the position to hit me."

WEBVTT


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Interviewer: Hello! Thank you for accepting my
interview.

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Hello.

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Interviewer: First, could you please tell me when you were
born, such as "1930s," "1940s," "1950s"?

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I was born in the '50s.

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Interviewer: 1950s. Then, could you tell me where you
lived in China from 1966 to 1976?

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From 1966 to 1976 I migrated from the south to the north.
So, you could say my geographical location expanded across more than 3,000
kilometers.

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Interviewer: Could you tell me, how far south? How far
north?

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In the north, I started from Beijing. Trains at that time
were really slow.

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In the south, [I went as far as]  Guiyang, Guizhou
Province.

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In between, you had to switch trains; back then, there was
no direct route.

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It must have taken three days and two nights.

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Interviewer: Based on your age, you must have extensive
memories of that time.

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Interviewer: Even given several days and nights, you might
not be able to talk about everything.

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Interviewer: If I only give you about 10 minutes, what
would you think of first?

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Interviewer: What are the deepest memories, or the things
you'd most like to share with us? Could you relate them to us?

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Looking at it all from today, memories of that time seem
far away.

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But at that stage of life, I could commit some things to
memory.

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Of course, some things I could remember, and others I
couldn't.

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In general, later memories are clearer, while earlier ones
are hazier.

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However, my hazy [memories] might be a bit clearer than
most people's memories [at that age].

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Why is that? Because I was faced with leaving Beijing.

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I was born in Beijing. I grew up in Beijing. I lived there
until I was almost 10 years old.

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That was a serious issue in my family. The reason for it
was manmade: in 1958, my father was sent to Guizhou for a very particular
reason.

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It was not because he was any ordinary
counter-revolutionary, or an everyday rightist -- nothing like that.

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It was something very unique.

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My family looked at the mess of the Cultural Revolution,
and [thought], even if it's a mess, having the family be all together makes
it a little better.

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So, we pulled up stakes and went to Guizhou.

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When we got to Guizhou, we [children] were still pretty
young.

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Things that [other people] wouldn't usually remember at
that age left an impression on us, since the environment was so much
different.

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In Beijing, we had lived in a traditional courtyard home,
which was a dormitory for a central government agency [where my parents
worked].

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We were had already gotten accustomed to the space, the
facilities, and the neighborhood.

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In Guizhou, our whole family was crammed into a 12 square
meter house. There was no kitchen or bathroom -- nothing.

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Not to mention other things -- items we'd brought from
Beijing wouldn't fit into that little place.

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For us kids, the outside environment also changed, due to
the Cultural Revolution chaos.

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Our parents no longer let us run around outside, which was
almost impossible for us. We ran around anyway.

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At that time, it was rare to see my dad. I had gone so
many years without seeing him, thinking that finally, after all that time,
we could be together.

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But soon, we followed him to one place, then all of a
sudden, he was sent to prison.

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So, during my childhood, I had little contact with my
father.

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For this reason, [we] didn’t dare even go out the door.
As soon as we went out, anyone could beat you.

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I was just a ten-year-old kid, and I had to protect my
eight-year-old sister.

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This was unreasonable. So, we just never went out.

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As for external circumstances, well, as kids it seems like
our habits were more like those of elderly people, such as how we tried to
avoid trouble at all costs.

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In principle, kids shouldn't think like this. Still, this
was the kind of atmosphere we grew up in.

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Later, schools "suspended classes [to make
revolution]".

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So, if you ask me about my real education level before I
went to university -- well, other people could fill in "high school,"
"junior high" --

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but as for me, based on the time period, I could fill in
"junior high school," since they would not allow me to go to high
school.

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People with problems in their families could not go to
high school.

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Actually, my education level is a third-grade education
level, since classes were suspended after I attended third grade.

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In junior high school, no one taught class; [instead, they
just read] a copy of Quotations from Chairman
Mao.

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I wasn't too familiar with the kids in my class, since I
was put into the school's propaganda team, sent to play huqin and sing
Peking opera.

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My memories and my classmates' memories of junior high at
that time are totally different, as if they happened in two different
worlds at the same time.

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That period of going to Guizhou and growing up feels a bit
foggy.

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I was numb to everything in a way that [someone] of that
age ought not to be.

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It was only when I got back to our home that I felt at
ease.

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When we went out, we didn't have a strong feeling of being
oppressed or persecuted, since we were young.

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But when the environment changed like that, we didn't ask
why; as a result, it seemed as if it ought to be that way.

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So, what [habits] did this instill in me? One is that I
don't go to places where there are a lot of people.

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This preference has persisted up until today. I don't want
to go to busy places.

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Another is that it’s hard for me to hate people. I think
it's strange.

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I've read and looked at so much "scar literature" and
"scar art," this and that, class struggle, etc. -- I think that kind of
description of hate is somewhat affected.

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Today, when I see those people who hit me as a kid, it
seems like I can't hate them.

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When [someone] hit me as a kid, it seemed like that person
ought to hit me; it seemed like he was just in the position to hit me.

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As for me, if I was worried about provoking someone, I
just hid. I felt I ought to hide.

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So I'd hide in a place where I wouldn't have to run into
other people.

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Interviewer: How did this come about?

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That's just how I was as a kid.

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Sometimes I talk about this with my wife, and she says,
"You remember everything from childhood. You hated a classmate when you
were eight years old-- do you still hate him today?"

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I say I feel numb about this.

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That's what it's like. This [feeling] influenced a lot of
things in my life later.

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For example, whether or not I should join the Communist
Youth League -- I hadn't been a Red Guard or anything else.

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Should I join the Communist Youth League?

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My first reaction was that I shouldn't join this thing,
since I didn't know what would happen if I did.

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I didn't join the Red Guards. In elementary school, [when
other people] were given red scarves [to join the Young Pioneers], I never
was -- at that time the Cultural Revolution hadn't yet begun in
Beijing.

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I didn't wear the red scarf until later, [when] each
person was given one.

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So I was really insensitive to politics, and to the honor
afforded by politics.

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I didn't [join] the Red Guards or the army, which were
both popular at the time.

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I didn't pay much attention to that.

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There were good and bad side effects to this numbness.

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For example, I had to stay at home and wouldn’t go
out.

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At an [age] when I shouldn’t be reading old books, since
my family had a lot of classic books at home, I started reading those
tedious old things.

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I was 14 at the time. I didn't want to read them -- what
relevance did they have for me?

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But there weren't any other books at home. Those books
became like a symbol, something I knew very well.

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What's more, they were [part of] Chinese culture. At the
time, I didn't have a deep understanding [of Chinese culture].

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I read whatever I could get my hands on, skipping over
characters I didn't know. I was forced to start reading like this.

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This lasted until the Red Guards came and burned all of
our old books.

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When houses started being searched to confiscate
possessions – everything people have written in books about those kinds
of things [happened].

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Interviewer: This all happened in Guiyang?

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Yes, it was in Guiyang.

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For example, people came to search houses and confiscate
possessions, and I was still numb -- go ahead and search -- we just watched
them turn over everything in our whole place.

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I remember quite clearly, a female [soldier] sat on our
table.

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Other people were searching, but she wasn't busy with
them.

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She just took some hair clips my mom had just bought, and
pinned the whole strip of them to her head, one by one.

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And then [she] went off to do something else.

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I don't have a lot of resentment about these
incidents.

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[I didn't think,] why did [the female soldier] take our
stuff? Weren't those our things?

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At the time, I was numb to this degree.

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I had a replica Mauser pistol, and in the blink of an eye,
one of the male Red Guards had clipped it to his waist to take away with
him.

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And so on and so forth, such things happened in our
house…

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When I got a few years older, I started visiting [my
father in] prison.

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This situation left me feeling awkward, since the
detention center wasn't too far [from home]; it was just off the main
road.

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Every month, my little sister or I would go with our
mother to take some things there.

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We took simple things: snacks, handkerchiefs,
toothbrushes, soap, sometimes toothpaste, and other everyday items.

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We'd watch as the soap was sliced into smaller pieces, to
see if there was anything hidden inside of it.

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Snacks were broken into pieces [to be checked]. It was a
stupid ritual.

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After the ritual was completed, the way these things were
processed gave me the creeps.

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The pieces of the soap, what was left of the snacks, the
handkerchief, the clothing --

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--since the check was done in a cardboard box, after it
was finished, the box was dumped out into a paper bag that had a number
written on it.

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All these little bits of things were dumped in and sealed
up.

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We'd sign for it and then we could leave.

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We did this same thing once every month.

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I was afraid my classmates would see me. My little sister
was afraid of this, too. She was a bit older by then.

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Later, neither of us was willing to go to the prison with
our mom.

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We were growing up in this semi-underground family
situation. At school, we didn't really study anything.

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Compared to me, my little sister is a little more
opinionated, but she also developed similar habits [to mine].

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Her feelings of love and hate are stronger than mine. But
at the same time, she developed a conservative way of looking at
things.

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For example, she graduated from high school.

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When [she] graduated from high school, [she] ought to have
gone to university, but she said she didn't want to go,

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since she figured the political scene at university would
be even more treacherous.

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She said, "I don't want to go to university," and she
stuck by that.

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She had graduated from an excellent high school, but she
wasted the opportunity to go to university.

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The Cultural Revolution [lasted] from the time [I was]
small, up until the early ‘70s, right?

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During that time, I couldn't go to high school, and I
started working quite early.

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First [I worked in] Hunan, then Guizhou, on a surveying
team, as a laborer, this and that. That's how I spent my youth.

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Interviewer: Very good. [The interview] was quite
detailed.

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These are just some things floating around in my mind.

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If you have me speak honestly, those things don't seem
that realistic.

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They don't seem real, because today our lifestyle is very
genuine.

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Thinking about those things makes them seem even to drift
away even more.

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But [we] floated here from among those fleeting things.
So, I think those memories are incredibly precious.

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I don't avoid the pain of those memories. Today you say,
that was painful.

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What I think is more prevalent is that people have defined
[those experiences] as painful.

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Everyone [lived] like that; for example, I was [working]
in a factory at the time.

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Everyone says the culture of a factory is so poor, so
depressing, but I don't feel that way.

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[In] a factory with over 3,000 people, if everyone feels
depressed, that feeling just dissipates.

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Also, no one draws a comparison with you -- would you give
me a non-depressed [person] to look at?

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Over 3,000 people, men and women, and everyone has the
same lifestyle.

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If you should do something, you do it; if you should sleep
or eat, you sleep or eat, and go to work.

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From today's point of view, the typical friendships [among
factory workers] were really "brotherly."

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Today your family's building a house; tomorrow their
family needs coal, and [friends from the factory] all go to lend a
hand.

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Help is given without any ulterior motive, other than to
share a meal when it's finished.

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[At that time] there was nothing to eat or drink, but
could you still say [factory workers] were actually depressed?

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So, later there were some [works] that were much too
literary, too artistic.

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I myself studied art, but I think [such works] are
pretentious and affected.

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Interviewer: Do you think your own Cultural Revolution
experience had an influence on your creative work?

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Yes, it did. You could see this influence as good or
bad.

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As for my artistic sense, [my experiences] caused me to
create work far removed from politics, far removed from those big works
focused on politics.

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Interviewer: To get away from all that.

148
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Right. I don't often pay attention to others' [artwork],
and my own [artwork] doesn't get into [politics].

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[Those experiences] shaped my artistic sense. It's as if
it slowly emerged from some concealed things, things from growing up.

150
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When you want to draw out something to give your artwork
your own signature, you must make those floating things concrete.

151
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Once you concretize such things, they appear; can you
still put them in your artwork?

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00:14:38.890 --> 00:14:44.160  align:center  line:-1
My experience caused me to move away from reality.

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00:14:44.170 --> 00:14:51.060  align:center  line:-1
However, it's still there, but I can't express it. Once I
express it, I give it a symbol, something related to society and
politics.

154
00:14:51.070 --> 00:15:00.270  align:center  line:-1
So my artwork… Some people say, for a writer to do well,
or for anyone to do well, he/she must experience life, and must express
those experiences.

155
00:15:00.280 --> 00:15:05.050  align:center  line:-1
But as for my life, I don't need experience; it's just
mine, and I don't like expressing it.

156
00:15:05.060 --> 00:15:14.710  align:center  line:-1
I want to put it somewhere far away from the present.
Since it has a floating spirit, close it up in some space where it can
float.

157
00:15:14.720 --> 00:15:20.980  align:center  line:-1
[My experience] can just be in my memory. I'm not willing
to impose it on others, to say, “Look how I suffered…”

158
00:15:20.990 --> 00:15:26.400  align:center  line:-1
So, to be honest, I haven't read that many "scar novels,"
even though I really like reading novels.

159
00:15:26.410 --> 00:15:33.200  align:center  line:-1
I don't read "scar literature," and I think it's all the
same: you suffered; I suffered; he suffered.

160
00:15:33.210 --> 00:15:40.320  align:center  line:-1
Does it have to be so affected? This is my personal
viewpoint.

161
00:15:40.330 --> 00:15:50.400  align:center  line:-1
Interviewer: Very good. Thank you so much for sharing your
experiences and feelings; they're very unique.

162
00:15:50.410 --> 00:15:58.900  align:center  line:-1
Interviewer: I don't understand, yet at the same time it
enables me to think about why you have these feelings.

163
00:15:58.910 --> 00:16:00.620  align:center  line:-1
Yes, because each person is different.

164
00:16:00.630 --> 00:16:02.340  align:center  line:-1
Interviewer: Right, really different.

165
00:16:02.350 --> 00:16:03.990  align:center  line:-1
Each person's contribution is like another small
piece...

166
00:16:04.000 --> 00:16:06.740  align:center  line:-1
Interviewer: Right. This difference is inherently
valuable.

167
00:16:06.750 --> 00:16:09.330  align:center  line:-1
…And then you could use it to create a… system.

168
00:16:09.340 --> 00:16:16.180  align:center  line:-1
Interviewer: Right, you’ve made a contribution,
contributed a truly distinct set of memories. Thanks so much.

169
00:16:16.190 --> 00:16:18.567  align:center  line:-1
You're welcome, and thank you.