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"After they came to our house, they cut off all of my mother’s hair."

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  • Interviewer: Thank you for coming to participate in our CR/10 Project today.
  • Interviewer: The first question I’d like to ask you is, which decade were you born in?
  • Interviewer: You don’t need to tell me the exact year.
  • I was born in the 1950s.
  • Interviewer: OK, thanks. Then, the next question is, could you tell us where you lived [in China] from 1966 to 1976?
  • I was in a city near Beijing.
  • Interviewer: OK. The final question is, please use around 10 minutes of time to share with us your impressions, perceptions, or memories of the Cultural Revolution.
  • OK. Um...In the 1980s, I went to Amsterdam, to visit the
    Anne Frank
    [安妮·法兰克] Museum.
  • I remember, I was very distracted that day.
  • When I came out [of the museum], I slipped on the metal steps outside, nearly fell all the way down.
  • The camera I had in my hand got broken.
  • Why [was I feeling so distracted]?
  • It’s because visiting that museum made me think about some experiences I had during the Cultural Revolution.
  • Because back when [Anne Frank] was writing her diary, she was about the same age I was during the Cultural Revolution—maybe she was just a little older than me.
  • I feel it can be said that the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution were 10 years in which heaven and earth were turned upside-down.
  • To our country, these 10 years were total confusion. To my personal life, it was also really a turning-point of everything being turned upside-down.
  • I was just a tiny element within humanity.
  • But I feel that our experiences can reflect the circumstances of the entire country at the time, just as a drop of water can reflect a whole ocean.
  • I feel the Cultural Revolution had a lot of issues. One issue was the twisting of human nature.
  • This twisting of human nature—I feel that within human nature, there’s both good and evil.
  • That is, [I] can’t blame these people; I feel they were all deceived, including myself.
  • At the time, we all were tricked, absolutely couldn’t see clearly.
  • That is, [it was like the poem], “[Why can’t I tell the true shape of Lu Mountain?] / It is because I myself am on the mountain.”
  • I can give you some examples.
  • For example, during the Cultural Revolution, I was still in elementary school. I was past 10 years old.
  • People have probably all heard about searching houses to confiscate possessions during the Cultural Revolution.
  • Actually, [this] wasn’t invented during the Cultural Revolution.
  • In China’s history, there were many [instances of] ransacking households, kicking whole families out of their homes, or exterminating entire families.
  • But the people who were attacked during the Cultural Revolution weren’t like those people in history who had their possessions confiscated because they committed an offense against the emperor.
  • Rather, many were poor, ordinary people, and of course, this included some intellectuals, some so-called capitalists, or landlords, rich farmers, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements, rightists [“five black categories”].
  • What kind of people joined in searching people’s houses to confiscate their possessions?
  • For example, my elementary school classmates.
  • The evening before our house was searched, middle school Red Guards had already come to seal the gate, and they locked many of our rooms.
  • However, as luck would have it—I guess they didn’t know ahead of time—my classmates, who were just elementary school students at the time, came along, and took some of my mom’s [books and other things].
  • The Cultural Revolution was called a “cultural” revolution, but in fact, it was an anti-cultural revolution.
  • All wonderful things including literature, art, and music, were restricted.
  • Therefore, they took some of my mother’s books, LPs, and all these things--
    took them out and burned them.
  • Later, an older “auntie” from our street saw this and said, “Kids came and made trouble,” so [those kids] went to find another group of Red Guards.
  • After this group of Red Guards came—by then, I guess they had already searched a lot of houses, so they had already become quite greedy.
  • Back then, in the Cultural Revolution, after you’d searched someone’s house and taken away possessions, you were supposed to turn over the valuable things like bankbooks to the nation.
  • [But those Red Guards who searched our house], they absolutely [didn’t].
  • As soon as [they] came through the door, they’d ask, “What jewelry do you have in here? What do you have? Get it out!”
  • Then, they’d take it and leave. They absolutely didn’t turn it over to the nation’s bank.
  • Then, I feel—why did I just mention human nature being twisted?
  • At the time, the classmate of one of our relatives, [who was] a middle school student a year or two older than me, came to [my relative’s] home to search the house and confiscate possessions.
  • Right away, [my relative] said, “Oh, our house doesn’t have anything worth taking. I’ll take you to my relatives’ home.”
  • Actually, I feel that at the time, you can’t say she was any kind of revolutionary.
  • Rather, she wanted to take this [threat] away from her own family.
  • These classmates of hers were all middle school students around 13 or 14 years old; they went to a girls’ school, so they were all girls.
  • After they came to our house, they cut off all my mother’s hair.
  • At the time, [people’s] hair was shaved in “yin-yang” style [as punishment].
  • Then, they struggled against my mother in the courtyard, [made her] kneel there. This was really a personal humiliation.
  • We had a neighbor who was a middle school foreign languages teacher. This teacher was rather strict.
  • [She] also taught in a girls’ school. Her students came—it seems like they were just junior high school students, 13 to 15 years old.
  • I didn’t see this myself, but I heard that after they came, they tortured [the teacher] and her husband for one or two days.
  • Then, they tied them to a tree, and finally beat them to death.
  • After beating them to death, [the students] still weren’t satisfied, so they also stabbed and kicked [the couple] to see if [they] were dead or not.
  • Think of these teenage kids, they actually weren’t...We Chinese say, “People are born fundamentally good.”
  • I think all people are born good. Then, [the students] saw these people [they tortured] as enemies.
  • That is, at the time, [these students] absolutely weren’t aware of what they were doing.
  • Now, many years have gone by, 50 or 60 years have passed.
  • Actually, in my heart I forgive these people. I believe they were also victims.
  • But I feel that this kind of mass movement, that is, such young children being incited to do these kinds of inhumane things—things that really extinguished humanity—we cannot forget these scenes, this kind of history.
  • Also, what do I feel was the biggest disaster the Cultural Revolution caused for our country and for our generation?
  • That [it] deprived an entire generation of their right to an education.
  • Just think—we were still elementary school students at the time, [so] from [our age group] all the way up to the so-called “old three classes,” [that’s] approximately 12 grades of students, right?
  • From first grade to the “old three classes,” 12 grades of students. The “old three classes” of [students] still received a bit of education.
  • Junior high students [at the time] received some education as well.
  • But elementary school students absolutely didn’t receive any kind of education.
  • Then, my elementary school classmates—for example, classes in our elementary school were really big, with 50 students in a class—so, 12 classes, that’s 600 students.
  • In 600 students, about half were girls.
  • Then, according to what I know, among my classmates, very few were able to pass the university entrance exam later on.
  • Really, only two or three [did]. Later, those classmates all became...We were rather lucky, and didn’t go “down to the countryside.”
  • However, a lot of my classmates, as well as the workers I met at the factory where I worked later, didn’t pass the university entrance exam.
  • Also, they absolutely didn’t have the qualifications to take the exam, since they hadn’t studied anything.
  • There was just no way [they’d pass].
  • So, could you say these people are unintelligent? That they’re not hardworking? It’s not like that at all.
  • Just think: what if an [entire] generation in a country, people from 7 years old to 18 or 19 years old, cannot receive an education when they ought to.
  • Books at that time—you’d go to Xinhua Bookstore, and there’d only be one [kind of] book,
    The Works of Chairman Mao
    Quotations from Chairman Mao
    , and
    Selected Works of Mao Zedong
  • All the other books, books passed down from ancient China, books passed down from foreign countries, all humanity’s heritage, had all been turned into Four Olds.
  • It had all become dregs, and was all destroyed. Music, art, literature, philosophy, history—all became Four Olds, to be destroyed.
  • Then, if one nation completely breaks off from [its] past history—of course, in history there’s [positive and negative]—you have to look at it with an objective attitude.
  • But if a nation, if an entire generation, has its own culture and inheritance completed erased, completely swept away, down to a blank page, how huge is this loss?
  • This is not just [a loss] for that generation, but also for the next generation, and today’s generation.
  • So I think what is rather painful and regretful is that today, when you talk about the Cultural Revolution with young people, they say, “The Cultural Revolution? It’s something much too far away from us.”
  • But because of my work, I often go to Germany.
  • Toward this aspect of education, [regarding] Hitler’s heinous crimes during World War II, from elementary school through university, [the Germans study it] in textbooks.
  • If you go [to Germany] as a tourist, they’ll talk to you about this dark period of history that’s hard to look back on.
  • Why do they do this? It’s to educate today’s people, to not forget history, to not let this kind of thing happen again.
  • Interviewer: OK. Thank you, thank you.
  • Interviewer: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, about the Cultural Revolution's destruction of human nature,
  • Interviewer:...and about education’s influence on today’s generation, and giving us something to reflect on deeply later regarding this period of history.
  • Interviewer: This will give our project a lot of help. Thank you!