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"The demonization of interpersonal relationships left a deep impression on me."

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  • Interviewer: Hi! How are you? Thank you for accepting my interview.
  • Interviewer: Could you tell me in which decade you were born? You don’t need to say the specific year – just “‘40s” or “‘50s” will do.
  • 1950s.
  • Interviewer: Where were you living between 1966 and 1976?
  • Two thirds of the time I was in the Heilongjiang Corps.
  • Interviewer: [You must have] many memories [of that decade].
  • Interviewer: If we only give you ten minutes -- in other words, in the first ten minutes of the interview, what memories do you want to share with us?
  • Because I lived in different places during those ten years, my memories are fragmented.
  • What shocked me the most in the early stage of the Cultural Revolution was that my grandma was struggled against and sent back to her hometown for being a landlady.
  • I had grown up with my grandmother. She was rudely sent away under escort, and they didn’t allow family members to accompany her. That deeply shocked me.
  • It was then that I felt the Cultural Revolution had affected my family.
  • Before I was sent down to the countryside, because my parents were separated to be censored,
  • I had to stay at home to take care of my two younger sisters, although I was only 14 or 15 years old.
  • Because my parents’ problems had not been concluded yet, I did not even have the qualifications to be “sent down.”
  • So I could not go with the first group of students from my school [who were sent down to the countryside].
  • It was only after my parents’ workplace issued a statement saying their problems would not affect their children’s assignments that I was able to be assigned.
  • As a matter of fact, the so-called “being assigned” was just “going down to the countryside.”
  • These days, many people say [at that time] they didn’t want to be sent down to the countryside; but to me, being sent down was a kind of recognition of identity.
  • Interviewer: To be the same as everyone else, right?
  • Yes, politically equal, and having the qualifications to be sent down. If you don’t go, that’s not just your problem; it also affects your parents.
  • If I insisted on staying in the city, their situation of being censored would get even worse.
  • The environment in the corps was relatively simple because everyone had the same identity -- the Educated Youth were all the recipients of re-education.
  • Also, the corps was different from countryside production teams: we shared a collective lifestyle, everyone sleeping in the same bed.
  • [We all] ate at the canteen and worked together. Interpersonal relationships were relatively simple and uncomplicated.
  • Although there were some [political] activities, it seemed like among the Educated Youth, their impact was not that large.
  • [In some cases] there was friction, not because of political reasons, but rather perhaps because of things in everyday life.
  • But incidents happening because of political reasons – torture, for example – my impression is that there was none of that. But intimacy did vary between friends.
  • [I] don’t know if it is because we lived and worked together, but even though more than 30 years have passed since the disintegration of the corps,
  • the relationships between the corps friends are still very close.
  • I’m not sure if this [closeness] has anything to do with that.
  • My deepest impression of the Cultural Revolution is from those first three years.
  • Although I wasn’t very old at that time, I had already experienced the sudden change in interpersonal relationships.
  • All of a sudden, close neighbors became people that were beaten and struggled against.
  • Companions parted ways because their parents held different political stances or belonged to different factions.
  • Friends who had grown up playing together no longer talked to each other. Girls were relatively peaceful; what happened to boys -- I don't know.
  • Another issue that left me with a deep impression is that I witnessed the violent struggle in the university.
  • While living on campus, I watched from the roof of a building as a violent struggle between college students and young staff members unfolded.
  • It was like the ancient battlefields, where [people] held long spears, threw stones, fought with each other for a while, and then stepped back.
  • At that time, we didn’t understand that it was actually a break in human relations.
  • What’s more, this kind of “broken relationship,” what we called “factionalism” during that period of time, existed for a long time.
  • The demonization of interpersonal relationships left a deep impression on me.
  • These two types of experiences—the break of interpersonal relations in the early stage of the Cultural Revolution,
  • and later [my personal experiences in] the relatively innocent and simple corps—both affected me deeply.
  • As a result, this caused me to prefer a peaceful [environment] where people are equal.
  • I hope that people won’t see each other as enemies because of conflicts in their interests or viewpoints,
  • and they would not attack each other with whatever underhanded tricks they could think of.
  • In previous times it was physical harm, and now it has become verbal abuse, including cyberbullying – I really don’t like any of this.
  • This might be a residual effect of the Cultural Revolution.
  • Another issue was the interruption of education. At that time, I had just graduated from elementary school and finished the middle school entrance exam.
  • The Cultural Revolution began, saying that elementary schoolers did not need to participate in movements [or attend classes], but would continue classes in the later phase of the movement.
  • But we waited for ten years [to have classes again]. During that period of time, we had no classes.
  • [We were] very happy; but as we grew up, the lack of knowledge as well as the shallowness caused by the lack of knowledge was hard to remedy, even after 20 or 30 years.
  • I have always felt sorry about the lack of systematic studies in my life; it’s hard to look back on this. I haven’t found any remedies for [this lack], no matter what I’ve tried.
  • Also, the Cultural Revolution was the collective drowning of the Chinese people. I had just graduated from elementary school [when I experienced all that].
  • There were children still younger than me, who were involved in the Cultural Revolution in some way, with different identities, such as the Red Guards or the Little Red Guards.
  • This also causes difficulties for future reflections, because it was not a matter [experienced by] only a small group of people, but by everybody.
  • Another thing is that the Cultural Revolution lasted for too long. People had different identities in the early and later stages of the event.
  • For example, I was only an onlooker in the early stage, experiencing nearly nothing myself.
  • Later I was sent down to the countryside, where I started to experience things myself, but the environment and surroundings became totally different.
  • My family situation became different as well. My understanding of the Cultural Revolution has changed according to [my] age and the environment.
  • I do not agree with the idea that people have had a clear understanding of the Cultural Revolution from the very beginning – I think that is unlikely.
  • Changes in age, location, and personal circumstances all change our understanding of the Cultural Revolution. That’s how it was with me, too.
  • In the early stage [of the Cultural Revolution], [I] didn’t get involved in any movements,
  • but just watched older male and female classmates in the university spilling blood to engage in violent struggles against each other.
  • I still didn’t understand [those activities], but just thought they looked quite brave and powerful with their uniform belts.
  • After I was sent down to the countryside, although the Educated Youth did not participate in any movements, the old staff still struggled against each other.
  • Back then, it was only after things started to impact people you knew, such as when I saw my parents being struggled against, that you realized the Cultural Revolution was truly horrible.
  • And then you hoped human beings would never act like that again. That’s basically it.
  • Interviewer: Thank you. Thank you very much.