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"Hearing my parents talking about such a huge thing as divorce made me really scared."

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  • You ask a question first, right?
  • Interviewer: Right. Hi. Thank you for accepting my interview.
  • First, could you please tell me the decade in which you were born, such as "'60s," "'70s," or "'80s"?
  • I was born in the '70s.
  • Interviewer: Where did you live in China?
  • My home is in Sichuan [Province].
  • Interviewer: If you were born in the '70s, you probably don't have any direct impression of the Cultural Revolution, since you were so small.
  • Interviewer: The Cultural Revolution ended in 1976; even if you were born in 1970, you would have only been six then.
  • Interviewer: If you were born in '79 you would not have experienced it at all.
  • Interviewer: So, my question is, as far as you can remember, when was the first time you knew something about this historical event, the Cultural Revolution?
  • It must have been before 1976.
  • Although I was small, there were some things that gave me an understanding of the Cultural Revolution.
  • First of all, my family is quite large, and I have a lot of cousins on my mom's side who are older than I am. Some are more than 10 years older.
  • So, at that time, one of the major things they faced was going "up to the mountains and down to the countryside."
  • Some of them had already gone. [Others] were about to go.
  • Though I was small at the time, I have memories of my parents and my aunt talking about where my cousins had gone,
  • and then later, about helping them get back to the city.
  • I remember them discussing such things often. I have an impression that's still quite deep.
  • One time, my parents said that if, when [my brothers and sisters and I] were older,
  • Educated Youth were still being sent "up to the mountains and down to the countryside," they would be really scared.
  • Interviewer: So, through "up through the mountains and down to the countryside," you had an idea about the Cultural Revolution.
  • Right. Also, at that time, my parents were trying their hardest to think of a way to avoid ["up to the mountains and down to the countryside"].
  • My memory of this is really strong.
  • At that time, I was really little, and I heard my parents say there was a policy
  • stating that only children didn't have to go "up to the mountains and down to the countryside."
  • They said they had two colleagues who had filed a sham divorce, with each parent taking one of the children,
  • and in this way their colleagues avoided their children [being sent down].
  • I remember at that time, my father said it wouldn't be out of the question for us to do the same thing.
  • At the time, I was very young, and hearing my parents talking about such a huge thing as divorce made me really scared. It left a deep impression on me.
  • Another thing that left me with a strong memory is -- actually, it must have happened after the Cultural Revolution.
  • When my older brother and sister were taking the university entrance exams,
  • my mom would always say, "Good thing the Cultural Revolution is over, otherwise in a family like ours, you could never even think about going to college."
  • She loved saying this!
  • When we went to university, or when other people or our relatives' kids were going to college, or when it was time for the university entrance exam, she said this, too.
  • So I think this is an influence the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution had on our lives. This left a deep impression.
  • I also remember that before my older cousins, the Educated Youth, went "down to the countryside,"
  • they had just graduated high school, so they didn’t really have anything to do.
  • They'd just be at home playing music, studying the violin or the accordion, and singing songs.
  • Sometimes I thought, other than the worry about having to go "up to the mountains and down to the countryside," that time was pretty happy [for them].
  • I was still small back then, and I followed them around to play, not understanding what "up to the mountains and down to the countryside" was.
  • Interviewer: I have an impression of this. It’s called having a specialized skill.
  • Right. Everyone had to study an instrument -- accordion, violin -- or dancing. This was really popular.
  • Also, [people] did handicrafts, knit sweaters, did embroidery, knit coasters, made pillowcases, etc.
  • As a little kid, I thought it was all really pretty.
  • At that time, they weren’t that busy, and there wasn't much pressure; they'd just do these things, and actually felt quite happy.
  • Interviewer: When speaking of today's kids, they always have to prepare for tests -- when do they ever have time for things like this?
  • Right. Actually, at that time, it seems like they all had their own [hobbies], like singing,
  • and the neighborhood committee would get them together, would organize a propaganda team, things like that.
  • Back then, there were no teachers teaching them; they studied violin or erhu on their own.
  • My older cousin can play the violin, and another can play the erhu. I'm not sure when they started learning. Anyway, they had their own happy times.
  • Interviewer: At that time, I believe it was called literature and art of the masses. It was really common.
  • Right. Every neighborhood committee would organize activities, and we kids would go to see what was happening.
  • I'm not saying everyone could participate in every activity. For example, those with bad family backgrounds couldn't necessarily take part.
  • My older female cousin sang very well, but they wouldn't let her go join in.
  • My aunt was really imposing, and asked why they didn't let her daughter join -- she fought with them over it.
  • Interviewer: Although you were born in the '70s, you still have some memories about it.
  • Right. I was small -- four or five.
  • Interviewer: Now you're a scholar. Do you still pay much attention to the
    of the Cultural Revolution?
  • Actually, I'm still really interested in this, for several reasons.
  • In
    graduate school
    [研究所] I wrote a
    term paper
    [期末报告] concerning the Cultural Revolution, especially the rituals,
  • such as proclaiming plans for the day and giving an update on activities in the evening.
  • I'm interested in this kind of worship, personality cults, or things within the Cultural Revolution that were similar to religion.
  • I've also read quite a few books regarding the Cultural Revolution, like Yang Xiguang's
    The Captive Spirits [Records of the Cow-Demons and Snake Spirits]
    , etc.
  • From every aspect, every level you can understand the circumstances of the Cultural Revolution. I still have a lot of interest in this history.
  • Interviewer: Doing research into the Cultural Revolution requires a lot of time, and is a really complicated process.
  • Interviewer: Since your major is religion, you look at these things from a particular vantage point -- it's interesting.
  • Right. Since at the time, the worship of Mao, or proclaiming plans for the day and giving an update on activities in the evening, were rituals.
  • Actually, I think we [Chinese people] had rituals rather early on.
  • For example, in traditional society, you'd get up in the morning,
  • and generally you'd go offer incense to your ancestors, and proclaim your plans for the day.
  • I think there was something similar [in the Cultural Revolution].
  • [Rituals] were not that difficult for people to accept, since these things weren’t totally new.
  • Offering him [Mao] this worship, and doing things to treat him like a god – these rituals.
  • Interviewer: Hmm. This research is really interesting. Thank you for sharing your memories with us.
  • Interviewer: Although you were young back then, and didn't personally participate...
  • Interviewer: saw your family experience some things, like going "up to the mountains and down to the countryside."
  • Right. "Up to the mountains and down to the countryside” -- my parents really worried about this, thinking it might be my future.
  • So though I was small, I may have felt unsettled, because my parents were so nervous.
  • My parents and relatives may have had an influence on me.
  • Although I was small, I still have some impression of this.
  • Interviewer: Excellent. [You speak] so naturally, and have such pure memories. Thank you for accepting our interview.
  • I'm happy to have shared these memories!