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"Worker-Peasant-Soldier students did not have the knowledge they should have had."

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  • Interviewer: Hello. Thank you for accepting my interview.
  • Interviewer: First, please tell me in which decade you were born. You don't need to say the exact year.
  • I was born in the 1950s.
  • Interviewer: 1950s. Next, could you tell me where you lived in China from 1966 to 1976?
  • Changchun.
  • Interviewer: Thank you.
    Someone your age probably has quite a few memories of the 10 years from '66 to '76.
  • Interviewer: Even given days and nights to speak, you might not be able to talk about them all. So, if I only give you about 10 minutes,
  • Interviewer: and say you don't need to organize your speech or think about what we need, what memories would you most want to share with us?
  • Everyone's situation during the Cultural Revolution was different.
  • Everyone's impression of the Cultural Revolution is also different.
  • Interviewer: I agree.
  • For example, back then, class struggle was emphasized.
  • For landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, and bad elements, plus rightists,
  • and later "capitalist-roaders" as well,
  • the persecution they felt during the Cultural Revolution would certainly have left them with a certain perception.
  • If you were a worker, a farmer, or a soldier, or if you were just a regular person in society, that is to say not one of the "five black categories,"
  • and not one of "those in power," your impression would be different as well.
  • So, I get the feeling that besides a person's environment,
  • a person's position or status at the time [also influenced] his or her understanding [of the Cultural Revolution].
  • Interviewer: I agree.
  • At that time, I had just graduated from junior high school.
  • In 1966, if you had just graduated junior high school, then you should have taken the high school entrance exam, but to the contrary, I didn't.
  • At the time, I was at Jilin Province's best junior high school.
  • It had a great influence in the northeast, and in the whole country; it was the junior high affiliated with Northeast Normal University.
  • I can't say I was a top-notch student, but every student in our school was quite good.
  • Interviewer: So modest.
  • Each year, our students were separated into four classes, about 180 or 190 people, no more than 200.
  • They all tested in, so everyone was pretty studious.
  • In 1966, the Cultural Revolution started. At that time, we students didn't understand social class, or politics; we didn't get all that.
  • We were just responding to the government's call by joining studies and the great criticism.
  • If it was said that so-and-so was a "capitalist-roader," how he or she was "taking the capitalist road," we'd criticize that person with righteous indignation.
  • That was how we responded to the call.
  • But when the Cultural Revolution started, it started in full-force; it was a mass movement.
  • Great criticism, the Destroy the Four Olds campaign, searching houses to confiscate possessions, violent struggle--
  • at that time, many cities, including the one we lived in, were engaged in violent struggle.
  • [These activities] were concentrated in a period of about two years, until the establishment of the revolutionary committee in 1968, when things calmed down a bit.
  • Something I remember well is that some people seemed half-crazed, while others seemed intoxicated as they joined in the movement.
  • In many families, the father and children, or the husband and wife had different points of views, and they'd debate at home.
  • Of course, it wasn't that they had an individual motive, that they were doing it for themselves.
  • [It was that] they had completely different understandings of some issue within the Cultural Revolution.
  • People within families, or in different levels of society, naturally had different perceptions.
  • They separated into two or three factions, and their conflicting points of view developed into violent struggle.
  • There was fighting, and in some places, firearms were used.
  • Interviewer: Really? Did you encounter this?
  • Of course! At that time, I was a teenager, about 16 or 17 years old, and I joined in on these things.
  • Interviewer: Did you actually fire a gun?
  • I never fired a gun--never--but out in society, in the crowd, they were definitely being used.
  • Interviewer: Prior to this, I thought guns were only used in Sichuan [Province].
  • [It was] later on, when the violent struggle got really intense...Because we were all pretty good students, we went to Beijing.
  • We stayed there for a while, but of course we couldn't keep living in Beijing, so we had to go back home.
  • One our way back, I went to Hebei [Province], since that's where my family's original home is. At that time, I was somewhat carefree.
  • I can't say I was totally fed up with the Cultural Revolution, but I didn't join in energetically, and instead went back to our old place [in Hebei].
  • Some of my classmates went from Beijing back to Changchun, but [the train] couldn't go into the Changchun station.
  • At Siping, there was a fork in the railway; since train couldn't go on into Changchun station, it went from Shenyang straight to Jilin [Station].
  • Why? Because the "9-18 violent struggle" was happenin
    g at Changchun Station; that was September 18th.
  • People were fighting with machine guns and rifles.
  • So, Changchun Station was closed off and couldn't be used. [The train] went straight from Shenyang to Jilin Station. I heard about all this later.
  • After about a month, I returned to Changchun. I could not believe my eyes.
  • There were bullet holes in the walls, and I heard that around 20 people, more than 20 people had been killed.
  • Interviewer: Who was engaged in the violent struggle? Were they students, or workers?
  • The majority were students, with just a few workers and a few leadership cadres.
  • In that era, such leadership cadres were called "liangxiang" [meaning they favored one faction].
  • Previously, leadership cadres were among those being criticized, but if their viewpoint supported one faction or the other,
  • they counted as that faction's "liangxiang," and that faction protected that person.
  • Interviewer: They protected this person?
  • They protected this person. When the faction had an activity, this leadership cadre would also take part.
  • in Changchun, during the violent struggle in front of the [train] station on 9-18, some leadership cadres were killed by gunfire.
  • Interviewer: Had they purposely selected this date? Or was it a coincidence [that it was the same date as the 1931 Manchurian Incident]?
  • I'm not sure of the concrete reason, either, since I wasn't in Changchun at the time.
  • When I left Changchun, [people were fighting with] clubs, steel rods made into spears, or bricks.
  • Later, when it became more serious like this, I didn't get involved.
  • After experiencing this period of the Cultural Revolution, I felt really down. It seemed different from when it had started,
  • when we wanted to "combat and prevent revisionism," persevere on the socialist road, and stick with Chairman Mao's vision for the Cultural Revolution.
  • Moreover, all the killing and wounding was sickening.
  • I participated in the whole Cultural Revolution after I graduated junior high in 1966.
  • I took part, and I understood the situation, but of course the entire course of events... The feeling I had was [like I just described].
  • My position was just that of a student, so of course the movement didn't touch upon me; I was not criticized.
  • My father was a cadre, not one of "those in power," and he didn't talk about going down the capitalist road, so he wasn't affected.
  • [Our] feelings toward this part of the movement were quite different from others'.
  • Some people had their houses searched, their possessions confiscated;
  • some were beaten to death; some were criticized and struggled against;
    some had their heads shaved in "yin-yang" style, black ink smeared on their faces.
  • Our family didn't experience these things, so our feelings are certainly different.
  • From 1966 to 1968, the Cultural Revolution carried on like a violent thunderstorm.
  • After that, in 1968, Chairman Mao [called on] Educated Youth to go to rural villages and receive re-education from the peasants.
  • We answered the call and went to the rural villages to join production teams and organize collective households.
  • At the time, the idea was still to respond to Chairman Mao's call; it really was "When Chairman Mao raises a hand, I step forward."
  • Chairman Mao called for going "down to the countryside," and we tried to outdo one another.
  • If you went late, or weren't willing to go, or made up an excuse not to go, it was seen as really shameful -- why were you being like that?
  • Of course, life was not easy for us in the countryside, but on the other hand, it toughened us, and we got to see what China's rural villages were like.
  • Although at that time the entire country was pretty poor, [those of us] in the cities still had absolutely no understanding of rural villages, peasants, and farming.
  • [We] "never moved our arms and legs, and couldn't distinguish the five crops," [as the saying goes]. We really couldn't tell one from the other.
  • After [I'd spent] two years in a rural village, the cities were recruiting workers. I was called to work in a factory.
  • My period in the countryside was the shortest: one year and ten months, and then I was chosen to go back [to the city]. Of course, it was because of my performance.
  • The Poor and Lower-Middle Peasants of the farming community recommended me, and the leader approved, so then I went back [to the city] to become a factory worker.
  • [I worked] until 1973, when Worker-Peasant-Soldier students were recruited.
  • Interviewer: To go to university.
  • At first, there was a test, and I took part.
  • There were five subjects tested in all at the time, and we tested four of them. The fifth one was chemistry, but that exam was cancelled.
  • Why? Because of Zhang Tiesheng, Mr. "Blank Exam Paper," [who was acclaimed for refusing to take a national exam on physics and chemistry in 1973].
  • Of course, when we tested those four subjects, the district I was in--
  • Interviewer: Your grades must've been good.
  • My grades were quite good.
  • Interviewer: Certainly.
  • I got a 97 in math, the third best score in [our] district.
  • Interviewer: You'd [graduated from] junior high school, and still had an academic foundation.
  • Right, the foundation was still there. There were several questions I absolutely [couldn't answer].
  • There was no time to review. What's more, I didn't have any books to read; I absolutely couldn't find any books.
  • Interviewer: So you were really just depending on what you had learned earlier.
  • Yes, exactly. So, everything was cancelled—the test scores were also canceled, as was the [chemistry] test.
  • So, I was accepted into what is called Northeast Normal University today; at the time it was Jilin Normal University.
  • I went to Worker-Peasant-Soldier student university and became a Worker-Peasant-Soldier student.
  • After attending for three years, I graduated and became a teacher, and worked as a government cadre. That's how my experience went.
  • One thing I have deep feelings about is a contradiction.
  • Among people of my own age, I was neither the worst nor the best, but altogether you could say I was one of the lucky ones.
  • That's because in 1973, during the Cultural Revolution, I went to university, which most people were not able to do. I had the opportunity to get an education.
  • However, [I went to university] during the Cultural Revolution; Worker-Peasant-Soldier students were looked down upon afterward; our knowledge of culture was definitely lacking.
  • Compared to today's students, or those who went to university before the Cultural Revolution, it's certainly inferior.
  • When we first started going to university, we were energetic and hardworking. Even before our calculus class started, I had done all the problems in the book.
  • Later on, "apolitical academics" started being criticized once again. All these political movements put me in no mood for studying, so I didn't.
  • One lucky thing, as far as students were concerned, was that the burden of studying became a bit lighter as we went on.
  • In our three years [at university], we didn't have a single test. Today's tests, credits, and reports--we didn't have any of that!
  • It was a lucky, carefree way of completing university. However, after graduating, I didn't feel so fortunate.
  • Since we had studied during the Cultural Revolution, we lacked basic cultural knowledge. Worker-Peasant-Soldier students did not have the knowledge they should have had.
  • Among people of that generation, [I] was lucky, but I also have a great feeling of regret. Those three years hadn't really been used for acquiring knowledge. This is a--
  • Interviewer: A life-long regret.
  • Yes, a regret. Later, we Worker-Peasant-Soldier students began working in education and scientific research, and felt we lacked knowledge of basic facts and theories, making things quite difficult.
  • Interviewer: I can understand that. Thank you for accepting my interview.