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"We didn’t have anything to stanch the bleeding...I used rice wine to disinfect my hands."

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  • Interviewer: Hello, and thank you for accepting my interview.
  • Interviewer: First, could you tell us the decade you were born in, such as "1940s," “1950s,” “1960s”…?
  • I was born in the 1960s.
  • Interviewer: The 1960s. During the 10 years from 1966 to 1976, where did you live in China?
  • Suzhou.
  • Interviewer: Suzhou -- in the city, a town, or a rural village?
  • At that time, it was the outskirts of Suzhou.
  • Interviewer: The outskirts of Suzhou. Since you were born in the 1960s, you may have some impression of [the decade] from 1966 to 1976.
  • Interviewer: If I give you 10 minutes, what memories or experiences come to mind that you’d like to share with us?
  • I remember “cultural struggle” or something had just started when I was a child.
  • Interviewer: Do you mean “violent struggle”?
  • Oh yes, violent struggle.
  • At that time, I had just turned six years old; though I was small, I do have some memories of it.
  • Once, I remember my parents telling us to hurry and get out of bed. It seems like when we were small it was called “fleeing trouble.”
  • Interviewer: Oh, fleeing trouble.
  • [My parents] said they’d heard gunfire from the other side of the river, and told us to get up, to go with my female cousin to our paternal aunt’s house, which was a bit farther away.
  • Interviewer: To get away from the violent struggle?
  • Right, to wait it out. My parents would still have to stay there during the day, to work their land and make a living.
  • I was still small then. Our next-door neighbors had two kids, but they went away with their maternal grandmother.
  • The neighbor's husband had joined [a group] that was like a paramilitary squad.
  • At that time in Suzhou, there was "su yu"…now, what was it that happened at "su yu"?
  • Well, whatever was going on, he joined in.
  • Interviewer: What was this “su yu”?
  • It was the medical college.
  • Interviewer: Oh--[that's the abbreviation for] Suzhou Medical College.
  • Right, Suzhou Medical College. So [the neighbor's husband] went there, and the neighbor feared he would run into trouble.
  • [She] sent her children away [to their grandmother's house], saying, if my husband gets into trouble, I have no choice; I have to wait for him to return.
  • So, she didn't flee. She stayed at home to wait for her husband.
  • I remember in our neighborhood, there was a commanding officer and a rebel faction.
  • At the time, Suzhou had two factions—the "Zhi" faction and the "Ti" faction.
  • Interviewer: The "Ti" faction, and the "Zhi" faction.
  • My father had also joined a small rebel group, but he didn’t go very often.
  • That day we had to flee, I woke up and felt so groggy and confused.
  • Later, in elementary school, we wanted to study, but the bad students wouldn’t let [us] do our homework.
  • We girls were really well-behaved.
  • During class, [the boys] would shake the desks, and wouldn't let [us] do our work.
  • The teacher couldn't keep order; if [the teacher] tried, [the students] would curse at the teacher.
  • Interviewer: Right. At the time, teachers didn’t dare try to keep order.
  • At that time I was in school, but the [educational] foundation wasn’t very good.
  • Most girls in our village didn’t go to junior high school. My parents were very open-minded, and let me get some education.
  • At that time, junior high just had two years, and I went for a year and a half.
  • When I was little, I saw some people -- the rebel faction or something similar -- [struggling against people].
  • There was an older cadre wearing a dunce cap, with a signboard hanging around his neck.
  • They made him say he was a bad guy, and say what mistakes he had made. We kids would run along behind him.
  • Later, landlords and rich farmers, and those with a little property in their family [were also attacked].
  • Actually, those landlords relied on their own physical labor, saved money, and built houses, but after Liberation they were called “landlords.”
  • They were struggled against, and made to wear dunce caps and kneel on branches. We saw this.
  • Interviewer: You saw that.
  • We saw it. It was just like that.
  • Later, I went to middle school, but my educational foundation was poor, so I [couldn’t keep going to school].
  • Later, in 1976, when I was 16, I started doing manual labor.
  • Interviewer: So you didn’t go back to school later on.
  • Later on, I worked. I was a daycare worker in the village.
  • Also, just before I married, I served as a “barefoot doctor” [a farmer with paramedical training].
  • Interviewer: Oh, you acted as a “barefoot doctor.” "Barefoot doctors" --
  • "Barefoot doctors" carried around medicine chests, and went around to wherever people were farming, to see if they had any injuries.
  • Interviewer: Right! During the Cultural Revolution, “barefoot doctors” were quite common.
  • I remember when I was acting as a hygiene officer, there was a parade on Renmin Road.
  • The "barefoot doctors" carried [medicine chests]. Farmers were wielding sickles, and the workers were carrying…I can’t remember what they were carrying.
  • It was on Renmin Road. I joined in, too.
  • Interviewer: Renmin Road in Suzhou? It was a parade?
  • Right. A parade, or some kind of activity, similar to what you’d have today. The “barefoot doctors” were carrying medicine chests.
  • Interviewer: That was called a “square formation,” a parade phalanx.
  • Right. Anyway, I don’t want to [praise] myself too much, but at that time I really improved myself.
  • I went to the city to join the Party, etc.
  • Interviewer: Did “barefoot doctors” receive training back then?
  • Yes, [we] went to the village hospital for training.
  • There was a whole course: delivering babies, doing stitches—everything.
  • Interviewer: How to handle these things.
  • I could do it all--inserting IVs, everything.
  • At the time there was a test you had to take, which all the Jiangsu Province rural health doctors had to take as well.
  • Interviewer: Do you think the local peasants trusted the “barefoot doctors”?
  • Yes, I think they did at that time.
  • Interviewer: They must have welcomed these “barefoot doctors.”
  • Yes, they welcomed them at that time. The hospital was far away, and transportation was inconvenient.
  • If someone was sick, I went to that person’s house to give an injection or an IV, if necessary.
  • Interviewer: Also, it was all free.
  • At first there was a fee; later, it was totally free. It didn’t cost a cent.
  • Later, [after Reforming and Opening], there was a fee once again.
  • Interviewer: How long did you serve as a “barefoot doctor”?
  • I did it until 1990, and then I started working in an office.
  • Interviewer: So this means that, up until the 1990s, where you were living, “barefoot doctors” were quite in demand.
  • Most small illnesses or injuries, like coughs and colds or small cuts, [could be taken care of] right in town.
  • Sometimes we were able to give shots to nearby residents, so that was good.
  • Interviewer: That’s good. Which of the cases you worked on makes you the proudest?
  • There were some rental houses there. One time, there was a woman from Zhejiang living in one of these houses, and she was going to have a baby...
  • ...but she didn’t know to go to the hospital, so she was going to deliver at home.
  • An older “barefoot doctor” in our town said to me, “That woman is going to have a baby.”
  • But my home didn't have [medical instruments].
  • Everyone told me, go help, go help.
  • It was really far from there to the hospital, so all my neighbors told me to go and deliver the baby.
  • We didn’t have anything to stanch the bleeding, so I didn’t cut the umbilical cord until after the baby emerged.
  • I used rice wine to disinfect my hands.
  • To avoid tetanus, I also disinfected a stainless steel knife with rice wine, and cut the cord.
  • Interviewer: This must not have been easy.
  • Later on, someone from the local engineering group of Hu County's political party school busted his head open.
  • At the time, the town didn’t give tetanus shots, so I told [him] I could give [him] stitches.
  • [I said he] needed a tetanus shot, [otherwise] he might go septic.
  • I didn’t want to be responsible for that. He just kept saying, “OK, OK.”
  • So, I gave him stitches—a lot of stitches. He thanked me and said I’d made him stop hurting.
  • Later, I asked if he’d been able to have a tetanus shot, and he said he had; he said, “You fixed everything so well.”
  • At that time, I really enjoyed surgery. Later on my daughter went to school, but said she didn’t want to study medicine.
  • Interviewer: Not bad. That is, the Cultural Revolution gave you a chance to be a “barefoot doctor,” to get some training, and also to be of service to others.
  • Yes, yes. Right.
  • Interviewer: Besides these memories, do you have other things you’d like to share?
  • There’s nothing else. At that time, I went to work. At first, no one studied at school, and few people in our town were educated.
  • I just acted as a daycare worker, a hygiene officer, and a “barefoot doctor.”
  • Interviewer: In that area, were there many like you, who studied for a year and a half of junior high school?
  • There weren’t that many. My older sister only went to elementary school for a few years.
  • There weren't many kids in our family. My older sister was adopted.
  • My mother had two boys, but they both died when they were young.
  • Later, [my parents] adopted my older sister, and had me and my younger brother.
  • At that time, my sister took care of us.
  • I studied for a few years, which was pretty good, since [kids] a bit older than me didn’t go to school.
  • Interviewer: So you were able to become a "barefoot doctor" and a daycare worker.
  • But the Educated Youth in our town also became "barefoot doctors."
  • Interviewer: Oh, there were Educated Youth there, too. Where did your Educated Youth come from? From Suzhou?
  • They were originally from Suzhou, from the city.
  • Interviewer: How did you locals see these Educated Youth? Did you welcome them, or not?
  • Some of our neighbors really looked after them.
  • Interviewer: Looked after them.
  • [Yes.] Some [of the Educated Youth] caused trouble, but others really did well.
  • It wasn't easy for them to come down to the countryside. At that time, it was hard for their parents to arrange work [for them].
  • Every family had [Educated Youth who went down to the countryside]. The ones who came to our town were quite good; they were the last group.
  • Interviewer: Educated Youth also acted as "barefoot doctors," right?
  • Yes, they did.
  • Interviewer: Did they teach children to read, or other things? Or did they go work in the fields with you locals?
  • Some worked on the land.
  • Later, when some villages' lands were commandeered [and couldn't be farmed], Educated Youth were sent to factories to work instead.
  • Gradually, they all went to work in factories.
  • Interviewer: They returned to the city.
  • Yes, some returned to the city, but some worked in our [local] factories. There were some factories nearby.
  • We'd see [Educated Youth] we knew working there.
  • Interviewer: You spoke so well. Thank you for accepting my interview.
  • Oh, you're welcome. No need for thanks.