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"One bad thing I did was to spit in the middle of the bread. Then, I gave it to that old man to eat."

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  • Interviewer: Hello! Thank you for accepting my interview. First, could you please tell me the decade in which you were born, such as "1940s," "1950s," or "1960s"?
  • I was born in the '50s.
  • Interviewer: Then, could you tell me where you [lived] in China from 1966 to 1976?
  • Say the approximate location? In a large northern city.
  • Interviewer: [Because you] were born in the 1950s, and lived in a large city in China, you must have quite a few memories of the 10 years [of the Cultural Revolution].
  • Interviewer: Maybe you could speak for days and nights and still not say everything. But if I limit you to about 10 or 20 minutes, could you, without too much preparation,
  • Interviewer: share some relatively distinct memories of those 10 years with us? Any memory [is okay to share].
  • When the Cultural Revolution [started], I must've been in the second grade. There were too many experiences; I really can't think of anything [specific].
  • I think many [memories are] tiny, like fragments. For example, a couple of days ago, my younger brother asked me whether or not I like eating goat meat. I said I didn't.
  • He said, "You've never liked eating goat meat, have you?" I said it wasn't that I'd never liked eating it, but goat meat brought back all the memories of back then, when my father was brought down, was locked up in a basement.
  • Since it was really cold, my paternal grandmother took the goat meat from the holiday meal, made soup with it, and had me take it to my father to keep him warm.
  • So, my memories of goat meat are just that smell of mutton, and of me, this little kid, carrying the pot of goat meat soup to my father to drink.
  • So maybe this is the source of my disgust toward goat meat. Speaking of eating, I just thought of this: [when I was in] second grade, the Cultural Revolution [began].
  • Everyone was rebelling. I remember that we first grade classmates formed “red pairs” with the sixth grade classmates.
  • It happened that the "big sister" with whom I'd formed a "red pair" was the head of the rebels in the school's Little Red Guards, or maybe the Red Guards.
  • [She] pulled us along to follow her in making revolution. At the time, the mission we were assigned was to watch over a male senior school staff member.
  • Usually [this older man] was really a good person, but I don't know what crime he was said to have committed--it seemed like, basically, he [belonged to] the category of landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements, and rightists.
  • He was locked up in a classroom. "Big sister" and the others usually watched over him; when they went to eat, they made us watch over him.
  • Or, there was one thing they had me do, [which was] go to the school cafeteria and get his food.
  • [His] food was steamed corn bread. I remember hearing "big sister" and the others say this man was really, really bad, so I also felt indignant.
  • I remember, one bad thing I did was to spit in the middle of the bread. Then, I gave it to that old man to eat.
  • What's more, watching him eat it, I felt really happy inside. Many years later, many [former] Red Guards said they wanted to apologize [for things they'd done].
  • I think this incident is something I also much apologize for. How could one small child suddenly develop such hatred for another person?
  • I've been thinking, why did I hate that man so much? It was because before [this incident], [those students] had held a struggle meeting, said that before Liberation, that man had fought with a woman who was pregnant.
  • [They said] he kicked [the woman], causing her to have a miscarriage, to lose the child. At that time, we were little, and had no understanding of this.
  • What most surprised me was that [those students] held up a glass bottle of formaldehyde, which had a fetus floating in it -- a fully-formed fetus.
  • At the time, we kids went crazy seeing that, thinking this was the baby that he had kicked out [of its mother] and put in [that bottle].
  • So [we were] angry, full of hate, but we still didn't dare hit him. Girls just thought of an idea, to do something bad, to spit in [his] steamed corn bread.
  • Actually, thinking about it later -- what was the deal with that formaldehyde? Next to our school was a women's hospital.
  • A women's hospital would certainly have kept a lot of those kinds of specimens. [Those students] certainly had brought that specimen [from the women's hospital] to stir up this mood in us.
  • It enraged everyone in the group. I remember at the time some people hit [the man], and then locked him back up in the classroom. Next, I did that thing [of spitting in his bread].
  • As for interpersonal relationships, [I] feel that the Cultural Revolution instantly overturned friendly relationships.
  • I remember when I was young, we lived in a government residence compound; it was a "siheyuan" [courtyard house].
  • A classic Beijing courtyard house [has] south, north, east, and west rooms. I remember later on, I wrote a novel, because my impression of that compound was too deep,
  • especially [regarding] the change in fate of each family before and after the Cultural Revolution.
  • For example, in the north rooms was a staffer the Kuomintang [Nationalists] had left behind, a technical cadre. The south rooms were our home, [the home of] Chinese Communist Party cadres.
  • [In] the east rooms was a pair of university graduates, intellectuals. [In] west rooms was a veteran who did defense work in the government.
  • Before the Cultural Revolution, the four families got along peacefully. The "uncle" in the north rooms appeared to understand a lot, my mother and father looked like cadres,
  • the "uncle and auntie" in the east rooms were intellectuals, very refined, the [man] in the west rooms [had been] in the People's Liberation Army, was uneducated,
  • and what's more, his wife was a woman from a rural village who had no education and spoke very...But at that time, everyone got along with each other.
  • The uneducated people from the west rooms were looked down upon, more or less.
  • However, it's not that they were despised. It's just that they were dismissed at times.
  • But when the Cultural Revolution came, everyone's fate in life began to change overnight.
  • My deepest impression is one day the Red Guards came to search the house and confiscate possessions. [It was] the government rebel group.
  • First, they searched the north rooms, because [the man who lived there] was a staffer left behind by the Kuomintang.
  • [They] cried bitterly as [the Red Guards] went through everything in the house. That "uncle" had six kids; I remember I called them "older brother" and "second older brother"; "older sister" and "second older sister."
  • The fifth kid was one year old than I, and the sixth was two years younger than I was.
  • At that time, the two older brothers and the oldest sister were attending university.
  • The second oldest sister was in junior high school, she was rather extroverted. I remember at the time she traded words with the rebel faction.
  • They pushed her down, and her father was escorted away. I remember the mother crying, and the youngest girl crying, too.
  • I remember after [the rebel faction] left, my mom took that youngest girl into my room.
  • That night, the two of us slept together in my room. Everything was chaotic outside; it was really scary.
  • Later on, it was our family having bad luck. My father was also singled out. The [veteran] from the west rooms also became [part of] the rebel faction.
  • The intellectual couple from the east rooms were also criticized. I seem to remember they were from Wuhan, and went back there one time.
  • When they returned, they said the Wuhan Million Heroes had killed people -- had killed people! It seemed like it was really terrifying.
  • In short, [I] felt this courtyard of people...I remember at first, my mom protected the littlest sister from the north rooms,
  • [but] it wasn't long before it was hard enough just to protect our own family.
  • Then I suddenly felt I was being looked down upon by everyone, that everyone thought [I] was a "son of a dog."
  • I don't know how a person's fate could be completely reversed in an instant. Interpersonal relationships, the relationships among the people in one courtyard, just started to fall apart.
  • These are just many, many fragments [of memories].
  • Also, I still have an impression that at the time, the neighbors on our street, in our alleys, were said to be Kuomintang [Nationalists] this-or-that, were pushed onto the street, were beaten with whips.
  • I also have an impression of [a group of people] engaging in a gang fight in Beihai Park. [They] picked up bricks and hit children until they were bleeding in the face.
  • I also just remembered myself and some other kids going to the government office and doing something bad.
  • First we passed out leaflets, and then after we'd passed them all out, we got all the wastebaskets full of toilet paper, and threw all the [paper] off of the building.
  • Thinking of it now, I was a young girl--how could I have gone along with that at the time? It seems crazy. [I] also went to the government office and saw two factions having a big debate.
  • Then I think of my father. One day, in the cafeteria of the government office, there were a lot of people.
  • In the past, [when they saw me], they'd all say my name, playing around. [They] all knew me. That day, I don't know why, everyone seemed strange.
  • One person said, "Get her...don't tell her to go in." I was curious why they wouldn't let me in, [so] I went in, anyway.
  • As soon as I went in, I saw my dad standing on a chair, [being] struggled against. Later I thought, that "auntie" who didn't [want to] let me in was trying to protect me a little.
  • I just ran out, ashamed. Later, I thought I'd never be able to face people. That kind of frustration, the feeling of being looked down upon by people is so, so awful.
  • I think the Cultural Revolution's greatest injury toward me is that my father passed away during the Cultural Revolution, leaving my mother alone.
  • Interviewer: [Was he] sick?
  • Yes, he was sick. [He] didn't get treated in time.
  • Interviewer: How old was he?
  • My father passed away in 1972; he was only in his 40s.
  • Interviewer: During the Cultural Revolution. Then later --
  • So I just felt my entire life had a huge, huge change. I think I matured early, lacked trust in a lot of things.
  • But to speak of it another way, [it] cultivated my independence; [I] don't rely on other people.
  • I want to struggle for my own destiny. [I] am [able to] look at many things from different perspectives.
  • Interviewer: Do you think your experiences during the Cultural Revolution had an underlying influence on your personality later on?
  • Yes, what I just said. I won't ever believe what other people tell me; I'll use my own mind to think about things.
  • Furthermore, I think that after experiencing the Cultural Revolution, in many situations, I'm able to use a forgiving attitude to look upon people who hurt me in the past.
  • I once had a period of time [in which I felt] a lot of hate, including after the Cultural Revolution. Everyone said, "Look ahead, look ahead!"
  • [With regards to] all of China's problems, [people] said, "Hurry up and forget about things that happened in the past. Look forward."
  • But I think [it] cannot be forgotten; [we] must keep looking back. Looking back over history really isn't saying we should hate anyone, but rather [examining], why did this situation happen?
  • Really. All people are good people, actually, just like the families in the courtyard I just mentioned, though their family backgrounds and level of education were different.
  • But if there is not a good system, [if] no one has the ability to independently think through problems, [if people] are completely agitated by a certain mood, you'll be involuntarily swept up in the tide.
  • And [if] there's no system to protect these people, [the result is] the entire populace goes crazy, [and] good people also become bad people.
  • A lot of people...actually, after the Cultural Revolution, there were some "aunties" who were really good to me, really good to our family;
  • people who had hurt our family during the Cultural Revolution [later] came to our house to apologize to us.
  • What's more, I think [this] restored our relationship, since I feel they very sincerely apologized.
  • So, now I don't have any hate, but rather I myself want to apologize, like I just said, [I want to apologize] to that staff member.
  • What I did as a little kid was really despicable, including throwing toilet paper down from upstairs.
  • Seeing people pick it up, I was really happy at the time. Now, I think I was really crazy at the time, a bunch of really ignorant little kids.
  • So now I often think everyone must truly think over past events -- why did they happen? Why was every person caught up in it?
  • So I think now is an era of restoring reason, restoring human nature, restoring every person's independent thinking. Everyone should calm down.
  • Interviewer: Very good. Thank you.
  • Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
  • Interviewer: Thank you for baring yourself, sharing your Cultural Revolution experience. Thank you.
  • Thank you.