January 1967 May 20th
We had so much to say but silence washed over the dinner table, the food smelled good but tasted like nothing, cascading light shone down but everything looked dull. Dinnertime consisted of the clicking of chopsticks and passing of bowls. Just a few weeks ago, along with many others, I was stopped from teaching and laid off. The teaching curriculum was already limited to a few subjects, now I don’t know where our countries education will lead without education: the guiding light of our children’s future.
Being an English teacher who taught English novels, I was extremely limited in the books I could choose to teach; there were many boundaries. Capitalism ideas could not be taught, meaning that I had to skip a lot of parts when teaching, since what I taught was “Analyzing English novels”.
A month before I stopped teaching we held a last 控诉会(kong su hui, a meeting where people discuss what others have done wrong. ) I remember how every time the meeting was held my heart would beat very fast and my hand would sweat, but this one was bought to a whole other level. I had been teaching Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” and a student who was not even in my class told me off, she told everyone that I only taught students about love and other forbidden ideas. I still remember how, as soon as those words left her mouth, everyone stared at me with looks of alarming disapproval, and when I came close they would avoid my like I was a zombie covered in mud. I didn’t even have a chance to talk back.
Suddenly, a loud banging sound echoed in the room, my heart was pounding and I looked across the table and my wife did the same. I told her to go and hide and I panicked because I didn’t know where my son was. I knew it was the high school children who called themselves “Red Guards” They barged in breaking the door and windows, and shouted and laughed as they destroyed my television and my wife’s favorite vase. The couch was torn to pieces and chairs were thrown around. My house was in chaos. I looked at the broken door as my son came in, he rushed to the high school students and told them to stop but they argued back and pushed him. She shouted across the room and I looked up to see her, she was the girl who told me off at the last控诉会.
“He should know, no old habits, customs, ideas or cultures.”
He told them that I was his dad but they didn’t care at all, I stood there while the sound of my wife’s sobs wafted in from the closet she hid in. They searched every room for the four olds old and western influences everything was destroyed and ruined after they finished.
Before they left the girl walked up to me and said: “You’re lucky that we didn’t beat you up, you should thank your son, you stupid professor.” I swallowed my anger and didn’t move.
That night I sat on my bed hearing my son cursing and kicking the walls, and my wife lying on bed sobbing. I thought to myself: what will the new revolution will do to our country? Is this what Mao thinks will make our country better? I spent the whole night cleaning up our house.
The next day I used the whole day to think about how unacceptable our lives had become, I saw the Little Red Book that was handed to my son and I flipped through the pages in disgust, all these stupid quotes, “The more books you read the stupider you get.” I asked myself, how could anyone read these quotes and not freak out!
The Cultural Revolution has already began I think its not going to stop soon, so I guess I have to find a way to save my family.
September 17th, 1972
I read the daily newspaper as I walked to school, the six bold words staring up at me: LIN BIAO DIES OF PLANE CRASH. This was followed with the subtitles, “Lin Biao died of a plane crash while fleeing from a failed attempt to assassinate Mao.” I was extremely shocked, especially since everyone imagined the outcome to be so different. He was going to be the successor of Mao after Mao died, since Mao was getting old.
Soon after, I would hear people talking about this event after I came back from teaching at Qing Hua University everyday. I could see that everyone was confused about why Lin Biao would plot such an atrocious affair. It is obvious that the government is trying to cover something up. I hear some other professors say that Chairman Mao plotted this violent death in order to gain more power.
Many were questioning the leaders of our country after the news came out; everyone’s faces wore unhappy expressions. I thought to myself, “Lin Biao, Mao’s greatest fan wanted to assassinate Mao?” That just didn’t make any sense. I said that sentence over and over again in my head. It seemed weird even though I didn’t know why. I saw people crying and many others calling him a “traitor”, I knew it wasn’t like that; Lin Biao would never do that since he was already Mao’s successor.
That night my wife and I talked about the Lin Biao “incident” we both agreed something was wrong, there was a different story that was been hidden from us, possibly something to do with Mao trying to take over the communist party.
It has been six years since the Cultural Revolution started, and my family and I haves gone through a lot. A year after I stopped working, everyone went to labor camps to slave away. Mao ordered us to all to go to different places to get “re-educated” since we could not teach. We all left at the same day. At first when we arrived we didn’t do much; we just unpacked and sat around for most of the time. We would work on the fields for some time, and during New Year we would all work together to build houses for us to live in. I worked as a carpenter and learnt how make tables and chairs, though I ate little and worked little, I still got a nice pay, since I was a professor in the Communist Party. I heard that college students went to experience life in the countryside, however I doubt they had fun, life there was tough, I remember working on the fields when I was young.
I thought about my son a lot and made him promise me he would be safe, not get into any trouble, not kill anyone, and not join the red guards before my wife and I left. He had eyes of suspicion as he agreed in the end.
The revolution has been chaotic, as the red guards took over the streets many times before we all moved to different places to be re-educated. The red guards raided my house again, and once again I stood watching as my house was turned into a dump. I remember my son coming back to visit the next day, his face instantly changing as he saw the door. I told him not to seek revenge because I saw the red guards had guns, and I was scared that my son would get hurt. All these years I have been trying to protect him.
Hopefully our country will become peaceful again and the revolution would end soon. However with Lin Biao’s death who will be Mao’s successor?
October 6th, 1977
It has been a month after Mao’s death and the end of the Cultural Revolution. Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife, along with Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen, also known as the Gang Of Four, were arrested, when they attempted to seize power after Mao died of a heart of attack. Rumors said that they were already getting ready to gain power after Lin Biao died, however now they have been caught and put under the same name, Traitor.
Mao’s funeral was held in the Tiananmen Square. Thousands of people went, and many were sobbing when my wife and I arrived. At first I did not want to go because of all he made us go through – I hated that man for destroying my life. However my wife insisted and I dragged my feet along. The atmosphere at the funeral was dark and everything seemed gloomy, everyone was depressed. Many held up posters of Mao and the Little Red Book but I just stared at the floor for most of the time, my heart filled with mixed emotions, rage and sadness.
Hua Guofeng concluded the memorial with a 20-minute speech, the breeze blew across our faces, and total silence filled the square, as we listened to his speech. As the memorial finished, I could not help but cry, streams of tears just coming, the cold tears came down my face non-stop. I didn’t know if it was tears of joy or loss.
While the festivities carried on, I reflected on the attempt Jiang Qing took to try to gain power, which was really sudden and unexpected. How his own wife would do that to him….
After thinking back on all Mao made us go through, what has he achieved? Thousands of lives lost for nothing. It has been a year since the revolution ended, and everyone seems to have been woken from a dream. At least life has gone back to normal.