After the Cultural Revolution, a few works not condemned during the movement reappeared; Wei Wei’s and Malchinhu’s stories of the 1950s and Hao Jan’s of the 1960s were among them. Hao Jan also resumed writing, and his long novel Broad Road in Golden Light soon appeared. The worker-poet Li Hsüeh-ao published some new verses, but Yang Mo, author of The Song of Youth, was encouraged only to rewrite her once-denounced old novel. Premier Chou En-lai’s death in 1976 triggered a return of the moderates to power. By October of that year, the Gang of Four, led by Chiang Ching, had been officially ousted. The fall of the Gang of Four gave rise to such a work as “White Bone Demon”; its satire is all too blunt, and its humorous quality is too easily lost without masterful performers to bring it before an audience, but it dramatically illustrates the political change.
The thaw became more convincing each day with the return of writers and works once condemned and the resumption of long-interrupted works (Yao Hsüeh-yin’s Li Tzu-ch’eng, Liu Ch’ing’s Builders). Most of the old-timers are back on stage now, except for those permanently removed by the Cultural Revolution (Lao She, Chao Shu-li, Teng T’o, Shao Ch’üan-lin, and others) or by the indiscriminating passage of time (Kuo Mo-jo).
By the end of 1978, a group of new writers had come into the limelight. Their works, mostly short stories, give detailed accounts of the injustice perpetrated by the Gang of Four. These works expose the evil of the anti-intellectual radicalism that has produced a generation of mindless youth, and record the cruel treatment meted out to the loyal comrades who stood in their way. Adequate exploration with these new works clearly requires another volume.
Meanwhile, side by side with the new and vigorous voices of such worker-poets as Feng Ching-yiian, one hears of some whispered stories not so enthusiastically praising the new life or new politics. They indicate that a dissenting voice exists, though its magnitude and significance still remain to be seen.
Son of a poor family in Chengchow, the rail center of Honan Province, Wei Wei joined the Eighth Route Army in 1937 and spent most of the war years in the Shansi-Chahar-Hopei border area, fighting and writing reports and stories about his experience. A long poem entitled “The View at Dawn” was circulated widely and rallied several other young poets in that area who together spearheaded a new poetry movement. Some of their well-remembered works have been collected in Shansi-Chahar-Hopei Poems (1959). These verses—unpolished, unadorned, but quite impressive and moving—flowed from the hearts and mouths of the embattled people.
But Wei Wei’s writing career did not reach its peak until the Korean War, when he served as a war correspondent. His dispatches were warmly received, and a collection of them, Who Are the Most Loveable People, established his reputation as a worthy model in this genre. The book is among the first to be reissued after the Cultural Revolution.
As shown in the story translated below, the works collected in that volume won their readers with their simple but effective language. The narrator purposely addresses the young reader, but the stories possess an appeal to readers of all ages.
Wei Wei served in the editorial offices of several national publications. He is among the very few who survived the Cultural Revolution with no mishap. Toward the end of September 1978, reports from Peking identified him as chief of the political department in the military command of the Peking district. His new full-length novel The East, also based on his Korean War experience, was scheduled for publication in the winter of 1978.
His published works include Two Years (poetry), To the Battlefront (poetry), The View at Dawn (long poem), The Flowers of Happiness Bloom for the Brave (essays), Red Storm (screen play), Angry Winds in Open Sky (another novel), and other writings. —K.Y.H.
When I heard this story, there was intense fighting on the Han River front. The volunteer army was marching column by column toward the front through heavily falling snow. As the comrades hurried along, no one noticed a twelve- or thirteen-year-old Korean girl following close behind.
As soon as the troops came to a halt, this young girl, no one knows how, found her way to the machine-gun company. The comrades took one look at her and wondered where on earth she had come from, on a day as cold as this, wearing only unlined pants and jacket, a filthy little white skirt, and a pair of low-topped thin-soled rubber shoes that were falling apart. Her hair was kneaded into a messy bun, with a few stalks of grass sticking to it and, on a closer look, a shrapnel wound on her neck could be seen. First she took this comrade’s hand, held it and talked awhile, then she took that comrade’s hand, held it and talked awhile. But the interpreter was not there, so no one had any idea what she was saying or where she had come from.
It was only after the arrival of the interpreter that everyone found out that this child had lost her entire family. She had already wandered two or three hundred li, searching here for food and shelter today, tomorrow seeking elsewhere. On this particular day, she had just dug herself into a hay nest to sleep when she saw our volunteer army unit going by, and she had come running to catch up.
Hearing this, our volunteer army comrades all strove to arrange for her to wash and eat, and prepared a place for her to sleep.
Who could have guessed that the next day the young girl would not leave! She said to the company commander, “Uncle, I want to go with you.”
He smiled and replied, “If you were to go with us, what would you do?”
She said, “If I couldn’t do anything else, I could boil water and serve meals for you, couldn’t I? I used to help my mother cook at home.”
“But we start fighting in a day or two.”
“Start fighting!” the girl said. “What is there to be afraid of ? If I can’t fight, I can watch, can’t I? Seeing you kill the American devils with my own eyes would make me very happy!”
But think about it, my young friends. How could the volunteer army take a young girl with them to the line of fire to fight? They were certainly unwilling simply to cast her aside, but what was to be done?
The company commander went to consult with the political officer. And they came up with a solution: have one of the local people, at whose house they were billeted, take her in. This person agreed to the plan, and after discussing the pros and cons with the young girl, she was installed in this person’s home.
To everyone’s surprise, she came running back to the company in the middle of the night. She said that the person had shut her into a tiny, cold room and had told her that after the troops left she would be beaten to death…. It turned out that this person was not a peasant, as they had supposed, but a landowner. In all, there were only three families in this village and all the members of the other two families were gone. The company commander and the political officer were unable to come up with another plan and so were quite concerned.
At noon the next day, the battalion commander telephoned to say that the troops should step up preparations, because fighting could begin that very night. This made the company commander and the political officer even more worried. One’s brows knit into a knot, and the veins in the other’s forehead began throbbing. These two, even in the midst of the most dangerous battle, had never been so upset.
But the young girl was still there, saying, “Good uncles, I know you’ve agreed to take me with you. When do we start?” She pointed to the machine guns sitting nearby and continued, “Rat-a-tat-a-tat, kill those American ‘salamis’!” This made the two men want to laugh and cry at the same time. The company commander looked at his watch. It was ticking so lightly and quickly that it seemed to be running away.
In the end, the company commander had to telephone battalion headquarters for instructions. The battalion political officer weighed the situation for a long while before answering: “About the problem of the Korean girl, don’t worry, just take good care of her. I will come over soon to take care of the situation.”
And indeed, after a short while the battalion political officer showed up.
He was a tall young man, very friendly and likable. The company commander, and all the rest, rushed over and saluted him. The Korean girl was a very intelligent child; she imitated everyone else and saluted too.
The company headquarters was packed with people.
“Is this the young girl you were talking about?” said the tall political officer, pointing at the girl.
The company commander nodded. “Yes, she’s the one, and she absolutely insists on going with us.”
The young girl saw that they were talking about her and she ran over to the senior political officer. As if she were greeting her mother, she put her tousled head in his lap and grasped his belt in her two small hands. Then she raised her head and pointed to the wound on her neck, her large eyes fastened on the tall officer. She started talking about how she had been wounded by American bombers, how she had managed to run out of her burning house. She went to find her father and saw him collapsed outside the ox shelter, the fodder he had been cooking for the ox thrown to one side. She shook him. He didn’t respond. The bomb had killed him. She found her mother in the kitchen. She had been in the midst of washing rice. The rice was scattered all over. The girl shook her mother, but her mother didn’t respond. Her mother could never respond to her again. The girl went to find her big brother. He was still holding the hempen rope he had been splicing, his face now a sheet of blood. She went looking for her sister-in-law, and found her still holding the new clothes she had been making for her. She had also collapsed on the floor—dead. And thus out of her once beautiful family there remained only herself. She wept in front of her parents, wept in front of her brother and sister-in-law, then finally dried her tears and came away.
While the interpreter, also a Korean, was translating to all assembled, big tears rolled down his cheeks. All heads were lowered. The political officer’s eyes too were moist. He forced back his tears and sighed deeply.
The girl raised her head again and with her big eyes fixed upon the officer, continued to implore.
“Uncle, you absolutely must allow me to go with you. I must avenge my family! I can learn anything. I can even sing Chinese songs. If you don’t believe me, I’ll sing one for you.” She glanced around at all the people in the room and started singing,
The east is red, the sun is rising,
From China has come forth Mao Tse-tung ...
She sang on ... The political officer suddenly reached out and hugged her to him, no longer able to keep his tears from flowing. At this point the whole roomful of volunteer army comrades were weeping. Some turned their faces away to wipe away their tears, and others were sniveling.
“Comrades!” the political officer said sternly to all present. “Would you say this child is lovable?”
Was there anyone who could say she wasn’t?
The political officer continued, “That’s right. This child is extremely lovable. She is just like the thousands and thousands of lovable children of our own homeland. But this child has been so bitterly hurt by the enemy. If the American robbers battled their way into our homeland, what would happen to those lovable children of our homeland ... ?”
All were listening in silence. Those thousands and thousands of children of our homeland, in the cities, in the countryside, wearing red neckerchiefs, or with no red neckerchiefs, like grain in a field whose boundaries cannot be seen, all leaping and dancing about before everyone’s eyes.
All had their minds fixed on these images as they stared at the senior political officer, their eyes open wide.
He went on: “But comrades! We will not allow those fortunate children of our homeland to become like this child. We must make this child—make all of Korea’s thousands upon thousands of children—as happy as those of our homeland. Isn’t that right?”
“Right!” said everyone with one voice.
“All right, comrades! It is for them that we are fighting. Tonight we start action. Have you finished polishing the machine guns?”
“Yes, we have.”
“What about the 60mm howitzers?”
“Those are ready too.”
“Good. Now, comrades, when you fight, you must fight with all you’ve got, the more the better. You must pile the corpses of those wild animals mountain-high and drain their blood like a river. They must all die on our battlefield.”
“But, what about the child?” the company commander interrupted to ask.
The political officer replied, “You have all done a wonderful job taking care of her. I want to commend you for it. Now, let her go with me, I’ll think of something.” As he spoke, he took her hand and stood up.
When she saw that the tall officer was going to take her with him, she was so happy that she couldn’t stand still, her smiling small face a flower in bloom. She said, “Good Uncle, let’s go. Even if you were taking me to the edge of the sky, I would still want to go.”
The mountain roads were filled with snow. The entire sky had been blown into a whirlwind of feathery whiteness. And it was cold! The tall political officer took off his overcoat and put it around the shoulders of the little girl. At first, she wouldn’t wear it. It was only when he acted angry that she put it on. The overcoat dragged on the ground, so she stumbled a bit as she walked, but she was truly happy. If they had walked by other people on the road, she would surely have said with pride, “Hey, look! I too am a part of the volunteer army!”
They arrived at battalion headquarters. The commander and his deputy were both there; only the assistant political officer was absent. The tall officer made the introductions and the young girl bounded over to shake their hands. The deputy commander’s eyes were very sharp. He immediately saw the wound on her neck and shouted, “Hey, couriers, what are you doing? Run and get the medic to take care of this child’s wound.”
The tall political officer asked if all the combat preparations were complete. After making sure that everything was ready, he chuckled lightheartedly and said, “Well, what shall we do to welcome our young guest?”
The commander patted the girl on the head and laughed merrily, saying, “Young lady, you are in luck! I just bought a small chicken. We were going to eat it to gain strength for action. Now that you’ve come, it will be to welcome you!”
After the medic had cleansed the wound and applied some medicine, the courier carefully carried in the food. The chicken was done to a turn and piping hot!
The little girl was embarrassed to eat. She would only pick up a tiny piece, causing the battalion commander to burst out laughing again. “Ha, so you’re still being polite! To be a soldier you have to be able to eat, march, and fight. Come on!” He picked up a fat, juicy chicken leg and placed it all glistening and dripping in her bowl.
How could she express the happiness that was in her heart on this day!
By the time they’d finished eating, it was getting late. The regimental courier brought in an order: they were to set off at eight o’clock that night. The battalion commander whispered into the political officer’s ear, “Well, what are we going to do, Old Liu? You plan to ... “
The political officer whispered back, “A while ago, I told the assistant political officer to go and make arrangements for her.”
And indeed, before he left to visit the machine-gun company, he had told his assistant to make arrangements for the girl to stay in the home of one of the local people.
Everyone was laughing and talking in the room when suddenly “weng—weng—weng— ...,” enemy planes began circling over the village. The brave little girl stood up and shouted, “Uncles, lie down, lie down!” But these volunteer army uncles were all used to fighting American planes; no one was afraid. Seeing that none of them moved, she went up, and pushing on them, forced them to lie down. She loved those volunteer army uncles so much!
Just as the American planes were leaving, the assistant political officer came back, with several Korean people following behind. Among them was a white-bearded old man bent over at the waist and also an old woman holding a small padded jacket in her hands.
As soon as the assistant political officer entered the room, he said excitedly, “Sir! Mission accomplished! All of these families are arguing over which of them will be allowed to take in the girl.” He patted the little girl on the head and squeezed her hand. The old woman hurriedly came forward to put the padded jacket on the girl. The bent old man also pushed his way forward, waving his hands, saying, “No, no, comrade, let her go with me.”
As soon as the young girl saw what was going on, she ran over to the senior political officer, and, so upset that she was about to cry, said, “Uncle, didn’t you say that I could go with you? Why do you want to send me away again?”
The tall officer and the commander said, almost in unison, “Good child! We are going to fight right away.”
“But I left home to avenge my family!”
Ai! This really stumped all the people in the room. No one had thought that this young girl could be so strong-willed.
At this point there suddenly came the sound of a woman’s voice from outside the door. “Is this the battalion headquarters?” Presently a short-haired young woman in uniform with a bag over one shoulder entered and said, “I am the Women’s League cadre for this area. I’ve come to take care of your food supplies.”
The battalion commander burst out laughing again and said, “Terrific! You’ve come at just the right time. Our food supply has already been taken care of. But how about seeing to the problem of our young friend here?” Then he went out to check the preparations for setting off.
After the woman cadre had heard the story, she put her arms around the little girl, kissed her, and said tenderly, “All right, you want to avenge your family, why don’t you come and work with our group.”
The political officer, taking advantage of this opportunity, said, “That’s right. Working with them is fighting against the American devils too!” He acted as if he were angry, saying, “And if you don’t obey, the next time I see you, I won’t talk to you!”
This time the little girl said slowly in a low voice, “All right. I’ll do what Uncle says. But later on I still want you to take me to go fighting.”
The piercing fall-in bugle call sounded. The soldiers assembled and set off. During those last moments the little girl ran up and shook hands with the battalion commander, the political officer, and many of the soldiers. Even after the troops had marched far off into the distance, she still stood on a high slope calling in a loud, clear voice, “Goodbye uncles, goodbye uncles ...”
Who Are the Most Loveable People, pp. 23-31
Translated by Natasha Wild
Born into a poor peasant family in a village thirty miles east of Peking, Hao Jan was orphaned before he was ten. Running errands for the Eighth Route Army guerrillas in his early teens and becoming a village cadre at fourteen and a member of the Chinese Communist Party at sixteen, he took part in the War of Resistance and the Civil War and, along with millions of Chinese peasants, lived through long years of poverty and deprivation. From early 1949 to mid-1954, he helped organize, first as a district cadre, then as a county cadre, nearly two hundred mutual-aid teams and agricultural cooperatives, witnessing thus the land reform and collectivization movements in North China.
According to Hao Jan, his experience as a newspaper reporter and his reading of Marxist writings further enriched his knowledge of rural China and deepened his understanding of its transformation through agricultural collectivization. As he worked successively through the fifties for the Hopei Youth, the Hopei Daily, and the Friendship Daily, reporting on life in the Chinese countryside, he extended his contact with the peasants, from village, to region, to an entire province, and finally to all of China. His enrollment in 1952 at Party and Youth League schools, where he read for the first time Chairman Mao’s “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art,” and his association from 1961 to 1964 as a literary editor with the Party journal Red Flag gave him the opportunity to study political and literary theories from a Marxist perspective. As a result he was better able to grasp the true significance of class struggle and relate it to his own experience in his writing.
With folk and traditional literature his main link to culture, and with only three and a half years of formal schooling, Hao Jan never aspired to become a writer. The success of a propaganda skit he wrote in 1949 convinced him of the effectiveness of literature as a political weapon, however, and he began to write newspaper reports, little songs and poems, as well as short plays and stories. After Peking Literature published his first story, “Magpies Lighting on the Bough,” in 1956, Hao Jan took fiction writing seriously, and in 1964 became a professional writer. By 1975 he had written over thirty books of essays, reportage, children’s stories, juvenile fiction, short stories, and novels. Outside China he is best known for his two long novels, Bright Sunny Sky and The Broad Road in Golden Light Recently, after the fall of the Gang of Four, he has been criticized for glorifying Chiang Ching and her esthetic theories in his 1974 novella, Sons and Daughters of Hsisha. But the criticism has been rather mild, and by January 1979 he, though still not publishing anything, was seen at public functions.
Bright Sunny Sky (Vols. I—III, 1964-66) is a story about class struggle in the Chinese countryside, set in the context of a summer harvest and the Hundred Flowers campaign in 1957. By dramatizing this struggle through an interlocking network of romantic, personal, and intergenerational relationships, Hao Jan makes an otherwise abstract concept tangible and meaningful. And by portraying peasants from their own point of view in a language and literary convention familiar to them, he creates a multitude of truly memorable characters—among them middle-of-the-road middle peasants who are fully capable of initiative, analysis, and ideological development. In The Broad Road in Golden Light, a novel projected to be in four parts (Vol. 1,1972; Vol. II, 1974), Hao Jan combines class and line struggle to underscore the historical significance of agricultural collectivization in China. By correlating the cognitive process the characters undergo under the Party’s guidance, with a patterning of details and images associated with symbols in the title (road, light, and the color of gold), he depicts vividly and compellingly the vulnerability of poor peasants shortly after Liberation and their determined efforts to free themselves from the stranglehold of individual small peasant economy through the organization of mutual-aid teams and cooperatives among themselves and through alliance with workers.
As a story celebrating self-reliance, “The Wheels Are Flying” (1961) offers insights into how China proceeded with mechanization of its agriculture at a time of simmering Sino-Soviet conflict. As an example of Hao Jan’s art, it typifies his way of joining a Marxist world view with a lyrical approach to fiction writing. Li Chu-fang learns—with his two personality traits reacting and uniting in a dialectical interplay—to fix the wheels by repeatedly going through the cognitive process in a practice-knowledge-practice pattern. And as he overcomes one after another increasingly more difficult problems, he acquires not only greater proficiency in mechanical skills, but also deeper understanding of the meaning of self-reliance. His progress, technical, emotional, and ideological, is highlighted at crucial points by the recurrent images of moonlight, the quails, the wild lilies, the Party branch secretary, and the turning wheels. Such a procedure, lyrical by virtue of its affinity with the formulaic progression so pervasively evident in the first, 2500-year-old anthology of Chinese poetry, Book of Songs, is characteristic of Hao Jan’s fiction as a whole. It becomes a prominent structuring device in The Broad Road in Golden Light, and at times comes precariously close to being a formalistic exercise in Sons and Daughters of Hsisha. —W.K.M.
Li Chu-fang was quite famous in his brigade for his two personality traits: (1) he drooped, and (2) he drilled. On the surface he drooped like a wilting rice stalk, never excited and always half asleep; underneath, however, he drilled like a sharp bit, boring to the bottom of things and figuring them all out without making any fuss. These two traits, drooping and drilling, were of course always bound up together in him. He was only twenty-five, belonging to an age group right in the prime of youth and health. These young ones—they are like a bonfire started on a wild mountain which gets more splendid the longer it burns and can even scorch the whole mountain till it is red all over. But Li Chu-fang was an exception. He was like a “choke stove,”* whose leaping flames are concealed within its belly and which, unknown to others, quietly radiates its scorching heat.
There was even something droopy in the way he looked. Short in limbs and body, with a chubby round face, sparse faint eyebrows, and small eyes, all day long he half drooped his upper eyelids and seemed always deep and far away in thought; when he walked, it was usually with lowered head, and hands clasped behind his back; when he spoke, he did it softly and slowly, in a somewhat hoarse voice, and when he got going in earnest, if you should barge in and interrupt him, he would not get upset but would wait till you finished before he spoke again.
No amount of analogy or talking about his appearance can clearly describe someone like Li Chu-fang. Let’s give a little example.
Once the mess hall was carrying out a campaign to remodel the cooking facilities, and one of the projects was to crank up a homemade running water system. The method itself had been learned from the Pi-tu Production Brigade, but halfway through, the project ran into a snag. The pipes the Pi-tu Production Brigade used were all metal, fruit of victory won at the capture of Chang T’ien-tso’s blockhouse years back. The Li Village didn’t have even an inch of it. People were sent everywhere to find and to buy such pipes, but they came back empty-handed; all they could do was to stop the running water project halfway. One morning after a long time had passed, it was suddenly discovered that a peculiar water pipe had connected the kitchen with the well. Several sunflower stalks had taken the place of the metal pipes. These sunflower stalks are very tough and long, hard on the outside but soft inside. All you have to do is to hollow them out with an iron rod and join them together—you have a water pipe.
The discovery of this peculiar water pipe sent the whole brigade into an uproar. No one could guess who had done it. First of all, the youth team work-point recorder, Liu Chin-hsiang, got extremely excited. More than anything else she worshiped people who were more advanced and made greater contributions than she. Such a remarkable person and marvelous job! If she did not immediately publicize and praise them, if she did not quickly submit a report and ask the brigade committee to grant an award, she wouldn’t be at peace with herself. Moreover, since she was both the editor-copyist of the blackboard newspaper and the broadcast announcer, if she didn’t transmit news in the brigade to the outside soon, she would be considered remiss in carrying out her responsibilities!
The lanky young woman, not bothering to eat her breakfast, nor taking time to comb her hair, flew all over the street, with a notebook in one hand and a fountain pen in the other. First, she pushed open the door of Carpenter the First, and all smiles asked, “Carpenter the First, did you put up that water pipe in the dining hall?” Completely bewildered by the question, Carpenter the First shook his head. The young woman then came to Blacksmith the Second’s house, “It must be you who put up the water pipe in the dining hall!” The response was again no. She put the same question to the head of the technical team, all the well-known innovators, several middle-school students who had returned to the village to take part in production, the cadres who had come down from the city, and even the health worker, but still she could not find the inventor. Finally, Liu Chin-hsiang went to ask the Party branch secretary, Mother Ch’ü. She said, “Mother Ch’ü, it must have been a god who put up the water pipe!”
Smiling, Mother Ch’ü said, “Actually gods are simply human beings who are willing to use their brains. My guess is that it was probably Li Chu-fang.”
The young woman pressed her thin lips together and thought to herself: “Could a cotton ball softy like him have thought up such a clever method?”
But that was only the way she thought; in the end she still ran to Li Chu-fang’s place. Li Chu-fang was hard at work in the courtyard, pumping air into the tire of a wheelbarrow. She asked in a hurry, “Was it really you who put up that water pipe in the dining hall? Yes or no? Tell me quick!”
Without raising his head, Li Chu-fang only let out a soft “hm—.”
She laughed: “I felt it must have been you. If it were someone else, I would have known about it a long time ago. When you were into something that important, why didn’t you say a word or two to me about it?”
Still without raising his head, the young fellow said, “What do you mean by ‘something important’? I have not tempered steel or cast iron. All I did was to take the stalks, hollow them out, and join them together. That’s all.”
She opened her notebook, took off the cap of her patterned fountain pen, and said, “Though this matter is small, it reveals the wisdom of us commune members—tell me quickly, how did you come up with this idea?”
Only then did Li Chu-fang realize that the young woman had come on an assignment. He put down the air pump. He blushed, and his thick lips quivered for quite a while before he began: “I saw how very worried they were when they went everywhere and could not get the pipes, and I started wondering why we always had to rely on outside purchases? Why can’t we think of a solution ourselves? ...”
She abruptly interrupted him, closed her notebook, replaced the pen cap, and said, “You go on with your work. You could never explain it anyway. I’m going.”
At noon that day, the full, sweet voice of Liu Chin-hsiang rose from the loudspeaker, and her new article also appeared on the blackboard bulletin. She even drew a portrait over her article. People praised her for her art work, but said that she had drawn Li Chu-fang a bit too handsome….
Not long after autumn harvest began, as the contests among the various wheelbarrow teams reached a point of flaming fervor, something went wrong with the axle of Li Chu-fang’s wheelbarrow. Every push made it squeak, and sometimes it simply stopped and would not turn. Sent to the commune repair shop, it had stayed there for five days without any action. He was sick with impatience.
The slogan the commune Party committee proposed for this autumn harvest was: swift harvest, swift transport, swift threshing. The commune members’ enthusiasm was very high; only on the point of swift transport had obstacles developed. This is a mountain region, and small wheelbarrows are a principal means of production and transportation. The kind of wheelbarrow handed down from ancient times had wooden wheels and axles; the villagers call it a “quacky cart,” because when in motion it squeaks like a grunting old lady. In the year of communization, the “quacky carts” were fitted out with ball bearings and rubber tires. When you push these carts, they sail and sing along like spring wind swishing through the willow branches. The advance in the means brought with it many advantages, as well as a little problem: whenever something—just about anything—went wrong with the cart wheels, there was no way to fix them. The wooden wheels used in the past were very easy to fix. All you had to do was to find a carpenter to hammer it over a few times; if it still didn’t work, you simply threw it away, sawed off a piece of wood and made a new wheel. With rubber-wheeled carts, however, it is different.
[The parts were made in the cities far away; nobody dared to touch them. The commune had set up a repair shop, but with so many carts breaking down at the same time when harvesting was in full swing, the waiting line got longer and longer, and only those who yelled loudest managed to get theirs repaired in time to reenter the transportation contest. Liu Chin-hsiang egged Li Chu-fang on to use the same pressure tactics, but when Li got to the repair shop and saw how hard the comrades there were working, he lost heart. He left the shop, agreeing to wait his turn to get his wheelbarrow fixed.]
Once on the street, he walked around aimlessly a bit, feeling empty, his heart tumbling nonstop. He thought: “If I go back again empty-handed like this, there’s no telling how much longer I will have to wait. That repairman said there was nothing seriously wrong. Since there is nothing seriously wrong, I’d better not add to their work load. Let me try to make do by pushing it the way it is.” He decided to return to the shop to retrieve the cart.
The moment Li Chu-fang pushed the cart out of the town of T’ang-wu, he regretted it. Since the wheel did not turn, there was no way at all of making do. He squatted down, and looked the cart over; he wrung his hands in despair. An idea suddenly surfaced: since the repairman said there was nothing seriously wrong, why couldn’t Li Chu-fang try to fix it himself?
As he got home, Liu Chin-hsiang ran in like a gust of wind. The sight of the cart parked in the courtyard stopped her short. Happy beyond expectation, she said, “Eh, I just went there to ask about it. They insisted that it would take several more days. Look, they have given in to your pressure and fixed up your cart. It pays to be a bit tough, doesn’t it?”
Li Chu-fang said, “It has not been fixed. I pushed it back exactly the way it was.”
“How are you going to use it?”
“I’m thinking of fixing it myself.”
“Good heavens! But this is not as simple as sunflower stalks or mulberry roots. You’re really being ridiculous! When you take it back again, you’ll have to start all over to wait for your turn from the very beginning!”
Li Chu-fang did not say a word, but got a wrench out of the tool box and immediately set to work to take the wheel apart. Liu Chin-hsiang glared at him a couple of times behind his back, stamped her foot, and took off.
A crescent moon rose over the ridge of the eastern hill; the catalpa tree was like a sieve, sifting the moonlight onto the ground, sifting it onto a youth, silent, dripping with sweat. With one hand holding that rusty wrench and the other grasping the wheel he had taken off the cart, he didn’t know where best to begin. He would turn something a few times, then stop for a while, feeling helpless and yet unwilling to give up….
At that moment someone’s silhouette appeared over the western wall; in the moonlight, the hair, intermixing white and grey, appeared silvery. After a while, she called softly to him, “Chu-fang, come over here; I’ll have a few words with you.”
Li Chu-fang was startled; he could tell it was Mother Ch’ü’s voice. This old Party branch secretary was his neighbor; because the houses of the two families were exactly back to back, whenever they talked to each other they always did it conveniently over the wall. The old woman’s son had been in the army; in the years when the Communist Party was leading the masses of this area to fight as guerrillas in the Ta-ku Mountains, she went through thick and thin risking her life, delivering messages, spying on the enemy, and made great contributions. She was the first Communist Party member that Li Chu-fang knew, and having grown up by her side since childhood, he took her as the model in everything. Her presence that moment made him happy.
Still wringing his hands, Li Chu-fang slowly walked over to her, the moonlight casting his elongated shadow on the earthen wall. Mother Ch’ü leaned over the wall toward him, and with a smile said, “A moment ago, Chin-hsiang came again to tell on you. The cart has not yet been fixed but you already brought it back. What’s on your mind?”
“I’m thinking of fixing it myself.”
“Yes, that is a good idea. I was about to talk to you about it. Ah, Chu-fang, in our socialist construction we have to depend on hard struggle and self-reliance. Let’s leave out the big projects and talk only about the pigs our brigade has been raising. At first, we could not buy enough piglets, but we didn’t beg for aid, and we didn’t sit and wait. We ourselves rounded up a few old sows for breeding. And look, now in our village is a whole flock of fat pigs and they have become a treasure house ... At a meeting yesterday, the commune Party committee proposed that the repair shop do all it can, and that the masses also start doing repairs themselves—that we walk on two legs. You are usually good at figuring things out. You should give it a try in this area and blaze a trail.”
An upsurge of warmth coursed through Li Chu-fang’s breast and a flame spread before his eyes. After a brief moment, he murmured, “I didn’t think of it as that important; I was afraid that it wasn’t like sunflower stalks or mulberry tree roots ...”
Mother Ch’ü said, “Even the sunflower stalks are not a small matter. That method you have invented—as soon as I introduced it at the enlarged meeting of the commune Party branch, a lot of brigades went back to experiment with it . . .”
They talked for a long time before Mother Ch’ü left; her voice, however, lingered in the young man’s heart....
When he returned to the wheel, his courage grew, his strength multiplied, and his mind and eyes became keen. In a short time, he took the axle assembly apart.
Liu Chin-hsiang returned to the courtyard. She hesitated for a moment, then mischievously asked Li Chu-fang, “Mother Ch’ü criticized you, didn’t she?”
“I don’t believe that!”
“She encouraged me to hurry up and give it a try.” He repeated for her what Mother Ch’ü had just told him, plus his own understanding of it.
At first Liu Chin-hsiang pretended to be totally unmoved, but later she couldn’t help nodding her head, and then she started to laugh. “Out with it,” she asked, “are you sure you can fix it yourself?”
She laughed and said, “Then let’s light a lamp quickly and get going.”
Li Chu-fang said, “I have the lamp, but no oil. We also need machine oil for the axle assembly.”
“What if we don’t have machine oil?”
“Lard will do.”
“We have some at home. I’ll go steal some for you.”
A hurricane lamp hung from the catalpa tree, a small dish of lard had been placed on the ground, and four eyes were riveted on the axle assembly that had been taken apart. Li Chu-fang held the ball-bearing cup before Liu Chin-hsiang’s eyes and said, “You see, here’s the trouble. The ball bearings have jammed together. We’ll have to wipe them clean, and lay them out properly. We’ll also have to tighten the cover. It has to be neither too loose nor too tight. If it’s too loose, the ball bearings will again be jammed together; if it’s too tight, the cart will drag and will be hard to push—Ah, my mom has locked up the cabinet. We don’t have a rag.”
Liu Chin-hsiang said, “Use my handkerchief.”
Seeing that the printed handkerchief was new and still gave off a faintly perceptible aroma of scented soap, Li Chu-fang couldn’t bear to shove it on the grimy black grease. He said, “Wouldn’t that be a pity?”
She pouted and said, “What difference does it make? You always have your quiet way of putting me down anyway!”
Like a mouth drawn into a broad smile, or someone on the lookout for some secret, the crescent moon inched its way towards the two young people hard at work. Before long the moon moved directly over head; it was bedtime. Outside the door some people were passing by, talking and laughing, but no one noticed, indeed could know, that in the courtyard these two young people were doing something extraordinary. Only Mother Ch’ü quietly took a look over the wall. Then the old woman returned to her room and put on her reading glasses. Just as she finished reading an editorial in the newspaper, she was startled by Liu Chin-hsiang’s unrestrained laughter.
Li Chu-fang’s wheelbarrow was loaded with golden rice stalks, like a small mound. The heavy, drooping grain spikes rubbing against each other made a pleasant sound. On the flat, smooth, narrow road, the fully inflated, fully greased cart wheel was rolling, rolling ...
The moment he arrived at the threshing ground, Li Chu-fang was surrounded by the others. “Chu-fang, did you really fix this cart?” someone said. “Ho, ho, you sure are a sharp drill-bit—digging deep without a sound.”
“How about fixing my cart for me!” said another.
Team member Li the Roller, pulling his cart and forcing his way through the crowd, shouted, “You all back away a little first. Team leader, you have to fix mine first!”
Without waiting for Li Chu-fang to speak, Liu Chin-hsiang joined in. “There is nothing wrong with your cart,” she said. “Why should you come barging in when we’re all so busy? Is there a free-for-all over meat dumplings or something?” Making a face, Li the Roller said, “To tell you the truth, even if my cart went on the blink, I’d sooner push harder to keep it going than let it go to the repair shop and sit idle in the storeroom.”
Liu Chin-hsiang said, “The way you’re ruining the cart—for that alone we wouldn’t bother fixing it up for you.”
Waving his hand, Li the Roller said, “But I didn’t even ask you. Why all this yakety-yak!? Is Li Chu-fang yours now?”
Liu Chin-hsiang flew at him, blushing and yelling, “You good for nothing, don’t you run away! I’m going to tear up your mouth!”
When everybody burst out laughing, Mother Ch’ü, covered all over with chaff, came over to them. Also laughing, she said, “Chin-hsiang, don’t tear up the Roller’s mouth. If you really tear it up, Li Chu-fang won’t be able to fix it.”
Everybody broke into even heartier laughter.
Mother Ch’ü took a look at the cart that had been fixed and, turning around, saw that Li Chu-fang had not joined the rest in their chatter, but was squatting alone on the side. With his half-closed eyes staring at the cart, he was thinking his own thoughts. “Chu-fang,” she asked, “was it difficult to fix the cart?”
Li Chu-fang was turning over in his mind what Li the Roller had just said.... Now hearing Mother Ch’ü ask about it, he raised his head and said, “Not difficult. We can handle little things and fix them all ourselves.” He paused and went on: “Mother Ch’ü, I have an idea, but I don’t know if it will work!”
“Let’s hear it. Let’s talk about it and see whether it will work.”
Everybody crowded around, wanting to hear what kind of clever idea this quiet drill-bit was going to come up with this time. Liu Chin-hsiang also forced her way to the front. But Li Chu-fang’s words seemed to have jammed in his throat, and for a long time could not come out. Liu Chin-hsiang felt for him and urged him, “Come on, out with it!”
Li Chu-fang said, “I was thinking of getting another person to set up a small repair and supply team with me. That way, we will send our carts to town only for big troubles. Little things we’ll fix ourselves.”
Almost everyone crowding around shouted “Hooray!” Some were clapping. Mother Ch’ü said, “Good, let’s do it right away. Go ahead and pick whoever you want to be your partner.”
Li Chu-fang looked up, turning his half-closed eyes to his teammates one by one.
Liu Chin-hsiang’s heart was pounding, as she thought: “Wouldn’t it be great if he points at me.” The night before, Li Chu-fang had told her all those important things, and together with him she had fixed the damaged cart. She was particularly interested in the project. If it weren’t for the nasty remark Li the Roller had just made about her, she would have pulled Li’s cart over and fixed it for him to see right then and there ... She then thought: “They all say behind my back that Li Chu-fang’s afraid of me. Doesn’t ‘afraid’ mean the same thing as ‘dislike’? He won’t pick me, he ... why doesn’t he say something? He sure is a cotton ball character ...”
It so happened that at this very instant Li Chu-fang cast his eyes on Liu Chin-hsiang, and taking his time, said, “Liu Chin-hsiang will do. I don’t know whether she wants to do it or not?”
Liu Chin-hsiang’s face went red all of a sudden, all the way down to the bottom of her neck. Muttering, she said, “You want me ...”
Li the Roller forced his way forward and said, “If you don’t want to do it, I will!”
Liu Chin-hsiang shot him an angry look and hurriedly said, “It’s for Chu-fang to pick. No volunteers. You think you’ll have a turn?”
The tiny cart-repair team came into being....
[Li went for some training and provisions and, together with Liu, set up the workshop in a toolshed. He prepared a board and she wrote a sign for the door. He even brought in his pet quails and a potted flower.]
Seeing the two quails in the cage, she let out a cry. “Why don’t you raise a skylark? Beats me that you should be raising such a stupid thing!”
“I like them. They’re trustworthy and simple. I dislike the endless chattering of the skylark.”
She stole an angry look at him, and when she took a look at the flowers she cried out again. “Why don’t you grow cassia instead of this wild lily?”
“Wild lilies are not as pungently sweet-smelling as cassia flowers, but their scent lasts a long time. They don’t blow hot this moment and cold the next.”
“Phew! You’re calling me names in a roundabout way!”
Holding back his laughter, he said seriously, “You insisted on questioning me. Now that I told you, you accuse me of calling you names. From now on I’ll just be cotton ball.”
She said with a smile, “Everyone says you are straightforward, but it seems to me you are not the least bit trustworthy inside—well, let’s be serious now. Should I go out to the streets and call them to bring in their carts?” ...
[They realized that they had to have some parts, especially some spare ball bearings. He said he couldn’t find any. She said she could do better but returned equally empty-handed. She smashed their shop sign in frustration.]
Smiling helplessly, he asked, “You didn’t get any, did you?”
“Since you knew it was impossible to get the ball bearings, you should have said something earlier when you came back. I could have told Mother Ch’ü that I wouldn’t come here with you and I would have washed my hands of you. Now that we have, after a lot of hullabaloo, stirred everybody up, you still haven’t got a thing to work with. How am I supposed to talk to the others?”
He shook his head, and still in a conciliatory tone, said, “This temper of yours is really no good.”
“Since you knew it was no good, why didn’t you find someone else? Why did you have to pick me?”
He stood up. “Comrade Liu Chin-hsiang, first of all please don’t get angry. Would you listen if I were to offer you a suggestion?”
She glanced at him through the corner of her eye, and seeing that he looked very serious and that the veins of his temples seemed to be throbbing, she thought to herself: “He is going to get angry.” “Is it criticism?” she asked.
Turning around, she fetched a stool and sat down. “Go ahead,” she said.
Li Chu-fang also sat down, but said gently, “My suggestion consists of only one sentence. There are in you good points that I lack, and I want to spend more time with you in order to learn from you; there are also in you weaknesses that I don’t have—it’s easy for you to be happy, but just as easy for you to get discouraged ...”
“Everybody can be happy or unhappy at times.”
“When are you happy? When everything is going smoothly. When do you get distressed? When your work runs into difficulties ... Can you say this is not a major shortcoming? What do you think?”
The proud young woman unconsciously nodded her head ...
[He went on, patiently and in great detail, describing his thought, his outlook on life and work.]
Originally she had her neck turned and her head lowered; but drawn by his voice, she gradually raised her head. Her anger-filled fiery gaze began to soften, changed to surprise, then to respect. They were little companions who had been playing together from a very young age ... Now, they were gradually growing up, and as they got older, their concerns of heart and mind became more numerous, and the young woman, in spite of herself, grew fond of this young fellow. If she did not see him for a few days, she would think of him; yet the moment she saw him, she wanted to quarrel with him. But there seemed to be in the young fellow a piece of magnet, holding her fast, making it impossible for her to leave. Why had she grown fond of such a person? She couldn’t explain it; he was like a lock which couldn’t be opened. More recently, she seemed to have discovered the key; today, she actually got hold of the key in her hands; the door to his inner mind and spirit had opened toward her, allowing her to look into the burning light and heat inside....
The two quails stood in the cage, their heads side by side; the wild lilies held still in the pot, bearing beads of water, giving a faint scent. They all looked as if they were listening to the heart-to-heart talk of the young couple
[They made peace. He learned a way of substituting homemade steel rings for the ball bearings. The young couple worked happily together to fix carts for their brigade. She even learned to be calm and patient with everybody. But that lasted only about five or six days, and the young lady was pouting again.]
That morning, he suddenly laid down his work and left without saying a word. When he came back around noon, he said to her, “If there are any more damaged ball bearings, let’s not replace them with steel rings. We’ll just make do with old ball bearings. If we cannot make do, we’ll just have to send the carts to the commune repair shop.”
“What’s the matter with you?” She could not make head or tail out of what he said.
“Just now I went to the threshing ground to see several commune members with carts. They said that carts fitted with steel rings were hard to push. When I gave it a try, it was really a bit heavy.”
The young woman pouted and said angrily, “These monkeys, if you gave them cookies to eat they would find them too crispy. What is so terrible about some extra weight! Having it this way is after all better than not having any.”
Li Chu-fang brought over the cart wheel he had left half finished, and putting it before Liu Chin-hsiang, said, “Take a look at this place. When I took it apart for repair, I discovered this problem: steel rings do not turn as freely in there as ball bearings. When in use they not only weigh the cart down, but also keep biting into the ball bearing cup. After a while, the axle would be ruined.”
Now the young woman understood; but she sighed and said, “We cannot use steel rings and cannot buy ball bearings anywhere; are we going to stop working again?” ...
[They solved the problem by casting ball bearings themselves, but not before they had gone through much trouble and withstood much hardship. Their dedication and selflessness moved all the villagers to pitch in and help them.]
[The harvesting season reached its peak.]
That afternoon, many people crowded into the small room of the cart wheel repair team, setting off a raucous hue and cry, turning the whole shop into a deafening frog pond.
“Really, when are you going to fix it for me? Give me a definite date!”
“No matter what, you have to fix it for me first!”
The placid Li Chu-fang was besieged in the midst of a crowd. One pair after another, the agitated, angry eyes were all riveted on him. It looked as if he had changed places with that worker at the commune repair and supply shop a month ago; but the people encircling him now were even more unrestrained because they were all close friends. Lowering his head, Li Chu-fang swiftly but calmly went on working.
After the problem of ball bearings was solved, another difficulty stubbornly pressed in on this young man. There were no more ball bearing cups and axles. He had written letters everywhere and thumbed through newspapers, but nowhere could he find anyone with the experience of making these things in the backyard. At the hardware store in T’ang-wu, every so often there would come a shipment of them, but as soon as they arrived they were sold out, and Li Chu-fang and Liu Chin-hsiang were never—not even once—able to buy any.
People were still shouting and clamoring; some of them were provoked to greater anger by Li Chu-fang’s quiet composure. Li the Roller was among those shouting the loudest. He forced his way before Li Chu-fang, brandished his big hand and cried out, “Man, if you don’t have a diamond drill, you shouldn’t have taken on this porcelain work. All the two of you care about is to act big!”
As luck would have it, he was heard by Liu Chin-hsiang on her way in. For the fifth time in seven days she had gone to T’ang-wu for news. People at the hardware store had told her that a shipment of goods would arrive that night and would be on sale the next day at the market. Happily she rushed back, not expecting in the least to have such remarks flung in her face. How could she not lose her temper? Arms akimbo and face tightly drawn, she yelled at Li the Roller. “What are you trying to do? Want to gobble up people or something?”
“Whether I gobble up people or not, if we cannot complete our work, you two will be held responsible!”
“If I cannot complete my work, will it do if I go take it out on you?”
“This is your job.”
“It is my job all right, but even so I have not signed a contract to let you cuss me out!”
Seeing that the quarrel was getting out of hand, Li Chu-fang stood up. He pushed this one and pulled that, earnestly entreating everyone to forget it. He said, “Comrades, please go home first. The carts have not been fixed in time; it’s our responsibility. We’ll have to figure something out. What good does it do to keep on bickering?”
All the people there felt that Li Chu-fang had said everything there was to be said. The only thing they could do was to restrain themselves a little longer. So they all left.
Li Chu-fang saw them to the door. When they were a long way off, he turned around, and just as he was going to ask Liu Chin-hsiang about the supply situation, she plunked herself down on the stool and turned her back on him.
Chuckling, he circled round to her front. “Are you mad? Who are you mad at now?”
“I’m mad at you—mad at you and no one else!”
“What have I done to you?”
“Has your mouth been sealed off? There they were, pointing at your nose, cussing you out, and you didn’t throw a single word back at them!”
“They are worried to death!”
“They are worried! We are having an easy time, aren’t we?!”
He sighed, turned around and sat down on his little stool, and as if talking to himself said in a low voice, “You probably feel that I was too soft. Why is it that as soon as someone gets angry at me, I must get angry at him in return? If that is the case, we don’t have to talk about anyone else, just the two of us. We might as well forget about doing any work—we would be quarreling all day long, wouldn’t we? Is that what you want? ...”
[She relented and told him about the scheduled arrival of a new shipment of the parts they needed. The next morning he got up early and ran to the hardware store in town, only to find a long line ahead of him. Fortunately she had gotten there even earlier than he had. She gave her place in line to him. When his turn came to buy the parts, out of sympathy for a comrade behind him who was in a worse fix, he yielded his turn and lost the chance to buy any. She ran home in a huff and swore never to see him again. But she still wanted to finish repairing the one wheel she had started the day before, as a gesture to wind up her association with him. She went back to the repair shop, and found him going through the discarded worn parts removed from broken wheels. But she was determined to say nothing to him, no matter how he entreated her.]
“How come you have also turned into a cotton ball?” he said.
Even this joke did not arouse any response. But the young fellow went on cheerfully; “After I returned, I thought of picking through these discards to see if there were any parts we could use as makeshifts. As I was going through them, I suddenly discovered a secret. You see this cup can no longer grab onto the small axle; but if we replace it with this old thick axle, it will grab quite tightly, won’t it? You see the threads on this axle have been worn out; they can no longer hold big cups. But if we fit them to a smaller cup, they will grab all right. When we match them up like this, I think that except for axles whose threads have been completely worn out, the majority of these discards can all be used ...”
While she was trying to finish repairing that one last wheel, Liu Chin-hsiang was thinking: “No matter what you say, I won’t listen. I won’t say anything either. Before I leave I’ll say only this: Tve already given my word of honor. I will not get angry with you again. I have not quarreled with you over what happened today. You go ahead with what you’re doing. No matter what, I’ll never have anything to do with it again.’ ” But, try as she would to think this way, every word he said found its way into her ears. She felt that he was holding up his hands behind her back, gesturing for her to see. She really wanted to turn her head, but she did her best to keep her neck stiff and, biting her lips, refused to look. She was determined not to look.
But he went on. “Do you still remember what I said the day you got angry at me over the problem of ball bearings? If we can handle certain things, why must we go out and buy them? Haven’t we made up our minds to be stronger and to rely on our own efforts?”... She froze for a moment, and her hands, busy at work as they were, also came to a stop.
“You still remember,” he continued, “when I returned from learning at the Hsia-shan Reservoir, we wanted to make ball bearings, but did not have steel molds. You said, ‘We sure have enough problems, but we must keep going!’ Yes, you were right to say that. From the beginning to now, how many difficulties have we overcome! In the future, there will still be difficulties. But we are not afraid, because revolution is nothing but struggle against difficulties. We should bear in mind the whole situation, give up conveniences to others, and keep the difficulties for ourselves....”
Past events, one by one, reappeared before her eyes. Mulling over the whole thing, she could no longer contain herself, and suddenly swinging around, she took hold of Li Chu-fang’s hands and muttered, “I—I am in the wrong again!”
Translated by Wong Kam-ming
Not much is known about T’ang Chieh-chung, who plays a subordinate role when performing in this selection, but Ma Chi has been ranked among the greatest in hsiang-sheng, a unique form of comic stage dialogues developed in China. A little plump in stature and always witty whether on or off stage, Ma had been a key member of the ChCh’ü-i (song and dialogue) Troupe of Peking until the Cultural Revolution. Since 1976, however, he has reappeared in the revived Troupe and has been performing with increasing acclaim.
Hsiang-sheng relies on quick repartee between two performers. Puns and clever proverbs are used extensively. The Chinese speech, rich in homonyms and metaphorical wordplay, lends itself to the art of hsiang-sheng particularly well.
In the following selection, a fifteen-minute performance, the subject is a satirical, blunt, frontal attack on Chiang Ching, Mao Tse-tung’s widow, leader of the Gang of Four. It employs all the traditional trappings of this art form, including the homophonic pun between T’ai-hou (the title “Empress”) and t’ai-hou (literally, “too thick”). Such wordplays bring instant response from the audience, but defy translation into another language.
Although the all-too-bare references to Chiang Ching’s ridiculous behavior and political crimes deprive the “White Bone Demon” of much subtle charm, the audience in China today is still ready to respond to its fun-making because of the familiarity of the subject. The title of the piece comes from a character in the Ming dynasty allegorical novel Journey to the West, or Monkey as Waley translated it. In that novel, the demon is eventually overpowered by the Monkey; at one time Mao Tse-tung praised Monkey for this victory. Hence the popularity of the title in China today. —K.Y.H.
A. Have you ever seen a ghost?
B. A ghost? That’s just something handed down by tradition, folklore. Actually there is no such thing.
A. Sure there is. I’ve seen one.
B. Oh? You’ve seen one? What did it look like?
A. Well, it was neither man nor demon; half the face was smiling and half crying, its long claws were extended, and, normally it walked sideways.
B. Wow! Where was this?
A. It would be difficult to say actually where. It usually is leaping about all over the place. It wears a red hat on its head; it has a Marxist overcoat on; it is made up to look like a representative of the most orthodox way of life; it infiltrates the ranks of our revolutionary troops, and carries out nefarious activities of all kinds. Its crimes have added up to the limit of Heaven’s tolerance!
B. Ohhh! You must be talking about the White Bone Demon of the Gang of Four.
A. Exactly! It’s that female ghost that I’m talking about.
B. How come she is neither human nor demon?
A. Well, what would you say she is, a person or a demon?
B. I’d say she’s a person.
A. Well, if she’s a person, why is she so full of the devil? Always grasping for power, destroying our great leader Mao Tse-tung, and betraying our beloved Premier Chou?
B. Hmmm! This creature isn’t human. She’s purely and simply a demon.
A. Then, if that’s the case, how is it that she dares to come out in the bright daylight and carry out her nefarious schemes?
B. Well then, I guess she’s a person.
A. If she’s a human being, then why is she afraid of the sun, always hiding in the shadows and conducting the secretive affairs of the Gang of Four?
B. Then she’s still a demon, all right, no question about it.
A. If she’s a demon, then why does she have a human yet doglike appearance? Disguises herself as a proper ladylike person, talks like a human being, but doesn’t do the things that human beings do?
B. Then she must be a demon
A. What ...?
B. No! She’s human after all.
A. Is she human or is she a demon?
A. She’s human to your face and a demon behind your back, so, she is neither human nor a demon.
B. Well, what about that bit where you said half her face is smiling and the other half is crying?
A. This White Bone Demon goes around everywhere with her evil scheming designs, and she puts on a tricky act in whatever she does. One minute she’s crying and the next minute she’s laughing. When she’s crying she’s like a crocodile shedding tears, and when she’s laughing she’s like a mad dog barking in the sun.
B. She’s really crafty. How far are her claws extended?
A. The White Bone Demon has ambitions that extend over the entire earth, everywhere. She grabs for Party power, grabs for political power, grabs for cultural power, grabs for military power, grabs for financial power, grabs for labor power, grabs for ... (Grabs his partner)
B. Let’s stop all this grabbing! Her claws are extended much too far.
A. Her hands reach out everywhere.
B. How about her walking sideways?
A. The White Bone Demon makes her own laws. She relies on her position of power to carry out acts of wickedness and perversion and “walks sideways” in encroaching on the rights of others.
B. She must belong to the crab family.
A. The most brutal aspect yet of the whole thing is the creation of the Gang of Four. They violated the principles of Marxism and oppose the thoughts of Mao. They defy the basic principles of the “Three Do’s and Three Don’ts.”* In reaching for power, they secretly changed Chairman Mao’s directive; they brutally opposed the man whom Chairman Mao selected to succeed him, our venerated Chairman Hua, and sought to bring down a whole raft of responsible people in the Central government as well as local comrades.
B. Truly the Gang of Four have the appearance of human beings but the hearts of beasts.
A. Lest the whole world did not fall into total confusion, they screamed “Attack with reason, but defend with force,” but they actually incited beatings and lootings in all levels of society to interfere with Party-directed campaigns and to interrupt production. If you didn’t look right to them, they just arbitrarily put a hat on you, or charged you with violating the Party line.
B. Oh my! They were really the greatest manufacturers of lines and hats!
A. Take someone like you, for example; they would make it so that you could neither climb up nor climb down, they would neither let you live nor let you die.
B. I would obstinately oppose them.
A. They’d accuse you of hating the Party.
B. Then I’d stay out of their way.
A. They would accuse you of lack of enthusiasm toward the Party.
B. I would pretend to go along with them but be neither close nor distant.
A. They would say that you weren’t taking a firm stand.
B. Then in that case I would be forced to become intimately involved with them?!
A. They would accuse you of persecuting them, hurting them, and opposing the revolution.
B. Ouch!! In that case how can I go on living?
A. Now you see why the Gang of Four are a calamity for our Party and the great enemy of the Chinese people. There’s no peace in the nation so long as they’re around. Before his death, Chairman Mao made his wise move, and now Chairman Hua has heroically taken charge and has carried out the ideals of Chairman Mao’s revolution. In one stroke he has wiped out the Gang of Four and achieved a great historical victory.
B. Good! Get rid of the Party’s traitors; cut down the nation’s enemies; and do justice to the people’s grievances! This truly brings joy to the hearts of everyone.
A. Just so, and particularly with our commune production brigade.
A. When Chairman Hua saved us from the Gang of Four everyone was delighted.
B. Everyone was happy.
A. The oldsters were so happy at the time that they all had a few extra drinks.
A. The youngsters set off firecrackers and the children leaped and danced around.
A. The old ladies were so happy, they were grinding their teeth and stamping their feet.
B. What?? Grinding their teeth and stamping their feet? How was that?
A. Because the Gang of Four were even worse than “Old Baldy,” Lin Piao.
B. Right. Everyone loathed the Gang of Four.
A. Just so.
B. Say, where was it that you saw the White Bone Demon?
A. Right in our brigade.
B. She wormed her way right into your brigade?
A. She knew the importance of creating antirevolutionary public opinion. She came into our midst; she played all kinds of tricks, using both carrots and sticks; she dreamed of seizing the Party apparatus and the power.
B. That was a daft hope!
A. That day we were all working the fields when we heard this strange wailing sound...... Wooooooo ...!
B. Whew! What was it?
A. The black clouds in the sky were boiling about, and sand and rocks were blowing around on the ground.
B. A tempest had sprung up!
A. The White Bone Demon had arrived.
B. Wow! She brought a ghostly wind with her.
A. As she got out of her car, she looked all around her. Musicians opened up the way in front of her; her shrewd chief of staff brought up the rear. A man on her left and a woman on her right side to guard her, and in the middle she swayed back and forth three times each step she took.
B. What kind of weird behavior was that?
A. Behind her entourage there was still a large group of her factotums, pressed into her service.
B. How many had she forced into working for her?
A. Well, there was one to carry her cape, one with her parasol, another carrying her bed, a further one carrying food, others carrying flower pots, carrying cushions, leading horses, dragging dogs, pulling monkeys along ...
B. Wow! It must have been a really lively scene.
A. When we all saw it we were thunderstruck. “Wow!” everyone said, “This must be the advance omen of an earthquake coming.”
B. Huh! It was more like the queen of the rats coming out of her hole.
A. The children were the most fun. They said, “Daddy, daddy, give us a dime.”
B. What did they want the money for?
A. They wanted to buy a ticket to watch the monkey show!
B. Huh ...
A. I was busy at the time pumping up my bicycle tire, and looking over my shoulder I saw the White Bone Demon with her look of false benevolence on her face, and I cursed her under my breath.
B. What were you cursing her for?
A. Look at that act! What a snob! She cannot farm the land, she can’t work, she can’t fight. All she knows how to do is ride on top of the heads of the people in pomp and majesty. What do you think you are, capitalist bloodsucker! Just a typical “BANG”
B. What happened!!?
A. My tire exploded!
A. When the White Bone Demon heard the bang she was actually delighted. She said, “I’ve come here to learn from you. There’s no need for you to welcome me with firecrackers.”
B. Boy! She really had no sense of shame.
A. Then she asked urgently that all the commune members gather around for a meeting so that she could personally address them.
B. What did she have to say?
A. I’ll mimic her for you. (High falsetto quavering voice) “Comrade members of the commune ...”
B. What kind of a voice was that?
A. How can a ghost sound pleasant?
A. (Continuing) “I’ve come to visit you. I’ve brought study materials with me to give you.”
B. Chairman Mao long criticized her practice of taking materials all over the place.
A. Right. “I’ve traveled thousands of miles coming here to show my concern for you!”
B. We have Chairman Mao’s leadership, the Party’s concern for us, and we have authorized documents from the Central government, so there’s no need for you to come here with your materials for us.
A. “What I’ve brought for you is a complete set of materials so that you can shoot ‘three arrows simultaneously in a volley.’ Without my three arrows you won’t be able to accomplish the goal of the ‘three arrow volley.’ “
B.This “three arrow volley” is illicit and unauthorized material that you are shoving on us.
A. “Oh dear! I think it would be best if you all sat down nicely and studied. How can anyone accomplish anything without studying? When I was young I loved to study. Even now I’ve maintained this habit. Every day I study three hours of Marx’s and Lenin’s books, five hours of Chairman Mao’s works. I’ve read through four volumes. I can repeat by heart Marx’s Capital and the complete works of Lenin.”
B. Come off it! Cut out all that nonsense.
A. “Comrades, you must study. It won’t do if you don’t. Our struggle is a complicated matter. Don’t you see that I am opposed by many in the Politburo?”
B. Long ago they spotted you as a conspirator with wild ambitions.
A. “I’m not afraid of opposition. The truth is not in their hands. For many months they’ve tried to get me. They said I had a wild scheming heart. They viciously attacked me. Comrades, how could I have a wild scheming heart? All I have is this little heart of a thief.”
B. That’s true. You’ve the heart of a thief that won’t die.
A. “They also started rumors. They said I wanted to seize power. I give you my oath I’ve never wanted to seize power.”
B. What have you tried to do?
A. “I’ve just held my breath until I can usurp the Party leadership.”
B. Isn’t that the same thing?
A. “They also said I openly opposed the Central regime. Comrades, that’s just slanderous, because in my opposition to the Central government I never dared to be open.”
B. That’s enough ... You just blew it. You and your Gang of Four are nothing but a group of ambitious and conspiring characters.
A. “Comrades,” (weeping) “Don’t listen to them. I tell you ... uh ... uh ... uh ... I’m not going to say anything more ...”
B. Why aren’t you going to say anything more?
A. (His own natural voice) Everyone had left the place.
B. Right! No one wanted to listen to that any more.
A. (In his natural voice) After the White Bone Demon left, everyone gathered around and started to debate the issue. “Elder brother, what do you think this White Bone Demon really came here for?”
B. Why ask that? It is simple, it is just like the weasel visiting the chicken to wish her a happy new year ... Evil designs in his heart.
A. Right. She’s setting out by herself to destroy the great Anti-Lin, Anti-Confucius movement started by Chairman Mao himself. What are these three tidy packages of arrows that she has brought us? Isn’t this simply a ruse to strike down a large segment of those cadres loyal to Chairman Mao’s revolution?
B. She’s made herself out to be an expert on Marxism. Who’s going to believe what she says?
A. That’s so. But there are always those bad elements who will echo what she says. For example the old woman landowner who said, “Oh my, what she said really appeals to my thinking. Her ‘three arrows in a volley’ ideal. Wonderful, but wouldn’t it be much better if there was a volley of 10,000 arrows?”
B. Oh, stop it!
A. But the Party branch secretary of the commune brigade immediately started to criticize her severely. “Ms Ch’en, you’re being enthusiastic a little too prematurely. Do you expect to take advantage of the ghostly wind in order to create wild waves? You can’t do that. We can distinguish between what smells good and what smells foul. We can clearly see who is a true revolutionary and who is a false revolutionary. We long ago perceived the false pretenses and evil designs of the White Bone Demon.”
B. That’s right. Poke a hole through her fake Marxist claims; expose her ambitions against the Party.
A. The White Bone Demon rested for a while and then sauntered towards our pigpen, and as she walked she talked
B. What did she say?
A. She said, “I hear that your secretary rebuked Ms Ch’en behind my back. What is this? Are you working against me? Do you hate me that much? Oppose me? Open your eyes and see who I am.”
B. You’re the White Bone Demon.
A. “I am the celebrated champion of the Cultural Revolution. I have labored long and bled much for the revolution. Today I brought down one group, tomorrow I’ll bring down another group. Stealing documents, confiscating materials, blowing a cold wind and creating disorder; it hasn’t been easy for me, you know!”
B. You are evil incarnate, piling up crimes to excess.
A. “Open your eyes and see who I am. I am the trumpeter for the literary revolution.”
B. You’re an ambitious political climber.
A. “In the 1930s I threw in my lot with the revolution. I acted in the film ‘Sai Chin-hua’* and they wanted me to take the part of the little prostitute. I opposed them. I fought for the right to be the star of the film.”
B. She performed as Sai Chin-hua! What shame she brought to the Chinese race.
A. “Furthermore, how about the revolutionary operas that are now being performed. Which one of them was not brought about by me personally?”
B. Those were the fruits of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line for literature, and you want to take the credit?
A. “Let me tell you, from the 1930s to the 70s it was I who filled the gap in the literary revolution.”
B. It was you who went about tearing down everything about Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line.
A. “At the First General Assembly of the Party, you were not there.”
B. Were you there?
A.“No, I didn’t make it either, and I didn’t make it to other important assemblies, but I have been to the liberated areas and I have participated in the labor effort. When I went back to the city I had five calluses on my hand. If you don’t believe me you can come here and feel them. They’re still hard.”
B.Where are they?
A. “Here, see?”
B. Oh, you’re talking about your fingernails!
[After further expression of disapproval of the attitude of her audience and a demonstration of her lofty power, she stops talking and her voice falters....]
B. What’s going on here?
A. (His own voice) She’s squeezing tears from her eyes, but they’re all false. While she is doing this, one of her minion clowns suddenly leaps forward and says: “Hey, you there, look what you’ve done! You’ve pushed our leader into the pigpen. All of you are going to be severely punished for this.” (He proceeds to make a show of strength, makes some loud noises, then falters as he runs out of words and ideas.)
B. His own speech knocks him down.
A. (His own voice) Just at this point the White Bone Demon crawls out of the pigpen and saunters out onto the threshing floor.
B. Boy! She really pokes her nose into everything.
A. She says: “Comrades, I’ve come to be one of you Let me help you do the corn. But then, I’m afraid of sunlight, and if I help you winnow the grain I’m afraid of the wind. Perhaps I could help you load the sacks, but then I’m afraid of sunburn. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll do whatever I can within my own limitations.”
B. What can she do?
A. “Let’s play some poker.”
B. Going to have some fun, eh?
A. “Let’s play right here. But I get to deal first, O.K.? ... Comrades, I am really feeling concerned these days. When we look at our country, who is going to take over the responsibilities? If we look at the way things are arranged at present, I am a little unhappy about it all. My feeling is that women are better than men.”
B. Even in her dreams she wants to take over power.
A. “I remember that in history there were some powerful and very great personages who were women; among these was Lü Hou.”
B. Lü Hou was one of the most ambitious characters in history.
A. “Was she a woman, or wasn’t she?”
B. Yes, she was a woman.
A. “Then there was Wu Tse-t’ien.”
B. Yes, she was a woman.
A. “Then there was Hsi T’ai-hou.”
B. Yes, she was a woman.
A.“Then there was Sai Chin-hua.”
B.Yes, she was a woman.
A. “Then there was Sung Chiang.”
B. Right, she was a woman ... No, wait a minute, she wasn’t a woman. Sung Chiang, that “surrendering type,” was a man.
A. “Well, even if he was a man, he was born of one of us women.”
B. That’s absolutely ridiculous!
A. “All these outstanding women! Some were intellectual types, others were military. Some became Emperors, and others became Empresses. Do you think I look like an Emperor? Or am I like an Empress?”
B. I think you look like an Empress Dowager [ T’ai Hou] .
A. “What about me is like an Empress Dowager [ T’ai Hou] ?”
B. (Play on homonyms) The skin of your face is too thick [ t’ai hou] .
A. “All these great political figures, I really admire them. Take Wu Tse-t’ien, for example. All she did was devote herself to national affairs and she became a great Emperor. Everybody called her the Great Sage Emperor. They say that my actions and behavior will sooner or later deserve this title.”
B. The Great Sage Emperor a big shot!
A. (Chiming in) Yes, ought to be shot!
B. That would be just deserts for a crime.
A. “Then there was Lü Hou. I really respected her. She ... er, she ... (stammering) That’s done it!”
B. What’s the matter?
A. “I’ve got all the poker cards in my hand.”
B. There you go again, grasping for power and authority.
A. “Let’s go. We’ll go over and take some photographs. We’ll take some pictures of labor on the threshing floor.”
B. For what purpose?
A.“So that they can see that not only can I carry out intellectual and military tasks, but I can also work in the fields.”
B.How about erecting a couple of monuments and writing up your biography?
A. “We’ll go out into the fields and do some hoeing, and let’s compete and see who hoes the best and fastest. (To her minion, Hsiao Tu) Come take some photographs. And let’s do it the way we always do; put me in the middle. And hurry it up, I can’t hold out much longer. This is all very tiring. Oh, oh, dear oh dear, what’s the matter? Why can’t I hoe this grass out?”
B. The hoe couldn’t have been very sharp.
A. (His natural voice) She was using a carrying pole.
B. Oh come on, don’t just put on an act.
A. “I say, you women commune members over there, come on over and the old lady, me, will have her picture taken with you. Don’t be so coy about it, the female emperor here is about to take power.”
(His own voice) At this point the ugly little minion came up and most officiously said, “Hurry up, all of you. Wash your faces and change your clothing. You are going to have your pictures taken with our leader.” When the White Bone Demon heard the words “wash your faces and change your clothes,” her face suddenly paled.
B. What was the matter?
A. The one thing she feared was to hear people talking about hygiene.
B. Why is that?
A. As soon as hygiene is brought up, people want to get rid of the four great evils.*
B. So, that’s what it was!!
Translated by Robert Tharp
Yang Hsing-wang, a member of the People’s Liberation Army, writes about a type of hero and heroism that best illustrates the ideal championed by the Communist Party—revolutionary realism plus revolutionary romanticism. The principal character in the following selection, Commander Tsou, exemplifies all the virtues required of such an abstract hero, and yet there is enough characterization to make Tsou seem a real human being. “Carry On” is among the best of this type of story. —K.Y.H.
The tires of the truck hungrily devoured the mountain road.
June, in the hilly region south of the Yangtze River, blue pines and white birches stood on diligent sentry duty along the ridges. Pink carnations accentuated the yellow of wild chrysanthemums, with patches of gentian blue all over the hillside—a beautiful rug was spread over the land.
But, absorbed in my own thinking, I sat in the cab, unmoved by the view outside the window.
I had just completed an assignment at a remote station to “support the left” to overcome the rightist tendency there, and now the leadership wanted me to return to take over the Sixth Company from Commander Tsou. The Sixth Company, my own company, had a glorious record and was characterized by some as “the company with big gongs on its legs”; wherever it goes there is a loud wham. Particularly during the past seven years under Tsou Ch’iang’s command, it has stood firmly on Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolution line, bucking the evil wind of “open and free competition” and obstructing the vicious tides of “restoration of capitalism.” The company has earned for itself a name, “the vanguard company,” and the feats and anecdotes I have heard completely justify this honor.
To tell the truth, the moment I knew I was coming back I started hoping for a return to the Sixth Company, but the news that I was to take over the command got me twisted up inside. Could I take that responsibility? Didn’t the commissar remind me, as I was boarding the truck, that I must try to be a worthy successor to Commander Tsou, to carry on and further develop the enviable tradition of that company? Yes, there must be a lot about Commander Tsou that I should learn. But where would I begin?
A squeak of the brake, then the truck halted, jerking me awake from my daydream. I realized we had arrived at the work site of the Sixth Company.
It had been two years since I last saw that work site, and now the familiar sights greeted me like so many old friends, old, and yet fresh. Jumping off the truck, I drew a deep breath of the air heavily filled with dynamite smoke and machine oil. In one glance I took in two huge placards; on one of them was written, “The angry roar of our pneumatic drills frightens American imperialists,” and on the other, “As our dynamite blasts, Russian revisonists fall apart.” On the air, Chairman Mao’s May 20th statement was being broadcast. The sounds of the bustling activities told me that Commander Tsou must be somewhere close by.
“Comrade messenger, go find Third Platoon Leader!” a sonorous voice called. Tracing the voice, I saw a tall man wearing a safety helmet; he stood on a boulder, facing the work site. Isn’t this Commander Tsou, I asked myself as I ran toward him.
He leapt off the boulder. Before I could salute him, his hands had already seized mine and were shaking them vigorously. His hands felt strong as ever, but the calluses seemed much thicker now.
The third platoon leader brought over by the messenger astounded me. I could see immediately that he was Chang Yung, and yet how he had changed. His pale face that used to characterize him as an old-fashioned scholar had acquired a reddish brown tan, and he had lost his rather fragile physique altogether. He greeted me warmly first before turning to Commander Tsou. “Commander,” he said, “are you looking for me?”
“You made me look you up!” Tsou said, sternly.
“First let’s go look at the blackboard bulletin you have put out, then we’ll talk.” Tsou and Chang Yung raced toward the tea room. After a few steps, Tsou looked back at me and said, “The commissar is in a study session. You go back to headquarters first and rest. We’ll have a long chat this evening.”
On the way to headquarters, I asked the messenger, “What do you think has happened that involved Chang Yung?”
“I am not sure, but perhaps the commander’s ruler has measured out problems again this time.” He smiled, adding, “Our commander has a special ‘ruler’ which he ordinarily keeps to himself. But once he takes it out and catches somebody with something not quite right, that guy is in for some trouble.”
“What sort of ruler is that? Could it be that sharp?”
“You’ll find out in time,” he said. “But you don’t need to be so scared. The commander’s ruler is sharp, but not scary. When he catches you with it, he makes you feel that you deserve it. Nobody really bears him any grudge.”
Several years ago when I worked with Commander Tsou, I had learned about that man’s sharpness, which never failed to catch our serious slips. He had used it on me once, when I slipped in my assignment to help Chang Yung.
That was when I was still serving as leader of the Eighth Squad. Chang Yung came to us as a new recruit from a big city. I thought in him we finally got someone with lots of ink—from then on we wouldn’t have to worry about writing or drawing something any more. Soon I was to find out what we were getting into with him. He had been going to school all those years; his fair skin and tender hands simply could not take our life of rocks and shovels. Several days of pushing the rocks made him feel he could not stick to that kind of schedule. As he put it, he had found the right road but walked into the wrong door—in other words, he should not have chosen to be in the Engineer Corps. He worked less than one man but talked more than ten, causing more trouble than the credit he earned for our squad. Every day he got just that much more on my nerves and I began to needle him every chance I found. “Next time, can you talk a little less?” I’d say to him, but he would answer, “What’s a mouth for, if it’s not for talking?” “All right, but you’re all talk, no work!” I said. “Who’s all talk, no work?” he protested, “I’m not spending my days in bed, am I?” He was like that, always ready with the last word. I went to look for the company commander.
The commander was wielding a hammer in the iron workshop. The moment I stepped inside the shop I said, “Commander, will you transfer Chang to some other squad? This puddle of ours is too small for a big fish like him.”
Commander Tsou looked at me for a moment. He pointed to the large hammer and said to me, “Come, give a hand here. You swing that, I’ll handle the tongs.” Then after a pause, he added, casually, “What happened now?”
“What happened!” I said, after spitting into my palm and trying the handle of the hammer. “I can’t handle this ‘man of letters.’ “
“Ho! That’s some temper you’ve got there. Now, let’s talk first. How is he doing these days?” They said Commander Tsou had a firecracker temper, that’s true, but when you got angry, he became a perfect picture of patience.
“He can’t work,” I said, “but he has a mouth bigger than anybody else’s. I just don’t know what to do with him.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being able to talk well, is there?”
“But his is all talk, no work.”
“Don’t be in such a hurry. It takes patience to help others to learn.” He tapped the piece of iron in his tongs. “Even iron requires repeated tempering before it can be useful. This thing takes a lot of hammering. A person takes even more.”
“Company Commander, I am not putting him down. He is not going to amount to very much.”
“What did you say? Why can’t he amount to very much? Every piece of iron can be tempered into steel.” His expression became severe. I glanced at him and realized immediately that I had been caught by his “ruler.”
He stopped his work with the tongs, and, looking straight at me, spoke very deliberately. “Squad Leader, when you look at a person, you look at all his aspects; you look at his basic stuff. You have to look at both sides. Don’t stick to your own prejudice. Chang came from the worker class. He has a deep-set hatred against the old society. He grew up under the red flag; he has the warmest affection for the Party, for Chairman Mao. These are his bases. As to his present physical inferiority, his soft muscles that can’t take much hard work, and some errors in his way of thinking now, these are the lingering poison of the old educational system. I’m confident that he will turn out to be a full-fledged warrior after he has been through the furnace of revolution. Of course, this process will require his own voluntary effort, but it also depends on how thoroughly we do our work in giving him ideological education.”
I had had a feeling that to suggest a transfer of Chang Yung would not be the best solution, but I had been too fed up to think of anything else. Before Commander Tsou finished what he was saying, I hurried to own my mistake. “Commander,” I said, “it’s my mistake. I withdraw my request. Let’s not transfer Chang Yung.”
“You mean to wipe out your mistake by just withdrawing your request?” He put down the tool and took a step toward me. “My good leader of the Eighth Squad,” he said, his voice very stern though not hostile, “your mistake was not only in your request. Listen, Comrade, Chang is not only a soldier in your squad, but a brother in our proletarian class and a successor to carry on the proletarian revolution. It’s not a question of whether you can or can’t handle Chang, it’s rather whether you have a deep proletarian class feeling toward him. We don’t help Chang just to improve the record of work performance for your squad. It’s a job required for our revolution, for communism. Have you ever thought about the whole thing that way? Don’t you think that is the way it should be?”
Just as the messenger comrade said a moment ago, the commander’s “ruler” was strict, but would not hurt anybody’s feelings. On the contrary, it convinced and persuaded the one “measured” by it. Now, you go ahead and try to analyze that short statement of his. There is a high degree of awareness about what the correct Party line is, intense warm feeling for class brotherhood, an organic application of the Chairman’s principle of “dividing any one thing into two” ... all these and more are there. After he put it that way, everything became clear to me. “Commander,” I said, “I understand now. In the past I set the standard too low for helping Chang.”
I thought that the commander must be through with “measuring” me, but no, he was not. After pausing in deep thought for a moment, he added, “It’s good that you now understand. Tonight let’s call a squad leaders meeting. You explain to them your real understanding of this issue; let them all learn a lesson.”
Then I realized that our commander’s “ruler” really had a few more notches than any others I had seen....
Though that was quite a few years ago, I could never forget that experience. Now I heard again the mention of our commander’s “ruler,” and I wondered what the commander had spotted today and how he was going to measure Chang Yung with it.
Sunset dyed in crimson the whole western sky and all the mountains beneath it. It was time to call it off for the day.
I had gone back to company headquarters, found my bunk, and was chatting with the messenger comrade about this and that when Commander Tsou’s loud laughter rang in the yard outside. “Hey,” he was saying, “don’t think it’s just a small blackboard bulletin; if you think hard about it, it’s not a simple problem. And this Chang Yung ...”
He walked in and immediately started stripping off his work clothes, hanging them on the wall. “How was it?” he asked me. “Learned a lot from this assignment to ‘support the left’?” Only now I had the chance to study him, noticing his slightly thinner cheeks. Otherwise he remained the same strong, husky soldier, always optimistic and always confident.
I briefly described my experience of the past couple of years and turned the subject back to Chang Yung. “There’s a problem in the blackboard bulletin that Chang Yung edited?”
“Not only is there a problem—it’s a big problem!” He became thoughtful again. After a pause, and a sip of tea from the cup on the table, he said, “Chang Yung is doing all right now at work, always keeping up with everybody, but his way of thinking is still too simple. Just because his platoon fell behind the Second Platoon in rock tonnage, he became desperate and, blinded by impatience, he lost his direction again…”
Chang Yung had been promoted to platoon leader early this year. His morale had been high, and he was always striving to get ahead in his work and was taking every assignment very seriously. But he was too stubborn and too competitive, easily peeved if he was not recorded as the number one. These last few days, the Second Platoon wedged ahead of Chang Yung’s Third Platoon; Chang couldn’t take that. He exercised his well-trained hand in a cartoon, showing a rocket on the one side, and an ox-cart on the other. The caption he wrote was a rhymed stanza in the impromptu style,
The Second Platoon rides on a rocket now.
What shall we do?
Work hard, work solidly, and stake our lives on it,
This challenge we must break thru.
Who’s the hero, and who the best?
The difference lies in this very shift—
and your strength, your zest.
Commander Tsou got hold of Chang Yung at the work site, pointed out to him where the problem was, and asked him to think it over to discover the root of the trouble. Chang said nothing at the moment, but silently he was protesting. “In order to get more done,” he thought, “I see nothing wrong in promoting competition. All right, I admit there might be a suspicion of ‘fighting to be number one,’ but how serious a mistake is that? Why do you make a mountain out of a molehill?”
Commander Tsou explained the problem in just a few words, then stopped promptly. I knew he was waiting for my comments. “You plan to write something on the blackboard bulletin?” I asked.
“Right! We have to write something. But, I will just assign a topic. The write-up ... well, we’ll let you do that,” he said, glancing at me.
“Let me do that?”
“Yes, we’ll let you do that. I’ll be your assistant.”
I stared at him. Things started churning inside me. My good old commander, I said to myself, are you already training me on the job now?
That evening, I handed to the commander the draft of a plan of education which I had thought over, worked over time and again until I felt that the statement should pass his measurement. He read it with a smile.
“We are using the method of analyzing just one model case to teach the entire company a lesson on the Party line with life experience,” he said. “That’s very good. This will more than resolve the problem of Chang Yung. But how high do you intend to push your analysis?” He looked at me, pointing at one statement in my draft which said, “From this model case study, we expect everybody to take a step forward in understanding the importance of ‘politics takes command,’ and in overcoming the ‘only military’ viewpoint in our minds.”
“It’s not enough to make everybody understand,” he added. “We have to mobilize everybody to dig for the roots and search for the causes. Why is there such an ‘only military’ concept budding in our minds? Is it because we don’t recognize what that is, or is there some other reason? That’s the top priority real question which we must solve first. You think it over some more ...”
“Ah ...” I slapped the back of my head and said, “that’s right! We have to develop the right style of integrating theory with practice. And if I revise this statement that way, the analysis would have been pushed higher, wouldn’t it?”
“Ha, ha ...” he laughed. “Your head is not sleeping, no, not sleeping at all. This must be one of the things you gained from your support-the-left assignment.”
At the meeting on the following day, we discussed the subject, “What can we use to stimulate revolutionary morale?” The Second Platoon leader started out with a thorough critique in which he expounded on the importance of political education among the troops. “... What is this advanced political spirit?” he asked. “It’s the lofty ideal of liberating the peoples of the world to achieve communism. And what’s this advanced political work? It’s the integration of each shovel of earth we dig and each rock we move with China’s revolution and world revolution ...”
One speaker after another followed up with contributions on this theme until it became evident that the entire company was seeing more clearly what the Party line was and how we should behave in order to stay on it. I watched Chang Yung from my chairman’s vantage point. He listened intensely, scratching his scalp and pulling his hair all the while as though determined to pull something out of his head. His face began to redden and, when he seemed to be on the point of bursting, he shot up from his seat. “Comrades,” he shouted, “it’s not that our company commander is making a mountain out of a molehill; it’s my own political awareness that’s too low!”
Everybody was a bit stunned by this outburst, but the stunned silence facilitated Chang Yung’s explanation. He spoke in a hurry, as if too many things were rushing out of his mind and throat all at once. He praised the Second Platoon leader for having led his group on the right path, always focusing on the revolutionary purpose of each action, while he on his own part slipped into the “only military” viewpoint when he urged his platoon to race for the glory of being the best among one’s own comrades. As he reached his conclusion, declaring that his study of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism stopped short of actual practice, his voice came close to breaking under the emotional strain.
Commander Tsou followed Chang Yung’s impassioned speech carefully, nodding his head from time to time. He stood up immediately upon Chang’s conclusion and said, “Very good. Comrade Chang’s understanding has penetrated way beyond the surface, and he has dug up the root of the problem....”
He exhorted the entire company to learn from this case study so that in the future each one would be able to discover deep meaning about a great principle even from the most trivial event. .. As to the minor flaws in our thinking and work,” he said, “we must follow the example of Comrade Chang to keep vigil over even the slightest flaw and dare to correct it wherever we find it to prevent it from spreading and worsening. We must be good at going thoroughly after the roots, reaching all the way to the bottom ...”
The meeting was over. I hoped to corner the commander to chat with him for a while longer, but a phone call from regimental headquarters called him away.
The moment of Commander Tsou’s departure arrived. Yesterday he spent the whole afternoon explaining to me the situations of the different squads in the company and taking me on a final tour of the work site to familiarize me with the various aspects of the project. We did not return to company headquarters until after dark. Then almost immediately he found Chang Yung and talked with him until very late. Still he would not take time out to get a haircut or take a bath. He walked through the sleeping quarters to do his last bed count; he finished his shift of sentry duty.
Breakfast was over. I found the barber and literally forced Commander Tsou to submit to a haircut. Then I asked him to go with me to the bathhouse. He would not go no matter how I entreated him. The messenger comrade offered a comment, saying that the commander would not go to any bathhouse because bathing would make him dizzy; he would only take sponge baths. I was puzzled. He and I used to go to the bathhouse together; we had done that many times. Why all of a sudden had he developed such a peculiar ailment? Since he was adamant, I did not insist.
It was about time to start the day’s work, but the car from regimental headquarters had not arrived to pick up Commander Tsou. I urged him to stay back and rest while I would proceed to the work site. He said, “Perhaps I should go also, to take another look at the machine shelter, which is located in a gulch. It may need some reinforcing because the weather is acting funny; soon there may be heavy rain.”
“How could there be rain on a clear day like this?” I said, noticing the cloudless blue sky above.
“You can never tell,” he said, smiling, and at the same time he proceeded to put on his work clothes. I knew in a situation like that any further argument with him would be a sheer waste of words. I let him come with me.
The blackboard bulletin at the work site today was again prepared by Chang Yung. On one side he had drawn a map showing the situation of the people’s revolution in the various parts of the world. On the other side he had sketched several Russian-made tanks disabled by gunfire; standing above these wrecks were our comrades heroically handling pneumatic drills. The contrast made the ruined tanks look extremely pitiful. There was also an impromptu verse to go with the cartoon:
The enemy is whetting his sword.
What shall we do?
Work hard, work solidly, and stake our lives on it,
To accomplish our missions before war begins.
With one more detonation hole,
We destroy the imperialists, revisionists, and antirevolutionaries;
With one more load of gravel,
We support Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
We read the bulletin. Commander Tsou nudged me and said, “What do you think of this? Chang Yung’s brains have been limbered up, eh?”
The weather in the mountains was as unpredictable as a monkey’s whim. All morning the sky had been spotless blue, but suddenly a mushroom of black cloud rose in the southeastern sky, rolling and unfolding, accompanied by rumbling thunders. As Commander Tsou had predicted earlier, a sheet of rain raced toward us on the tail of gusty winds only a few minutes after our arrival at the work site. And there a tough but exciting battle began, with the team of comrade drillers bearing the brunt of the weather front. Many of them were precariously anchored on sheer cliffs, their footholds threatened by each gust of strong wind, their eyes blinded by the torrential rain. Commander Tsou went right into their midst, hooking himself nimbly onto a safety rope.
A flash flood broke loose.
The pneumatic pressure pump station perched in a gulch soon came under the joint assault of several cascades of water. The shelter started to lean dangerously on one side. A group of comrades rushed over to drive stakes around it while others dug channels to divert the stream. But the flood was one step ahead of them. One wave rammed the front of the shelter, knocking it off its base, pulling the stakes and ropes along with it.
“Shut her off!” the drill squad leader shouted.
On the far end of the line, Commander Tsou noticed the drills suddenly stopping. “The pump!...” he yelled, and dropping the drill he started running toward the pump shelter.
I followed close behind him. After a few yards he suddenly started panting and his steps fumbled. I rushed over to steady him. His face had turned ghastly pale and the veins bulged on his forehead. “Commander,” I said recalling his old case of tuberculosis, “are your lungs hurting again?”
“Nothing wrong with me,” he said, “hurry up and save the pump!” He pushed me away.
I obeyed and ran to the shelter, where I directed an operation to drag the pump out of the collapsing structure, which was almost gone with the relentless waves.
“Comrades, protect our country’s property!” Commander Tsou had also reached the shelter. “Save the pump!” He plunged ahead of everybody else to put his shoulder against the machine, trying to push it out of the flood-washed shelter. But the flood came down faster, and another high wave knocked down the two corner posts under which two comrades had been straining to push the machine. Commander Tsou saw the falling posts—he jumped right down under them in an attempt to break their fall and save the two comrades. He did, but the posts crushed him under, and a downpour of mud and flood water followed.
“Commander!...” shouted the two comrades who had been pushed aside by the commander, thus escaping the disaster.
Everybody was shocked; everybody was calling the commander as they reached under the waist-deep water to try to pull him up. We found him and dragged him, soaked and unconscious, out of the shelter and carried him to a ledge a few steps away. I put his head in my lap and tried to revive him. The two comrades stood before him, too choked to say anything. After a few minutes, he stirred a little bit and opened his eyes. “Don’t you worry, commander,” I said to him. “You have saved these comrades, and they are right here. The pump is also safe ...” He seemed to smile faintly, and the corners of his mouth trembled a little, but no sounds came from him.
An ambulance arrived and rushed him to the hospital.
That night, I sat alone in company headquarters, thinking back to the days when I first worked with him. We were also pushing a strenuous project at a work site. His tuberculosis was not getting any better, but despite repeated suggestions from the leadership for him to remain in the hospital, he stayed on the job, always saying that he felt all right. It was not until the very end of the project that the leadership discovered that his illness had been aggravated to a dangerous degree. Only then was he ordered to the hospital. At that time, our unit received orders to start a new project at a place even more remote and primitive. I went to the hospital to say goodbye to him. Tears welled up in his eyes as he seized my hands and said, “When you get back to our unit, you tell the leaders that I’ll try very hard to rush back to our company!” I went to the new work site, but soon I was transferred to a third place for a support-the-left assignment. Since the hospital had said that his case was serious, I didn’t think he would be back to the company so soon, but he went back....
The phone rang, shaking me out of my reminiscence. From the other end came the commissar’s voice. I asked in a hurry, “How is the commander?”
“His injury is not too bad.”
“Oh, that’s good ...” I heaved a long sigh of relief.
“You find his disability certificate and deliver it here right away, will you?”
“What? Commander Tsou’s disability certificate?”
“Didn’t you know? The last time he was hospitalized, the central portion of his right lung was removed.”
The revelation left me speechless. No wonder he gasped for breath, and no wonder he would not take a bath in the bathhouse.... I rushed over to the side of his bed, dug into his bag, and found his certificate and the discharge paper issued by the hospital. With pain I read every word on those papers, carefully. Under the army doctor’s notation saying “lost ability for heavy physical labor,” there was a line in red ink: “To safeguard the revolutionary line of Chairman Mao, I’ll keep up my forward attack, as long as my heart continues to throb.”
These few words brought back to my mind, wave upon wave, the various scenes involving him; some I witnessed myself, others were told to me. A sallow skinny boy, fists clenched, glared at his tyrant landlord ... then he was pulling a cart-load of coal, straining under a thick, black rope, alongside a tottering old man ... suddenly he appeared in a liberation army uniform, his face full and ruddy now, chatting merrily with his kin in the village, under unfurled red flags with music in the air ... then he appeared on the China-India border, leaping out of a trench toward the enemy ... finally he was jumping into the flood water to save two comrades and that pump, meeting the collapsing shelter with his own shoulder There were also his deliberate and thoughtful talks, his hearty laughter, this disability certificate decorated in red ink, and a ruler with a few extra notches....
“I shall keep up my forward attack, as long as my heart continues to throb!” Isn’t this the only way I can carry on the legacy of this man and his company? I asked myself, and suddenly I knew, like a flash of lightning across the dark sky outside, that I had found the answer.
In the Red-rock Mountain, pp. 31-48
Translated by Kai-yu Hsu
With only three years of grade school and one semester of junior high school, Yao Hsüeh-yin, the son of a farmer in Teng-hsien, Honan Province, from 1929 through 1932 taught himself by reading assiduously in the Peking Library. Soon after that, he began writing for a living. His short story “Short of Half Carload of Wheat Stalks” (1938) catapulted him into prominence, and a number of novels followed from his pen, including Nui Ch ‘üan-te and the Red Carrot, When Flowers Appear in Warm Spring, Love and War, and Long Night.
Yao taught in colleges in Shanghai (1946-51), then returned to his native province to concentrate on writing. An ambitious historical novel based on the life of Li Tzu-ch’eng (1606-45) was taking shape in his mind and he had actually started writing it when politics intervened in 1957 to send him to live and learn from the peasants in the countryside of Wuhan. Two years later he returned to continue his work on Li Tzu-ch’eng and completed the first of five parts in 1963. Though it was said that Mao Tse-tung saw it and thought well of it, the first volume of the novel failed to attract much attention. But Yao persisted, in spite of another brush with the political authorities, who ordered him to undergo reeducation in 1967. Completion of the second part and republication of the first part of Li Tzu-ch’eng in 1977 was accompanied by a story about how Mao Tse-tung personally intervened to reinstate Yao among the few state-supported writers so that he could continue the novel. The eminent modern Chinese writer Mao Tun praised Li Tzu-ch’eng as the first long historical novel since the May Fourth movement (1919) worthy of that designation.
As the work of a single author, Li Tzu-ch’eng differs from the traditional Chinese historical novel, which grew out of the genius of the common people. When finished, Li Tzu-ch’eng will run to some three million words. Yao is conscious of the gargantuan assignment he has undertaken, particularly in view of his advancing age. He therefore maintains a rigorous schedule, rising at three in the morning, writing until lunch, and spending the afternoon doing research in the library. For Yao’s attitude toward literature, one need only refer to his complaint published in the Wen-hui Daily of Shanghai on January 10, 1957. Yao applauded the move to send the writers to experience life with the proletariat (he himself went to a factory), but decried the narrow-vision glasses worn by these writers, who left large segments of reality outside their field of view. Yao’s complaint brought Yao himself under subsequent political attack.
The story of Li Tzu-ch’eng unfolds during the last few chaotic years of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Li, one of the most successful leaders of popular rebellion, came close to establishing a new dynasty, but was prevented from doing so by the Ming general, Wu San-kuei, who ushered in the Manchus from the north. Yao has made exhaustive use of historical evidence to give us a novel informed by the new Marxist perspective. Li Tzu-ch’eng is presented as fighting for the poor disenfranchised peasantry, while Wu San-kuei represents the interests of the gentry oppressor. The important characters in the novel, an impressive array of heroes as well as villains, are all well endowed with the complexities of living human beings and are described in an equally rich language.
In the following excerpt, Li, having suffered a major defeat, has gone to the camp of Chang Hsien-chung for help. This is a bold move in two ways: Li is putting himself under the control of an erstwhile rival, and further, that rival has ostensibly given up the rebellion and surrendered. The episode gives us a sample of Yao Hsiieh-yin’s art of fiction at its dramatic best. —W.L.
While Chang Hsien-chung and Li Tzu-ch’eng were upstairs talking things over, Hsii Yi-hsien and several of his men were hurtling through the night toward Wang-chia-ho, whipping their mounts every inch of the way. By the time they had arrived and entered Chang K’o-wang’s camp, it was close to two in the morning. Hsü routed Chang out of bed and explained to him his idea that they ought to take advantage of the chance they had now to get rid of Li Tzu-ch’eng once and for all. Now this K’o-wang, though only twenty-two, had already outdone his foster father, Chang Hsien-chung, in duplicity and cruelty. Before Lady Ting had presented Hsien-chung with a son of his own, he had always looked upon K’o-wang as his proper heir and K’o-wang had always thought of himself in the same way. But now that Hsien did have a son of his own flesh and blood, K’o-wang still continued to believe that he would be the one to inherit the mountains and rivers that his foster father would conquer. For the peasantry had traditionally honored the status of an adopted son, and added to that was the fact that few babies born in the field ever survived into adulthood. After he had heard Hsii Yi-hsien out, K’o-wang lost every last trace of drowsiness, leaped to his feet, and shouted, “Right! We mustn’t let the tiger get back to his mountain lair!”
“Then we can’t afford to dilly-dally, my young commander. The quicker we act, the better.”
“Why all the hurry? He’s not going to disappear into thin air, you know.”
“But suppose he does—it’ll be too late to do anything about it then.”
“Since he’s come all this distance to get here, he’s certainly not going to be in any hurry to get back. He’ll stay here and rest up four or five days at the very least. Don’t worry, I’ll personally see to it that he is killed, but let me first sit down and talk the whole thing over calmly with my foster father, the senior commander.”
“You err, my general. It’s absolutely inconceivable that Li-Tzu-ch’eng will linger here any longer than necessary. If we don’t strike immediately, we’ll miss by a hair.”
“How can you be so sure that he won’t stay for a while?”
“Well, the way I see it, Li Tzu-ch’eng is busy regrouping his defeated men, and he’s also trying to locate his wife, daughter, and generals. He’s on pins and needles, as they say, to get on with all that. What’s more, he knows that Lin Ming-ch’iu has come to Ku-ch’eng. There’s no reason in the world why Tzu-ch’eng should want to stay. You’ve got to remember that Li’s very alert. It could well be that he’ll get your foster father to agree on the date for another concerted uprising and then suddenly vanish before the sun is even up tomorrow.”
“You’re really convinced that he’ll leave so soon?”
“Look at it this way. He’s famous for being able to shift his troops around with lightning speed. The government forces can’t lay a hand on him. If he’s that sharp ordinarily, do you think he’s going to be careless now that he’s far away from his own forces and his life is on the line?”
Chang K’o-wang mulled this over for a bit and answered, “All right, we’ll do as you say. No matter how sharp he is, he’s not going to evaporate into thin air this time.”
Turning responsibility for the morning drill over to his younger brother, Chang Wen-hsiu, he immediately picked the best two hundred and fifty crack cavalrymen of his entire force and, accompanied by Hsü Yi-hsien, set out for Ku-ch’eng. By the time they had galloped out of the stockade at Wang-chia-ho, the cock had already crowed a second time.
At the first crow of the cock Chang Hsien-chung sent a servant girl to wake Li Tzu-ch’eng. Li rose and had just finished the business of rinsing his mouth and washing his face and hands when Chang Hsien-chung came up the stairs.
“Brother Li, I got you up ahead of time. I’m a man who likes to get things done. Let’s go. We’ll have a cup of wine in the Flower Hall first to perk you up and then you’ll be able to set out before daybreak and get a head start on things. You came in secret and you’ll go in secret. Lin Ming-ch’iu, close by as he is, won’t know a damned thing about any of this.”
“Has Shang Chiung come?”
“Yes, I sent for him and he’s waiting for you in the Flower Hall right now.” While accompanying Prince Valiant downstairs, Hsien-chung continued. “So as to maintain secrecy, I’ve ordered some troops to set out during the night; they’ll wait for you at Kuang-hua-hsien. Your personal company of fifty men is having breakfast at this very moment.”
“Good. You think of everything.”
Chang Hsien-chung slapped his friend on the shoulder and said half in jest, “If the day ever comes when I have to shelter myself under your eaves to keep out of the rain, I hope you won’t let me get my clothes too wet.”
Tzu-ch’eng took Hsien-chung’s hand. “Hsien-chung, if there ever is such a day, I certainly won’t leave you standing out there under the eaves. You’ll come in, and if your clothes are wet, I’ll take mine off and put them on you.”
“Do you really mean that?”
“Of course I do.”
Chang Hsien-chung shook his head from side to side and laughed heartily. Tzu-ch’eng felt a chill grip his heart, for in that instant he realized, more clearly than ever before, that it would be exceedingly difficult for him to work together with Hsien-chung over any long period of time.
“As the days accumulate, you come to see what’s really in a man’s heart; when the time comes you’ll believe what I’ve said,” said Li.
After a hurried farewell meal and a parting cup of wine, Prince Valiant led his entourage—the medical doctor, Shang Chiung; the prince’s son, Shuang-hsi; and his personal company of fifty men—out through a side gate. They mounted their horses and moved out. Hsien-chung, accompanied by twenty-odd of his own men, escorted them on their way.
Dawn had not yet broken. Night curfew was still in effect and the streets were deserted save for Chang Hsien-chung’s sentries and patrol squads. Hsien-chung accompanied his guests for three or four miles out of town. It was only after they crossed a pontoon bridge called “Crossing of the Taoist Immortals” and had come to a fork in the road that he finally bade them all farewell. He spoke to the doctor, Shang Chiung: “Cousin, all the time you were here I kept thinking about keeping you on, but I knew that Tzu-ch’eng wouldn’t stand for it, so I just didn’t bring it up. Wang-chia-ho isn’t far from here, you know. You’ll go right past it. Do you think you’ll have a chance to see your goddaughter and godson-in-law?”
“Not this time. Prince Valiant and I are in a hurry. And if things work out for us, I’ll have all the time in the world to see them later on anyway.”
Shang Chiung’s words were no more than out of his mouth than a rumble of hooves was heard thundering down from the north. A stand of trees cut off most of the view so that they could not see exactly how many horses there were. Their experienced ears told them, however, that two or three hundred were involved. Hsien-chung was completely taken aback and wondered to himself what under the sun could have happened over there at Wang-chia-ho. Prince Valiant could not help but feel somewhat apprehensive. He exchanged glances with the doctor, who, in turn, gave a secret sign to Tzu-ch’eng’s two young generals, Shuang-hsi and Chang Nai, and the men under their command. In a flash every sword was drawn. Startled by this show of arms, Hsien-chung smiled and said, “Hey, what is all this? Why should you do such a thing in an area under my control? There are no government troops around here and no one else would even dare to pull anything against you. Those men are coming from the direction of my foster son’s camp. You haven’t a thing to worry about.”
Tzu-ch’eng returned Hsien-chung’s smile. “Well, you see, my men are so used to being on guard against the unexpected that such immediate reactions have become ingrained.” Then Li Tzu-ch’eng turned his head to the right and left and shouted to both wings, “Sheath your blades!”
Though this command was loud and clear and though Shuang-hsi acknowledged it with one “Yes, sir!” after the other, he didn’t sheath his sword. Chang Nai and fifty men of the guard took their cue from him and kept their swords firmly in hand too. Everyone was prepared against the long shot that something might go amiss. From the expression in Tzu-ch’eng’s eyes, Shuang-hsi knew that the order was not meant to be taken seriously; furthermore, the doctor had winked at him while Tzu-ch’eng was shouting. Therefore, Shuang-hsi was not only unusually on the alert, but was even thinking of how, if the need should arise, he would bound over to Hsien-chung to get in that half-the-battle first blow.
In no time at all Chang K’o-wang and his men had made their way through the trees. It had already grown so light out that immediately upon clearing the edge of the forest, K’o-wang was able to tell right off that Tzu-ch’eng was taking his leave of Hsien-chung. He told Hsii Yi-hsien, his aide-de-camp, “Just in the nick of time, a moment later and he’d have gotten away. Now, when we meet him, don’t be in a hurry to start anything. My foster father is still Commander-in-Chief and we must have his agreement before we make our move.”
As soon as they arrived at the fork in the road, Chang K’o-wang and Hsii Yi-hsien diligently saluted and greeted the guests; they even went through the motions of exhorting them to stay a while longer, but neither of them dismounted to perform the proper ceremonies that would have been required if they had been serious about it. Shang Chiung asked, “K’o-wang, what kind of business do you have to do that made you gallop so fast?”
Hemming and hawing, K’o-wang replied evasively, “Well, you see, Hsü Yi-hsien, my aide-de-camp, arrived in Wang-chia-ho during the night. When I learned from him that both Commander Li and you, my honored elder, had graced Ku-ch’eng with a visit, I made it a special point to go to the city to pay my respects. Who would have expected that you’d be in such a hurry to leave? If I’d been a moment later, I wouldn’t have set eyes on you.”
“But it worked out all right in the end,” Hsü Yi-hsien continued, “and we did catch up in time to see you off.”
“Thank you. You flatter us too much,” Li Tzu-ch’eng responded. Wasting no time, he gave Hsien-chung and the others a final salute, whipped his mount and, taking the lead, rode off at the head of his cavalrymen.
As soon as they had gone, Hsien-chung asked his foster son, “K’o-wang, my son, why did you come galloping like a bat out of hell just now? And why did you bring so many men?”
K’o-wang motioned to the officers and men around him and ordered, “Fall back a few paces.” Once they were out of earshot, he hurriedly told his foster father of the plan to take advantage of the chance they now had to get rid of Li Tzu-ch’eng and asked permission to strike immediately.
Hsien-chung responded, “Although Tzu-ch’eng and I don’t piss in the same pot and though it’s true that sooner or later we are bound to have a falling out, still he is down on his luck right now and he did make a special trip here to ask me for my help. Now how do you expect me to wipe him out? No!”
“But my father and commander, since you yourself realize that sooner or later you are going to come to a parting of the ways, why not take advantage of the opportunity you have to get rid of him here and now? Why leave a potential enemy around who may do you harm in the future? Better to be a murderer than a victim any day!”
Chang Hsien-chung seemed at a loss for words. Signs of contradiction and indecision showed in his eyes. To be sure, he had last night sworn a solemn oath that he would join Li Tzu-ch’eng in a new uprising next year after the wheat harvest was in—still, he had never considered his cooperation with Tzu-ch’eng in any other light but as something temporary during a period when their interests happened to coincide. And just a few minutes ago when Li Tzu-ch’eng’s men had heard that sudden rumble of hooves, they had drawn their swords without even thinking. Wasn’t that an unmistakably clear indication that whatever misunderstandings stood between them they were too deep to be resolved? And just suppose that it was the Will of Heaven that Hsien-chung accomplish great things in the future; then eliminating Tzu-ch’eng now would accord with the Will of Heaven above and also fit in with the wishes of his own aides here on earth below. In that case, the oath he had taken would not really be worth serious consideration. But on the other hand, if, for the time being, he made no move, then Tzu-ch’eng would tie up a portion of the government troops in Shensi and that would be advantageous to Hsien-chung’s own present position. When all was said and done, what should he do? What should he do?
Hsü Yi-hsien could see that Hsien-chung’s stance on this issue was not so firm as it had been last night and that he was at this very moment beginning to waver. Thereupon he immediately went into an analysis of the pros and cons of the plan and asked that Hsien-chung consent to it right away in order to keep this golden opportunity from slipping through their fingers. He wound it all up by saying, “If you refuse my loyal advice now, then someday in the future you are sure to suffer defeat at the hands of Tzu-ch’eng. And if that’s the way it’s to be, then there’s no point in my remaining at my commander’s side and I request permission to retire into the mountain fastnesses and live in seclusion.”
Chang Hsien-chung’s expression remained exactly as it had been. He studied Chang K’o-wang’s face once again, and then turned and gazed off in the direction of Li Tzu-ch’eng and his cavalry. By now the sky was very light, and soon Hsien-chung’s eyes adjusted to the distance and focused in on Prince Valiant’s small band. They were riding along the highway that fronted the north bank of the Hsiang River. In the soft rays of the morning sun he was even able to see the whip in Li Tzu-ch’eng’s hand.
“If we make our move right away, we can still get them,” urged K’o-wang excitedly, a murderous glow radiating from his reddened eyes. “My father and commander, why don’t you let me take the troops and go after them? Let me go! Now!”
Ever since the Great Conference at Jung-yang in Honan Province during the seventh year of the Ch’ung-chen Emperor’s reign ,* Hsien-chung had watched Li Tzu-ch’eng’s reputation mount by the day. A few years later, when Tzu-ch’eng was elevated to the status of Prince Valiant, t Hsien-chung had become even more jealous. Yet last night, seeing Tzu-ch’eng defeated and seeking refuge in his camp, Hsien-chung’s jealousy, along with all the ill-feeling that had accumulated in his heart as the two men struggled for leadership, was for the moment suppressed. What’s more, Tzu-ch’eng’s attitude had been so frank and open and his talk had been so straightforward that Hsien-chung had been genuinely moved, and that was the reason he had shown his rival such generosity and warmth. But now, after hearing the exhortations of Chang K’o-wang and Hsü Yi-hsien, a sudden storm of conflicting feelings erupted in his heart.
He looked over the two or three hundred crack cavalrymen led by K’o-wang, and then gazed into the distance at the small group under Tzu-ch’eng’s command. A plan for wiping Tzu-ch’eng out completely flashed across his mind like a shimmer of summer lightning. It was as though he saw the whole bloody business from beginning to end. It would be quick and simple: he would catch up with Tzu-ch’eng and then ride bridle to bridle with him, pretending that he had something important to discuss. Tzu-ch’eng would be completely off guard. Hsien-chung would suddenly raise one hand and before Tzu-ch’eng had time to call out, he would fell him. While Shuang-hsi and the others were still figuring out what was going on, K’o-wang and his men would have mopped up the rest of the small band.
“Would my commander be so good as to decide now while the opportunity is still ripe. Hesitate no longer.” There was a savage look on Hsü Yi-hsien’s face as he spoke, and he had already unsheathed his sword.
But Chang Hsien-chung still couldn’t bring himself to make the decision that they wanted. Among the numerous leaders of the peasant armies, Hsien-chung was famous for his decisiveness in the thick of things; K’o-wang had never seen his foster father hesitate like this in deciding whether or not to kill a man.
Chang K’o-wang was so eager that he could no longer contain himself; “In another minute they’ll be so far away that pursuit will be a waste of time!” With his eyes he signaled his personal troops and the sentries to be on the ready. The Mongol stallion he was riding was fully as eager as he; snorting impatiently, it pulled tight against its reins and pawed the dirt. If the rider had relaxed his hold on the reins for a single instant, the horse would have shot forward like an arrow freed from its bowstring.
Chang Hsien-chung neither nodded his head in agreement nor shook it in refusal. While slowly stroking his brownish beard, he looked off in the distance at the gradually receding shadows of Tzu-ch’eng’s horses. Every man held his breath in tense anticipation. Every eye was glued to Chang’s right hand. They all knew his peculiar habit: whenever he was wavering as to which way to go on an important issue, or whenever he was deciding whether or not to kill someone of note, he would grab his long beard in the right hand and begin to stroke slowly downward. If when halfway down he suddenly tightened his hand or finished the stroke with an abrupt downward motion, it meant that he had decided to go through with whatever it was he was considering. If he suddenly relaxed his grip when halfway through the stroke, however, that meant that he had decided to call the whole thing off. This time, as he reached the halfway point on the first stroke, Chang K’o-wang thought that he had already agreed to the attack and, drawing his sword, quietly ordered his men: “On the ready!”
Every sword was unsheathed and the head of every horse was pointed westward; every man was ready to gallop off in pursuit as soon as Hsien-chung’s horse moved. But the head of Hsien-chung’s horse remained perfectly still. Hsien-chung’s left hand was drawn tight against the reins, while the right hand continued to stroke his long beard. It neither moved suddenly downward nor did it let go.
Li Tzu-ch’eng let his horse, Black Dragon, proceed westward at its own leisurely pace in the early dawn light, pointedly refraining from whipping him to a gallop. The appearance of Chang K’o-wang and Hsii Yi-hsien with so many mounted men had made him very suspicious. He had quickly deduced that K’o-wang’s arrival had come as a surprise to Hsien-chung, and that made him confident that Hsien-chung had not turned against him. Because of that deduction, he had decided to take a bit of a risk and move out slowly rather than gallop off at full tilt and thereby stir up doubts in Hsien-chung’s heart. He realized quite clearly that if he did take off at a gallop, not only would the results of his meeting last night vanish into the morning mists, but his own life and the lives of his men would be in jeopardy as well.
The doctor rode beside Prince Valiant and he too was apprehensive about their present situation. He addressed the prince in quiet tones. “It seemed to me that Hsü Yi-hsien and Chang K’o-wang were up to no good. Did you feel that way too?”
“I did to a certain extent, but I don’t think it’s too serious. Even if Hsien-chung were to change his mind, I doubt very much that he’d do it this quickly. All we have to do is to keep our reins slack and move out with calm and assurance. We must avoid any sort of movement that could be taken for nervousness.”
He spoke a bit more loudly than usual so that his two young generals, Shuang-hsi and Chang Nai, along with his personal troops would also hear him. And, sure enough, although every man was in a hurry to get out of there, they all refrained from using their whips to urge their horses forward.
The doctor asked, “In the beginning you had intended to rest up for a few days at Hsien-chung’s place. Why was it that as soon as you set eyes on him you were in a hurry to leave? Did you sense right off that he was unreliable, or were you afraid that there were too many agents from the government army in Ku-ch’eng?”
“The large number of agents there was a factor, but besides that ...”
“Besides that you could tell that Chang Hsien-chung was unreliable.”
“No, it was because I sensed that that eagle-beaked advisor of his who was forever waving a goose-feather fan was something less than a good and honest man. Last night at the banquet I noticed that Eagle Beak’s smiles were only skin deep and the expression in his eyes was uneasy. He had very little to say—another Fan Tseng, apparently.63 Seeing him, I thought to myself that since my primary purpose in coming here had already been accomplished, there was nothing to be gained by lingering any longer and it would be best to leave.”
“You left at just the right time—a wise decision, a wise decision. While it is intolerable to harbor thoughts of doing injury to others, it is equally inadmissible not to have the good sense to be on one’s guard against them, for on the off chance that anything unexpected did happen, you’d not only have lost what you gained in coming here this time, but you’d have sacrificed all your past accomplishments as well.”
“On the other hand, if you are going to accomplish anything really great, there are times when you have to gamble. If I had listened to the advice of Pu-chih and the others rather than coming here in person, then Chang Hsien-chung would never have agreed to join us in the rising next year after the wheat harvest is in.” Having said this much, Tzu-ch’eng felt very pleased with himself and added, “In retrospect, it would seem that taking an occasional wild risk is well worth it.”
“To be sure,” said Shang Chiung, “I wasn’t as intent on trying to talk you out of coming here as Pu-chih was, but I have felt anxious about the entire trip all along. As the saying goes, ‘a tiger’s hide conceals the heart inside and a human skin hides what lies within.’ Who could tell what was going through Chang Hsien-chung’s mind after he threw in with the government forces at Ku-ch’eng?”
“You weren’t the only one who was anxious. I was just as concerned as anyone that Chang might use the opportunity to take advantage of us, but on the other hand, I did know the man’s character inside out. As I had it figured, after he threw in on the government side at Ku-ch’eng, he’d probably been treated rather poorly. Surely the imperial court did not trust him and it was quite likely that his officers and men had suffered slights at every turn, so much so that they probably couldn’t put up with it any longer. And then I came along with a plan that gave Chang a way of getting back at them. Under those circumstances, why should he want to do me any harm? But on the other hand, if I had stayed around too long, then it would be hard to say what might happen.” Tzu-ch’eng looked at the doctor and asked, “Do you agree?”
Shang Chiung nodded his head and replied, “Last night when you left every last one of your personal troops outside the city wall and took only Shuang-hsi and Chang Nai with you to see Chang, I was really worried. I saw that your expression, however, was perfectly calm—didn’t seem to have a care in the world. It’s true that you really are different from ordinary people in being able to face danger with equanimity.”
Tzu-ch’eng laughed and said, “Since I was already inside the city, what use would fifty soldiers have been if Chang had taken it into his head to do me in? In a situation like that a small number of personal troops isn’t going to do any good. You have to depend on the courage that comes from the Tightness of your cause and on your own ability to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.”
As they came to the outskirts of a village, Tzu-ch’eng turned around and looked back. He saw that they were now somewhat over a mile from the fork in the road. Chang and the others stood there watching them from afar. Seeing that mass of horses and men still there at the fork in the road, Tzu-ch’eng was even surer now that Chang K’o-wang and the others were up to no good and that Chang Hsien-chung was still wavering. Li Tzu-ch’eng’s face betrayed not a single trace of fear, but as soon as he and his men had wound through to the other side of the village, he raised his whip and brought it down against Black Dragon’s flanks with a loud crack.
Chang Hsien-chung had his last glimpse of Li and his men as they entered the village. The opinion that Li should not be harmed had carried the day.
Hsien-chung knew that his own strength at present was not sufficient for him to go it alone and that he’d have to cooperate with other commanders in order to be a match for the government forces and, he hoped, create a new situation in the future. If he were to kill Tzu-ch’eng, then Lo Ju-ts’ai and other potential allies would be forever wary of him. He would be left with one hand and it is not easy to do much clapping that way.
When Chang had gotten this far in his musing, his heart gave a sudden start as he realized something else: the Manchu soldiers would not be likely to remain within the passes for very long, and since the imperial court was less than convinced of his own sincerity, then as soon as the Manchus left, the two government commanders now fighting them would be free to divert their attention to Chang. They might very well return to Ku-ch’eng with a mass of troops; what’s more, they might even transfer a large number of frontier troops to join in an attack against him. Clearly, if he got rid of Tzu-ch’eng, he would be in a tough spot.
“Yes, I must let Tzu-ch’eng live,” he said to himself, “so that he can stay in Shensi and tie down one leg of the government forces.”
“Commander, what are you hesitating for?” Hsii Yi-hsien asked and then winked at K’o-wang.
“Let’s make our move right now. Don’t let the tiger slip back to his mountain lair,” urged K’o-wang as he picked up his reins and moved his horse to the fore.
Chang Hsien-chung looked at him sternly, threw the beard he had been stroking with his right hand to one side, and said in harsh tones, “K’o-wang, son, what do you think you’re doing being so goddamned impetuous? ... Back to town, back to town!” Barking out his command, Chang swung his horse’s head around, dug his stirrups into its side, and galloped off in the direction of the pontoon bridge.
Chang K’o-wang and Hsü Yi-hsien looked at each other but did not dare disobey the command. Discouraged and disappointed, they swung their horses’ heads around, sheathed their swords, and followed behind Hsien-chung, riding toward the pontoon bridge.
Translated by William Lyell
Malchinhu’s interest in literature was nurtured early by his peasant mother, who taught him folksongs and told him folktales in Mongolian. Later he joined a cavalry unit and worked in a cultural troupe. His writing, first appearing in 1951, drew wide attention with its frontier flavor and soon made him one of the foremost non-Han Chinese writers. By 1962, his short stories had been collected in popular anthologies, including On the Kolchin Grasslands and The Flowering Steppe. More recently his two movie scripts, Spring in the Desert and Oh, My Motherland! have been screened and received with enthusiasm.
Vivid local color of his homeland enriches his depiction of the lives and loves of his own people, mostly contrasting the pre-1949 misery of their enslavement and the joyful change since Liberation. His stories record the brief but bloody Japanese invasion, as well as the struggle between rich, conservative Mongolian herd-owners and the People’s Liberation Army units.
Since 1973, Malchinhu has been deputy chief of the Cultural Affairs Commission, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. He was a delegate to the Third Congress of the All-China Federation of Literary and Art Circles (Peking, 1978).
An amazing drama was enacted on the Kolchin grasslands last August.
The evening sun was being swallowed up by the far horizon. A northwest wind was stealthily ruffling the grass till the plain looked like a racing sea, while the dark clouds gathering overhead resembled the calfskin roof of a tent. Everybody knew the autumn rain was at hand.
Sarin-Gua had driven her cattle back from further than the eye could see. She was riding a big roan horse, accompanied by her favorite hunting dog, little Galu, who followed his mistress wherever she went.
Although the herd strained forward against the high wind, Sarin scolded them for being too slow. She cracked her whip continuously and shouted: “Giddup!” But how could the cattle know this treatment was due to the fact that their mistress was anxious to meet her lover?
When Sarin had driven the herd to a sand dune not far from the village she suddenly reined in her horse and swept the plain for some time with disappointed eyes. “Sanbu! Sanbu!” she called. But there was no one in sight, and no answer to her call. She could do nothing but round up the cattle on the sand dune and wait for Sanbu in the high wind.
Presently a gray horse came flying like an arrow from the east. Then Sarin’s heart gave a leap and her face lit up like a blooming flower. Hurriedly jumping down from her horse she took from her breast a pink tobacco pouch with long ribbons, which she waved over her head in welcome. However, as the newcomer drew nearer, her enthusiasm was damped.
It was not her long awaited Sanbu.
A bearded old man galloped up to Sarin and reined in his horse.
“What are you doing here, lass?” Actually he knew quite well why she was there, and was simply teasing her.
“What’s the hurry, Grandad, that your horse is in such a lather?” she parried his question.
“Very urgent business, and I must call a mass meeting to announce it.”
“After the meeting this evening will you go on with the story you didn’t finish yesterday?”
“It probably won’t be possible. Didn’t I say there’s very urgent business?”
“Urgent business indeed! Say you won’t and have done with it.”
“It’s true; take my word for it. All right, I must be getting on. You’d better go back soon too, young woman.”
The horse galloped off.
This old man, whose name was Amugulan, was both village head and an old Party member. Because he was honest and kind, and because he was the first to accept hardship and the last to take his ease in the service of the people, he had won the confidence and love of the masses. All the youngsters in the village called him Grandad Amugulan.
After Amugulan had left, Sarin started worrying again over Sanbu’s delay. She also wondered about the urgent business of Grandad Amugulan.
Just then the northwest wind brought the booming of thunder, and the distant horizon was lit by golden lightning—the prelude to a downpour. But since she had promised to meet her lover, Sarin had to wait on.
“Good evening, comrade!” A low, deep voice sounded behind her. “Would you please tell me the name of the village ahead?”
She turned to confront a man lean as a brown goat. His long, unkempt hair seemed to be swarming with lice, his pock-marked face was stained with sweat, and he had over his shoulder a brown blanket. Suspicious of this unexpected arrival, Sarin asked rather nervously:
“Who are you, and where are you from?”
“I’ve come from the Zharut-Hushu because of the drought there.” He deliberately withheld his name.
“Where are you going, and who are you looking for?”
“When I set out, Malhei of our village asked me to bring a message to Galsan in Bayan-undur village of the Kolchin-Hushu. Tell me, please, how far Bayan-undur village is from here.” Awaiting her answer he eyed her cunningly.
The words “Galsan of Bayan-undur” aroused Sarin’s suspicion. Galsan of their village had been a platoon leader of the Kuomintang troops, and was under surveillance.... And now a suspicious character like this had come expressly to ask about another suspicious character. For a long time Sarin said nothing. Galu, the little hunting dog beside her, pricked up his ears and looked steadily at the stranger.
“Where is your home in Zharut?”
“Altan-obo village.” He paused, then added hastily: “Only very soon well be moving away, because the drought there’s terrible. Tell me, comrade, do you know how far Bayan-undur village is or not?”
“Bayan-undur village? Very close,” she said slowly. “But we’ve a rule in Kolchin that travellers must produce their identity cards before they’ve the right to ask the way. Otherwise people won’t tell them.”
“Hah!” He gave a crafty smile. “Identity card? I have one all right. Only when I left home my wife was afraid I might lose it on the road, so she sewed it into my pants. It would be rather awkward getting it out here. All right, it’s growing dark and I must be moving on. Goodbye!” And he started off.
As Sarin watched him go she felt very uneasy. She knew he was a suspicious character, yet she had no means of stopping him. She remembered the Mongolian proverb, “Whoever lets a wolf go sins against the grasslands,” and thought: “Since I’ve met a suspicious character I mustn’t on any account let him slip away.” At once she hit on a plan, and hurried after the stranger, calling: “Wait a moment, comrade!”
The rascal slowly came to a standstill.
“It’s late, and sure to rain by the look of it. Come to my house for a bowl of tea and a rest.”
The fellow said nothing, only looked up at the sky reflectively. Just then, as luck would have it, a sudden gust of wind switched the brown blanket he had over his shoulder. A shiver ran down Sarin’s spine as she saw with amazement the glittering barrel of a gun.
Sure now that he was up to no good, she thought, “I simply must find a way to get him back to the village. No, that’s no good; he’s so crafty that he’d be able to see through my plan, and then it’d be too late. Now he’s looking up at the sky, what’s to stop me snatching his gun from him?”
Darting fiercely forward she laid hands on the rogue’s gun. He twisted round and struggled desperately with her. However, Sarin had a firm grip on the gun, and the two of them tugged wildly this way and that.
As she struggled for the gun, Sarin shouted: “A saboteur! Come quick!” hoping this would summon the villagers. Little Galu came to her aid, biting the scoundrel till his hands and face ran with blood. For a moment the stranger relaxed his guard and Sarin, giving a fierce tug at the gun, succeeded in wresting it from him. Frenzied with rage he kicked her savagely in the stomach. Although the pain was agonizing, she realized this was a matter of life and death, and that on no account could she let the enemy get the better of her.
Dogs are the most intelligent creatures on the plain. By now the dogs in the distant village had been aroused and were barking wildly. This alarmed the scoundrel even more, and he thought: “I’ve lost my gun, and soon a pack of dogs from the village may be after me. I could never hope to get away from those Mongolian dogs. Better go while the going’s good.” He turned and jumped onto Sarin’s big roan horse. The horse gave a start, but under the pressure of the stranger’s legs, it flew off.
It was a Czech gun Sarin had seized. Since she was only used to hunting guns, she was unable to manipulate it. In her agitation she took a few steps forward, then fell down. Only little Galu pursued the stranger, biting the roan horse’s hind legs and making it buck like a crazy thing until the rascal was thrown. He scrambled up at once, and, not able to catch the horse again, dropped the brown blanket and took to his heels. Once more Galu gave chase, but gave up when he saw his mistress was not following.
The rascal had spent the last few days on the grasslands, in the desert and wilderness, without a square meal all that time. The fierce struggle with Sarin had exhausted him. He had scarcely left the sand dune before his head started reeling. However, he ran on desperately until he saw in front of him a stretch of marshland, where reeds were tossing like ocean waves in an evening gale. He stopped for a moment, then produced a box of matches from his pocket, and dived into the reeds.
By the time little Galu and the big roan horse reached Sarin’s side again, she was just getting unsteadily to her feet, thinking to herself: “Although I’ve captured a gun, the enemy’s escaped. It’s as bad as shooting rabbits and only nicking their fur.”
She lowered her head, frowning, to fumble with the gun. There was a sudden click as the safety catch was released. In her joy she forgot her pain and fatigue. Mounting the roan horse, she led little Galu northward in pursuit.
As soon as she had crossed the sand dune she smelled smoke. Sarin gave an exclamation on seeing a sea of fire ahead. She reined in her horse. Consternation made great drops of perspiration run down her forehead.
Fanned by a strong north wind, a raging fire was roaring and crackling furiously. Because it was August, the reeds were dry, and they blazed so fiercely that even a wild duck could not have flown over.
Although Sarin was still nearly three hundred yards from the fire, the dense smoke already made it difficult for her to breathe, and her face stung in the fierce heat. She could not understand how this fire had started.
Marshland is one of the treasures of the plains. Those who live nearby take the reeds to town each year to exchange for cloth, boots, tea, flowered silk, and brocade. Some indeed depend on this for the whole year’s food. And now their marshland was a sea of fire. As a Mongolian saying goes: “Fire is the plain’s worst enemy.”
“That rogue must have started this fire. But he’s wrong if he thinks he can get away with it!” Thereupon Sarin brought her whip smartly down on the horse, and without hesitation headed for the blaze.
Flames and smoke formed a lurid line of fire closing in upon her from all sides. Yet her one thought was: “I must break through! The saboteur mustn’t get away!” She bent down to call Galu to jump onto the horse. Fearing he would be burnt as they dashed through the fire, she wrapped him in the folds of her skirt. By now sparks were raining on her head. She saw that the belt of fire was narrower to the west, and decided to break through there. Given free rein the roan horse, like a mad wolf, hurtled through the fiery inferno. The intense heat made Sarin faint and fall limply over his neck, her headdress on fire and white smoke wreathing from her clothes. The roan horse was burnt too, and blood dripped from his mouth. As if sympathizing with his mistress, he slackened his pace and walked on with lowered head. However, at that critical moment, his strength failed him. His front legs suddenly buckled under him, his head dropped, and he sank onto the scorched black ground.
As night fell, the wind dropped. Sarin felt a refreshing coolness, as when one takes off furs in June to plunge into the river. She recovered consciousness. Her eyes opened weakly, then closed again. However, when she remembered she was chasing a counterrevolutionary she shook herself and straightened up. She found the heavy Czech gun still slung over her left arm. Only then did she become conscious of the pain in her face, and when she put her hand up to her cheeks, her fingers came away stained with blood. “The roan horse has been hurt in the fire, and I’m still dizzy,” she thought. “It would be better to let Galu go first.” So she released Galu from her lap, saying: “Go on! Off with you!” Not a hair on his body had been hurt, and he jumped down and dashed in the direction pointed out by his mistress.
Then Sarin extinguished the sparks in her clothing, adjusted her dress, and pulled the horse to his feet. After leading the horse for a few steps she mounted once more to gallop across the boundless plain through the black, illimitable night.
By now drops of rain were beginning to fall from the dark sky, pelting noisily on the grass.
Sanbu had been to town that day to have his horse shod. Since he was late coming home, he knew Sarin must have waited for some time. He bolted his meal and hurried out again. Riding the snow-white horse Baby Rabbit, a fast runner with staying power, he reached the sand dune in next to no time. To his surprise Sarin was not there. There was not even a sign of her. “Hang it, she’s let me down,” he thought. Looping his whip he started for her home, but he had no sooner passed the sand dune than he saw a thick pall of smoke to the north, and flames leaping high. At once he put aside all thought of Sarin, and turned back to report to Grandad Amugulan.
Grandad Amugulan had just called a mass meeting and was reading an announcement to the villagers:
“The meeting this evening is for an announcement. First I’ll read you the circular from the Hushu Security Office.” The old man started reading in a grave, deep voice:
People’s Government of Tunutug-gacha.
Yesterday we received a notice from the League Security Office regarding the counterrevolutionary Boyan. This criminal joined the Kuomintang in 1947 and held the post of deputy commander of a unit of the puppet cavalry. He lorded it over the Ar-Kolchin-Hushu, committing every conceivable crime, plundering the people of over five hundred horses, over seven hundred cattle, and over three thousand sheep. He also raped more than twenty women His crimes aroused the wrath of the people. Hence when our army liberated the Ar-Kolchin-Hushu, this criminal changed his name and escaped to a district in the Zharut-Hushu, where for a long period he carried out subversive activities. The great movement to suppress counterrevolutionaries has struck fear into the hearts of evil-doers, and on the fifteenth of this month he fled. A description of his appearance follows: ...
Amugulan had just finished reading this announcement and was pausing a moment before embarking on a simple explanation when Sanbu burst into the meeting like a two-year-old colt, completely out of breath. Everybody was taken aback.
“A fire’s started, Grandad Amugulan!” he gasped.
“What? A fire!” The whole room was agog.
“Speak plainly, Sanbu, where is the fire?” asked Amugulan.
After Sanbu had given Amugulan a clear account, everybody rose from their seats. Some of those standing in the doorway had already left.
Two simple words—“grasslands fire”—yet what an impression they create! There had been many such fires in the past. Homes had been reduced to ashes, while cattle, sheep, and camels had perished in the flames. Since Liberation, however, each district had a fire prevention organization, and clauses on fire prevention had been included in patriotic compacts, with the result that no fire had broken out during the past three or four years. Now that the fearful words were heard again, they naturally caused alarm.
On hearing Sanbu’s account Amugulan knitted his brows and paced to and fro. Then, he turned to the others:
“Today’s meeting is temporarily adjourned. Our first job is to fight the fire. Go home at once to get what’s needed, and gather when the bell rings under the old elm east of the village.”
Everyone rushed off to carry out the orders.
Amugulan held an emergency meeting with the village cadres and some of the militiamen, at which he said:
“We’ve had no fire on the Kolchin plain for three or four years, have we? Then what a coincidence that today—just after receiving an urgent notice from the Hushu Security Office—such a fierce fire should suddenly break out. There’s more to this than meets the eye. We must be very much on our guard.”
They all agreed with Amugulan, and immediately posted guards about the village. Amugulan took out his pencil and wrote a few characters in his diary, then he tore out the page, folded it in three, and gave it to Sanbu, saying:
“Deliver this directly to the District, and bring back a receipt.” And to another militiaman he said: “You go and ring the bell.”
All the villagers gathered under the old elm tree, men and women, old folk and youngsters who had just laid down their school books. Most of them had brought brooms, others had hoes and sopping wet rugs.
About eight hundred yards from the fire was a hillock like a pyramid of cow dung. Amugulan stood there and waved his arm, and the villagers came to a pause. Old Bayar, who towered a head above the crowd, noticed that the rain was coming down faster and faster, and muttered as if it were an incantation: “When thirst burns your vitals, may you find a peach orchard. When a grassland fire starts, may the north wind bring a downpour.”
“Comrades!” shouted Amugulan. “The fire’s just ahead. We must learn to fight the fire. We must first break up the enemy forces, then annihilate the different sectors, so to speak.”
“But it seems to me this fire is so fierce, if we grapple with it directly we’re bound to fail,” Old Bayar put in before Amugulan had finished. “That means we must burn a fire-ditch in front of the fire, where all the grass is burnt at once so that by the time the fire reaches the ditch, it cannot pass. That way we can put it out safely. This is a lesson we learned through many years in dealing with fires.” He made his proposal very confidently.
“Old Bayar’s right, that’s the best way—let’s do it!” said Amugulan.
“Right! That’s the way to deal with grassland fires!”
A roar of approbation rose from the crowd.
“All right, don’t shout! We’ll carry out Old Bayar’s proposal. First we must systematically burn a strip in front of the fire. When the fire reaches the passage we have burned out, we’ll divide into teams to cope with the different sections. Fortunately it’s going to pour all evening. We’re in luck. It just goes to show that we people of the Kolchin plain are Fortune’s favorites! Get to work, comrades! When we’ve finished putting out the fire, our pretty girls will sing to us.”
Organized into a big fire-fighting force, the three hundred or so villagers attacked the fire as if they were besieging a city. All persons, regardless of age or sex, were confident of victory as they charged toward the fiery sea.
Sanbu braved the pouring rain to deliver the letter to the District, but in his eagerness to return and fight the fire, hurried off without waiting for a receipt. Flying like the wind, Baby Rabbit galloped for dear life over the muddy turf. But when he galloped past the eastern sand dune and turned north, the horse suddenly pricked up his ears and stopped, as if frightened. Sanbu looked in front and saw not far away a dark object. Surprised, he jumped off his horse to have a look at it. It was a brown blanket, soaked through with water. Picking up the blanket he had only taken a couple of steps when he saw another object like a black clod. His flashlight showed it to be a new pink tobacco pouch with long green brocade ribbons embroidered with twining petunias. He gave a puzzled smile: “Who could have had a rendezvous here and dropped this? Well, no matter what pretty girl made it, it’s mine now. Still, my Sarin can embroider a hundred times better than this.” Then he thought: “Fighting the fire’s the main thing.” He rolled up the pouch and blanket, fastened them to his saddle, and moved on.
Presently he could hear the distant shouts of the fire-fighters and see that the fire was rapidly being extinguished. Only a few minor sections remained, but these also were under control. He was just heaving a sigh of relief when he noticed a line of fire in the south, which was stealthily burning across. That looked bad, because to the east was the largest haystack in the whole district. If the fire were to spread here, the cattle would have nothing to eat that winter. Filled with anxiety he leapt down from his horse and tried to call the others to help, but his voice was lost in the sizzling of the flames. Thereupon thrusting the tobacco pouch into his pocket, he took the wet blanket from the saddle, and dashed toward the conflagration which was spreading eastward.
Baby Rabbit retreated a little further from the fire, to wait for his master.
Sanbu was very brave, yet it would be interesting to know what he was thinking when he leapt into the fire. He was not so mad as to seek death by burning. Far from it. He was a level-headed, intelligent youngster. But he was a twenty-two-year-old Youth Leaguer. When he saw the raging fire thrusting like a poisonous snake toward the big haystack, and it looked as if presently the towering goat grass would be ablaze, he leapt into the fire without any thought of the danger.
A wet blanket is the best thing to put out fire. Sanbu used it to extinguish flames right and left. However, it is not easy to move in a raging fire. The thick smoke suffocated him, the flames seared him agonizingly. But he paid no attention to them, thinking, “If only I can put out this fire, I don’t care if I’m burned.”
Exhausted and dizzy from the dense smoke, he pulled himself together for a spell, but then all went black before his eyes and he staggered and fell. Little tongues of flame still darted around him.
Amugulan hurried from east to west and back again, encouraging the villagers and inspecting the work of each team, until he was ready to drop. Thanks to the villagers’ efforts and the pouring rain the great fire was finally extinguished.
“Hey, look! There’s still fire in the east!” shouted Old Bayar.
“How could a fire have started there too?”
Amugulan looked eastward and saw another blaze there. Gasping for breath he hurried over, and was able to make out a black form lying in the flames. He exclaimed, “Someone’s lying in the fire. Hurry up and get him out!”
The villagers ran forward, Old Bayar at their head. He rushed into the fire with eyes closed and bated breath, picked up the unconscious form and darted back again. Then the others helped carry the injured man some distance from the fire, and discovered it was Sanbu.
Led by Amugulan, the villagers put out this fire too.
Then Amugulan went over to Sanbu to call him by his name, but the lad remained unconscious and there was no reply.
“We’d better hurry up and carry him back,” said a youngster.
“No, that doesn’t matter,” said Amugulan. “He’s been overcome by the smoke. As soon as he breathes fresh air he’ll come round.”
Sure enough, very soon Sanbu recovered consciousness. Still feeling weak and dizzy, he made no answer to Bayar’s friendly questions. Bayar knew his daughter and Sanbu were in love, and he himself was fond of the lad.
“He’s come to,” said Amugulan to the villagers, “and the fire has been extinguished. The rain’s getting heavier, we’d better go back. Only the captain of the militia must post some militiamen as guards to see that no further fires break out.”
Black night covered the boundless grasslands. Although the fire had been put out, the treasure of the plains—the reeds of the big marsh—had been burnt to the ground. Tired and sick at heart, they all walked home in silence.
On the way back, Sanbu’s head cleared. He gave Amugulan and Bayar a complete account of how he picked up the blanket and the tobacco pouch on his way back from delivering the message, and also of his experience later in fighting the fire.
“You say besides picking up a blanket, you picked up a tobacco pouch?” said Bayar, as they entered the village administration office.
“See, here it is.” Sanbu produced the pouch from his pocket and handed it to Amugulan.
“Aha! This is very interesting,” said Amugulan as he took the pouch and opened it. “There’s a paper inside. Why, it’s a letter.”
“Whose letter? What does it say?” asked Sanbu and Bayar simultaneously.
After glancing through the letter, Amugulan looked bewildered.
“Strange! What can it mean?” he wondered. “The blanket, the letter ... and on such a dark and rainy night. Very odd.”
“What does it mean?”
“Do you see whose letter this is?” He handed it to Sanbu.
“Why, it’s a note to me from Sarin,” Sanbu cried.
“What’s happened to my Sarin?” exclaimed Bayar.
“Did your daughter bring the cattle back this evening?” asked Amugulan.
“I didn’t see her, but she may have gone to fight the fire with the others. She’s one of the women activists, and wouldn’t shirk!”
“Better go home and see whether she’s really back or not.”
“What could have happened? Right, I’ll go and have a look.” As he spoke Bayar departed.
This tobacco pouch is not very pretty, but I tired my fingers out sewing it. It’s for you.
Sarin. August 24.
As Sanbu read the letter, his eyes grew round as saucers, and he looked completely at sea.
“Don’t you think it strange?” asked Amugulan.
“Strange! Very strange!” Cold sweat was pouring down Sanbu’s face. “This suspense is terrible.”
“Don’t get worked up, lad. When Bayar comes back we’ll know.”
The door of the outer room slammed as Bayar rushed in with a number of villagers at his heels. Failing to find Sarin at home he had called at several houses.
“She left this morning and hasn’t been back since,” Bayar told Amugulan. “We’ve looked all over the village, but no one knows anything about her.”
“No, when I was coming back from the District at sunset, I saw her on the east sand dune. I thought she must be waiting for Sanbu.”
“Yes, we had arranged to meet today, but when I got to the east sand dune she wasn’t there.”
“Why should she stay out for no reason? What else did you say to her, Sanbu? Why does it happen just today she hasn’t come?”
Although Bayar trusted Sanbu, his anxiety made him speak very sternly. It was the first time he had treated Sanbu like this.
Sanbu felt as if he had been given a slap in the face. Unable to speak he stared at the light for a time, then tears came to his eyes.
After a moment’s reflection Amugulan took up the brown blanket and said: “I take rather a different view of this. Look at this blanket—a brown blanket. When I read the notice from the Hushu Security Office at the meeting just now, it said that escaped felon Boyan was carrying a brown blanket. It’s strange too that those fires broke out this evening. If instead of considering these questions we just quarrel among ourselves, we won’t get anywhere.”
Bayar looked up in embarrassment, glanced at the company, and said to himself : “The proverb says:’ A blind man can crawl all his life without getting out of the Kolchin grasslands.’ I’m an old fool. Although my hair’s white I’m still muddleheaded. Amugulan’s quite right. Sanbu can’t be blamed for Sarin’s disappearance. I know he loves her.” Then turning to Sanbu he asked, “Are you still angry with me, lad?”
Sanbu got up slowly, and said: “No, I’m not angry with anyone. What worries me is how to get Sarin back quickly. I tell you, I can’t be at ease for a single second while she’s disappeared.”
Just then the militia captain and security officer, who had heard of Sarin’s disappearance, hurried in perspiring.
“Good, you’ve come just at the right time,” said Amugulan. “I was about to send someone for you.”
When Amugulan had studied the situation with the militia captain, the security officer, Sanbu, Bayar, and the others, he decided to divide the village militiamen into several groups to search different parts of the plain for Sarin. He also wrote a report to the District.
Amugulan, Sanbu, and three other militiamen formed one group, to search northwards.
Sarin had kept after the counterrevolutionary.
The storm raged violently over the grasslands, crashes of thunder and flashes of lightning were making people feel the end of the world was near. Before Sarin stretched the black, empty wilderness. She could only guess at the direction and terrain, guided by her years of experience in cattle herding here. But it is difficult to advance so much as an inch on the grasslands in the rain because everywhere is a mass of mud. Occasionally the roan horse floundered, and horse and rider fell together into the muddy water. But Sarin did not lose heart, and after each fall got up again to go on with the chase.
When her burns came in contact with the water the pain was agonizing. “How far will I have to chase him on this vast plain?” she wondered. Just then a flash of lightning enabled her to see footprints in the mud, and this encouraged her to go on, thinking: “Shar-mringol River is to the west, and because of this heavy rain it will be in flood. He won’t go there. The north’s the only possible way.”
She could dimly make out a small hill ahead, with some young elms on it. Not only had Sarin often brought the cattle here in the past, but it was on this hill Sanbu had first proposed to her. All kinds of flowers grew on the hill, and she remembered how once Sanbu had put two blossoms in her headdress.... In her mind’s eye she saw Sanbu’s handsome mouth and gay smile, and was lost for a moment in memories of their love.
Suddenly, short barks were heard from the hill, and Sarin’s heart missed a beat, though whether from pleasure or fear she herself could hardly say.
“Galu must have found the saboteur,” she thought.
Ascending the hill she did her best to make the horse go slowly and quietly, trying to pierce the darkness with her eyes. She hoped little Galu would give her another sign, but he was silent.
“Ha! Let’s see you bite again, damn dog!” A man’s deep voice sounded triumphantly from the slope seven or eight yards away. Straining her eyes Sarin could see a black figure climbing the hill, and behind it another black form lying on the ground.
“The scoundrel must have killed Galu!” she thought, and in a fit of fury rushed toward him and fired. The black figure flew like the wind. “He has no gun,” she thought. “I needn’t kill him; better capture him alive!” She caught up and struck him with the butt of the gun. Sarin heard him give a cry and fall. With her finger on the trigger she shouted: “Don’t move!” (She remembered this was something soldiers said.) The black form neither spoke nor stirred. “I may have knocked him out,” she thought. Alighting from her horse she was just going over to tie him up, when she heard the click of a rifle behind her, and then a shout: “Don’t move! If you move we’ll fire!”
Sarin trembled all over, and thought: “It’s all up! I’ve fallen into a trap and been surrounded! But I must be a true Mongolian and show no fear.”
“Who are you? If you come any nearer I’ll fire!” she shouted at the top of her voice.
“Hi! Is that Sarin?” It was a man’s voice which Sarin knew and loved. Then the bright light of an electric torch lit up her mud-stained figure.
“It’s really you, Sarin, dear child!” cried Amugulan, jumping down from his horse. There were others behind him.
“Grandad Amugulan! Sanbu!” Never before had these names sounded so dear and wholly admirable to Sarin. With tears in her eyes she ran forward and grasped Amugulan warmly.
“Good girl! Hold on a bit. Tell me, was it you who fired just now?”
“Yes. I’d seized the saboteur’s gun, and I knocked him out with it.”
Sarin embraced Sanbu too, then took his torch to shine on the prostrate black form. They looked where she turned the torch, and saw a pock-marked man getting up and ready to make off.
“Want to escape, you wretch? Halt!”
Amugulan strode over to the frightened rogue, and asked: “Who are you? What are you doing?”
“I—I’m an ordinary citizen.” Gold teeth flashed as he spoke.
“Oh, I know you, you’re Deputy Leader Boyan of the Ar-Kolchin-Hushu.”
“That’s not true, I’m of the Kolchin-Hushu.”
“Think you can talk your way out of this? Then think again.”
“It was this rogue who set fire to the northern marsh,” said Sarin indignantly.
Boyan rolled his eyes and said nothing.
“No more reasoning with a counterrevolutionary,” said Amugulan to the militiamen. “Tie him up and take him off.”
The sight of the enemy being tied up made Sarin inexpressibly happy. Then Sanbu came up and gripped her hand, saying, “You’ve had a tough time, Sarin.”
“No, it was my duty.”
“Sarin’s quite right: this is the duty of every Mongolian.”
“Grandad Amugulan! My little Galu had been with me for four years, and killed three wolves who were after the cattle; but today ...” She faltered and stopped.
Amugulan stroked her hair and said: “I feel for you, child. Your hair’s been scorched, your face is swollen with burns, and your favorite dog’s been killed. But I don’t think this is sad. You ought to understand, that man you caught is Boyan, the counterrevolutionary most hated by the people of the Zharut and Kolchin-Hushu, and all Mongolians...”
Boyan hung his head as Amugulan spoke.
The black clouds overhead rolled southwards, and in the eastern sky dawn appeared. The flowers carpeting the grasslands raised their heads, smiling, while high in the sky wild geese cried.
The sun had risen.
Chinese Literature, no. 1 (1953): 297-312
During my six-month visit to the People’s Republic of China in 1973,1 interviewed, both officially and informally, a good number of writers. One of my conclusions then was that no underground literature was possible under the pervasive system of control that Peking exercised with such disturbing thoroughness and efficiency. But I was wrong. As Howard Goldblatt and Leo Lee have noted in the following essay, writings of one form or another were in surreptitious circulation even during the most tumultuous days of the Cultural Revolution. Goldblatt and Lee take pains to differentiate those works written by exiled authors outside China from others written by residents of China, whose criticism of the regime, if too blunt, could easily invite dire consequences. The latter works perhaps deserve to be considered as real underground literature, and reports on their existence have been persistent since October 1976. In January 1979, the authorities in Peking even acknowledged the existence of one such hand-copied novel and indicated approval for its wider circulation. Unfortunately, thus far no authentic samples of such literature have become available outside the People’s Republic and Goldblatt and Lee can only report what they have learned about them indirectly. —K.Y.H.
THE DISSENTING VOICE
The writer’s position in twentieth-century China has often proved to be precarious and sometimes dangerous. Prior to the Yenan declaration by Chairman Mao that the writer’s responsibility was to serve the people in ways determined by the Party, writers as often as not were the nation’s foremost critics; as such they found themselves cast in the unenviable role of dissidents. Once Party control was established, the openly dissident writer all but ceased to exist, replaced by a new breed of literary worker committed to the proposition that China had stepped out of the dark tunnel of bourgeois tyranny and stood at the threshold of the millennium. The new literature, known as socialist realism and revolutionary romanticism, has held a virtual monopoly in creative writings over most of the last three decades. The situation has not remained static, however, for each shift of the political winds has altered the face of literature and affected the status of writers, old and new. In recent months, for example, even the highly acclaimed revolutionary novelist Hao Jan has been the subject of critical attacks following the fall of the Gang of Four.
What this means is that the writings of the past thirty years have been highly short-lived—few of the selections in the present anthology have been immune to criticism in the People’s Republic of China. It is not so much a matter of changing literary tastes as it is the protean nature of political orthodoxy. As a consequence, some of the writers represented here have stood accused of counterrevolutionary ideologies, their works labeled as “poisonous weeds.” However, among them one will search in vain for broad anti-Party attacks such as those associated with writers like Solzhenitsyn, Koestier, or Silone; rather, one finds oblique, veiled criticisms of personality cults, of Party elitism, and of bureaucratic insensitivity. But the situation is changing with the appearance—or at least the knowledge—of new samples of literature that go beyond the limited dissentist stance of earlier writers.
If during the 1950s and early 1960s the literary scene was somewhat kaleidoscopic, as the writers’ fortunes rose and fell in concert with the mutable political scene, there was, nonetheless, fairly constant creative activity. This came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution. A sweeping renunciation of practically every creative work written before 1966 resulted in the near elimination of creative literature for the next decade. The Cultural Revolution thus had the ironic effect of bringing cultural activities to a virtual standstill. Not surprisingly, the term “underground literature” and the phenomenon it describes date from this period.
According to reports emerging from China in recent years, the earliest examples of underground literature belong to the oral tradition—stories told and retold, expanded and improved. Eventually, many of the more popular stories were written down and clandestinely circulated, some of them growing in length and sophistication until they evolved into full-length novels. The existence of this body of subterranean literature has gone largely unnoticed outside of China until very recently; in fact, not until an article in Chinese appeared in late 1977 was there any indication that a fairly large corpus of underground writings existed in China. Prior to that, a collection of poems, essays, and short stories, some of which were reportedly smuggled out of China by former Red Guards, appeared in Hong Kong under the title Who Dares to Sing a Song That Moves the Earth? but the acclaim accorded it in some circles was attributable more to its novelty than to its literary excellence or sociopolitical significance. There were, reports had it, far more popular and impressive works that had not reached beyond China’s borders, but in the absence of the manuscripts themselves, our information has thus far remained largely secondhand.
In general terms, as Fox Butterfield has indicated, the underground literature that has gained widespread popularity is very much in the escapist vein: tales of espionage and agents provocateur, family feuds, romance and illicit sex, and cops-and-robbers thrillers abound in these writings.1 On their face these works do not appear to be treasonous anti-Party diatribes, nor do they call for the overthrow of the government, but their circulation is every bit as secret and the penalties of discovery every bit as severe as if they were,2 most likely because the tone of despair, anxiety, and pessimism, and the manifestations of “bourgeois” mentality that permeate these works are viewed with alarm and total disapprobation by the Party, especially by senior cadres and security forces.3 Authorship of these works is attributed to soldiers, factory workers, resettled urban students, and junior cadres. Many of the stories are regional in nature and popularity, while others have a much broader geographical base, though variations of detail often appear from region to region.
The fountainhead of most of this literature is the Cultural Revolution. One of the longest (reputedly in excess of 400 pages) underground novels, “The Hsiang River Runs Red,” written by a resettled Hunanese student in 1969, is a depiction of the Cultural Revolution in Hunan, focusing on the conflict between a father and son, the latter a Red Guard activist who commits suicide out of a sense of betrayal. According to one reader of the novel, “It shows how the young people were used, by both Mao and the bureaucrats.”4 A complex novel entitled “The Pearl River Runs Long” recounts the intertwined lives of three generations of two families, and takes the reader through the dizzying political changes of contemporary Chinese history from Liberation to the Cultural Revolution. Like “The Hsiang River Runs Red,” this novel also points the finger of accusation at the excesses of the Cultural Revolution.
Another popular type of samizdat (self-published) literature deals with love, licit and otherwise. Though there has been a slight lessening of restrictions on the depiction of romantic love in aboveground literature in China,5 available reports show that underground writings go far beyond the official sanctions. In “Ah-hsia,” a first-person narrative that by contemporary Western standards is mildly pornographic (some versions are reportedly illustrated), the heroine is a jilted lover who comes to realize that if men can take their pleasure with her body, she should be able to do the same with theirs. The social message in this story is the debasement and manipulation of women in New China, while in the story “Big Shoes,” the blame for an adulterous romance is laid at the doorstep of the Party and its policy of forced prolonged separation of spouses. One romantic story, reputedly smuggled out of China, has appeared in a Hong Kong magazine: “The Strange Encounter of a Drifter” is a soap-opera story of romance between a spectacularly beautiful and dedicated worker (a woman in the proletarian mode) and a beggar-pickpocket. With only an incidental reference to a lecherous bureaucrat at the end, there seems little in the story to keep it “underground” for long.
Among the most popular themes in underground fiction is espionage and political power struggles. This is best represented by “The Plum-Flower Gang,” a complex novel synthesized from various popular oral tales about contemporary political intrigue. Peopled with characters both real and fictional, most versions deal with a spy network (the Plum-Flower Gang) with Taiwan connections, which is infiltrated and crushed through the efforts of a counterespionage agent released from his labor-reform camp for this particular mission. A variation on this theme appears in the recently published retelling of a story entitled “Incident at the Yangtze River Bridge.” The incident in the title is the attempted assassination of Chairman Mao as his special train crosses the Yangtze River Bridge at Nanking. Though the plot is foiled, the enormity of the attempted act deals a staggering emotional blow to Mao and other government leaders, particularly Hsii Shih-yu, the Nanking Garrison Commander.
Premier Chou En-lai takes personal charge of the campaign to root out the conspiracy, and enlists a man who is China’s answer to James Bond to take on the mission single-handedly (a follower of Lo Jui-ch’ing, he must first be released from a labor-reform camp). What follows is a cloak-and-dagger tale of derring-do by the protagonist and ruthless Machiavellian determination on the part of the conspirators he is stalking. Complete with Bond-like devices, a cold-hearted femme fatale, and a hideout with underground passages, the bulk of the story is concerned not with politics per se, but with high adventure. In the end most of the conspirators barely escape Hsii Shih-yu’s troops and their identity is not revealed. But in the final paragraph the narrator discloses what the reader has suspected—the enemies of the people were the Air Force Commander Wu Fu-hsien in league with Lin Piao.
A released criminal figures prominently in yet another story, “The Nine-Dragon Vase,” in which the observed theft of a national treasure by a member of Nixon’s entourage, identified as Hei-ke (Haig?), presents a touchy problem of protocol: how to recover the treasure without causing a diplomatic cause célèbre. The feat is accomplished by a released convict during a magic performance when he causes a specially crafted look-alike vase to disappear, then tells his audience, which includes Nixon himself, that the vase has reappeared in Haig’s briefcase. A variation on this theme appears in a recently published story from Hong Kong, “The Thief in Hai-chu Square.” Here, too, foreigners figure prominently in the story, but as the victims, not the culprit: a pickpocket is operating among foreign businessmen attending the Canton Trade Fair, much to the consternation of officials worried about the image of the new “crime-less” China. A member of a smashed gang of pickpockets is released from prison to catch the malefactor and restore the visitors’ property (less patriotic than most of his fictional counterparts, his acquiescence is based on the promise of a commuted sentence), which he accomplishes by plying his old trade. True to the code of honor among thieves, however, he does not expose the thief to the authorities; rather, he convinces him to give up his dangerous line of work (a capital crime), then invents a story that results in his own return to prison.
Officially the Cultural Revolution is now history, but the disillusionment and trauma it produced throughout the nation, particularly among the youth, have been manifested in underground writings of considerable popularity. The continuing shock waves of the Lin Piao Affair, the T’ien-an-men Incident (a riot over the memorial service for the late Premier Chou), the death of Mao, and the fall of the Gang of Four will quite possibly be mirrored in subsequent underground literature as expressions of the authors’ yearning for more personal freedom, individual identity, and an end to political excesses.
DISSENT LITERATURE BY EXILES
With the appearance of two significant works written by recent exiles, the phenomenon of dissent now begins to attract worldwide attention. These two works—The Execution of Mayor Yin (Yin hsien-chang) by Chen Jo-hsi and The Coldest Winter in Peking (Pei-ching tsui han-leng ti tung-t’ien) by Hsia Chih-yen—have just been published in their English translations.6
The Execution of Mayor Yin is a collection of eight short stories, most of which are based on the author’s personal experience during her seven-year stay in China (1966-1973) as an “overseas intellectual” who had returned to China to serve the people. These stories present a gallery of characters, all ordinary people, mostly in the urban milieu of Nanking and Peking, who were caught in the maelstrom of the Cultural Revolution. Chen’s approach is essentially humanistic: with a technique of understatement and indirection (through the subtle use of a seemingly passive narrator), she succeeds in bringing out the irony of human sacrifice for a cause whose changing nature in the confusion of slogans and campaigns rendered it incomprehensible to most Chinese people. The protagonist of the title story, for instance, is erroneously executed by Red Guards as an alleged “counterrevolutionary”; at the last moment before his execution he cries out, again and again, “Long Live Chairman Mao!”
Hsia Chih-yen’s novel, though less well written than Chen’s stories, is more explosive. Cast in the form of a political thriller (and predicting a fictional coup by the Gang of Four before it allegedly took place in real life), this sprawling novel comes closest to a clear dissentist stance by frontally attacking Mao Tse-tung for his policies of “socialist-fascist” dictatorship during the Cultural Revolution. Hsia’s protagonists are mostly real figures, including China’s highest-echelon leaders; other “fictional” characters not readily identifiable with real personalities are nevertheless personifications of political positions. Hsia’s own sympathies are reserved, however, for a group of underground youths who feel betrayed by Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The novel ends in a massive demonstration by the “people” led by this underground group in a futile contest for power with other groups in Peking’s T’ien-an-men Square, under the shadows of the abortive coup by the Gang of Four.
The Coldest Winter in Peking is the first novel by a former official and member of the Academy of Sciences, now in exile in Japan. His nom-de-plume, Hsia Chih-yen (literally “flame of summer”), when compared with his book’s title, connotes somewhat melodramatically a clear message concerning his deep-seated political commitment. Hsia is a loyal follower of the late Premier Chou En-lai and considers the T’ien-an-men Incident of April 5,1976 as marking the first awakening of the Chinese people in their demand for democracy and freedom. This dissentist cause, which casts Mao as a betrayer of the true meaning of the socialist revolution, is to some extent also shared by Chen Jo-hsi (not to mention the anonymous authors of some of the underground novels). In Chen’s most recent work, a long novel titled Kuei (Repatriates) , she echoes Hsia’s sentiment by making her vaguely autobiographical heroine announce that Mao, “this last Chinese emperor,” will “step down” sooner or later.7 And in a revealing reversal of her real-life experience, the heroine in the novel does not choose to leave China but rather decides to stay on after the trauma of her husband’s death (the result of an accident which may also have been suicide). Like Hsia, Chen sees renewed hope in the younger generation who, seasoned by the very crucible of the Cultural Revolution and, ironically, attaining a higher level of consciousness by the very success of the Maoist political education, will eventually be China’s future masters.8
This idealistic—perhaps even naive—vision may seem premature. But its dynamic assertion by two exile writers who left China out of bitter disillusionment gives us reason to believe that the underground writers inside China may have harbored an even stronger feeling concerning the future. When some of the underground works eventually surface, they will probably be valedictory documents to a prolonged national nightmare which is, for the moment, over.
Howard Goldblatt and Leo Ou-fan Lee
1. Fox Butterfield, “Literature of Dissent Rises in China,” The New York Times, Dec. 13, 1977, p. 1.
2. Chen Jo-hsi, “Ta-lu ti k’ou-t’ou wen-hsüeh” (Oral Literature in Mainland China), Chung-kuo shih-pao (China Times) , June 9, 1978, p. 12.
3. The clandestine publication and circulation of non-approved works is in itself an overt political act, irrespective of the themes and contents.
4. Fox Butterfield, p. 8.
5. San Francisco Examiner, April 25, 1978, p. 10.
6. Chen Jo-hsi, The Execution of Mayor Yin and other Stories from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, tr. Nancy Ing and Howard Goldblatt (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978). Hsia Chih-yen, The Coldest Winter in Peking, tr. Liang-lao Dee (New York: Doubleday, 1978).
7. Chen Jo-hsi, Kuei [ Repatriates) (Taipei: Lien-ching, 1978), pp. 410-411.
8. The ranks of exiled dissident writers have been swelled in recent months by another writer, Lin Ye-mu, whose stories are reminiscent in theme, setting, and tone of Chen Jo-hsi.
H.G. and L.O.L.
Red the wild lilies,
Red the azalea blooms, a red flood,
Red the pomegranate in May,
Red is the sun at the birth of day.
But most beautiful of them all,
the red flags on forward march!
The red flag
Born behind prison walls, a thousand years old.
Fighting for Truth
Sickles shining like gold
Hammers shining like gold,
Proclaiming the laborer’s glory
and the victory of united workers and peasantry.
In the dark and long night,
in stifling darkness a thunderbolt has struck—
“Proletarians of the world, unite!”
Following lightning flashes in the sky, many miles long,
The red flag ascends the stage of history.
The red flag is fire,
The fire of the revolt of the oppressed,
The fire of the anger of the exploited,
The fire of all suffering ones under the sky,
Now striving for freedom and liberation.
Fire that destroys the private property system,
Fire that wipes out the old world.
Symbolizing the ideal,
Signaling a faith,
A summoning battle cry,
An unconquerable drum call,
With it we stay victorious forever.
Its undying glory
Matches the red clouds at dawn;
Bullets may pierce it but
Can never knock it down.
Alert, responding quickly, and resourceful,
It stands ready to do battle,
Always prepared, always awake,
Even during moments of complete quiet.
A war mount shaking its mane,
It waits for the bugle call
To leap from the trench instantly
And dart toward the smoke-covered battlefield ahead.
The red flag flutters on forward march—
Sweep aside all obstacles;
Blast all the stubborn field defense;
Take all the strategic heights;
Occupy all the enemy’s territory.
Red flags, thousands upon thousands,
Red waves in the sea,
Unfolding in front of us, always
to dash toward communism,
shouting victory cheers.
from the Wen-hui Daily (Shanghai, April 30, 1978)
Translated by Kai-yu Hsu
Chen Yang, identified only as a worker, wrote poems with gusto in response to the official call for literary production to observe the thirtieth anniversary of Mao Tse-tung’s “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art.” The following selection was included in a volume entitled People Sing on the Long Island, edited by the Committee on Proletarian Literature of Hunan Province. The title was taken from a line in a poem by Mao Tse-tung, “People sing on the long island, their song moving the earth.” The long island refers to the sandbar (Orange Isle) in the middle of the Hsiang River outside the city of Changsha, a scenic spot frequented by Mao in his youth. —K.Y.H.
—A friend gave me a rock from the Chingkang Mountain
This is an ordinary rock
That has been through great battles.
It has shared much hardship with Red Army fighters,
And struggled against many enemies of our class.
When the enemies rushed us in droves,
When red soldiers ran out of ammunition,
This rock, whistling, darted against our foes,
Hitting them, scattering them, making them tremble.
When red soldiers gave their lives in combat,
Their blood dyeing red the unconquerable hills,
This rock, filled with the martyrs’ vengeful hatred,
Flew down the mountain gulch to smash the enemy’s skulls.
Perhaps at dawn just before the action began,
It had supported the kettle to cook our soldiers’ breakfast;
Perhaps at night after a bloody engagement,
It had served as a pillow for a weary red hero ...
A little rock nestled in my palms,
A towering Chingkang Mountain in my heart.
My thoughts rage like the surf in the sea,
Many are the associations, many the mixed feelings.
Forty years of stormy change altered the world,
Now the sky paints an artist’s dream, and the land spreads a brocade.
How much wind and rain has this rock withstood through history,
And how many springs and autumns of fighting has it survived!
Ah, if without Chairman Mao’s thought to direct our battle,
How could there be red flags flying all over the country?
If anyone dares to encroach upon our sacred motherland,
Every rock will rise in anger along with every revolutionary soldier.
People Sing on the Long Island, pp. 23-25
Translated by Kai-yu Hsu
A native of Szechwan Province, Ch’en Kuan-hsiian started publishing poems in the early 1970s and was among the young writers tempered in the furnace of the Cultural Revolution. Like T’ang Ta-t’ung, Ch’en finds moving poetry in the spectacle of boatmen pulling a sampan upstream against the swift Yangtze current. —K.Y.H.
Man walks in clouds,
Masts buried in fog;
He carries the Yangtze on his back,
And under his feet lies the Wu Mountain.
His pulling straightens a thousand river bends,
His pulling opens up ten thousand gorges,
He pokes the moon with his pole, eighteen feet long,
As the east wind sends him to the four seas.
He tucks away the sharp curves in his heart,
And folds in his bosom all the rapids;
One stride, he steps over the twelve peaks,
Three lines of river chant, and the K’uei Gate makes way.
Moving Shanghai to Chungking, and back
To unload Shanghai on Chungking docks;
A boatload of cotton and grain, a boatload of coal,
Each boat a load of laughter, a load of love.
River chants soar up to the sky,
His boat sails toward the rising sun;
One rope on a river boatman’s shoulder
Links the snow-capped mountains with the sea.
Enlightenment Daily (Peking, April 22, 1973)
Translated by Kai-yu Hsu
Feng Ching-yüan has the distinction of being the only poet, up to this writing, whose life is discussed in the newly revived Poetry Journal. In an autobiographical sketch, we learn that he was born in the early forties in San-t’iao-shih, an industrial area just north of the old city in Tientsin. His family was employed in the steelworks, but Feng still speaks of hunger which kept him awake at night, and scavenging by day in garbage dumps. He was still illiterate when he started work in the steelworks after Liberation, but soon started to write poetry for broadcasting over the local radio. By the time he joined the army, around 1960, he was sending his poems to literary magazines. It was then he made the discovery that the poems his fellow soldiers praised were being rejected by editors, while the poetry appearing in those magazines did not appeal to his comrades. (This, in 1976, he attributed to the “black line in literature and art.”) He therefore began to write two sorts of poetry, one straightforwardly describing the life around him, the other more consciously literary. This tendency, he claims, was to some extent checked during the “socialist education campaign” of the early sixties, when one of his more simple poems, as he recounts, proved able to move people deeply:
At dinner that day I didn’t eat well and I couldn’t sleep that night, my heart was in turmoil; looking at the pen in my hand, I thought of San-t’iao-shih, I thought of steel. The pen nib was made of steel, it was forged in furnace and machine, and thus its purpose, grasped in the hands of the proletariat, is to battle, shout, and roar for the revolution! Under the care of the Party I went to school and received an education, and recently I’ve been able to use my pen to write a few poems. What has changed? Why can’t I take the revolution’s needs as my measure instead of making publication my goal? There is steel in the nib, but is there any steel in the poems I write with this pen? As I turned over the pages of Chairman Mao’s “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art,” the teaching that I had read and written down more than a dozen times, that revolutionary literature and art should become “a powerful weapon to unite and instruct the people, and to attack and destroy the enemy,” seemed now so extraordinarily fresh and clear that every word, every stroke, engraved itself in my heart.
In 1973 he returned to San-t’iao-shih, where he continued to write and develop his ideas on the nature of poetry and creative writing:
Good steel must be wrought, good poetry must be worked. In its course from ore to finished product, a piece of steel undergoes a constant process of furnace firing; it is pressed and stretched, and blended in with the blood and sweat of many people. A good poem is similarly forged from a drawn-out battle in life, informed by a host of people and things, by unceasing study and realization, and by repeated hammering. The accidental does happen, but is not on any account a product of “inspiration” but similarly is the result of repeated actualization.
Steel is refined in the struggle in production, by unceasing cleansing of impurities and elimination of sulphur, and poetry should also be refined and honed in class struggle. Steel is reality striking reality, it has solid weight; poetry is the same, it cannot be light and airy but must embody a vigorous fighting spirit. Every line of poetry should be bursting with enthusiasm, soaked with sweat, cast from the heart.
Steel rings when it is dropped on the ground, and vibrates when struck; poetry must also resound in the mouth, it must be rich in music, easy to read and to memorize.
Steel comes in all shapes and sizes, in an infinite variety of long, square, flat, and round pieces, even in combinations such as round inside and square outside, or convex on one side and concave on the other: but every single shape is manufactured to meet the needs of socialist industrial and agricultural development and battle; the forms of poetry, on a foundation of revolutionary political content, should also come in many different kinds, each with its own hue.
In steel there is poetry, and the turbulent life of struggle provides the inexhaustible source for our progress in creating poetry; steel in poetry is the goal after which we should strive, which I should be able to achieve but have not yet accomplished .. .*
The autobiography concludes with the then obligatory diatribe against Teng Hsiao-p’ing, but the restoration of Teng to power some months later does not seem to have prevented Feng Ching-yiian from appearing in Poetry Journal, People’s Daily, and People’s Literature in 1977. Feng has now left the factory and works for the Tientsin Metallurgy Bureau.
Feng’s poems are written with an unusually dense syntax, and he employs an extensive and powerful vocabulary. His fondness for repetition, perhaps excessive, gives his poems weight and tension, which he modulates on occasion with more subtle parallelism in the manner of traditional regulated verse. His favorite poetic form is a kind of controlled free verse, without regular line lengths or rhyme patterns yet not without structure. To squeeze the maximum impact from each line, he frequently resorts to classical prosody and scansion; as a proletarian poet, Feng fuses traditional techniques with a modern sense of freedom. A collection of his works appeared in 1975 as We Temper the Steel the Revolution Needs. —B.S.McD.
A thousand steel rods converge and mingle,
Ten thousand steel wires join to form a cable.
You’d like to know their mettle?
Hauling mountains—mountains topple!
Tugging the sun—the sun goes sprawling!
Steel cables, twist and twine, hey!
Each wire has been pulled and twanged,
Each one is filled with class feeling,
Plunging vigorously into the collective:
Wind blows, it won’t break,
Thunder strikes, it won’t collapse,
Waves break, it won’t loosen,
Water soaks, it won’t slacken!
Steel cables, twist and twine, hey!
Link hands above and below, front and back,
North, south, east, and west, all face the center,
Twist and turn a force,
Twist and turn a cable,
Twist and turn a heart,
Twist and turn tight and smooth!
Steel cables, twist and twine, hey!
The crane’s waiting to raise ten thousand ton,
The winch’s waiting to hoist the load,
The capstan’s waiting to haul the iron anchor,
The derrick’s waiting to drill the earth’s layers ...
Revolutionary construction urgently needs them,
Every minute every second we must mightily contend!
Steel cables, twist and twine, hey!
A thousand twists and turns in unbroken line,
Kilometer after kilometer, the direction is clear.
Oppose dissension and retreat,
Surrender and revisionism.
Ascend the mountain, descend the mine,
Thrust into the ocean and mount the skies,
Steel wires in single purpose have a force without rival,
People in unity have strength beyond compare!
Steel cables, twist and twine, hey!
For revolution’s sake we splice the cable,
Day and night sing loud in praise of unity:
Unity gives strength,
Unity is our guarantee,
Unity gains victory,
Unity scales the heights.
The entire party and army twine to form a steel cable,
The IRR quail craven-hearted!*
When eight hundred million people twine and form a steel cable,
Even the sun and moon must alter course!
Poetry Journal, no. 1 (1976), pp. 61-62
1. LAY THE RAILS DOWN!
Iron is amassed here,
And steel lies here in rows.
Fire which smelted nine times and heated twice as much again,
The hammer which roared a hundred times and then a thousand more,
The gleaming red-hot sweat of smelting workers,
The red-flushed hearts of foundrymen,
All together in the solid metal
—Boil and bubble, melt and fuse ...
Lay down, lay the railway tracks down!
There is ore in the rails,
There is coal in the rails,
There is electricity in the rails,
There is water in the rails,
The resolution of a million proletarians,
The daring of a million revolutionaries,
Are in these rails which stretch uninterrupted
—Solidified into steel particles, iron fibres!
Lay them down, lay the tracks down!
To mountain and forest, to seashore and frontier lands,
The clanging rails resound,
No direction they cannot conquer,
No fortress they cannot smash!
A backbone, hard and strong,
Bearing the sun and moon, lightning and thunder ...
Who fears that thorns will block the way,
Wrapped in mist and fog,
Who fears the rivers deep and wide,
The path encircles peaks,
Singing, “The working class must lead in all things,”
“We will be masters of the world.”
Riding on the east wind of the Cultural Revolution,
Welcoming the morning radiance of socialism,
—Lay down the rails, lay them down!
Lay them down, hey, lay the tracks down!
Nature’s defenses disappear in front of the revolution’s tracks,
Selfless and fearless under the steel!
Lay them down, hey, lay the tracks down!
Cross a hundred mountains, ford ten thousand rivers,
Obeying always Chairman Mao’s summons,
Following always the Party’s direction!
2. DRILL! RR-RR-RR-RR FORWARD
To stride forward is to go on the offensive,
To start drilling is to open battle,
The tougher the opposition the harder we drill,
The more complex the substrata the harder we strive!
Never look back once we set our course,
Zz-zz-zz-zz: dig in,
There’s no subject in the world that can’t be drilled,
There’s no mountain on earth that can’t be drilled,
When problems arise then drill to the truth,
When troubles loom then drill them through!
Be steel strong, iron hard,
Be rock thick, stone stubborn,
Even granite rock a hundred layers deep
Can still be drilled through till you see the sky!
The drill chips twirl in one direction,
The drill blade spins at the same angle,
The point shatters metal and stone,
The bit takes aim—
A hundred setbacks won’t make us retreat, a thousand twists won’t
Thick steel plate—drill!
Steep cliff rock—drill!
Like our workers’ propaganda teams,
According to Chairman Mao’s directives,
We march into schools and hospitals, far and wide ...
March into every realm in the superstructure!
Like our workers’ theoretical groups,
We study Marx and Lenin, criticize “the rites,” oppose retreat,*
Our strength cannot be checked,
With savage fury we beat the drums of war against revisionism!
Like our workers’ militia companies,
We shoulder guns, sing battle songs, tread the storm,
Counterattack the evil rightist trend to reverse the verdicts,
In front of T’ien-an-men,
Defend the five-starred flag ...
Oh, the rails reach up to heaven in rainbow ribbon dance,
The Cultural Revolution has set up a noble monument.
Every new-style workers’ organization
Is a wheel carrying forward the trains of the age,
Each revolutionary worker’s shoulder
Is a section of track along history’s highway.
Mount “Eagle’s Sorrow Brook,”
Tread “Wolf Fang Awl,”
Ride “The Tiger’s Back,”
Penetrate “The Lion’s Mouth” ...
Wherever the enemy stirs up trouble,
The iron fist of class extends,
Wherever a stubborn rock blocks our path,
It gets smashed to pieces!
Those petty clowns who go against the age
Aren’t worth a heap of dogshit,
But clay and stones that meet the need of revolution
Together contribute to form—
The substratum of proletarian dictatorship.
There’s a red flag on the drill shank,
The blade point’s beneath the drill chuck;
Clamp on tightly the rotating-plate of the Three Great Revolutionary Struggles.
Penetrate beyond the layers of mire and stagnant water,
Break through the tiers of fierce impeding waves,
The distorted doctrines of revisionism,
The weird talk of the bourgeoisie within the Party,
Completely without mercy
—Pierce them through and through!
Who says it’s difficult to break long-standing habits?
Who says it’s hard to make a move?
The revolution advances along the highway,
Breaking through ten thousand double-barred gates!
See us drill through a million meters daily,
Ten mountains in one night—
Drill forth ore deposits, drill forth treasure,
Drill forth oil wells, drill forth fountains,
Drill forth a new horizon in our thinking,
Drill forth resolution to breach the heavens!
Drill!—Believe no evil spirits!
Drill!—Fear no hardship.
Beneath the drill bit, water and oil are inexhaustible,
Beneath the drill bit, metal and coal beyond measure.
The drill bit opens forth—the proletariat’s future;
The drill bit brings to light—communism’s tomorrow!
Oh, gaze at this sacred realm, behold this great land,
Here and now,
How many drill bits are thunderously turning!
Steel drills, iron drills, oil drills,
Driven by water, wind or electricity ...
In front of every drill: a team of iron men,
In front of every drill: a row of comrades in steel,
Fired in the Cultural Revolution, ah,
Forged in the Cultural Revolution,
Each one has a drill-like style,
Each has a drill-like daring—
Study Marx and Lenin,
Climb the mountain of theory;
Reform ways of thinking,
Establish a firm proletarian outlook ...
Drill, drill, drill!
Oh, to stride forward is to go on the offensive,
To start drilling is to open battle!
Criticize deeply Liu, Lin, and Teng,*
Struggle bravely against the IRR;
Break through old ways of thinking,
And overcome old ideas ...
Zz-zz-zz-zz: dig in,
Poetry Journal, no. 7 (1976), 31-34
Fire, raging in the heart,
Fire, roaring in the workshop:
Press on, press on! Stoke the flames, stoke the flames!
Dash forward, dash forward! Advance, advance!
Time, hey, fire presses fire speeds,
Force, hey, fire races fire flees,
Hearts, hey, fire ignites fire blazes,
Iron and steel, hey, fire fuses fire melts.
“Wash away the Gang of Four’s fiascos with our burning sweat!”
“Cast a year of progress and good order in iron and steel!”
“Marshal all positive factors to shoulder—
the entire burden Chairman Mao entrusted to us!”
The sound of fire rolls in every furnace.
Seize the steel in front of the furnace, toil till the sweat goes flying—
fiery sparks are aflutter,
Rush to mend the red-hot crucible, conquer difficulty and danger—
the fiery glow’s agleaming,
Steam- and fire-driven conveyer carts shuttle steel and brick—
fiery dragons are dancing,
Team A issues a challenge team B responds—
the fiery torch’s ablaze ...
It’s not that the smelting shop can’t carry on without fire,
The meeting to study Ta-ch’ing sets the air here aflame,
It’s not that we steelworkers are easily set on fire,
Chairman Hua’s great speech goes straight to our hearts!
One study session under the lamp: bodies toughen, fists clench,
One passage read in front of the furnace: hearts churn, blood boils,
Oh, life is like fire, it burns again,
Look, light and victory lie ahead!
Poetry Journal, no. 4 (1977), 41
Let the steel flow—! Let the steel flow—!
Yes, a mighty river gushes forth,
Crash! it rolls from the bowels of the rock-melting, iron-smelting furnace.
At high temperatures, a hundred tons of glowing, flaming steel
Races out in uniform response to the summons of our motherland,
A truly unprecedented, irresistible force!
Look at the river’s surface: smoke rolling, lightning flashing,
The rushing torrent pours from the furnace mouth, billows flying,
—How can the Heaven-sent waters of the Yellow River compare with this!
Gaze at its banks: thunderclaps burst, footsteps pass, flags signal,
Press forward three troughs of molten steel for casting, a spectacle
of sound and color,
—More impressive than the Yangtze River Gorges!
The scene is so dazzling brilliant,
People who grappled with fume and smoke under the blows of the Gang of Four
Now beam with pride and joy as they behold this boundless vista!
Remember when black clouds and heavy fog took over, did we ever forget steel?
Facing flying “labels,” beating breasts,
“Come, we stand firm unto death on top of the furnace!”
Now our hearts beat fast as the furnace quickens,
The winged boat of our ideals bravely embarks in the wild current of the steel,
The intoxicating joy in our hearts explodes in the steel sparks.
To the devil with those ghouls and misfits who shrink from heat and light!
Let those cheats and petty thieves who play tricks with smoke and fog
Tear their guts out in the company of their ancestors, the IRR!
Under the leadership of Chairman Hua, we—
Are advancing, burning, smelting steel,
Listen, the sound of the bell to tap the steel strikes urgently once again!
Hey, let the steel flow—! let the steel flow—,
Its source is eight hundred million red hearts, three million Party members its protectors,
The molten steel brims with strength enough to push the age ahead!
Poetry Journal, no. 4 (1977), p. 42
Translated by Bonnie S. McDougall
In commemoration of the 33rd anniversary of the “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art”
I remember former days reading at night in the attic,
Alone with a book of T’ang verse and an earthenware lamp,
The angry howl of the wind in the pines was trying to lift off the roof,
The sobbing cry of the cuckoo seemed like a string of pearls.
I began to realize the majesty of nature;
Lingering deep inside, this feeling never faded.
As a child I didn’t understand the meaning of song,
A seed planted in a wintry grave returns to life in spring.
June 1-6, 1975
Poetry Journal, no. 9 (1977), 70-75
Translated by Bonnie S. McDougall
Hsü Yü and Huo Hua are a team of young writers of verse, close comrades in one of the army units assigned to work on communes or construction projects in such far-flung areas as Inner Mongolia, Sinkiang, or Manchuria. Together with a few other comrades having similar assignments, they have published a volume of poems entitled New Songs of Soldier-tillers (1973). Their lines dance with energetic rhythm; their diction flows, incisive and sonorous. The following selection stands as one of the very best ever written by a Chinese proletarian poet. —K.Y.H.
A clap of deep thunder,
A streak of lightning,
Hurried whistles all over the encampment.
Quick! To the drying field!
Lanterns, a moving line.
Shadows, a flickering file.
A clap of fearful thunder,
A streak of lightning,
Like the flashes of a camera,
Catches the various scenes of a battle.
Upon the sea of grain, a thousand hands.
Beyond the sea of grain, a million spades.
Wood-scrapers hurry on grain waves.
Brooms roll up golden billows.
Before rains’ arrival, sweats sprinkle.
In no time, gold sea changed into gold mountain.
A clap of fearful thunder,
A streak of lightning,
Sacks, upon shoulders, fly.
Roads, under feet, flee.
Young lads of seventeen, eighteen,
Shoulder two hundred pounds, moving jet-fast.
A long dragon flying-dancing,
Head at granary, tail at drying field.
A clap of fearful thunder,
A streak of lightning,
Woman lieutenant soars up the wheat battlements
—like an eagle upon the peak,
Her arms holding black clouds,
Her feet stepping on lightning.
One wave of her hand:
“For the revolution, wrest the grains from the dragon’s
Quick! Cover them!”
One clap of thunder follows another clap of thunder,
One streak of lightning follows another streak of lightning,
Like the flashes, flashing-flashing, of a camera,
Taking down a documentary of the battle.
You ask what title this movie?
—“Battle in a Rainy Night”!
New Songs of Soldier-tillers, pp. 37-39
Translated by Wai-lim Yip
No more tears of the old peasants,
Ever-present is the zeal of the young.
For an ardor-filled heart,
The pen is mightier than the sword.
Gossips are but to be laughed at,
Undaunted spirit flows into literary art.
Oh when shall we return to the North,
To talk about the great river, over a cup of wine?
Poetry Journal, no. 7 (1977), 64
Translated by Mark McCarvel and others
—to the tune “All Red the River”
The governance of a country:
grasping the essentials,
Acting in accord with the will of the people,
adopting firm policy.
From the East a gentle wind blows,
And the Red Flag flutters.
In a flash the Gang of Four
is smashed to pieces!
The entire country bursts forth
with “The Internationale.”
The time for men of talent
The Eight Hundred Million become
one in heart,
Together, to build up the nation!
Clouds and rivers swell,
Winds and thtfnder mount,
Together, they all take action
Against the pair of American and Soviet bullies.
The people of the Third World are united:
Firm as a steel wall.
Accomplish the Four Modernizations of our country,
Carry out the Three-year Program of peace and prosperity.
If we unyieldingly persist for twenty more years,
What a grand scene will emerge!
July 20, 1977
Poetry Journal, no. 8 (1977), 13
Translated by Mark McCarvel and others
This immense sea suddenly ceased rolling;
Severe, majestic, and craggy at their extreme
Are the mountains, those frozen waves.
Ho! Look at them, each thrusting into the sky,
Black, dark brown, and through them, patches of steel grey.
Over there, on the steepest peak
Perches in majesty an outpost of our warriors.
No, that’s not just an outpost,
That’s a threatening cliff, a cluster of thorns,
Or a floating cloud, lingering,
Or a mountain eagle, resting its wings.
From the mountain’s foot to the outpost, it’s too far, too far away,
Won’t you look at it through these glasses—
You’ll see wild flowers blooming at its door
And wild berries grow red below its window.
Let me tell you: the bright sun, clear moon, and cool breeze,
Come to be our best neighbors; they come and stay.
And flowers and bushes together with wild birds
Also stay with us, in the same family.
Thunder and rain often rock the outpost,
But the shelter is held firm by pine roots and weathered vine;
Around the outpost it’s too quiet, too lonely, but
We know the music of the streams, and mountains’ songs.
There five pairs of eyes forever wide awake,
Day and night they scan the valleys and skies.
And there throb five hearts, five red hearts,
Their rhythm is the real life of the great mountains.
Full, intense, vigorous is our life,
A solemn mission stamped in our hearts;
Be proud, hold your head up high, fatherland,
We remain always your devoted soldiers.
We stand on mountain high, very high mountains,
At times it seems we’re standing in the sea;
Look, are not the mountains surging against the sky?
And roaring, the sound of surf in the clouds, in the wind?
Ho! This tiny outpost of ours up on the mountain,
Perhaps is a small sailboat floating on the sea.
When you, our beloved ones at home, gaze at the night sky,
That farthest star, way out there, is the lantern on our mast.
Red Flowers All Over the Mountain, pp.6-8
One by one the stars appear
On the banks of the milky way, a bonfire ablaze;
Look, over the edge of the amber cloud
Stands our lookout post.
From where comes a flute tune
Echoing back and forth in these deserted mountains?
Clear and crisp, better than a secluded stream,
More ethereal than the oriole’s song in clouds.
The commissar steps out of his camp room,
He looks up, he can’t hold back a smile;
“Listen to those young fellows up there,” he mutters,
“They are making music, out of a piece of bamboo.”
Little tunes from beyond the Great Wall, one after another
Fill up the valleys and gulches south of the river;
A wealth of feeling flows from the flute holes,
A wealth of fuel feeding that bonfire.
The commissar turns around, steps into his room,
His hand on the phone, a smile on his face.
“Squad Leader No. 5,” he says, “encore, please, encore!”
“But remind the sentries to watch out for signals!”
Red Flowers All Over the Mountain, pp.19-20.
Through the rain, through the wind, came an infant’s cry,
A baby has been born to the woman over the hill.
—Thus the mountain has gained a lusty son
—And the country, a husky soldier.
“Squad Leader, what gift shall we give?”
The squad leader’s eyes blinked, once and again,
“Let’s give them one quiet night first,
And let’s go, the patrol unit, fall in.”
To greet this new life—brand new life—
The mountains have bathed themselves green and clean;
To protect this little life—tiny little life—
One conviction is shared among the comrades’ hearts.
The patrol reached over the hill, the storm lifted.
Overhead a bright moon lit up the sky;
Three bayonets, three streaks of silver,
And silvery was the windowpane on the young mother’s room.
The mother fell asleep, the infant fell asleep,
The night over the valley, peaceful and quiet;
And the hills, like a resting new mother
In comfort and ease now, after that spell of tension.
Dawn breaking now, we wound our way back to camp,
From all four directions rose roosters’ calls;
Squad Leader said, “Let us give the whole mountain to them,
Plus the drums of battle, and chimes of cheer ...”
Red Flowers All Over the Mountain, pp.35-36
Lighter than the deer’s is his step,
Earlier than the eagle rises he;
And when he pushes open the door to look at the sky,
The mountains have disappeared, fog, fog, everywhere.
From a pocket hidden in his jacket he draws a match,
One strike, he lights up another day.
In the lamplight his shadow moves about,
A bundle of firewood burns, and a meal is ready.
Hills around embrace our small lookout post,
And our cooking smoke embraces all the hills;
But our cook is busy running out and in,
No time to bother about the cloud or fog engulfing him.
Vegetables before the window dye the rocks green,
Pigs behind the hut, round and fat.
These keep him smiling, all day long,
And all day long he sings, his songs fill the air.
Two instruments of music adorn his window,
Within, a samisen, and without, a waterfall.
On him grow two tireless wings,
One is the song of revolution, the other, a carrying pole.
Ah, comrades on night patrol are about to return,
He hurries to fill up each one’s wash basin;
In two buckets he brings home a colorful world,
One bucket full of red sun, and the other, blue hills.
Red Flowers All Over the Mountain, pp.42-43
An ink bottle holding a wick
Lights up this cozy home,
This little lamp in our mountain lookout post,
Is a blossom that never fades.
Has it captured the essence of the sun and the moon?
Has it been nurtured by the water in Heavenly River?
Thus all year round it blooms without fail,
Every night on mountaintop it bursts open, wide open.
The rising whirls of fog affect it not,
And insuppressibly it burns under downpouring clouds.
Thousands of mountain peaks hold it up high,
As it converses with thousands of stars.
Under the lamp we study books and papers,
Under the lamp we mend our shoes and socks;
The lamplight shines on our youth, full of life,
As we loyally guard our country’s frontier pass.
Our bosom houses the entire world, the universe,
Our eyes scan the land from extremity to extremity;
This era of revolution unfolds with resounding forces,
And the lamp lights up our way forever forward.
It is the loftiest flower of our land, perhaps;
Perhaps in the most remote area this flower lies;
Perhaps it’s really as small as a tiny bean, but
It kindles the clouds and reddens the skies.
Red Flowers All Over the Mountain, pp. 104-105
Translated by Kai-yu Hsu
Windbreak, files and files of bamboo fences
Like waves rolling toward sky’s brim.
Harken: flights and flights of songs.
Who knows under which row of surges?
Upon the south ditch, we till once and again.
The ditch soil, we rake and rake.
The manure, we sieve and sieve.
Clear water, we sprinkle and sprinkle.
One rack of greenhouses after another,
Cozy warm, no fear of blowing wind.
Mat after mat covering tightly,
Solid, thick, no fear of biting frost.
Grow fresh vegetables for our nation.
Sweating and sweating—so what?
Only a few days, small seeds
Will burst into sprouts in orderly rows.
Hey! phalanx under the windbreak;
The commune deploys soldiers and horses,
From the end of the village, children call out: Dinnertime!
Everybody ignores the slanting sun ...
All sisters carry a broad smile;
Under the windbreak, fresh greens, trellis of flowers,
All flow into their dreams,
Harken: spring songs fill the horizon!
Jujube Tree Village, pp.30-31
Translated by Wai-lim Yip
Pa Shan is a member of the People’s Liberation Army who prefers anonymity behind a pen name. His poems, however, stand out noticeably among many others published after the Cultural Revolution. He incorporates in his poetry the best images created by the proletarian heroes since the Liberation. He uses them effectively and writes with ease. —K.Y.H.
High—into the sky.
Like a piercing dagger.
Stars pass their night here,
Piercing, breaking cloud-buds into petals.
See: we, the camping squad
Devoted to climbing this high mountain.
Thorns cut our feet;
Our nose-tips are sore from hitting the overhanging cliffs, again and again.
Red stars glitter in the moonlight
Like frisking stars, a huge spread of them.
Our shoulders carry rifles.
In our bosoms, four precious volumes.
We have strength we can never exhaust,
Pushing through clouds, parting mist up the summit.
To protect our country, we train ourselves: all tiger’s guts.
From bitter fatigue, we taste the fragrant, sweet victory.
Raising our hands
To tear a piece of white cloud to wipe our sweat.
Lowering our head
Excited to see lines and lines of fishing boats, full load
Oh! The camping squad lines up to sing.
Against the silver lake we take a color picture to keep.
Red Flag Unfurling in the Wind, pp. 158-159
Translated by Wai-lim Yip
After having published nothing in twenty years, Ping Hsin is writing again. As she herself explains in the following pages, she had felt unworthy and lacking in things important and appropriate enough to say. During the same twenty years, other writers had turned to other callings—research, mostly. But Ping Hsin stayed closer to her interest: young people. She worked with grade school pupils, at times teaching them but mostly just living with them. She also went to the countryside to learn from the poor peasants, as did everyone else.
Born to wealthy, indulgent parents in Fukien, Ping Hsin spent her childhood marveling at the forms and colors of the shells, kelps, waves, at everything about the sea. Adolescence in an aristocratic Christian mission school in Peking and intense reading of Tagore’s verse laid a foundation for what she called her philosophy of love, love for mother and child, trees and birds. All these peopled her very early collections of verse, The Stars (1921) and Spring Waters (1922), which brought her instant fame. Three years at Wellesley College in the United States (1923-26) furthered her development in the same direction, though she turned to prose—rather, poetic prose—addressed to young readers. She wrote about her travels abroad and her homesickness. After she returned to China, she taught for years at Yenching University. Her setback during the Cultural Revolution, which froze her pen, was not severe.
Now between official visits to friendly countries as a representative of China’s older generation of writers, between receiving foreign dignitaries in the same role and reciting poetry, in English, on festive occasions, Ping Hsin writes “letters to my little readers” and other essays to sing the glory of the new society, and an occasional verse or two. Her pen is still facile, and her tone is as cheerful as a three-year-old who has just found a new toy. —K.Y.H.
“Because we are Still Young” has not yet been published anywhere except on the wall bulletin of the Central Ethnic Academy in Peking. I have made a copy for Li Cheng-tao [the Nobel laureate physicist]; now I’m making a copy of it for you. It isn’t a good poem, but you do whatever you see fit with it ...
New Year’s Day, 1973
Yesterday, a young man came to see me,
He read his new poem aloud for me to hear;
The first one was entitled:
“Because we are still young.”
This title touched off my yearning for poetry;
As I gazed at his face full of youth and life,
I repeated, in a low voice, after him,
“Because we are still young.”
I said, “Young man,
Who said the age of seventy is hard to attain since time of old?
It’s nothing rare in the Mao Tse-tung era;
Look how many people beyond seventy there are
Who continue to work, nonstop, for socialism.
“When I was young, I never really had any time of youth!
At that time, all around me were
Beacons of war, fanned by imperialism to reach high in the sky,
And devils of feudalism all over the land,
Bleached bones piled up like mountains, blood and tears flowed in streams,
More anniversaries of national humiliation than any other festivals,
That, my friend, was China when I was young.
“I dared not struggle, I only wondered and waited,
I could see neither the future, nor the people’s might;
I only locked myself in a tiny study with my books,
Though I had ears, I heard not the gunshots of people’s revolution.
“The east is red, and the sun rises,
In China emerged a Mao Tse-tung.
This one triumphal thunderclap split the sky,
And the revolutionary peoples of the world all cheered,
The great leader mounted the Gate of Heavenly Peace,
Solemnly he proclaimed the success of China’s revolution.
“I wiped my tears of joy and stood up,
Looking up to the blue sky of my motherland;
A brilliant sun filled every corner of the earth,
Thousands of sickles waving, thousands of axes raised,
Millions of faces overflowing with heartfelt joy.
I watched and felt anxiety in my heart,
‘What can I do?’ I asked myself.
“Half a century passed in wondering and waiting,
The second half of my life mustn’t be wasted any more,
I must seriously reform myself, so that
I can successfully serve the people.
“Whom shall we serve,
And why shall we serve?
Chairman Mao has explained both very well,
And has pointed out for us the road ahead.
“We must merge ourselves with the new masses,
We mustn’t ever hesitate again.
Share their lot, and breathe with them,
Be familiar with their life
And know what they say,
Write their hate and their happiness,
Smash the enemy, unite ourselves,
Let literature and art be a powerful weapon.
“The baptism of the Cultural Revolution,
Washed away from me the capitalist mud and dirt.
Resolutely I marched on the bright May Seven* road,
Honestly learned from the proletariat, from the very beginning.
“Over one year at the May Seven cadre school, I really learned,
I don’t do labor work as well as others, so I learned to work in the field,
planting vegetables, watching the crops, and picking fruit.
I picked sweet potatoes, I picked peanuts ...
Each periodic review of my experience, I rose that much higher,
In my main curriculum—learning from the workers and peasants.
“The oil worker said,
‘Revolution plus persistence, persist to carry out revolution,’
The poor-middle peasant said,
‘Pick one more basket of flowers to support Asia, Africa, and Latin
The awareness of liberated people is high, their strength, great.
United they listen to Chairman Mao,
And armed with Mao Tse-tung thought,
Their radiant red hearts are concerned over the whole world.
“Look, young man,
These people don’t say much, but they say it well,
And their heroic words educated me.
In the Mao Tse-tung era we must live this way,
Live, learn, and work, until we grow old,
And the youth of revolution never grows old.
“Therefore, young man,
You are the sun at eight o’clock in the morning,
But I am not just a golden sunset either.
We both strive to grasp Mao Tse-tung thought,
Which stands like the sun that never sets.”
New Evening News (Hong Kong, Jan. 14, 1973)
Translated by Kai-yu Hsu
Signaling a change in direction, Peking authorities late in 1970 started calling for greater literary output in an attempt to repeat the Great Leap Forward campaign that had harvested hundreds of volumes of homespun verses in 1958-59. Every anniversary was used as an excuse to rally the writers to write. One of the volumes thus produced, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Party, was a book of verse entitled Thousands of Songs Dedicated to the Party (1971); it includes the following selection.
Shen Yung-ch’ang is identified as a member of the Shan-yang Commune in Chin-shan County. His simple verse, cast in the folksong style, reflects the spirit of the time very well. —K.Y.H.
All quiet late at night,
In the room, under a lamp light,
The homespun correspondent of our team
Seizes his pen in earnest.
Reports, page after page,
Make clear our line of work,
Singing praise of Chairman Mao,
Describing to him our new farm life.
Red hearts turn to the sun;
Broad shoulders bear heavy tasks.
He holds firmly his literary power,
To serve as our responsible spokesman.
Imitate not the ephemeral showing of the night-blooming cereus,
But rather learn from the plum blossoms which shun crowded springs.
He keeps to his heart the meaning of the “homespun,”
And always writes to serve revolution.
Thousands of Songs Dedicated to the Party, pp. 64-65
Translated by Kai-yu Hsu
*The popular name the peasants have for a kind of large coal-burning stove. [Author’s note]
*Do practice Marxism, unite, and be open and aboveboard; don’t practice revisionism, split, nor intrigue and conspire. [K.Y.H.]
*A fabulous woman whose controversial involvement with the German commander during the Boxer Rebellion (1900) has been the subject of a number of works of fiction and theater pieces. [K.Y.H.]
*Implying “Gang of Four,” while speaking of the national campaign in the early 1950s to berid the nation of mosquitoes, flies, sparrows, and rats. Bedbugs replaced sparrows in a later campaign in 1960. [K.Y.H.]
*It was attended by thirteen rebel leaders representing seventy-two bands of followers. [W.L.]
Kao Ying-hsiang, an uncle of Li Tzu-ch’eng’s, was the first to lay claim to the title. When Kao was decapitated by government forces in 1636, Tzu-ch’eng’s followers chose him to succeed to it. [W.L.]
Fan Tseng lived at the end of the Ch’in dynasty [221-206 B.C.]. He was an advisor to Hsiang Yü [one of two main contenders in the struggle to establish a new dynasty] and was honored by him with the title “Second Father.” During a banquet at Hung-men, he vigorously exhorted Hsiang Yü to kill Liu Pang [the other main contender, who was eventually successful in establishing a new dynasty, the Han]; Hsiang Yü [like Hsien-chung] did not accept the suggestion. [Author’s note]
For a note on Ai Ch’ing, see p. 354.
*Excerpts from “Steel and Poetry” (Kang yü shih), Poetry Journal, no. 8 (1976), pp. 80-85
*Confucius upheld the rites of the ancient Chou Dynasty. Hence the anti-Confucius campaign criticized “the rites.” [K.Y.H.]
*Imperialists, revisionists, and reactionaries: contracted to a three-syllable expression in Chinese, it frequently appears in Feng’s poems. [B.S.McD.]
*Liu Shao-ch’i, Lin Piao, and Teng Hsiao-p’ing. [B.S.McD.]
For a note on Ho Ch’i-fang, see p. 527. “Reminiscence” is the first of fourteen poems by Ho, all written in the traditional regulated verse (lü-shih) form with eight lines of equal length in each poem. [K.Y.H.]
For a note on Kuo Hsiao-ch’uan, see p. 541.
For a note on Kuo Mo-jo see p. 693.
For a note on Li Ying, see p. 371. Red Flowers All Over the Mountain is a collection of his post-Cultural Revolution poems.
*Mao Tse-tung’s directive dated May 7,1966, exhorted every Chinese to learn lines of productive work in addition to his or her principal career.