Storied China 2012 (6 of 6)

“My father was taken away by [the] Red Guard [on] December 5, 1966,” my grandfather told me with a deep voice.

“I was 20 years old in 1966, and I had two brothers. That day, my mom was preparing a delicious meal for us. My father, brothers, and I worked hard in the field. Everything seemed [to be] going normally, but it was just an illusion.

“My mom was waiting for us when we came back home. Some people crashed into my house as soon as we sat down. It was too late to understand what happened when my father was taken away. My mom was so frightened that she fainted. My brother and I were mature enough to understand what [had] happened: the Cultural Revolution [had come to our house], and those people who took my father away were the Red Guard, the main power propelling the Cultural Revolution.

“Actually my father was a member of the KMT, [the Kuomintang], which is a party of China. Before the Cultural Revolution came, my father was regarded as a counter-revolutionary because he was a member of the KMT. So, the Red Guard criticized my father, even lashed him. Then, they confiscated my family’s fortune, our cereal [stores], and some [other] valuable things.  My father was sent to a reeducation-through-labor camp for three months [before being] released.

“Everyone looked down upon us. I felt so angry with my father at the beginning because I couldn’t receive any education, but in that kind of situation, I must understand him. We began to face the difficulties in unity. There was no more food for us to survive. Then, my father asked us to carry hoes and sickles to find something we could eat. We [dug up] tree roots and [cut] potherbs. I always felt [as if I was] starving because we lacked [enough] food. Then, my family decided to [quietly clear] the land. Because of our special identity, we [were not allowed] to actually have any field [of our own].”

My grandfather stopped telling [his story], so I’ll stop too. I know it is necessary for us to recall the past and [to] learn to cherish our lives [as they are now].


Like last year, I asked students to call the oldest person in their families and to ask that person to tell them a story that they had never heard before. They then translated and told the story in English. While we’re away traveling, I thought I’d let my students tell their stories. To preserve their privacy, I have not credited the authors, but I have gotten their permission to let you listen in. The stories vary—sometimes simple, sometimes Earth shattering, sometimes otherworldly. I have not edited their stories unless I needed to help the flow. My edits are in brackets. [ ]

A new story will appear on the blog each Wednesday between January 18th and February 22nd. Read the 2012 series from the beginning here, or read last year’s stories here.

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