Tuesday, November 11, 2008
THE CHANGE IN MY FEELINGS TOWARD MAO ZEDONG
By Ye Weiyou
Mao, as an unusually famous person in China’s history, has been dead for over four years, but I just can’t help recalling him and the change in my feelings toward him and, I should say, recalling this makes me sad.
New China was founded on October 1, 1949. Influenced by my parents, I, a first year primary school girl, was delighted. Holding the newspaper with a colored portrait of Mao, I learned to read a bright name, Mao Zedong! “Look, what a kind face he has! China will certainly have a spell of fortune…” Those words of my mother’s still seem to ring in my ears today, though then I could not fully understand the real meaning of “a spell of fortune.” The first song I was taught at school was “The East Is Red” (an ode to Mao and CPC), while the first slogan on the first page of our Chinese textbook was “Long Live Chairman Mao!” From then on, the idea “Chairman Mao is our great saviour” began to take root in the bottom of my heart.
Through learning Chinese history, especially its modern part which was full of foreign aggressions, through seeing and hearing about the great happy changes that took place in our country before 1955, my love and respect for Mao became deeper and deeper. Like most of my countrymen, I felt so lucky to be a citizen of New China and so proud of having such a wise leader as Mao to guide us. I knew well that my country was still quite poor and backward; however, I believed she would turn stronger and stronger under the guidance of Mao and his party.
On National Days or Labor Days, whenever I heard the cheerful shouts “Long Live Chairman Mao! (ten thousand years of life!)” over the radio, I would often shed tears of joy and excitement for that was also the voice in my own heart. On a November evening in 1954, Father took me to Huai Ren Tang, a large hall in
Zhong Nan Hai (Central South Sea) where Mao and the group of top leaders lived, to see a Beijing opera. I’ve never like seeing that kind of show but, in order to have a chance to see Mao, I asked to go. It was 7:30 p.m. The music “The East Is Red” began to play. Mao entered the hall with steady steps. He looked both dignified and amiable. Holding his right hand half up, Mao walked around the hall, smiling at all the people standing and clapping. My heart beating fast, with bated breath, I stared at Mao’s kindly face when he passed me. Being excited, I could not get to sleep as fast as usual that night. “If only I were my father, who has the honor to listen to Chairman Mao often and to be received by him…” I was dreaming.
One October afternoon in 1964, I heard from Father that China had exploded its first atom bomb, just the next day (October 16, 1964) when Khrushchev* was relieved of his office. I jumped up with excitement. “Mao is really a great man!” The memory of that still lingers, how feelingly Father said this to us. Then I walked back to my own room, opened my diary, and kissed the picture of Mao with profound thankfulness. I did so more than once, whenever I heard something about Mao’s greatness or kindness. In the autumn of 1965, being upset/disturbed by Mother’s neurotic trouble, I suffered a lot from neurasthenia (strain). Knowing that I was in a very low spirits, one of my aunts gave me a book Overcome Disease With Revolutionary Spirit, written by Deng Yingchao, Premier Zhou Enlai’s widow. In this book there was a chapter which told how Mao encouraged a well-known veteran cadre, Wang Guanlan, to struggle with his illness, including his serious insomnia.
Deeply affected by Mao’s words, I bought a portrait of him from a bookstore and put it up on the wall facing me where I could see it when lying on bed. Every night, after _______________
*By that time, the relations between China and the USSR had been broken, and this break happened in the very days of Khrushchev.
doing keep-fit massage, I would look at the affable and gentle face of Mao for a while before finally going to sleep. From this, I seemed to get confidence and strength to despise and fight against my painful insomnia. (Subconsciously, I took Mao as a kind of god.) It was from then on that I started studying Mao’s works conscientiously and tried to learn some by heart. Through my hard work, and owing to my good memory, I was soon able to recite several of his essays and his famous thirty-seven published poems, which are really wonderful. Mao was indeed a great poet.
In spite of the fact that I began to feel some lack of freedom during my high school days (too many political activities and too much physical labour interfering with our studies and hobbies), my enthusiasm for following the socialist road under the leadership of the Party and Mao was not chilled a bit. And my love for Mao and the Party was almost as deep as before. In 1957, the first unforgettable event after liberation—the Anti-Rightist Campaign—burst out. Like millions of intellectuals, Father was labeled a “rightist” and therefore demoted (from rank 8 to rank 13, while his salary was reduced from 287 yuan to 155.55 yuan a month). Despite this, with the belief in the publicity about the campaign, I firmly trusted Mao and felt ashamed for Father’s so-called Anti-Party thoughts, thinking that he had let the Party and people down. (I have a specific essay on that campaign.) During the economic crisis of 1959-1961, when we common Chinese often went hungry, I did not let my spirit flag and never lost the faith in Mao and the Party. I knew the difficulties were temporary though, like numerous common Chinese, I fell ill with dropsy from malnutrition.
On August 18, 1966 (the year the Cultural Revolution started), after watching Mao’s first review of the Red Guards on Tien An Men Tower (Gate of Heavenly Peace) on TV in an office (The common Chinese did not have TV sets until the 80s), I wrote in my diary the following: “I wish I could be received by Chairman Mao for my great contributions to my country, even if it meant that I would then have to end my life soon…” Look, how loyal to Mao I was! This seemed something like the Japanese bushido'’ spirit, and now I know how pitiably ignorant and stupid I was! Unexpectedly, the situation then changed rapidly. Three weeks later, our house was searched and our belongings confiscated. Over a year after that, Father was detained in his office for about three weeks and then put into prison. (About this history, I have another tow essays titled “What Happened to My Family during the Cultural Revolution.” and “A Visit to A Political Prisoner”) Although I didn’t understand it and found it hard to accept, I thought that might not be Mao’s idea, and I trusted he would probably correct all those extreme leftist acts sooner or later, and our country would soon be all right. I had confidence in this and still remained respectful to Mao, the Supreme Commander of China.
But, as the Cultural Revolution unfolded, there appeared more abnormal and tyrannous things. I began worrying about our state… Particularly, seeing with my own eyes how my students, like other adolescents, became worse and worse, I started to doubt the correctness of the Cultural Revolution and the greatness of Mao. One summer morning in 1969 or 1970, at about 11 o’clock I walked out of a large department store in Wangfujjing and stopped before a huge poster of Mao in uniform waving to jubilant crowds in red flags. Staring at Mao’s kindly smiling face, I murmured: “Oh, Chairman Mao, don’t you know that your innocent people, your loyal subjects, are killing each other in the Cultural Revolution you launched? Do stop it, I beg you, beg you…” In tears, I left quickly, thinking people who had noticed it might take me as somewhat insane. My first doubts arose during the year. (It was the time of group fighting between masses in high tide with military units involved in some areas. Terrible!) Though, doubting his correctness as I was, I still took Mao as a god-like man subconsciously.
In November of 1971, I, like everyone in China, was shocked and, I should say, amazed in some way, at the “9.13 (September 13) Event,” the Lin Biao Event. And it was this very incident that made me and quite many Chinese much clearer about the so-called unprecedented, great Cultural Revolution and the character of the “Wise Leader” Chairman Mao. I felt more and more anxious for our nation and, in the meanwhile, my former adoration of Mao started to change to sorrow and even to hatred. One dark afternoon afterwards, being upset by the endless Cultural Revolution, I fetched out my diary, reread the page written on August 18, 1966, and tore it to pieces depressedly and angrily.
Then came the eventful year 1976. Soon after Premier Zhou’s death, the well-known “4.5 (April 5) Movement (or, Rebellion, then called) broke out. That was the result of the terrible autocratic rule of Mao’s regime and it was also our first half-open protest against the Dictator in the long 27 years since “Liberation!” I was deeply touched by the thousands of moving poems and the solemn and stirring scene in which people expressed their mourning for Zhou’s passing away and their indignation at the extreme autocracy of Mao and his followers. Through that rebellion I came to know more about the socialist power and, consequently, my hatred for the “Great Leader” and his ruling circle grew even stronger. Unfortunately and also expectedly, the people’s protest was immediately put down and thousands upon thousands of men were involved in it, many being put into prison. The Memorial Stone table to the Martyrs on Tian An Men Square was heavily smeared with blood. Despite this, the unprecedented people’s rebellion shook Mao’s prestige to a certain degree and educated and encouraged the oppressed common Chinese! Fortunately or unfortunately, I did not get involved in it, owing to my far-away workplace in the suburb. I was able to return home to see my small boy only once or twice a week, and my home was in another suburb. So far I still take it a pity that I didn’t go to the Square on the very evening of the event, April 5. Had I expected it earlier, I would certainly have gone there to see, to witness the government’s savage act. Not listening to my mother’s dissuasion, my brother hurried to the Square when he heard something, but he was lucky enough to have escaped from the ring of encirclement formed by the Capital Militiamen holding thick sticks/rods. The next day, April 6, the Party Central Committee declared the event counter-revolutionary and made a decision dismissing Deng Xiaoping, disgraced from all his posts inside and outside the Party and the government, accusing him of being the chief backstage supporter of the incident. The second struggle against Deng was therefore in full swing throughout the country. (The first one was in 1966 with the late state Chairman Liu Shaoqi, but at that time Deng was not as openly attacked and criticized as in 1976, which was Mao’s intention.) Disturbed by this, schools and colleges which had been getting a little better as a result of Deng’s reinstatement in the government for two years, turned turbulent again. Like most Chinese, I got more confused and irritated. “Where on earth would Mao lead China?!” Several times after the tedious classes, I took up a padlock in my small room and threw it at the portrait of Mao again and again to give vent to my anger and exasperation, thinking he was the chief culprit in all those wrong doings. (I had a small room to myself in the high school I taught from 1965-1978.)
I went through another several months of sufferings and privation. Then, on July 28, what a horrible earthquake in Tangshan we had! I thought it might be the result of, as the Chinese saying goes, “Gods/Heavens get angry and people resentful.” One night after that, being unable to fall asleep, I rose, knelt down before the portrait of Premier Zhou drawn by me after his death, and began to mutter with a film in my eyes: “Beloved Premier Zhou, if you could show any supernatural power, please let Mao either change or die. He is too old and too stupid to be the leader of our nation. Stop him and other treacherous ministers of state from harming China irreparably. Do, please!” Oh, Heaven, I began cursing, cursing a man, a giant, whom I once worshipped, but then hated intensely. “Am I to blame?” I asked myself. “No! Either worshipping or hating him, the change of my mind comes merely from love for my nation.” I had never been taught to hate anyone but, as for Mao, I couldn’t subdue my hatred because he and his regime, the ruling class, ruined China relentlessly, even if unintentionally. From then on, nearly every night before going to sleep, I would pray to Buddha to give China a great change, to save us poor Chinese from these spiritual shackles as soon as possible. I knew well that a great number of people, who had begun to be disillusioned, were expecting Mao’s death every day, every minute, and every second! One afternoon, my brother-in-law, the eldest sister’s husband, who was working as film-photographer in August 1 Film Studio (military film studio) told us that after the earthquake, a group of young musicians played Beethoven’s mourning music, Funeral March, in front of the huge statue of Mao on the compound of the film studio. And, of course, these youngsters were captured soon.
Thank Heavens, over a month later, on September 9, 1976, Mao’s long life ended at last! (He died at the age of 83, full year; but by the lunar year calendar he died at the age of 84, which is said to be a dangerous block year for people to die very possibly. Another year block is 73, lunar New Year calendar.) That good news especially pleased and excited millions of cadres, professionals, and intellectuals, though they had to pretend “deeply grieved” in public. My sister said, “To squeeze a drop of tear, I had to recollect the unhappy things in my life…” This was in sharp contrast to the mood of people after Zhou’s death. That national funeral ceremony on Tian An Men Square was held quite solemnly. A mourning hall was installed in every unit. Besides the collective mourning ceremony in the hall, almost all staff had to stand guard by Mao’s portrait for at least two or three hours. I was told to stay at night from 11 to 2 o’clock. Hearing a very solemn and sad Chinese morning melody and peering at Mao’s kind, woman-like face, I shed tears like many other foolish Chinese. However, my tears were not at all for his death, but for his past contributions before and in the first few years after the founding of New China. I wondered whether Mao’s soul would regret what he had done in the later part of his life, and I was eager to know when in the world China, a country that had endured so many sufferings for the past 100 years, would really have a spell of fortune as my mother had once expected on October the first, 1949.
Well, that is how my feelings about Mao changed over the 30 years of his rule… I think this is not only the change in my feelings but also that of many, many other aware and patriotic Chinese.
Posted by Benjamin Harris at 4:37 PM
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
The words are those of Wang Jinyao, on Communism in China.
Communism is an evil system, but when it began it embodied the hopes of many.
There is no more moving national anthem than that of the former Soviet Union. The lyrics that accompany the version below were those in effect until the downfall of Communism. This epic melody has been retained by Russia, but the original lyrics convey the supreme hope embodied in the Communist experiment in the U.S.S.R., and in its founder, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.
One can celebrate the death of a system while still feeling the sorrow for those who believed in it so completely.
This is the most compelling of the video accompaniments to the anthem. It crests at :50, 1:57, and 3:07. "Oh Party of Lenin!" is both shouted and wailed by the Red Army Choir as the videographer juxtaposes dramatic images of Lenin.
Posted by Benjamin Harris at 6:01 PM
It does feel like a new day, a completely new day. Our new president is a good man. This is a good day.
Posted by Benjamin Harris at 7:30 AM