LIFE IN EXILE
Labor Camp In Semi-Virgin Forest In Northern Fujian (1958-1962)
On May 3rd, 1958 I was escorted from my home to the detention center at 723 Wangbin Road where I stayed for the next 2 months. Every morning we were required to jog around the drill-ground to render ourselves physically fit for the hard labor awaiting us. The rest of the day was spent on political study and on the writing of confessions and the reporting and disclosing of offenders. Around midnight on July 3 rd, we were suddenly awakened by the whistle for assembling. The cadres ordered us to immediately pack up our stuff, assemble in the drill-ground and get ready for departure. Awaiting us were a number of big, red police cars from the Public Security office1 and many fully armed soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in motorcycles. As if those undergoing labor reform were unqualified to use railway stations, we were taken to a deserted area about 0.6-0.9 miles away from the station to get on the train.
As the train had to give way to all other passenger or cargo trains, it took us 2 days and 3 nights of rough ride (normally around 15 hours) before arriving at Shaowu in Fujian Province. We were each given some loaves of coarse bread and became very thirsty for lack of drinking water in the summer heat. Arriving at Shaowu, the PLA alighted first and mounted their machine guns to prevent escapes. Right after we had alighted, we were each given a ladle of thin porridge before leaving for the coach-stop. The distance between the train station and the coach-stop was about 3 miles. We had to carry our own luggage, about 85 pounds per person, which included all the basic necessities for the four seasons. Until then, I had been a teacher with heart problem. I usually made 10-minute walks to school and occasionally even hired a rickshaw. Now, how could I solve this big problem? Some of us were forced to abandon a portion of their luggage; but I could not. For how could I afford to do so? My father had only just passed away, leaving nothing behind. After his burial, my family had to sell the old furniture in order to make ends meet. Under those circumstances, how could my family afford to provide me with another set of daily needs? Thank God! What a wonderful God He is, for He even moved an escort cadre, named Cecil Xie, to volunteer, "I"ll carry your luggage for you!" Oh, how could this be possible? The Communist Party definitely did not allow anyone to show sympathy towards us "counter-revolutionaries," for Chairman Mao Tse-tung2 had proclaimed, "compassion for the enemies equals cruelty towards our own people." For over 20 years of my Labor Reform, I had never again heard of or seen another such case. It was proof that "The king's heart is in the hand of Jehovah; as the rivers of water, He turns it wherever He will" (Prov. 21:1).
As there were not enough canvassed trucks provided for our use, we all had to stand in the rear of the trucks with our luggage piled up in the front. The trucks were so fully packed that we could not even stand up straight. After a rough ride of 3 hours on the winding mountain roads, we eventually arrived at Jiangle County in northern Fujian Province. There, we switched to small wooden boats and sailed upstream until we arrived at the village of Jiang Creek. It was July 6 th. The Labor Reform team that I belonged to was to stay temporarily in Zou Village here in Jiang Creek.
Jiang Creek Village was nestled in a lofty semi-virgin forest in northern Fujian Province, on the banks of Golden Creek, by the source of the Min River. It had the setting of a picturesque and poetic tourist retreat. Sparsely populated, backward, primitive, remote and with high mountains and winding paths, it was totally devoid of any means of transportation. Some women in their 60's had never been farther away from home than 10 miles and had no idea what an automobile looked like. However, their living conditions were rather favorable as compared to other mountain dwellers in China, especially so for the bamboo and lumber workers who used the waterways to transport their goods from this inexhaustible forest (lush with trees and bamboo groves) to the government-run purchasing center. Most of the townspeople lived in wooden houses with tiled roofs, unlike most people in the countryside who lived in huts with thatch roofs and earthen walls.
The farmers had absolutely no modern equipment. Perhaps because of the poor geographical condition, their farming methods were not even as advanced as those of 722-481B.C. in China when plows were first introduced. I had never seen the use of cows for
farming3 here. The farming tools here were more primitive than the ones in Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces - a tool shaped like a clamshell instead of hoe and rake; a spade used in the paddy rice fields to control water supply (to let out excessive water during the rainy season and to block water passage in drought conditions); also, a sickle for cutting and a barrel for threshing. The threshing barrel, about 85 pounds in weight, was small and light compared to the ones used in Wuhu, Anhui Province, which weighed about 275 pounds. Most of the hay was burned in the fields and used as fertilizer while the rest was used as cooking fuel. Other tools were choppers for cutting bamboos and saws for felling trees.
There was plenty of farmland but, because of shortage of manpower, productivity was low. Owing to poor means of transportation, it was hard for the grain for agricultural tax to be transported to State storage stations and it had to be stored up in the local barns. These barns were probably much simpler and cruder than the ones that Joseph (1770 B.C.) built for the Pharaoh. Constructed of wooden boards, a barn looked like a cottage smaller than a garage, with 4 supports at the base and the flooring raised two to three feet above the ground for ventilation. The main task of the Labor Camp was the chopping down and transporting of bamboos. Our food was supplied by the government and we were to fetch the stored grain from the barns. Each time, each of us was to carry back for the team no less than 70 pounds of grain filled in a pair of clean trouser-legs.
There was only one ancient stone-arched bridge in Jiang Creek Village. A historical remnant, it stood above the Golden Creek at the village entrance, like a shining pearl of the village. It denoted the superb architectural standard of our ancestors and could be compared to the Treasure-Belt Bridge in Suzhou (even though it was not as long and had only one arch of about 18 feet in diameter). As firm as a rock, it had withstood countless torrential mountain floods over hundreds of years. Several small cottages were erected on the bridge, one of which once housed the headquarters of our Sub-Camp.
The cultural level of the natives was rather low and schools did not exist. Life was monotonous and primitive, with hardly any social activities. A clause in their "Patriotic Pledge" in the year 1958 was: "men must not kill; women must not commit adultery." Before 1949, some gangsters and kidnappers hid their victims in the mountain caves and, failing receipt of ransom, killed them at a spot known as the "Pit of Head Sacrifice."
1. The Public Security Office was equivalent to the Police Department in the United States or in Taiwan.
2. Mao Tse-tung - Chairman of People's Republic of China 1949-1976.
3. The Bible records that cows were used for farming in the time of Job, a contemporary of Abraham (around 1800 B.C.). At the time of Moses (1500 B.C.) the law forbade the simultaneous use of cows and donkeys for farming. Even in areas of Wuhu in Anhui Province, there was no sight of cows working in pairs as in the time of Elisha.