LIFE IN EXILE
CHAPTER 6 The Precious Words Of God
Reading the Bible in a “Tiger-Den”
One spring morning in 1966 during the early stage of the Cultural Revolution, we had just finished transplanting rice seedlings when we heard an unfamiliar whistling. Everyone in the Team left the fields for the shabby mess for emergency gathering. Terror reigned over the whole camp as though something disastrous had happened.
The Team-director solemnly announced, “In the name of the Revolutionary Committee of the General Camp, I officially declare the inception, right here in this Team, of the unprecedented Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution led personally by Chairman Mao Tse-tung. Today, the first step of action is the wiping out of “the four olds” (old ideas, old culture, old customs, old habits). From this moment on, no one is allowed to leave the mess without permission, or to whisper to each other, or to throw anything from his pocket out of the window, and permission must be obtained for using the toilets. You’re all “four elements” (i.e. landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, evil-doers who were morally corrupt criminals). Without exception, all of your belongings will be thoroughly searched.” A deadly silence filled the air.
Then, one by one and in the order of our bed spaces, we were taken from the mess to the dormitory for searching purpose. Though everyone had to be searched, there were special targets in each Team. I was one of the three special targets, as I was characterized as one of the most stubborn and questionable in the team - a “granite-head” unwilling to give up his belief, who just lately (in 1965) was punished by the Labor Reform Bureau for carrying out counter-revolutionary and counter-reform activities (preaching) within the Labor Camp, and who “was still wearing the counter-revolutionary hat”1 (a sentence that was not revoked until 1987, by which time I had already left for the United States).
The search was vigorous and thorough. A landlord, Chiron Wu, was found to have national food coupons2 hidden in the brim of his hat and in his old and heavily patched quilted coat. A few secret diaries and hidden books found were confiscated (all books were illegal except for those by Communist leaders Marx, Lenin and Mao Tse-tung). It was absolutely ridiculous that the following things were also targeted as “the four olds” subject to confiscation: empty cans of KLIM brand milk-powder imported from the United States; a private bronze seal with an engraved lion on its handle; and my used safety-razor made in Britain. A long time later, the razor was returned to me after the label “Eveready” was filed off, thus “wiping out the four olds”!
1. Counter-revolutionary hat: “hat” represents “crime.” In September 1962 in Anhui, I had completed “Re-education through Labor” – however, that did not mean the removal of the “counter-revolutionary hat.”
2. During those years, people could not buy food without food coupons. A person who escaped from the Labor Camp could hardly survive without food coupons.