Interviewee: Jia Futian, Male (b. 1936)
Interviewer: Jia Nannan
Location: Yangjiazhuang Village, Hebei Province
Jia Futian: I grew up in Changchun and went to elementary school when I was around 8 or 9 years old. After 3years at school—it was under Kuomingtang’s regime—I had to quit because of my family’s economic condition. Why? Because there were all kinds of tuition, just like these days, too expensive, we decided that I should quit, as we couldn’t afford it. The condition was not as good as these days. After three years of elementary school education, I quit and stayed at home helping my second and oldest brothers. My dad was still at home back then. We had a big cart, a horse-drawn cart, so we drove the cart in Changchun. Back then there was no automobile or tractor, only horse-drawn carts. We drove our cart after trains.
Jia Nannan: Like a taxi?
Jia Futian: No, it was not taxi. There was no such a thing back then. We carried goods in our cart. In 1947 during the Siege of Changchun, Kuomingtang’s troops were inside the city, while the Chinese Communist Party’s Eighth Route Army were in the suburb. The Eighth Route Army did not open fire in Changchun, but encircled the city and forced Kuomingtang to surrender.
Jia Nannan: How old were you?
Jia Futian: I was younger than 10 years old in 1947. I was born in 1936, which means I was 11 in 1947. During the Siege of Changchun when the Eighth Route Army were in the suburb and Kuomingtang were in the city, all the daily necessities and other stuff had to be transported from the countryside. Grains and vegetables were not allowed at all. The aim was to encircle Changchun and force Kuomingtang to surrender. I escaped from Changchun in the third month of the Lunar Calendar. During that time many citizens of Changchun fled the city like a wind and escaped to their hometowns. There were lots of people from Shandong Province living in Changchun, but not many from our Hebei Province. I mean, there were still lot from Hebei, but not as many as those from Shandong. Those with a house sold the house, while those without sold other belongings so that they could have money to flee. In the third month of the Lunar Calendar of 1947, I escaped. When we left the city, the Eighth Route Army allowed people to freely enter or leave the city. The siege was not that strict yet. You were even welcomed by the Eighth Route Army when you escaped. On the other hand, although Kuomingtang did not let people leave, they were very corrupted. Therefore, if you were willing to spend some money, you could find someone to help you escape, but that’s all they would do. The Eighth Route Army, however, even welcomed you. When we escaped the city, your great-grandpa still had a property left, so he did not ask for money when he sold it to one of my cousins. He asked him to come with us but he refused. During the siege things inside Changchun were worthless and couldn’t be sold, therefore he decided to leave the house to him. He did not have a house of his own, so he moved there. I remember the amount we got from selling our properties included the number 7, but I don’t remember whether it was 70 or 700 thousand. It was the Kuomingtang’s currency. I remember there was a 7. We gave the property to him, and sold as many things as possible. I remember we bought three horses and two carts, and then left Changchun. Once we escaped from Changchun, we ran directly to the south of Shanhai Pass. We didn’t even need to ask for direction. Everyone on the national road was running in the same direction. We spent over 40 days on the road until we got home, sometimes walking, sometimes riding the train. Only areas controlled by Kuomingtang had railroads. I remember we walked all the way from Changchun to Tieling, which was all controlled by theEighth Route Army. Tieling was not yet liberated, so once we reached Tieling we could ride a train. Areas controlled by the Eighth Route Army did not have railroads. We went from Tieling to Shenyang on the train, spent several days in Shenyang, and then rode the train to Xinmin County, which was west to Shenyang. Starting from Xinmin County the area was under the Eighth Route Army’s control, all the way till another city (I cannot remember the name), which was not liberated yet. We then rode the train from there to Tianjin. We originally planned to stay in Tianjin instead of coming home, but the situation was also quite chaotic in Tianjin, therefore it was difficult to find a job that couldf eed the whole family. I was still very young. Your second grandpa and your oldest grandpa proposed to go to Beijing. I had an aunt, my fourth aunt, from Lijiazhuang, in Beijing, so we all went to her place, trying to see if we could find a job there. However, we still could not find a job. There was no way to feed the family, so we came home from Beijing. When we came home from Beijing, we still had some money left, so we rented a mule-driven cart. The one that we bought earlier had already been sold. We rode this rented mule-driven cart and came all the way from Tianjin to home. The whole trip took over 40 days. There were days on the road as well as in rest. We rode with train, but also walked.
Jia Nannan: What happened after you came home?
Jia Futian: After we came home, because the older generation hadn’t divided up the family property, we and your grandpa decided to do that. Our family got half of the property. The east half of our old family house belongs to our family, while the west is yours. …….(Chitchat; omitted)
Jia Futian: After we divided up the property, we stayed at home for another two years before we returned to Changchun. We went back to Changchun in 1951. We came back home in 1947. The country was liberated in 1949. After the liberation in around 1951, we went back to Changchun and stayed there for two years. I was doing some business with my elder brother, but the people from the Tax Bureau always came to talk to us. We hadn’t changed our hukou yet, so we eventually decided to move. We moved, together with our hukou, to Beijing and settled down there. What did I do in Beijing? I rode tricycle for six years. There was no public bus system in Beijing yet, only human-powered tricycles for transporting goods and humans. I left Beijing in 1958. Why did I leave? It had something to do with my religious belief. It was because I believe in Catholicism. I left Beijing on April 28, 1958, charged with reactionary thoughts. In fact I just expressed my disapproval of the government’s religious policies. I will not go into details on this, because you won’t be able to understand. Anyways, because I was unhappy with the religious policies, I was charged with reactionary thoughts. I was then forced to leave Beijing and sent to reeducation through labor. Where was I sent for the reeducation through labor? Qinghe Farm. There was a wasteland to the east of Tianjin, which was near Chadian Station on the Jinshan Railway Line. The wasteland was to the west of Chadian, with a reed pond. Beijing Public Security Bureau opened a farm there and sent me there. I stayed on the farm for seven years before I came back home. I came home in 1969, which has been 41 years. I remembered one thing during our way of fleeting. When we walked to Jinzhou, Liaoning Province, there was a river called Daling River in the east. To the east of Daling River was Eight Route Army’s area, while to the west was Kuomintang’s. The bridge over the Daling River had already been exploded into pieces, so no train or bus could pass it. What was left of the bridge was only the railroad part, no ordinary road left. If people wanted to pass the bridge, they had to climb the railroad bridge, which was quite scary. The local people tied the railroad bridge with iron wires and sleepers, so in theory people could pass that bridge. We decided to crawled over that bridge too. I was very young back then. The bridge was in fact quite wide. Although in theory people could pass it, those who were not brave enough wouldn’t dare to stand up and walk over the bridge, but had to crawl. There were local people who earned money from carrying people across the bridge on their back. For example, there were steamed buns or steamed white rice. This was before 1960. Starting from April 1, 1960, the grains were rationed. In 1958 and 1959, we had no problems with filling our stomach, but once the grains were rationed, (we could not eat till we were satisfied). You see, all we did was heavy manual labor. We had to carry over 30 or 40 Jin of goods. However, we could not have sufficient food, and the supplies were more and more scarce, more and more scarce. In the winter of 1960, you had no idea how much you ate. For each meal you would get two small pieces of steamed corn bread, around this big. When in the winter we had less work to do, we would only receive two meals: two pieces of corn bread in the morning, and two in the evening. We had no idea how much we ate exactly, but all we knew was we were hungry. During that time, the farm had already produced grains. In 1960 we mainly harvested rice. In fact we harvested a large amount of rice. For the whole winter we were harvesting rice on the farm. When the people in the labor camp starved too badly, they started eating raw rice. I always tell others, in 1960 we ate lots of raw things, wheat, corns, rice, and beans. When we went to work, all we ate was raw food. When we harvested wheat, we would eat raw wheat. We would rub the grains and eat while working. If you did not eat, you would not survive, especially in the winter. I ask them which tasted better, wheat or rice. Of course rice. Rice tastes much better than wheat. In the winter when we were working there, the ground was frozen, so we threw the rice onto the ground, and rubbed the bran off with our feet. Then there was your processed rice. Well, not completely processed, but 80 to 90 percent. Then we put the rice into our pockets, and ate it after a whole day of work. The rice we ate, if made into steamed rice, was more than enough. However, if you only ate the raw rice, you could not feel full, though not hungry either. Later when you went back to the canteen for dinner and go tone or two small pieces of steamed corn bread, you would still eat them. When you went to work in the field, you started eating once you entered there and would not stop until you finished work. Some people even tried to steal some grains with them so that they could cook them when they got back and did not have to eat raw grains all the time. In 1960 I had a thought, when I had a chance to leave that place, I wanted to have a whole pot of thick rice congee, very thick. When we were in the labor camp, there was a typeof pot that we used. All I wish was to eat a whole pot of rice congee till I was full, then I would feel satisfied even if I died. People were truly starving, and some even developed edema. I was still young during that time, so I didn’t really care, although I starved badly. I remember once when your uncle went to Beijing to visit me, he brought some homemade clay oven rolls as well as some grains he bought with ration coupons from the labor camp’s canteen after he arrived. In 1960 the grains we had were not bad—all rice flour, though the supply was scarce. I was too shy to eat the steamed rice buns (he bought in the canteen) in front of him, so one night after he left, I told myself that I would eat till I was satisfied that night. In the middle of that night, I got up after everyone went to bed. There were four people living in one room, so in order to not make noise, I ate the buns under the quilt. I remember I ate 20 pieces, 2 Liang each, including the homemade clay oven rolls and the buns bought from the canteen. I had 20. How did it feel like? I felt like there was some weight in my stomach, though I still wanted to eat. This was how starving I was. However although I starved badly back then, I did not develop any diseases. Look at me. I’m 75 years old now, but I’m still quite vigorous. Our generation is different from yours. Your generation is really fortunate. That was on the farm, in 1960. Let me tell you the stories when I worked as a migrant worker. That was when we still ate sorghum flour and sliced yams at home.All the work was carried out on the river.If we went to work on the river, we could earn more work points and did not need to eat at home. During that time the villagers here had to take turns to work on the river. If you did not want to go, you would have to hire someone to go. When it was my turn, I went to work in Qing River and in Tangshan. I went to Tangshan the year after the great earthquake. When I was working as a migrant worker, I suffered a lot. What kind of suffering? They treated you as if you were oil seeds and tried to squeeze as much oil out of you as possible. They treated the workers like cows that wouldn’t work without a whip. While working on the river, the rule was you had to move 13 cubic meters of soil. If you could not finish your task, you had to work in the evening, even though it might mean you had no sleep. I suffered a lot during that time. Once when I came back from Tangshan, I remember I told the person-in-charge of our commune that I wanted to leave two days early. Back then if you left early, you took the train at Fengtai Station to the west of Tangshan. During that time if you wanted to go to Beijing, you needed a certificate to purchase train tickets, otherwise no one would sell you the tickets. I told that person-in-charge that I needed to leave two days early so that I could go to Beijing and visit my brother. Therefore I managed to get a certificate which enabled me to buy a ticket at Fengtai Station. The life during that time was really difficult. I suffered more in Tangshan than on the farm. We were treated like animals. If you could not finish your tasks, you had to stay up all night and worked.
Jia Nannan: What year was that?
Jia Futian: It has been 30 years since the Tangshan Earthquake. We went there the spring after the earthquake, which means it has been 29 years. When we were digging the river in Tangshan, we really worked like cows. If you could not finish your tasks, you had to work in the evening. All the old people know about that. If you were assigned with 10 cubic meter, you had to finish the task tonight, otherwise you had to work in the evening. If you worked till the next morning, you still needed to work during the daytime. They worked people even harder than the prison. When I arrived in Beijing and told my niece about this, I kept crying when talking, making her cry with me too. I did not suffer this much even when I was in the labor camp. In the labor camp, we worked for 8 hours everyday and we could stop even if we did not finish the work, but it was not like that at all when we worked on the river. These days no one needs to dig the river, but back then people were treated like cows. Hu Jintao is better than the leader during that time. Back then the leader was Old Mao, but when I went to Tangshan, someone else substituted Old Mao, though I cannot remember who that was. Anyways, that was a tough time. I suffered a lot. It’s much better now that we don’t need to dig the river.
Jia Nannan: When you were digging the rive, did you have enough food?
Jia Futian: Yes, we did. Although we had sufficient food, we could not finish the tasks. We had to finish the tasks, though we could eat as much as we wanted. The only time that I suffered was when I went to dig the river. Although we could eat as much as we wanted, we had too much work to finish and were treated like cows. It was usually in the spring, I remember it was in the spring, when the day started at 4 o’clock in the morning. When we finished half of the task, we came back to have lunch, and went back to work after lunch. We had an hour of lunch break. In those days there was so much work everyday. If you could not finish you work, you had to stay up and worked. ……(Chitchat; omitted)
Jia Futian: Back then if you did not deliver the tax in the form of grains to the state, people from the Administrative Bureau for Industry and Commerce would come and talk to you. If you refuse, they would beat you up. They would tie you up and detained you in the commune for several days. How dare you not to pay the tax? Now you don’t need to pay, (the state) even gives you some. How can you say the state is not good? But back then it was really bad.
Jia Nannan: Yes, you are right.
Jia Futian: I said earlier that you wouldn’t understand. The reason why I was sent to reeducation through labor was because of the church. They said you opposed the religious policies, and in fact I did disapprove. Why? Because the state’s religious policies were against the creed of our Catholic church. You know now there are two churches of the Catholics, one above the ground one underground. Why are there two?
Jia Nannan: I have no idea.
Jia Futian: Let me explain it to you. There is a Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which, however, was not spontaneously founded by us Catholics. It was not like our church itself decided to establish this Patriotic Catholic Association. It was, in fact, forced by the state and asked you to join such an association. I cannot say this association itself is wrong, but its mission is wrong. What is its mission? It is to have an “independent, self-governed and self-administrated church”. This is different from the creed of our Catholicism, which declares the Church to be “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic”. No matter what your race, nationality and ethnicity are, as long as you believe in Catholicism, you are under the rule of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. For us Catholics, no matter what our race, nationality, and ethnicity are, we only believe in one Catholic Church. The Catholicism is like a country. Vatican is the center of Catholicism, which functions like the capital. There is such a piece of land next to the city of Rome. It does not belong to Rome or Italy, but to Vatican. Who is the leader of Vatican? The Pope. As long as you are a Catholic, you have to listen to the Pope, and do whatever he asks you to do. So why is the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association against the creed of the Catholic Church? Its mission is to an “independent, self-governed and self-administrated church”. By “independent” it means we don’t listen to you. “Self-governed” means we can do whatever we want without obeying your rules. “Self-administrated” means we don’t need your money and we fund ourselves. Therefore it means the association and Vatican are totally two different things. That’s why there are two churches in China, one above the ground and the other underground. The one above the ground is the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. The underground one means I don’t listen to your Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and I still do things in the traditional Catholic way: I belong to Roman Catholics, under the rule of Vatican, not the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. This is why I was sent to reeducation through labor in Beijing. The reeducation through labor had to follow a Regulation of Reeducation Through Labor. Let me tell you about this regulation, which was passed at the State Council in August 1, 1957 when Zhou Enlai was the Prime Minister. In 1958 the Beijing Bureau for Reeducation Through Labor was established. Those whose charges were not heavy enough to be sentenced were all sent to reeducation through labor. What was it like during that time? If you did not have a formal job, you were qualified to be sent to reeducation. There were many such cases. Many young people in Beijing, when they reached a certain age but still had neither a formal job nor a workplace to go, would be sent to reeducation. Later the reeducation through labor became more like a way to solve unemployment. I was taken in on April 28, 1958. In half a year, a batch of people, who were taken in because they did not have a job, were released. However, they had to stay on the farm. Being released means one was no longer under reeducation through labor, but you had to work on the farm as an employer rather than going back home. That was the earliest batch, all jobless—their only charge, released in half a year. The rest of us were not released until 1963, that was 5 years later. In the beginning they did not give you a time limit: you would be released once you were fully transformed. It happened that in late 1958 a batch of people were released, then in 1959 the Sino-Soviet relationship began to deteriorate, and in 1960 the famine started. Therefore it was not until 1962 or 1963 that the second batch of people were released. The rest had been waiting for a long time, and it seemed like they would never be considered fully transformed. After the second batch was released, they started to inform people of their time limit on the farm. The longest was three years, but the early years on the farm did not count at all. The first batch was released in half a year, but later no one was released until after 1962. After the second batch, they started to assign time limit to people. For example, some people had half a year to go, while others had one more. However, although you were released once your time limit was up, you had to stay on the farm and worked, because the farm needed people. My reeducation ended in 1963, but I was employed as a worker there for several years and did not come home until 1967. After I came back, the policy changed again—the policies of the Communist Party are always like that. In 1967 the farm had a mobilization meeting. What does that mean? It means gathering all you people in the Jinshan County was not suitable for getting prepared against war and natural disaster. Instead, you people needed to be dispersed all over the country: everyone should be sent back to their ancestral hometown. If you were from Guangdong, then you went back to Guangdong. If you were from Anhui, then you went back to Anhui.Everyone went back to their ancestral hometown. However, those from Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai—the three municipalities directly under the Central Government—did not leave and stayed on the farm. I am from Hebei, so I had to leave. People from Hebei were release as the last batch. I remember they booked a whole train for people from Hebei. The train left from Chadian Station, passed by Tianjin, Changzhou, Dezhou, Heshui, Shijiazhuang, and then turned back to Baoding and Zhuozhou. That was the route of the train, all in Hebei. Finally you were sent home. When I was sent home, I remember I was given 170 Yuan as the settlement fee. That was the time on the farm. No matter what, working on the farm was till better than digging the river. I suffered too much when digging the river, just like a cow. I did not cry when I was on the farm, but I cried when I was digging the river. You could not finish the work and you were bullied, but you did not dare to say anything. You had to stay up late and work if you did not finish your tasks. Although we had enough food to eat, we did not have that much strength and therefore could not finish all the tasks.
Jia Nannan: Do you still remember things in Changchun when you were a child? Is there anything that you cannot forget?
Jia Futian: Anything in Changchun that I cannot forget? Yes. In 1945 in Changchun, I already fled once. In 1945 when Japan surrendered, Changchun was considered a special city, because it was the capital of the north-east China occupied by Japan. There was also a ForbiddenCity in Changchun, where the last emperor Puyi used to live. On August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered. Before the surrender citizens in Changchun also fled, including my family. I remember my mother had already passed away at that time, so I was following my father. My father brought my sister and me, left Changchun and walked for over 15 miles until we reached the countryside. We spent several days at a train station until Japan surrendered. After the surrender, I didn’t go to watch it, but my sister went. The Japanese worried that the Chinese might take advantage of them, they told me once after they went to see the surrender, so the Japanese killed themselves. They did dare to do that, killing themselves. I was not brave enough to watch it. The adults first killed the kids, then killed themselves. It was 1947 when we fled here from Changchun. There is another thing. It was before 1947, probably in 1946. One night we got visited by someone. Back then the Eighth Route Army was outside the city while the Kuomingtang’s New Seventh Army lived inside the city. There was someone from the Kuomingtang’s army working on telecommunication who was also religious. I don’t remember his name, but once when he was at my home and saw the Icon, he told us, “do you also believe in God? Me too.”At the night of surrender, Kuomingtang’s army came out and hid in a house in the east, which used to belong to us before the Japanese occupation but had been destroyed. They waited for a long time but did not see anyone from the Eighth Route Army, so they retreated. I remember they left a security team in our courtyard, which was not a regular army. There were several people there, occupying the house. You did not dare to refuse them. There was a woman whose last name was Huang, and they asked her to sleep in one of our rooms. After midnight we heard gunshot, and then the Eighth Route Army entered. We did not dare to leave, so we just stayed inside the room, listening to the gunshot. Later we also heard gunshot from the courtyard. Then they asked us to open the door. The security team had already left. Those who did not have enough time to leave were pretending to be ordinary people. When they asked to open the door, you did not dare to disobey. Once you opened the door, they asked for axes. They did not walk on the street after they came in, but smashed walls. The next morning you saw that many people’s houses were connected, and they only needed to walk in the courtyard to avoid bullets. After they got the axes, they sent us back. They all left on the next morning. After they left, I went to check the room where Huang stayed. There was a member of the security team there who pretended to be an ordinary people. Later we saw parched rice on the floor of that room, because they all carried parched rice with them in case of hunger. I remember in the morning when my eldest brother went there and closed the door, he saw a box behind the door, so he took it. The man who was in the room did not stop my brother from taking the box, but later when other people of the security team came back, they asked for the box. They threatened to fire the gun, so my brother gave the box back to them. I remember the wooden door in the east side of the courtyard was taken away. It was very cold at that time. We guess it was probably taken when they carried the injured soldiers. They took care of the injured soldier in the room where Huang stayed, and carried those who could not walk. They left the next day. It all happened in one night. It was very quiet in the first half of the night. If they made any sound in the first half of the night, Kuomingtang’s New Seventh Army who was hiding there would make moves. Later they received order to retreat. It was quite scary. I remember a bullet went through our room, carried with it some cotton, and fell on my sister-in-law. My sister-in-law said how come a rat came out, but when we checked the next morning we realized it was in fact a bullet wrapped in cotton that lost its momentum. The bullet went through the window and then a quilt, finally fell on her, wrapped in cotton. It was not a rat, but a bullet. Anyway, I’ve survived all these years after all. Life is much better these days, as we no longer need to worry about food or drink. Well, another thing. I actually have two elder brothers. I’m the youngest. My eldest brother passed away, while my second brother went to join army and we never heard from him again. We still don’t know if he’s dead or alive. He joined the army before the liberation in 1949.
Jia Nannan: Never heard from him at all?
Jia Futian: No. He joined the army when he was outside, and sent home a certificate. He was in Beijing, and the whole village knew that.
Jia Nannan: When did he joined the army?
Jia Futian: In 1949. We have lost contact for a long time.