Interviewee: Rong Shutang (Male, b. 1920, villager of Shaziying Village, Beijing)
Interviewer: Shao Yuzhen (Female, b. 1950, villager of Shaziying Village, Beijing)
Interview date: February, 2011
Interview location: Rong Shutang’s home, Shaziying Village
Rong: In which year was I born? August 11, 1920. When did I start teaching? July 1, 1942. The Land Reform was in 1947, while the Outline of Land Law was exercised in 1948.
Shao: What was the content of the Outline of Land Law?
Rong: The Outline of Land Law aimed at evenly distributing the land and abolishing the old debts. Everyone got one share, no matter who they were. Those who moved out of their houses in Xiaodian had some of their own land left for them, but no one here was given any land.
Shao: How much land did our village have in the beginning?
Rong: Originally we had over 58 Qing of land, but not much left now. Now we have at most 20 Qing of land. The rest has all been given to others.
Shao: How much is 58 Qing?
Rong: 5800 Mu.
Shao: What was the population back then?
Rong: Over 800 people.
Shao: So everyone had over 7 Mu of land.
Rong: Later everyone had 3 Mu of land. When Wang Shihua was the secretary, the land belonging to Mengjiafen in Dashuchang was given to Xiaodian in exchange for some land in the north of our village. We exchanged several hundred Mu of land for only a small amount of land, where even the rabbits were unwilling to take a shit and where the trees could only grow this big. When Li Chunsheng was the secretary, the land to the north of Xieshuigou was given to Zhangjiafu.
Shao: The land to the north of Xieshuigou used to belong to our village?
Rong: Yes, it was given to others. Most land was given to others. Only 17 Qin of land was left.
Shao: 17 Qing means we still have 1700 Mu.
Rong: Our village didn’t have much land in the past. We only had some here.
Shao: When was the past you are referring to?
Rong: Over 100 years ago. I was told by an old farmer.
Shao: You said our village used to have over 5800 Mu of land, so we had more toward the south and north, right? We had more land in the west?
Rong: We had more land in the west.
Shao: More land in the west near the river?
Rong: Now we have over 20 Qing land left. Everyone has 3 Mu of field. (At that time people in our village) didn’t have enough knowledge. People from Xiaodian were very shrew. They said, “this person from our village moved out many years ago.” When distributing the land, they came and asked you for land. We said we wouldn’t give the land to them, but in the end we lost the land.
Shao: Lost the land?
Shao: You said the Land Reform was in 1947.
Rong: The house sweeping started in 1947.
Shao: Didn’t the class statuses start to be defined during the house sweeping?
Rong: The class statuses were not defined yet at that time.
Shao: Then how did they do the house sweeping?
Rong: They did the house sweeping to whomever they wanted.
Shao: What did house sweeping mean?
Rong: Struggle, driving people out of their houses and distributing the rooms.
Shao: To whom?
Rong: Poor and lower middle peasants.
Shao: So the class statuses were already defined at that time?
Rong: Not defined yet. The class statuses were defined later.
Shao: Whose houses were swept?
Rong: In the first time the houses of over 20 families were swept. 21 families.
Shao: Who were the 21 families.
Rong: They were, Rong Zhongyu, my family, Mantang’s family, Shuxin’s family, Old Liu’s, Old Wu’s, Zhang Fuyong’s, Zhang Xiang’s, Zhang Rui’s, Wu Guang’s, Zhang Fuyuan’s, Zhang Fu’s, Jiusong’s… All these houses were swept. Zhang Mingyang didn’t have son but his house was swept too. Jiukui’s… was swept too… The old house of your family used to belong to Jiukui’s family…….
Shao: What was the standard of the house sweeping at that time?
Rong: There was no standard. They said, “someone’s house needs to be swept,” and then they would just go and sweep it.
Shao: Who said that?
Rong: There was someone called Wu Ying. His dad said that. He was very poor at that time.
Shao: He was a poor peasant, so whoever he claimed to be rich had to move?
Rong: Yes. It was like “whoever is better than me have to move!”
Shao: So there was no standard in differentiating who was rich and who was poor? Whoever had a large land and a good house had to be swept?
Rong: Yes. They forced whoever they wanted to move.
Shao: One family moved to another’s house and that family moved in?
Shao: How old were you at that time?
Rong: I was 28. I was teaching in Pashang.
Shao: During the house sweeping, what did you think? Were you willing to do that?
Rong: There was nothing you could do even if you were not willing. They swept any house they decided and forced whoever they wanted to move. Shuncai’s family was forced to move out too, but later they got to move back.
Shao: So the family whose house got swept just moved out like that?
Rong: Yes. You had to move to wherever they wanted you to. If you didn’t move, they would beat you up.
Shao: Was your place here approved and built later?
Rong: No, it was built before we had to apply for the government’s approval for building new houses. We built 10 rooms.
Shao: So the house sweeping was called Land Reform.
Rong: Later there was an Outline of Land Law, during which time there was another house sweeping.
Shao: When was that? The house sweeping happened in 1947, right?
Rong: The house sweeping happened in the beginning of 1947. Later there was a checkup: whoever had more land had to give out some of their land. Later we had another house sweeping. After that there was the Outline of Land Law and we had another house sweeping. Whoever had more land had to give out some of their land.
Shao: What was the content of the Outline of Land Law?
Rong: The Outline of Land Law aimed at evenly distributing the land so that everyone got one share and abolishing the old debts so that no one owed anyone anything.
Shao: That was the Land Reform. So here was liberated in 1947?
Rong: Shunyi was not liberated yet. There was a stronghold in Fengtai.
Shao: The stronghold belonged to Kuomintang?
Rong: Yes. Kuomintang’s army stayed there. They were there in 1947 and 1948. Later once the People’s Republic of China was established, they all ran away. There were Japanese in Yangzhuang and a stronghold in Xiaodian.
Shao: You were teaching the whole time?
Rong: Yes, I was teaching the whole time.
Shao: For how many years did you teach?
Rong: I taught for 38 years. I was assigned by the Hebei Province. After I graduated, I had classmates everywhere. When I was studying at the teachers college, the school provided meals and didn’t ask for any tuition. We just needed to buy books and clothes by ourselves.
Shao: You started teaching in 1942?
Rong: Yes, in 1942.
Shao: Was here occupied by Japan in 1942.
Rong: Yes, we were ruled by the Japanese. The Japan occupied here. Half of China was occupied by the Japanese. They killed over 35,000,000 Chinese people. In Nanjing they killed over 300,000 people in one single city. They had a competition among themselves to see who killed more people. You see, the Japanese at that time…
Shao: Did the Japanese kill many people here?
Rong: They killed quite a few here. There was a Red Eye Army. Once they killed 27 people.
Shao: What was the Red Eye Army?
Rong: Openly they claimed to be anti-Japanese, but in fact they just robbed people. Later they were called the Red Eye Army, which was in fact just the Red Army.
Shao: Was the Red Army the one in the Long March? Which later became the Eighth Route Army?
Rong: Yes, the Eighth Route Army. They killed the Japanese. Zheng Zihou was the leader. There were over 800 people.
Shao: Was this a regular army of the Communist Party or just a group of bandits?
Rong: They robbed people. They were first called Red Army. Later here we called them Red Eye Army. They robbed people.
Shao: They robbed the ordinary people, or?
Rong: The local people. Therefore they were called Red Eye Army. Quite a few people here joined the Red Eye Army. All locals. They went to rob people.
Shao: Whom did they rob?
Rong: The ordinary people.
Shao: So weren’t they just bandits?
Rong: They were like bandits.
Shao: Did they fight against the Japanese?
Rong: They fought against the Japanese once. Later Japan surrendered.
Shao: Who fought when Japan surrendered?
Rong: Japan surrendered on September 2, 1938. A classmate of mine told me, “Rong Shutang, all the Japanese in your village, together with the puppet army, went to live in Dongmen and went to carry water in Pashang. There are lots of people.” There were many people in the Red Eye Army. Qiao Shan was caught by the Japanese. He wanted to surrender or do something else, claiming that they couldn’t catch him. In fact, the Japanese was very ambitious, and Qiao Shan was caught. One of his granddaughters called him Siye and said,” Siye, Siye, the situation is very back. Lots of people were caught and brought to Pashang.” Thirteen child soldiers were killed in Pashang.
Shao: Child soldiers?
Rong: Yes, child soldiers. Teenagers who became soldiers.
Shao: Thirteen of them were killed?
Rong: Yes. Thirteen of them were killed. After they were caught, they were divided into two groups. “Who still wants to work?” “Me!” Then that person had to stand on one side. “I don’t want to work!” That person then stood on the other side. Those who said they didn’t want to work went home, while those who said they wanted to continue were all tied up. Lots of people went to watch and the Japanese had to drive people away. However, someone hit a mine and they were all killed there. One of them did not die but was discovered by others, “how come you are not dead yet.” He was eventually beaten to death by others.
Shao: So the Japanese did something good here?
Rong: There was no Japanese in Yangzhuang in the beginning. Ever since the Red Eye Army appeared, the Japanese came too. The Japanese also killed lots of people. In the beginning when holding meetings, everyone was scared.
Shao: There were meetings under the rule of Japan too?
Rong: We didn’t have any meeting here. They weren’t somewhere else and held the meetings there. Here was under the rule of that place, while the northwestern corner was under the rule of Shunyi County.
Rong: There was no communist party at that time. They didn’t come until 1937. At that time, many places like Pashang, Shaling, Zhumazhuang and others had poor people meetings. They held secrete meetings at night and used clapping as their secrete code. I heard them signaling for meetings in Pashang.
Shao: Were they people from the communist party?
Rong: Something like that. They hadn’t joined the communist party yet but they already had an organization.
Shao: The Checkup and house sweeping you mentioned were probably done by these people, right? Were they developed from the poor people meetings?
Rong: Yes, they were developed from the poor people meetings. All in the villages in the east.
Shao: Poor people meeting? They were not called the communist party?
Rong: Yes. Later they were called the communist party. Everyday after 10 o’clock, they started whistling, clapping, and having meetings. No one was administering here at that time. The county in charge was over 22 miles away from here, very far away. Many places very far away were administered by a county.
Shao: When were the class statuses defined after the Checkup?
Rong: In 1948. Those with an exploitation rate of over 25% were rich peasants.
Shao: What was exploitation?
Rong: How many people you hired to work, and how many people farmed were all counted into the exploitation. Then you calculated an average amount. If it was over 25%, you were classified as a landlord or rich peasant. If lower than 25%, you were classified as a middle peasant.
Shao: What did the landlords mean? They had more land and property than the rich peasants?
Rong: Debts. How many debts your family gave out and how many people you hired, all counted into the exploitation.
Shao: The average number of the land?
Rong: Yes. Hiring labor and giving out debts were counted as exploitation.
Shao: After that, the house sweeping happened and the land was distributed?
Rong: I came back once the movement started.
Shao: What movement? The Cultural Revolution?
Rong: Anti-rightist movement, Four Cleanups Movement and Cultural Revolution. These three movements. I came back during the Four Cleanups. After I came back, the policies changed again, and that started.
Shao: You came back during the Four Cleanups?
Rong: Hua Guofeng was the Prime Minister and he said, “I don’t have the knowledge to be (the Prime Minister). If you don’t have knowledge, I’ll trust you. If you have knowledge, I won’t trust you.” At that time the veteran revolutionaries were all overthrown, including supreme commanders like Liu Shaoqing, Peng Dehuai, and He Long.
Shao: That was during the Cultural Revolution.
Rong: Yes. Peng Dehuai was beaten by three belts, but he still refused to admit. Others said, “you oppose Chairman Mao.” He said, “I don’t oppose Chairman Mao.” They used sticks to hit him and broke his ribs. He Long asked Prime Minister Zhou to protect him. Prime Minister Zhou said, “I’ll protect you.” However, when Prime Minister Zhou went abroad to do some business, the Red Guard Army caught him. Later when Prime Minister Zhou enquired about him, others said, “we don’t know what happened. Some people from the Red Guard Army came and took him away.” They took him away, locked him at some place and beat him to death. Later when Prime Minister Zhou met He Long’s wife, he said, “I let him down. He asked me to protect him but I failed.” Later at his memorial meeting, other officials only bowed three times, Prime Minister Zhou bowed seven times.
Shao: Why were you transferred during the Four Cleanups?
Rong: Because of my backward thinking.
Shao: Did they force you to wear a hat?
Shao: That’s better. What did backward thinking mean?
Rong: My ideological learning was not deep enough and I said something wrong.
Shao: What did you say at that time?
Rong: During the Great Leap Forward when we were eating at the communal canteen, each person was assigned 28 Jin of grains and we ordinary people each obtained 14 Jin of grains. When they distributed the grains, they said, “you should give the young people some of your grains.” I said, “28 Jin of grains is already very scarce. What can I eat if I give others some?” There was a secretary in Jingtuo. That village produced 210 thousand Jin of grains, and they were asked to hand in 180 thousand Jin as tax. He said, “what can our members eat?” Just because of that single question, he was sent to Xiaodian for reeducation through labor and later was criticized in Zhuangshang, just because of that single question. Later when Four Cleanups started, he listened to the radio in the evening. His son wanted to turn off the radio, but he said, “don’t turn it off. I’m still listening.” Later he died while listening to the radio. Rumor had it that he was scared to death, worrying about what others may do to him.
Shao: People started to be criticized and struggled during the Four Cleanups?
Shao: What were the rightists at school you mentioned about?
Rong: That was during the Anti-rightist movement in 1957. Why did Deng Xiaopeng lost power three times and regained power three times? Chairman Mao asked him to be in charge of the Anti-rightist Movement, but Deng Xiaoping said, “I don’t want to do it.” Okay, if you don’t want to do it, you’ll lose the power. After he lost his power, Deng Xiaoping was smart enough to regain the power. Later Deng Xiaopeng was asked to be in charge of the Great Leap Forward, but he said, “no, I don’t know how to do it.” He then lost his power again. However, later he regained his power again and was asked to be in charge of the Cultural Revolution. He said, “I don’t know how to do it.” That was how he lost his power three times and regained his power three times. After Chairman Mao passed away, Hua Guofeng and Li Xiannian went to talk to Ye Jianying and said it was time to do something with the Gang of Four. Ye Jianying said, “I’m good at fighting wars, but I don’t know how to do other things. Go and talk to Deng Xiaopeng. Talk to that shorty.” When they caught the Gang of Four, they had four groups, one in charge of Jiang Qing, one in charge of Zhang Chunqiao, one in charge of Wang Hongwen and one in charge of Yao Wenyuan. After they decided on a time, all four groups took action at the same time. Jiang Qing was reading documents while others entered and caught her. After the four of them were caught, they were all sent to a prison in Beijing. The secretary of Shanghai whose last name was Ma, he said how easy it was to catch all of them.
Shao: The teachers had a difficult time too when everyone was eating at the communal canteen, right?
Rong: After the Seventeenth National Congress of the Communist Party, I became a teacher again. The salary was raised. We had non-staple foods and received coupons for them. The teachers in the villages who cooked for themselves received 2 Yuan each month as subsidy and 5 Yuan of non-staple foods.
Shao: After such policies were implemented, did you still teach? For how many years did you teach?
Rong: I taught for 38 years in total.
Shao: How many years were during the Four Cleanups?
Rong: 13 years, so I only taught for 24 years. The rest was all spent on movements.
Shao: Were you attacked during the movements?
Rong: Yes. I had a difficult time during the Cultural Revolution.
Shao: For what reason? What was your charge?
Rong: My charge was backward thinking. At that time teachers were all caught. Groups after groups of teacher were caught.
Shao: The Checkup you mentioned was around the Liberation?
Rong: When the Checkup started, we were not liberated yet. That was in 1946 or 1947. At that time, Li Futai and Yang Zongshan were both in Pashang, and they were sent to the Public Security Bureau. I left in 1946, and they were sent there after I left. I noticed that things in Pashang were quite chaotic, so I told myself I should get myself transferred as soon as possible. They were beaten badly.
Shao: What were their charges? Who did that?
Rong: They didn’t tell you what your problems were. They just claimed that they were Kuomintang. You had to admit. If you didn’t admit, you would get beaten up.
Shao: The Communist Party did that?
Rong: Yes, the Communist Party did that.
Shao: What was the Checkup that you mentioned?
Rong: The Checkup was the equal distribution of land.
Shao: Was that before the Liberation?
Rong: Yes, before the Liberation.
Shao: The Checkup started before the Liberation?
Rong: Here was liberated after 1948. The equal distribution of land was in 1947. Lots of people were beaten to death. Many teachers were executed. Lots of people were beaten to death.
A: I was born in 1940. I remember what happened during the equal distribution of land. People went to share the properties of the landlords and took their jars. Those students during that time. I was at school. Younger kids didn’t dare to do anything, but the older kids were… The children of landlords and rich peasants had to stay in dark rooms. Whenever others wanted new belts or pants, they would exchange them with the children of landlords and rich peasants. After that, there was a temple in my family, and the students from the poor and lower middle peasant families beat the children of landlords and rich peasants there.
Rong: Things like that happened in many places, in Yangzhuang, Jiaogezhuang, Zhanggezhuang. People would eat pickled vegetables so as to make phlegm, say “open your mouth” and then spit into your mouth. They forced others to admit that they were members of Kuomintang.
Shao: Were they members of Kuomintang?
Rong: No. There was someone called Wang Zuochen in Shuangying. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. After Deng Xiaoping gained power, he grant amnesty to him. At that time, everyone wrote about him. If you didn’t admit, they beat you badly. Xu Gengjiu from Hebei Village was beaten to death because he denied. I was teaching in Dugezhuang. I saw people beating others in Nancai Bridge. Many doctors went there too. The doctors looked at someone and realized that he was dying. He died on his way to the hospital. Later after investigation, that person was no a member of Kuomingtang at all.
Shao: Many people were wrong accused and beaten up, right?
Rong: Lots of teachers were beaten to death. If they didn’t admit, they would get beaten up. Whoever was slightly famous were arrested. Lots of people were killed unjustly.