Jia Futian 贾福田



Jia Nannan’s interview with Jia Futian is one of my favorite interviews in the Memory Project. Born in 1936, Jia was 11 years old when the Changchun Siege happened in 1947. He and his family fled Changchun, and after over 40 difficult days of traveling, they eventually returned to their hometown in Hebei Province. In the early 50s, Jia went to Beijing and rode tricycle for a living. In 1958 when the Great Famine started, Jia was sent to a labor re-education camp because of his belief in Catholicism—he opposed the state’s religious policy and refused to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which was established and controlled by the Chinese state. He was eventually released in 1969 and returned to his home in Hebei Province. In the interview, he talked about his experience as a refugee during the Changchun Siege and later as a laborer at the re-education camp. What is most precious about his interview is that stories about the Changchun Siege, about common people’s belief in Catholicism, and about labor re-education camp can only hide in the shadow of the official history. They are unknown to the general public, not to say being included in history textbooks. This is one of the most important reasons why we have to record, collect and spread oral histories.

Jia did not discuss his current life in the interview, but judging from the video, it seemed that he was making money through recycling garbage. Obviously, his past experiences and his belief had disastrous impact on his life. However, he did not display any strong hostility or resentment toward life or the society, as many people experiencing similar hardship and suffering would have expressed. This is another reason why I admire Jia and love this interview. In those turbulent years, numerous people fled for their lives, numerous people starved, and numerous people never made it back home. Through such survivors’ stories, we are reminded again and again that we should not forget those deceased, seemingly insignificant, but equally precious lives. Under the grand, oftentimes cruel, historical narrative, such individuals are not disposable. On the contrary, they have important lessons on the human nature for us to learn from.

—Ling Jin

See a full bilingual transcript of Jia Futian’s interview.