The Story of My Father (1) 我的父親 (1)

The Story of My Father (1) 我的父親 (1)

1

My father was born into an ordinary peasant family in Chaozhong village, Zhongjiang County, Sichuan Province. It was said that my grandmother had given birth to 12 children, but only 9 survived. My father was the second eldest son in the family. With numerous younger brothers and sisters to look after, he was naturally expected to share the responsibility of supporting the family.

我的父親1933年出生於四川省中江縣朝中鄉一個普通農民家庭。據說我奶奶生了十二個孩子,活下來九個。我父親排行老二,下面有一大堆弟弟、妹妹,他自然從小就有了幫忙養家的責任。

I didn’t have a chance to visit my father’s home village until the 1980’s, when I was already a high school student. Several of my uncles were still living in the shabby, old mud wall houses inherited from our ancestors, with literally no furniture inside, nor electricity. People still relied on dim kerosene lamps in the night.

我記事後,是到了高中時代,也即1980年代,才第一次跟隨父母回到朝中老家。幾位叔叔仍生活在祖輩留下的土墻屋中,家中真正是「家徒四壁」,幾乎甚麼家具都沒有,也沒有電燈,到了晚上只能用昏暗的煤油燈勉強照明。

To me, this kind of family should have fallen into the “absolute poverty” category. However, in 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) categorized everyone in China into different classes after coming into power, my father’s family was classified as a “small land lessor.”

就是這樣一個在我看來完全是赤貧的家庭,1949年「土改」劃分「成分」時卻被劃成「小土地出租」。

I learnt the term “small land lessor” in 1973, when I was required to fill in the “personnel archive form” while enrolling into elementary school.  One of the items to be filled was the “family class category on your father’s side.”

「小土地出租」這個詞,是我1973年上小學一年級,填檔案表被要求填寫父親的「家庭成分」時第一次聽說的。

At that time a “personnel archive” was set up for everyone when you first enrolled into elementary school.  All personal information was included in the archive files including all exam scores in the school, all the comments your teacher wrote about you, all your family situations, and all the good and bad things about you.

那時人人都有個人檔案,從上小學起就跟著你,跟你一輩子。剛上小學的我已經知道了有「地主」、有「貧下中農」,卻不理解甚麼叫「小土地出租」。問媽媽,她立即憤憤不平地說:「你爸爸家人口那麼多,地並不算多,要按人均土地面積算,挺多劃個『中農』。吃虧就吃虧在僱了外人幫忙種地,結果就劃成『小土地出租』了,劃高了!」

Everywhere you went, this archive followed. But you were not allowed to view the contents or know what was actually inside. It was only meant for the Party to know everything about everybody.

As a 6-year-old, grade-one student, I already knew that there were a “class of landlords” and a “class of poor and the lower-middle peasants,” but I didn’t understand what a “small land lessor” was. I then asked my mother, who immediately said indignantly, “It was unfair! There were so many brothers and sisters in your father’s family. Overall, they didn’t own much land. If it were calculated based on the average land area per person, your father’s family should have been categorized as ‘middle peasants’ at most. Only because they had hired people to help farming the land, they were categorized as a ‘small land lessor,’ which was unfairly high!”

我聽的似懂非懂,但隱隱的明白,「成分高」是件很可怕的事。當時我們班有個同學,因為爺爺是地主,全班同學都鄙視她。我有一次到她家,無意中看見一個穿著一身黑棉襖、坐在角落沒有出聲的老頭。我猜想這應該就是她的地主爺爺,心中立刻覺得非常恐懼,像看見妖怪一樣,找了個借口趕快逃走了。

I didn’t fully understand mother’s explanation. However, I somehow already knew that it was a terrible thing if you were ranked  “high” in the “class category.”  At that time, the grandfather of a girl in our class was a landlord; and the entire class looked down upon that girl.

還好我母親的成分是「城市貧民」,算是無產階級,將父親的「高成分」「扯平」了一些。

Once I went to her home, and unintentionally saw an old man in a black cotton-padded coat sitting in the corner quietly. I realized that this must be her landlord grandfather.  Immediately I was struck with fear, as if having seen a monster. I hastily made up an excuse and fled her home as fast as I could.

母親的生父母在她出生後不久就離婚了,她被送給了養父母。其實,母親的養父,也就是我外公,曾是個「資本家」,在中江縣城擁有一個釀造廠,一個門市部,我父親就是在外公的門市部當小伙計時認識我母親的。後來外公抽鴉片,家道敗落了,因此到了共產黨來了劃成分時,就變成了「城市貧民」。

Fortunately enough, the social class category of my mother’s side was “poor people in the city,” which was part of the “proletariat.”  This gratefully evened up my father’s “high category” a little bit.

據說外公後來經常在外婆和母親前誇耀自己抽鴉片的功勞:「要不是我,你們能沾光當上『無產階級』?」

My mother’s parents got divorced soon after she was born; and she was adopted by another family. Actually, my mother’s foster father was once a “capitalist,” who owned a brewery and a shop in Zhongjiang County.  My father actually came to know my mother when he worked in that shop as an apprentice.

Later on, my mother’s foster father became addicted to opium. As a result, he spent all his wealth. When the CCP took power in 1949 and gave everyone a “social class category,” he was therefore classified as “poor people in the city.”

From then on he often boasted in front of my mother and my grandmother, “Do you think it would have been so easy for you to become part of the ‘proletariat’ if it weren’t for me?”

(To be continued 待續) 

Read all here 閱讀全部

 Jennifer Zeng (right) with her two sisters in the 1980’s at Chaozhong village, Zhongjiang County, Sichuan Province in China. The mud wall house behind them was the family house passed on to many generations from their ancestors. Some of Jennifer’s uncles and many of her cousins are still living in this house and village today. 1980年代,我與兩個妹妹攝於中江朝中老家。身後即為祖輩留下的土墻屋。

Jennifer Zeng (right) with her two sisters in the 1980’s at Chaozhong village, Zhongjiang County, Sichuan Province in China. The mud wall house behind them was the family house passed on to many generations from their ancestors. Some of Jennifer’s uncles and many of her cousins are still living in this house and village today. 1980年代,我與兩個妹妹攝於中江朝中老家。身後即為祖輩留下的土墻屋。

The Story of My Father (2) 我的父親(2)

The Story of My Father (2) 我的父親(2)

Michelangelo Studies for the Roman Soldiers for Crucifixion 米開郞基羅耶穌受難圖中的羅馬士兵草圖手稿

Michelangelo Studies for the Roman Soldiers for Crucifixion 米開郞基羅耶穌受難圖中的羅馬士兵草圖手稿