Jennifer’s Photo Stories (12) 曾錚的圖片故事（12）
Banned Books Mean Everything 莊稼地裏的「祕密通道」
The girl with me in these two photos was THE best friend of mine in primary school. Her name was Rong. Other than my parents, she was the one who influenced me most, and was almost a mentor for me in many ways.
I remember she only transferred to our school when we were already in grade 4. She was assigned to sit at the same desk with me.
At that time I had almost no friends at all in school. My father was relocated to that remote small town as a “black pawn of reactionary capitalist-roader” during the Great Cultural Revolution. Intellectuals were regarded as the Communist Party’s enemies; and our family was almost the only intellectual family in the town. In order not to get ourselves into more troubles, my mother didn’t encourage me to play with other kids. If I became involved in a fight, it could be interpreted as a “class struggle” and bring disastrous consequences to our entire family.
However, Rong was somehow different from other children. Her father was the principal of the middle school in our town, so I instinctively regarded her as my own “class”, and felt safe to be with her. Gradually, we became good friends.
More importantly, she had so many wonderful books! During cultural revolution, almost all literary classics were burnt as “poisonous weeds”. Other than those boring textbooks with only essays to praise “our Great Leader Chairman Mao” and the party, we had nothing else to read whatsoever.
Rong’s coming changed everything! Her father had somehow managed to hide and keep a wealth of banned books, including “Journey to the West”, “A Dream of Red Mansions” and many fairy tale books translated from foreign languages.
One by one Rong “stole” those books from home, brought them to school and shared them with me.
In order to “squeeze” out time to read the books, we later learned how to pretend to have stomachaches or other problems when we had PE lessons. And we became very good at it! So when other kids were doing PE on the playground, we two stayed in the empty classroom and secretly read our forbidden and “stolen” books.
We also tried to sneak out when everybody else was taking a nap at noon. We would usually hide in the farmland where the crops were very tall. If we sat on the ground and hid inside, nobody could see us from outside. Although it was terribly hot, especially in summer, we didn’t mind. Compared with the tremendous happiness we gained from the books, the hardships of reading under the baking sun with streaming sweat was nothing.
It was under such circumstances that I read “Journey to the West”, “A Dream of Red Mansions”, “Andersen’s Fairy Tales”, “Grimm’s Fairy Tales”, etc., for the first time as a fourth-grader.
For me, those were the happiest times throughout my childhood. The banned books opened my eyes and led me into so many wonderful worlds where fairies, princesses, princes, gods, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, etc., existed. Although the Communist Party wanted to wipe out our traditions and take away our beautiful things, my innocent heart somehow found a way to connect myself with other and better worlds through those wonderful banned books.
About 20 years later, when I read “Zhuan Falun”(http://en.falundafa.org/falun-dafa-books.html) for the first time, I suddenly felt that the reason I was so “thirsty” for all those books in all those years was that I needed to prepare myself properly so that one day when I came across “Zhuan Falun”, I could understand it all at once.
Unfortunately, Rong moved to another city with her family after we graduated from primary school. But our friendship and communications remained. So one of the two photos you see here was taken when we were in junior middle school, and another was done after we had graduated from high school; when I traveled all the way from Mianyang City to Mianzhu County to visit her.
Click here for info about where to read or buy Jennifer's book in English and Chinese, as well as where to watch award-winning documentary based on Jennifer's story: "Free China: The Courage to Believe" 曾錚自傳《靜水流深》及紀錄片《自由中國》閱讀觀看鏈接：