My Shanghainese parents just finished high school in 1966 when the Cultural Revolution happened. They sometimes share their experience with me, even though my mom doesn’t like to talk about it. Here are some things that stuck out for me:
There’s not much I can give to back up these claims, as it’s mostly oral history. My father is willing to give more details about his experience, but the last time I asked my mother about it she started crying, so I decided not to press the issue.
- When my dad was walking to school he saw his PE teacher jump out of one of the school’s windows. According to him, the teacher’s body landed a few feet away from him.
- Because my parents were of the “enemy class,” their homes were ransacked. My mother remembers frantically hiding precious heirlooms in the walls with her closest friend helping her.
- That same friend who helped my mother was very outspoken, so the Red Guards would publicly humiliate her and her family to “break her.” She was then sent far away from Shanghai in the “Down to the Countryside” Movement. My mom never saw her again.
- My dad somehow ended up as a Red Guard; he did inventory for them. Then they found out about his class status and kicked him out.
- Both my parents were sent to farms for “Down to the Countryside.” They were sent to Changning, an island off of Shanghai. They count themselves lucky because they weren’t sent to Sichuan or a mountain village, as life there was supposedly much harder. They stayed on the farms for 3 years before getting the chance to leave.
- Both my parents hate the communist party for taking away everything they had (my great-grandfather was a successful business man pre-communist China who died with what would be $20 today in his pocket), but they actually like Chairman Mao. They blame the Cultural Revolution and the resulting chaos on the crazed mob mentality of Mao’s followers.
Thank you very much for submitting this. Oral History is important, and just as necessary as “Academic” history.