Yesterday, before Wendy’s parents went back home, we finally had some time to sit down together as a family and chat. It was a wonderful hour. We had the chance to know more about their experience in the old days, when they were young.
I don’t Know China Well
I admit (as I always do) that I don’t know China well. No matter how people claim, the history of this country is a mystery for many people, including me.
We chatted about the “three dark years” from 1959 to 1961, which is officially named “Three Years of Natural Disaster”. It is actually NOT. The three years is a blurred image for me. I know many people starved to death during the three years, but it is still hard to connect this piece of history with the person before me, and myself. It is not a far away history anyway.
Why and How
From 1959, before the Great Leap started, there came the order from Beijing. People in the whole country were not allowed to own any private property, and were not allowed to cook at home. Anyone who setup fire to cook would be sentenced as criminal. Everyone had to go to public dining rooms to have “free meal”.
It was not bad in the first year, since there was so many food that was more than people can eat. However, at the same time, people were almost not allowed to work in the field.
The second year, not surprisingly, there were not enough food left from the previous year. Since the order from the top were the same: No cooking at home, no private property (especially food), and no working, people started to starve.
During the three years, so many people did nothing, just wait to starve to death. I read about this in history books (of cause not the current official version), but I was still stocked when parents described some real stories. They emphasized this is not a story on TV or film, this was the real life. They saw it with their own eyes.
Their neighbours were found death. One with 5 persons – all found dead in their own home, quietly. The other family had 3 persons. The parents died, and lied on the bed. The child didn’t tell anyone, and went to dining room to collect three persons’ food. Although the food was still less than one normal meal for one child today, he ate them all, but it was too much for this child who barely didn’t eat for months, and die because eating too much. People found three bodies in their home long time later, two in bedroom and one in kitchen. In other families, after people died, the neighbours could do nothing because they were so weak to carry the bodies.
The lives of our parents, and their brothers were at the edge of death. Mom said she opened her eyes but was not able to see anything clearly. Even when bird flow by and drop shit onto ground, people would put it into their month…
Well. This was the real situation in the year 1959 to 1961 in the normal small village. Record shows overall, the weather for the whole country were good, and there were no natural disaster, but millions of people died. No one know the exact number.
It Changes Lives of a Generation
Before, when I talk about common sense, my example was: parents always keep food left from this meal to the next, and I only want fresh meal the next time. My parents’ common sense is “to save money”, and my common sense is “to get best experience”. I compared and claimed: there are two different common sense, and people seldom communicate about this, and this is the reason of conflict.
Now, I’d like to say, I was partially wrong. The common sense of parent generation was not “to save money”, it should be “to save food”. I deeply understand when a person witness his/her family member or friends starved and died just because there was nothing to eat, how uncomfortable he/she would be if he/she throw away food – for the rest of their lives.
It also explains about why the whole generation (above 60 in age) went along from the Culture Revolution have such a strong sense of “insecurity”. They save money, because they don’t know what may happen; they are very cautious to talk, because a political movement easily swipe their lives away. The more I learn about what they have experienced, the more I appreciate their decisions, and their behavior, and the more I understand about this country.
This is a scar in the heart of that generation. I saw it, but I didn’t realize why there is a scar before.