The Cultural Revolution through my Eyes
I also spoke with other family members about their recollections of Lishui and the Cultural Revolution that shaped him.
They are a group of counterrevolutionary revisionists and they are waiting for the right moment to seize power. Not long after, Lishui told me, he found that almost every young person around him had become a Red Guard. He soon joined them, for reasons he could not articulate clearly.
There was also an intitial attraction to the position. His younger siblings did not need to attend school. Terrified of severe punishment, the old man handed over his collection of books and paintings before those young people, including his own grandsons, would find them. The Red Guards piled the books and paintings and burned them. To show his sincerity and to avoid further punishment, my great-grandfather used the fire to boil water in front of the guards. Dozens of the young guards started dug up tombs, broke coffins, and looted graves for jewelry, leaving the bones in the dry grass.
He told me he followed guards to the tombs many times, but insists he did not take anything. Red Guards also banished Peking Opera, a once much-beloved art form, from the village. My uncle says he did think for a moment about how his father loved Peking Opera, and memories came back to him of old days when his father would take him onstage and let him practice reciting the lines of a small role.
I never had a chance to ask my grandfather — once a frequent Peking Opera actor in the village, who until the last day of his life still held his radio to listen to famous opera performer Mei Lanfang — about how it felt to see his own son burning those cherished parts of his life.
My grandparents survived the Cultural Revolution: have I inherited their trauma?
Over time, Red Guards turned from attacking physical objects to attacking people. My uncle says he could feel the turn happening, but he could not stop it, or stop himself. Then one day, the chanting stopped outside a nearby house, home to a lady who was more than 60 years old. The Red Guards found a pair of golden earrings hidden behind some photos frames. The old woman was dragged out and beaten by wooden sticks as thick as arms. At first there was a cry and the sound of struggling in the water.
Disorder under heaven
It was left by the handsome young man hanging on the wall of Xu's studio: the father she knew for a few months before he was taken away. Zhou Ximeng killed himself in captivity, aged It's like he's frozen in that time," she says. She knows her father from a handful of photographs and from the stories her mother has told, of a smart, confident, capable man — too accomplished, perhaps. You had to first renounce yourself and then renounce your family and friends. I think, when he got to that point, really, he just closed up.
But in the Cultural Revolution such a privileged pedigree condemned him. All it took was "some really small comment" for him to be seized and held, in a village outside Beijing. His body lies somewhere near the train tracks where he died. Xu has painted Zhou's mother, too; another of the casualties: she never recovered from her son's death and killed herself years later. Friends were equally keen to leave but too frightened to apply thanks to the previous decade's frequent reversals: "They say one thing, you do it, then they say, 'You guys are going to jail because you have revealed your true selves.
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Her father was subsequently forgiven "for his crimes, whatever they were", she says. She wants the next generation to comprehend what happened. It's important for them to know what their ancestors went through and what was lost. When Liang Sicheng was denounced as a counter-revolutionary, he was scared to look even his wife in the eye. Lin Zhu, who had been working in the countryside at the time, rushed home to him on learning the news. Her husband sensed the horror ahead. When it lifted, Liang was dead, his health wrecked by the scores of lengthy "struggle sessions" publicly to humiliate him; by beatings from Red Guards; and by the cold, damp conditions of the building to which the family had been moved.
Lin still struggles to understand how hundreds of millions could participate in such cruelties. Some of Liang's persecutors were forced into taking part, she says; others were jealous of his success. Most were young students who did not understand his ideas. To her husband, who had loved teaching, that was particularly painful.
The most important claim was that he had received a 'capitalist education'. But I couldn't understand what Liang Sicheng had done. Together they endured six years of enforced Maoist study and public denunciations that often ran for hours. Liang's ordeal ended when he grew so sick that he could no longer rise from his bed for the struggle sessions. He died in , aged She does not blame individuals for caving into pressure to attack others, though she is adamant that she never did so.
She even suggests those years helped her to grow. History doesn't repeat itself exactly… but it's possible. Topics Art. Their conversation has been edited. You seem to have an extraordinary sense of history and also your place in history. What was your thinking as you documented the Cultural Revolution? When the Cultural Revolution started, when Mao announced it, everyone was very excited, including me. We were part of a political movement.
But later on, it was like a horse that had left its reins. They were burning sculptures and holy scriptures. There was fierce criticism of leaders, criticism of the monks. I started to have doubts. When I started to waver, I started to take more pictures documenting different sides of what was happening. I knew about recording history. My teacher had told us: photographers are not only witnesses of history, they are also documentarians of history.
Too Much Sociology
Of course. But I felt compelled to record the reality — it was history, and I shot it and hid the negatives. So it was useless. It was much better for me to wear a red armband, like the Red Guards, and no one ever questioned me thereafter.
My grandparents survived the Cultural Revolution: Have I inherited their trauma? | The Independent
Most events I went to there were positive pictures and negative pictures. We were given film each month according to a ratio: for every picture published, we earned eight frames. I would process all my own film.
And I did all my own enlargements. I would have to process all the film for the other four guys in the paper too because I was the youngest and the newest on the job. When I was unhappy in the darkroom, I would sing. In the spring of , I sensed that I would be [searched] soon, I took batches of the negatives home every day after work. I sawed a hole in the parquet floor at home under desk and hid them there. My wife stood at the window, watching out. I sawed the floor slowly, for over a week. I sawed it bit by bit.
I needed to hide my things. My negatives, plus two Chiang Kai-shek and Yuan Shikai coins, my stamp collection which had images by Goya of naked women — they were all valuable. Not just my negatives. Later, I took the negatives with me when I moved to Beijing in and became director of photography in the journalism department of a local college. But I have been, since I was a student, not obedient.
They exhibited those 20 pictures and I won a big prize at that competition. My Heilongjiang Daily colleagues came to Beijing to see the show.