1. Childhood, Family, Family Background
I was born in Maoyan Village, Wujin, Jiangsu Province on September 27 of the lunar calendar, 1916. There were five sisters and brothers, including the eldest sister, the second sister, the Kai brother, me, and the Chang brother. Before the age of five, I was not in good health, and often got sick and I was cured by my uncle. Therefore, my parents found a godmother surnamed Shi for me. They believed that the godmother would bring good luck. Although it’s superstition, I got better after I was five years old. Until I was 68, I never had a serious illness. I only had malaria once in Nanjing and a fever in Yangon, neither illness was serious.
I remember my eldest sister taught me to read square characters when I was five years old. At the age of seven, I entered the private school where my brother-in-law Gu Huanqing was sitting, and began to study “Great Learning” , “The Doctrine Of The Golden Mean”, “The Confucian Analects”, and “Mencius”. I had a dull talent and a poor memory. Endorsement was my biggest headache. After finally reading the new book of the day, I can cope with the memorization tomorrow morning, but if I wanted to memorize the text from the previous few days, the memorization was incomplete intermittently, and the teacher would hit my palm with a ruler. Therefore, I was a little interested in farming. I thought about farming without studying, but my family refused me to farm. How could I not study？ so I had to endure hardships for three years.
Before I was five years old, my father probably taught in a study somewhere. After five years old, he went to work at Dong’s house in Shanghai, so he was often away from home and didn’t go home until the evening, so my impression was not deep. After working as a clerk in a factory in Kaifeng, he went home and sat in the study room. During the day, he had to teach seven or eight students and worked hard. Therefore, on the evening of May 12, 1938, he suffered a stroke and died at 56 of ineffective treatment. At that time, brother Kai and I were already in Hong Kong (I couldn’t remember how we communicated with our father and when he left Kaifeng to go home). If we asked our father to come to Hong Kong via Wuhan and Guangzhou, the situation would be completely different. My father’s life may be over 60 or even over 70, so I think my father’s death was too early.
It was not easy for my mother to be industrious and house-keeping, frugal, to be kind to her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. It was unfortunate that my aunt was thirty and widowed and her son also died. After that, she spent her entire life eating vegetarian diet and practicing Buddhism in Changzhou Qingjingju Buddhist temple. My aunt got along well with my mother and lived at our home most of the year to help each other. My family had spring silkworms every year, and we also raised some autumn silkworms, which was a major source of family income at that time. When the silkworms were clustered, the whole family’s mother, aunt, the unmarried eldest sister, the second sister, brother Chang, and the uncle who was temporarily invited to help, etc., really went all out day and night until all clusters made cocoons and collected cocoons. In the spring of 1932, I experienced the hardship of raising silkworms because of the suspension of classes in Shanghai during the January 28 War between Japan and China.
I remember that when Brother Chang was young, brother Kai took a photo for him. He was about five or six years old, before he became ill, at the turn of spring and summer. He wore a jacket with a fat face, short body, good spirits, and rural children with the rudeness. It’s a pity that photo, and many other photos may have been destroyed. What a pity. Brother Chang’s life was a miserable one. He dropped out of school due to illness at a very young age, and put on a landlord hat in his middle age. Because my family has always been enlightened, brother Chang was good at socializing, and fortunately he had not been beaten, but only he knew the mental pain for decades. After my mother and aunt passed away in the same year, my eldest sister and I was extremely worried. At that time, he was not allowed to leave the village and home. He had never lived alone. How can he live alone now? But also helpless. Unexpectedly, brother Chang’s perseverance was superhuman, and he took care of his own life well, especially after the ten years of turmoil, it was a miracle. Since 1978, according to the policy, the hat of the landlord was removed and his civil rights were restored. Since then, the environment, atmosphere, and contacts have been very different. Especially after contacting your relatives overseas, brother Chang has been admired again. All his nephews abroad have a PhD or master degree, and everyone praises them. My younger brother Chang has also been treated with hospitality. Compared with the past, it can be said that he feels much better now. I hope that his body can maintain its current level, in order to be reunited with relatives abroad in the future.
My grandfather passed away a year before I was born. He was only over 50 years old. It seemed that my grandmother died when I was eleven. It seemed that one day my brother Kai returned to Changzhou from the Suzhou Industrial Specialty School and came to my uncle’s house to inform me that my grandmother had passed away after he received a telegram. He took me back home on a night shift company ship. It was early autumn. At that time, the custom was to stop the coffin at home for a year or a few years before going out for funerals. In the next year, the first commemoration was held in the Zhuang family’s ancestral hall, and the family members and friends came to worship and kneel. On the third day, they sent the coffin from the home court to the burial place through the ancestral hall, West Street, Tangjiacun, Nandahe, Shijiacun, Houcao, Dongyan, Lu Zhiqiao, Maoqing Bridge to the new cave surveyed by a Feng Shui Expert in the Five-Mu Head field. At that time, I didn’t know why the coffin was not sent to the Xiaoliuqiao’s ancestor cemetery for being buried together with my grandfather. The biggest feature of my grandmother was that she was too frugal. The porridge or rice grains at the bottom of the bowl must be licked off. her eyes were almost completely blind when she was old, and the lymph glands on her neck look like a big rubber ball. The grandmother was an old-fashioned woman with “three obediences and four virtues”. Because ancient Chinese polygamy, grandfather had a second wife. Although she was unhappy in her heart, she endured it, which affected her eyes and body health. A daughter of my grandfather’s second wife, we called her Wu Niangniang, a relative of the Qianhuang Yang Yuesheng, and kept on getting along well with my mother, aunt, second sister, and brother Chang. In the 1970s, she often brought something to little brother Chang to take care of him. Wu Niangniang died in 1979 without children.
Image by cplz99atcsnilyk from Pixabay
At that time, my family’s assets included 20 acres of rice fields and 29 acres of mulberry fields, dry fields, and dry land in the countryside. In addition to self-planting five or six acres of rice fields, the rest was leased, and the rent was eight or nine buckets or one stone of rice per acre. The annual crop was not enough. Together with the self-plants, there was only enough annual rations. If the crop was good, there would be surplus rice for sale. My family’s income was more than 200 yuan from silkworm cocoons. Secondly, my father’s job income was about 100 yuan per year, and the income from renting out rice fields was the smallest proportion. With all these incomes, the family’s daily living expenses were maintained. Therefore, according to the source analysis, labor income accounted for the majority of the cost, and the rental income was relatively small, but at that time my family was the one with the most land in the village. The three brothers did not divide their families, so brother Chang was named a landlord in the land reform. This was also an old story in the past. I didn’t need to talk about it, but I occasionally remembered it.
My family financially is balanced, but we grew up year after year and our expenses were increasing. Attending the school was the only way for the children of scholars in the past. Parents were ideologically unified, and would rather not hesitate to sell land to finance their children. Fortunately, brother Kai was talented and intelligent, Lijiaqiao Primary School, Jiangsu Nanjing Middle School, and Suzhou Industrial Specialty School, graduated one after another, ranking among the best. One summer vacation, brother Kai was sick at home. He heard about the admissions of Zhejiang University. In the afternoon, he ignored the illness and took the country wheelbarrow to Qishuyan then took the train to Hangzhou to apply for the exam. As a result, brother Kai was admitted. At that time, there were very few rural college students. Brother Kai graduated from Zhejiang University at the age of 22. During college years, he fortunately received financial aids from relatives. After entering the society, he worked smoothly for 20 years and gave full play to his strengths.
The economic situation of the eldest brother-in-law was good in contrast, not to mention college, even studying abroad was possible, but because the eldest brother-in-law was an only son, he was reluctant to stay away, so he could only attend the school for a few years and inherited the family business.
Speaking of the second brother-in-law, his family was not well-off, so he himself had only a junior high school degree, unable to further his studies. Since then, he has been a teacher in Lijiaqiao Primary School and the Village Primary School for life. At the age of 30, he suffered from lung disease again, but unfortunately the medical level was limited in those years, and he could not be cured. He died at the age of just over forty. The second sister took care of the children by herself, and after 20 years of hard work, it started to get better.
Although the eldest sisters were both feudal marriages, because the two brothers-in-law were upright, prudent and frugal people, they were not harmed by feudalism in their entire lives. In particular, the children in their later years each worked and became filial piety to make up for the suffering of the middle age. My eldest sister unfortunately died under 80, which is not enough.