Going down again

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-8-27 18:08:01

Fei tours a museum on the re-education campaign and takes photos of coats worn by people back then. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

Fei and an old villager got emotional during their reunion. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

An old friend from the village used to work with Fei in the fields. Now he is a train conductor. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

Fei Fanping opens the door to the dormitory in which he used to live. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

The dormitory Fei used to live in still stands. He goes in and sits on the bed. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

Fei Fanping has just returned from a journey down memory lane. He recently went to Songshugou, a village in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, which is about 100 kilometers from the North Korean border. He lived and worked in that village for eight years in the 1970s and never visited it again till now, more than 30 years later.

Fei, who is from Shanghai, was dispatched to Liaoning in 1970, when he was 16, as an "educated youth," along with millions of other people of his generation.

From the 1950s to the end of the 1970s, about 120 million to 180 million students were "sent down" to the countryside.

In 1966, the gaokao college entrance exam was suspended due to the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Many students had nowhere to go, and to keep the situation from getting out of control, the central government sent them to the countryside, so they could receive "re-education from farmers."

Fei worked first in the fields. Then the villagers found out he could read and write, and he was transferred to the local elementary school to teach. There were several people who went to Liaoning with him from Shanghai, but he was the only "educated youth" at Songshugou village.

In 1976, the Cultural Revolution was over and gaokao was reinstated the next year. Many flooded back into the city and so did Fei. He took the exam and got into a college in Shanghai. When he graduated, he became a journalist and stayed in Shanghai all his life.

This year, the government of Yuanhui township, which Songshugou belongs to, organized a trip for the "educated youth" to go back to see where they once lived. Two museums about the historical phenomenon have also been built in Yuanhui. The local government is eager to use the "educated youth" to develop tourism.

But for Fei, it was simply a chance to see old friends again.

He described how people he used to work with, now old and gray-haired, recognized him at once and rushed out to meet him. The village has also expanded a great deal, the dirt roads are now concrete and the trees he planted have become twice his size. The dormitory he lived in has been kept the same, but many people have passed away.

Global Times

Posted in: In-Depth

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