Memories about Cheng Hong as an “educated youth” at the countryside of Henan

2014-05-07 11:02:02 GMT2014-05-07 19:02:02(Beijing Time)  SINA English
Educated Youths at Jia TownEducated Youths at Jia Town
Cheng Hong was reading.Cheng Hong was reading.
Cheng Hong (R 2) as an "educated youth"Cheng Hong (R 2) as an "educated youth"

Li Jing

Cheng Hong, wife of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was born in 1957. Her father, Cheng Jinrui, was leader of the Henan Communist Youth League, and her mother, Liu Yiqing, was a journalist for the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Cheng Hong went to the countryside of Jia town, Henan province in 1974, answering the call of Chairman Mao that “educated youths should go to the countryside for re-education”.

The local newspaper Zhengzhou Evening News interviewed three other “educated youths” who used to work together with Cheng Hong at Jia town.

Feng Xiaodong : “She always got the highest work points.**”

Feng Xiaodong went to work at Banchang village in 1975, where he first met Cheng Hong.

To Feng Xiaodong, Cheng Hong was a 100 percent model worker.

“She got up as soon as the sun rose every day and knocked on doors to give a morning call to other female ‘educated youths’. She never rejected work: reaping the wheat, turning up the soil, baking bricks, draining tobacco leaves, cutting corn stalks, even transporting excrement (a common fertilizer in Chinese fields) with shoulder poles.”

“She always got 10 work points, which was the highest, usually only males could get that score,” Feng said.

Feng admitted that he used to try to compete with Cheng Hong secretly for reaping the wheat. But it turned out that he couldn’t reap as much as Cheng did no matter how hard he tried.

Feng was admitted to Henan Normal University in 1977, when the country just restored the college entrance examination; while Cheng Hong was admitted by the PLA University of Foreign Language. They were the only two “educated youths” admitted by universities in the village.

“Thanks to Cheng Hong, for making a good model that I always hope to catch up with. My life would be totally different without her,” Feng said.

Huo Aimin: “I love hearing her sing Peking Opera”

Living close to Cheng Hong’s room at Banchang village, Huo said her first impression about Cheng was mature and amicable.

“She often tell stories to the girls during breaks of working. All attention would be drawn to her since she was so good at it. We’d get refreshed after hearing her telling tales,” Huo said.

What Cheng had impressed Huo most was her rushing out to repair and enforce the dam of River Ru in the rain. The place where the girls lived was very close to River Ru. A heavy rain flooded the dam over the river and Cheng was the first to rush out and repair the dam.

This experience was described by Cheng Hong in an article named The Unforgettable Land published by Guangming Daily in 1994:

“River Ru was like a beast when it flooded by then. The dam was constructed by villagers and the (educated) youths with our own hands. I remember that night when it rained heavily with thunders and lightning. We tried to fix the dam with bags sand and stones. Some fell over in the mud but got up immediately, and then someone else fell and struggle up. This passion for labor may seem funny today, but it is also some kind of sincerity. Things that are sincere is precious, isn’t it?”

 

Cheng Hong often encouraged Huo to learn some technical skills. When Huo was recommended to attend the “Communist Labor University”, Cheng suggested her to study driving tractors. Huo followed the advice and became the first tractor driver in their People’s Commune.

 

As a generally-admitted “excellent educated youth”, Cheng often gave reports on meetings of People’s Commune. She was popular. Every time before the meeting, she would be asked to give a performance.

She was good at singing a part from the Peking Opera “Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy”:

“Today we drink deep to celebrate our success,

We won’t give up until we satisfy our ambitions,

We still have time to win our spurs,

We’ll write our life of passion in the history books.”

Despite the fact that there was only four stanzas, Cheng often received applauses when she sang.

**work points is a system used to calculate labor work during the Cultural Revolution in China. Laborers’ salaries depended on how many points they earned for their People’s Commune, where there were workers in charge of recording work points for everyone else.

 

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