(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)
Translator’s Note: I have been privileged to have made contact with Prof. Zhao Yuezhi [赵月枝] (known in the West as ‘Yuezhi Zhao’), and to have been digitally involved in a recent Heyang Village Conference (held in Zhejiang province), which was chaired by Prof. Zhao and which examined rural culture in the region, its history, transformation and modern incarnation. Also discussed was the evolution of Chinese society since 1949 (under the auspices of the Communist Party of China), and how Marxism, Marxist-Leninism and Maoism has been effectively used to change China from a backward and feudal (oppressive) State, into a thriving Socialist metropolis! One issue of concern has been the reinvigoration of the countryside and how the rural areas can be preserved and yet made relevant and affluent to the further development of China as it progresses toward Socialism. This article focuses upon the local (Revolutionary) wealth hidden in the Jin Yun County area (situated in South-Central Zhejiang province). Although Socialism has favoured rapid development in the cities and large towns, the challenge today is to extend this rapid development in the vast hinterlands that make-up China’s farming communities, without effecting the character or structure too much. China’s successful Revolution was reliant upon a peasant army built-up within these very same rural areas, which now need to benefit from the Revolution in a more direct manner and locally sustainable manner. These areas have already benefitted from the building of schools, hospitals and various other Socialist initiatives since the earliest stages of the Revolution (as a means to redistribute wealth and well-being to the poorest citizens), but now the emphasis is on these areas becoming independently robust and not so obviously reliant upon the Central Government. ACW 31.3.2019
On March 27th, the Jin Yun County Women’s Federation held a study meeting in the Xiandu studio of the Heyang Institute for Rural Studies to carry out the ‘Revolutionary Spirit of Southwest Zhejiang’ study project, designed to engage the local inhabitants and record the oral history area, with an emphasis upon the role of women in all aspects of the Revolution. This project required considerable tact and proceeded from the idea of maintaining the utmost respect for all the elderly population (male and female), recording ALL the stories carefully for posterity, and then to extract the elements relevant to the objectives of this particular study. The sacrifices and efforts of the men were not downplayed or sidelined in anyway, but the brave behaviour and antics of the Revolutionary women are often not known as well as those of their male counter-parts.
Dr. Zhao Yuezhi, Distinguished Academic Professor in Canada, Distinguished Professor of Qinghua University and Executive Dean of the Heyang Rural Research Institute, first gave lectures for everyone. She elaborated on the multiple meanings of excavating and documenting the story of the Revolutionary mother-figure. Reorganizing, summarizing and excavating Jin Yun’s Red resources through the oral narration provided by these highly respected and elderly women (treated as universal mother figures), is not only important for carrying forward the practice of ‘the Revolutionary spirit of southwest Zhejiang’, but also the study of female Revolutionary culture, the excavation of the distinctly ‘female’ Revolutionary spirit, and the consequential Revolution of the status of ALL women in China (after 1949). The point has been to promote and refine how many women in the early days of the Revolution, actually led the Revolution and often guided entire armies of men in what was known as the ‘Liberated’ or ‘Soviet’ areas!
Also inattendance was the former Secretary of the Xiandu Scenic Area Committee, the Secretary of the Discipline Inspection Commission and Distinguish Research Fellow of the Heyang Rural Research Institute – Xiang Yizhong (项一中) – who advised how to devise the questions, seek-out the answers, and categorise the results. This involved understanding the historical context of the area, and what to expect from the inhabitants.
Ma Songsong (麻松亘), former County Director of the Education Committee of the People’s University of Science and Technology – and the Special Researcher of Heyang Rural Research Institute – gave lectures on the theory of oral history and the methods of ‘best practice’ for recording the oral recollections of the Revolutionary mothers.
Cao Xiongying (曹雄英), the Chairperson of the County Women’s Federation, made arrangements for the recording and preservation of the Revolutionary mother’s story. She pointed out that many of the women who fought in the Revolution are already very old, and that their stories must be rescued very quickly. Women’s Federations at all levels should attach great importance to and carrying-out this research of the older generation of female Revolutionary workers with full emotions, enriched with the flesh and blood details of the Revolutionary history of southwest Zhejiang, (holding nothing back) and carrying forward the ‘Revolutionary Spirit of Southwest Zhejiang’ – this the unique role of the Women’s Federation can play in compiling and recording te Feminist history of the Chinese Revolution.
The Jin Yun Women’s Federation had carried-out earlier research which reveal at least 66 elderly women living in the area who had been active in various epochs of the Chinese Communist Revolution! Although many are now extremely elderly and some suffering from disabilities and illnesses, the Chinese Communist State looks after them to a very high degree, with all enthusiastically agreeing to discussing their fascinating and groundbreaking Revolutionary histories! Many actively took part in frontline military actions and guard duties of various kinds. From this basis of destroying the feudal oppression of the past, women have been completely ‘freed’ in China, with this freedom continuing to develop on all fronts.