Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 7 years 9 months ago

In Phase 2, I reached out to experts and looked for sources here in Xizhou. This is Phase 3, where I will be tracking down information that could help me answer my questions from Phase 1.

Background Information:

The Liberation was on October 1, 1949, when CCP leader Mao Zedong formally announced the formation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This marked the end of a 13-year civil war between Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Nationalist Party (also known as Kuomintang). [1,​2]

The Agrarian Reform Law was passed in 1950. The law confiscated land from landlords and redistributed it to peasants who owned little to no land and also supplied peasants with machinery and livestock. The ex-landlords now had to work their own land to earn a living. [2,3]

In the following years, government launched campaigns such as the Three Antis Campaign against corruption, waste, and bureaucracy and the Five Antis Campaign against bribery, non-payment of taxes, fraud, taking government property and spying. If someone was to be found guilty of violating one of these "antis" they could be shot or imprisoned. [2]

The New Marriage Law was passed in 1950 and was a huge change from the Chinese marriage traditions of the time. It stated that "marriages should be based on the free choice of partners, on monogamy, on equal rights for both sexes, and on the protection of the lawful interests of women and children." [4] The law banned arranged marriages, child marriages, the bride price, concubines, and the practice of having multiple wives along with making it easier for women to divorce their husbands. [5]

In October 1950, a year after the PRC had been founded, China announced that it would be entering the Korean War. [7] It was often referred to as the "War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea". [8] The People's Volunteer Army of more than two million volunteers (mostly veterans of the Chinese Civil War and Sino-Japanese War) was led by Peng Dehuai. To be a part of the army was seen as an act of patriotism. [9] The war lasted from October 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953. [10] 

Information from 3-5s 

I talked to Mr. T, Mrs. Mai, and Mr. Craig for my 3-5s. To read more about this, please feel free to look at my Phase 2.

Information from Local Contacts

February 4, 2014

I talked to Mr. Zhao, a night guard for Yangzhouran, at his home today. This is what he told me:

Yunnan was peaceful during Liberation in 1950. But the Liberation of the whole country was in 1949. After liberation, 4 big families (the Yan, Yang, Dong, and Yin) complexes were expropriated by the government. That one of the reason why those building are preserved so well now. Then during 1958, there was one year's time, when the government implemented Daguofan, which is translated directly into "food prepared in a large canteen cauldron", but actually means egalitarianism. (Note: according to the New Oxford American Dictionary egalitarianism is the belief that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.) In one year people could eat as much as they could and government paid.The most terrible time he remembered was Cultural Revolution. Lots of paintings and decorations in buildings were stolen. Before then, the houses were gorgeous. Mr. Zhao and his wife even remembered that during that period, they only ate two small steamed buns (smaller than a palm) a day. After that the government began to distribute the land to local people and everyone began to do farm work. [11]

Later day Mr. Duan, a former commander in the army, came to the Linden Centre to talk to us, this is what he said when I asked about Liberation:

Before Liberation, there were soldiers that were fighting against the Japanese. There were even a small number of Japanese spies within the area. [After Liberation] they changed the economic policies in order to make them better suited for the people. Before Liberation there was not only Japanese presence but other foreign powers and presence in the country that would irritate and take advantage of the people. Eventually it became a place for the people to govern and take care of themselves instead of having to defend themselves. [12]

February 5, 2014

Today I talked to Mr. Yang, a 94 year old who used to be an accountant and lawyer, this is what I learned from him:

Before Liberation there were four big families in Xizhou (as mentioned above, the Yan, Yang, Yin, and Dong). He was about 30 years old and working here in Xizhou approving applications for the military when Liberation happened. He said that he approved many applications and that quite a lot of people wanted to join the army, but that not many people who applied came back home. When we asked where they had to gone to, he said that he didn't know where exactly, but they were still in mainland China. He said there were many changes around Xizhou during the time, especially with the places and locations. [13]

February 6, 2014

I interviewed Mr. Yang, the former accountant and lawyer again today, but he asked me to keep what he shared with me confidential.

February 10, 2014

Today I met Mr. Dong, an intellectual and scholar, and this is what he said to me:

I've seen many things. People under seventy [years old] don't understand how Mao defeated the KMT. Mao's people went to universities and passed out propaganda papers that said to fight against the KMT. There were strikes in factories and vendors and shopkeepers stopped selling goods. New problems to arise every so often to keep the support going. There was a man named Zhao, and he caused many riots in universities. There were many changes after Liberation. There were four wealthy families (the Yang, Yan, Yin, and Dong) as listed above. They built an elementary, two middle schools, and two hospitals. While I was at the Linden Centre, an American professor asked me where all the wealthy people went when property was redistributed. At the time I didn't know, but later I learned that they went to deserted houses and lived there. Once, a government official came to my house to see if what I said about the government was true. I showed her the data I had collected over the years and she was speechless. I'm not afraid to say it, I know others are, but I am not. I give my information on Mao to wealthier people since they were the ones who became poor after Liberation.  The KMT were pretty good, but the Communists wanted power too much, so the CCP found ways to beat the KMT. There were many starving people in the 1960s because the government rationed food very strictly. [14]

I also talked to Mr. Yang, and antique dealer in Sifangjie. He told me a little about his experiences:

During Great Leap Forward, the villages became very competitive on who could produce the most grain. They distributed land and wealth to the poor, everyone in the family got land. Basically, you work the land your self and you eat what you get, so there wasn't much to eat. After the 80s it slowly got better. [15]

February 11, 2014

I met with Mr. Dong again to ask a little more about his experiences, and he responded with this, along with a note:

During 1961 and 1962, there was not enough food for everyone to eat and there was a disease going around. There were villages nearby where many people died due to lack of food. The government asked the people to eat very simple foods, like pig food. Like ground corn flour mixed with vegetables with maybe soup or noodles. He said people would eat bitter things and think of other foods to fill their stomachs. These things are a part of life and I respect and accept that. All the things you will experience and all the things I have experienced were supposed to happen. There's nothing I can do about that. These things could not have been escaped. This is part of history and my life and part of China. It is like a natural disaster, it cannot be escaped because it was meant to happen. [16]

Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1)

1. How did new laws and campaigns affect Xizhou? Which one had the most significant effect?

From what I've learned, the Great Leap Forward had the greatest impact on Xizhou. It caused many people to have little to eat, and some recall those days as the most miserable days of their lives.

2. Did China's involvement in the Korean War affect the people living in Xizhou?

From what I've heard, the Korean War did not really affect people living here and not many have mentioned it.

3. How did the majority of Xizhou view Chairman Mao and the Communist Party?

Most people I've talked to respect Chairman Mao for being able to unite China, but don't necessarily agree with everything he did (such as the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward).

4. How did the majority of Xizhou view Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists?

Most of the people I talked to don't have much to say about the KMT, other than the fact that they left Mainland China.

5. How did the aftermath of Liberation affect trade in Xizhou?

Since wealth and land was redistributed and also because of the Great Leap Forward, people were encouraged to farm and harvest as much grain as possible, so the people in Xizhou weren't so focused on trade.

6. How did life in Xizhou before Liberation compare to life afterwards?

Some people said that life before Liberation was happier and calmer, one person I talked to said that the time before was some of the best days of their lives. Another source said that life before Liberation was chaotic and that Xizhou and the rest of China was better off after Liberation. Beforehand, there were four wealthy families in Xizhou, but afterwards their wealth and property was redistributed. Propaganda was put up after Liberation, and people were very competitive when it came to producing grain for the government.

7. Did the quality of life improve after Liberation?

For the poor and landless life improved, but for the wealthy and well off it worsened. Life became difficult for many people during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, mostly because of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

8. How did Liberation leave a lasting effect?

Some elders remember post-Liberation as a time of struggle. Others think of it as a time where China improved and became its own country, where the people governed themselves. What I have learned is that it has changed their approach to struggle and has made them grateful for the peaceful life they live now.

9. Did Liberation improve Xizhou's standard of living?

The standard of living worsened for certain people (such as the wealthy and well off) since the government redistributed property after Liberation, but the poorer people were given property and land to farm. In the 50s, 60s, and 70s life was difficult for most people, but the standard of living started to improve after Reform and Opening in the 80s.

10. What do people think when they look back to this time?

Many of the people I've talked to look back at that time in a negative way, as they witnessed a lot of suffering during that time. Some people don't really like to go back and remember that time since it caused them pain and is something they'd rather not revisit. Others think of it as a time where China transitioned from a period of humiliation to a period of prosperity.

Now I will be moving on to Phase 4, where I will prepare to report my findings.

Work Cited:

[1] "The Chinese Revolution of 1949." Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State.
[2] "China 1949 to 1953." History Learning Site.
[3] "1950: The Land Reform."
[4] "New Marriage Law (1950)." Chinese Posters Net.
[5] "For Love or Money." China Daily.
[6] "Communists, Nationalists, and China's Revolutions: Crash Course World History #37." Crash Course World History.

[7] "The Great Movement to Resist America and Assist Korea: How Beijing Sold the Korean War." Academia.

[8] "50th Anniversary of the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea."

[9] "Foreign Friends: North Korea." Chinese Posters Net.

[10] "War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea (1950-1953)."

[11] Mr. Zhao, the night guard at Guangzhou, interview conducted on 2/4/14.

[12] Mr. Duan, a former soldier in the Chinese military, interview conducted on 2/4/14.

[13] Mr. Yang, a former accountant and self-taught lawyer, interview conducted on 2/5/14.

[14] Mr. Dong, an intellectual and scholar, interview conducted on 2/10/14.

[15] Mr. Yang, the antique dealer in Sifangjie, interview conducted on 2/10/14.

[16] Mr. Dong, an intellectual and scholar, interview conducted on 2/11/14.

Hey, I'm Marie! I was so lucky to live in Xizhou, even if it was only for a month. It was a lovely place with spectacular scenery and wonderful people. I don't think I could ever forget the things I experienced or the people I met while living in there. I honestly hope that I left a positive impact on Xizhou, because Xizhou definitely left a positive impact on me.