A diary visit to Wuhan in 1966.
Colin went alone and jotted down what he saw. Some pictures were taken. What he saw was the beginnings of the Cultural Revolution emerging throughout China. Given the poverty witnessed, it is of no surprise that such a revolution was able to take off.
Da Zibao covered all buildings, cars, busses and homes.
As a city Changsha is not interesting and there doesn’t seem to be much of significance here. I asked about religion. The guide said there were still open ancient temples but there had never been any Christianity here.
The streets there are very narrow and decidedly small. The old stores are still there in the streets. We were followed by millions of children. This area is very squalid and dirty. Behind the houses on one side is a river, which looked very charming. I asked the guide if there were any temples here. Zhu-zhou has a Xinag-zie tuan and the threat is groups but they are not functioning at present. He said there were more and has not been for a long time. As for Christianity there had never been any. He said there were still a few Gongschoying shops, all small and not many. Naturally there are dazibao here against individuals and the station, who was said to have written black poems against Mao and his thought.
It was quite interesting and seemed pretty highly mechanised though everyone seemed a bit bored and I’m glad it’s not my fate to work there. Much of the machinery is Soviet made, most Chinese. There were 13 Soviet experts here before the rift. There is quite a lot of remarkable heavy machinery. Safety precautions are quite good and workers in many shops have helmets etc. The whole place is very smoky and rather squalid.
We drove a fair distance to the town and steal works, Wu-gang. It covers a vast area and has 35, 000 workers, 31, 000 of whom are men. There are living quarters away from the works and the workshop to work by train or trolley. Train tickets are only 15 fen (written in Chinese) per month. Trolley tickets 60 fen (Chinese) per month. There is a hospital and five clinics, medicine is free. Rent for that is cheap, only 3 yuan 50 per month for a two room flat for 5 people, less than 1 yuan for a bachelor. There is no central heating. There are small kitchens.
Sunday 4th September
Went to the Memorial Hall of the Feb 7th Strike. We were given an introduction by an 80 year old worker who had been a leader in the strike. Two people in Wuhan were particularly famous in this strike, Lin Xinag-qian who was the trade union leader in Hankou and got knifed by warlords for his activities and Shih Yang, a lawyer who defended the workers, also killed. One old worker friend had spent 22 months in prison and had been severely whipped. He showed us the scars on his back, enormous, horrible. The old workers son was drowned while doing labour on a commune. The other guide had lost a thumb in a factory accident after Liberation. The old worker had a nice beard and was a thoroughly charming old man.
Went on the People’s Park which used to be the Zhong-shan Park before all the names were changed. It is nothing special, but has it’s own charm, little bridges over parks of lakes intertwining amid trees, very charming. This was the only park in Wuhan before Liberation, now there are ten. This one has been greatly expanded and there is now a zoo behind among other things. The zoo is fairly small, but it does contain a number of interesting animals such as lions, camels etc. The cages of the lions are monstrously small, almost too low for the lion to stand up. He looked very unhappy.
Mao’s house is very large. It is in typical Hunan style, not thatched , earthen floors, many rooms all small but comfortable. Beside the front room is a small pantry and beside it a kitchen. The kitchen is quite big and includes the 3 pot stove typical parts of the South. There is also a fire place with spit to boil the kettle and this has a sort of simple wedge with which the kettle or whatever can be lowered over the fire. On one wall is a bowel, which has a sort of tooth powder made of straw. The next room was the guest room. Here there is a table where Mao did revolutionary education work with many people. The next room was the parents bedroom where Mao was born. This has a bed with curtains at the side, the normal thing for the beds in this house. Beside the bed is a nice old hard wooded armchair. On another side of the room, a wardrobe with the typical Chinese brass knobs at front. On the wall hangs a bowel for a lamp which was lit by tong oil for light.
First crossed the bridge to Wuchang. From Wuchang could see the pagoda on Hong shan, which is also where Shi Yang, the lawyer martyre is buried. Not long after leaving Wuhan, the scenery becomes very beautiful. Lovely hills around and also gorgeous little peasant villages and paddy fields round about. All very green and nice. We got to Chang Xha at 1/2 past 9 and we met by the Political
Bureau of the Province, not China Travel Service. This was supposed to be a great honour, but I couldn’t help wondering if the Chang Xia CTS wasn’t in disgrace. On the station were selling booths and also large signs asking young capitalist lords and noises as to why they were going to Peking. The whole city was plastered with dazibao and it seems that 4 members of the Chuang Xia Party Committee have been dismissed. On the 19th August, they took four of the Red Guards and got workers to come and protect them.
There is a legend here among the locals about the origin of the name. They saw that the Emperor Shun came here 4000 years ago with ministers and went up the highest peak, now called Shao-feng. He was so delighted with what he saw that he called for music to be played. The character (Chinese character) is a combination of call (Chinese character) and music (Chinese character). On the top of the peak is a temple, now closed, nothing but walls.
Links to other pages under the section ‘Life in China 1964-66’