Xixi Chen

As Interviewed by Sophie Sun, March 22, 2018

Xixi Chen: In Her Own Words

My aunt and uncle were college professors in Beijing, so in the middle of the Cultural Revolution, they were sent to separate labor camps. Those were the swamp fields where nobody ever cultivated with a lot of parasites, disease, and the living condition was really bad. Remember that these are college professors, so they’re not used to manual labor at all, but they were forced to build dams, they were forced to cultivate the lands, and many people got sick. Also, the people didn’t have enough to eat.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, my cousins were left alone separated from their parents, one of them was eleven years old, and the other was six years old. They went to the government run so called kindergarten, and everything was rationed, so they were given food tickets, then they had to give the tickets to the kindergarten in exchange for food. Somehow they heard that their parents did not have enough food to eat, so the eleven year old decided that she and her little brother were just going to cook at home and save both of their food tickets for their parents. So eleven and six year olds were starting stoves in their houses to cook, so that they could save food tickets for their parents.

When they sent the food tickets to their parents, my aunt got so scared. She was worried that they were going to start a fire in the house and that it wasn’t safe for them. So while she was being forced to do manual labor, she kept worrying about her kids getting themselves hurt at home. She couldn’t fall asleep, so she begged and begged for the officials to let her go back to Beijing to visit her kids, and she wasn’t allowed to leave to go back to Beijing.

This happened not just to their family, it happened to almost every family. It actually lasted a couple of years then that whole program ended and they were able to reunite with their family. Although they had been through all this hardship, they were actually some of the lucky ones, because some of the professors never came back, they went down with the disease and could not be cured, and they passed away.