I grew up in northern China during the Cultural Revolution. Among my very first memories is a scene where I stood against the shut door of a shop, facing the empty street while the sound of gun shots tore through the air. I was around four and a half years old, I had just climbed out of the window to escape from the house where I had been locked up every day because my parents had been confined in their respective work units, my older siblings were at school, and the daycare I had been going to had been closed due to increasing violence. Then I saw a man running up the street toward my direction pulling a wooden cart. As he passed by me, I saw another man sitting in the cart with blood running down his face. They were heading to the hospital.
In another scene also etched in my memory, my mother was being denounced in front of a roomful of female workers in the weaving factory she had headed, and the man leading the session was repeatedly pushing her down on her knees and then pulling her hair to get her up as he spewed hateful “revolutionary” condemnation. I was in the room, held by one of the women. This must have been too much for me, for I broke free of the woman and, next thing you know, I sunk my teeth into the man’s arm. To this day, I still remember his name and his look.
I have never been that brave again. From that point on, I would grow up, like so many Chinese, learning the taste of anger, humiliation, submission, disgust, helplessness and, above all, fear.
I like to write. Just writing down, say, “it is raining outside” gives me intense pleasure. I don’t know why it is so, but it is true. When I started trying my hand at writing, a few years ago, I knew what I wanted to write: Tell the China story, my own and others’, decoding the multitude of feelings, polishing the good I have found that often is like a tiny green plant in a vast land of waste. I believe that literature must bear witness to a time and place, or it is insincerity one way or the other, something I must guard against.
For information on the Chen Guangcheng case:
I recently began to put my work on Amazon.com, and new titles will be added regularly. I live in the US with my husband, two children and one cat.
I can be reached at Yaxuecao@seeingredinchina.com
For more information on Cao Yaxue go to: http://seeingredinchina.com/