During the Cultural Revolution
To Heaven Mountain
The political war was still not finished. People around me could see that I was free to stay at home and they were jealous. They asked me to come to the hospital to help with some work, but at the same time they were also worried that I would see the stupid things they were doing. They asked me to work in the injection room and to work as a nurse, so I knew that they wanted to belittle me and show that I was politically incorrect. I therefore asked if they could show me the written statement issued by the province saying that I was no longer director of the hospital - this was needed to change my function. As long as they could not do this I would remain director. When I finished asking I returned home to my books, wuxigong and taijiquan practice.
I lived along the silk route 120 km outside of Urümqi (capital of Xinjiang province). Thirty km north is the desert, fifty km south is the start of Heaven Mountain. The city had ten leading state farms, each employing between five and ten thousand peasants. Obviously, water was very important for the farms. Melting snow from Heaven Mountain provided it, first to another city, then to our farms. This was no problem until the weather started to change and Xinjiang became warmer each year. Less snow means less water. The government wanted more crops planted, but with insufficient water they did not grow. Each year more crops were planted, but yields fell and the farms lost more and more money.
Someone designed a canal to bring water directly from the mountain to a reservoir especially for our farms, and the new leader of the city - without government permission - led the farmers to build the canal themselves. The second part of the project needed a lot of labourers, so he organised all the people from our city to go to Heaven Mountain to build the canal.
The cook of the hospital came to my home and said that the canal project needed a doctor. Would I be able to come along? Because of the size of the project and because of the location, I was interested. After I obtained the necessary medicines from the pharmacy I went with the workers by truck to Heaven Mountain, 80 km away. It was around Christmas time and very cold, everything was covered with snow.
When we got to our destination I saw smoke rising from the earth. The people who were there to build the dike and excavate the canal actually lived in caves under the earth. I was very cold from spending half a day on a truck and quickly made my way into one; it was huge, the size of three basketball courts. On the sides were wooden railings with hay the other side. People were sleeping there, packed like sardines in a tin. In the middle were stoves made of petrol drums. I asked where my clinic was, but the director of the building site told me my name was down as a worker together with the other ones. The cook had lied to me. I wanted to go home immediately but there were no trucks available. I had to sleep there. The group I was with were from a building company next to the hospital where I worked. I often went there to treat them so they liked me very much. They didn't want me to work, only to answer some medical questions. I had never lived in such a primitive way before. At night I was thinking about Chinese workers; why are they so weak, never protesting about their life, instead just enduring it?