During the Cultural Revolution
Into the desert
I returned from the mountains back to the city without permission. Normally city officials would have come to investigate why I had returned without seeking permission. I was actually waiting for them to come, but nobody came. At first I thought it had to do with the fact that everyone was busy with this murder case. Afterwards someone told me that their having sent me into the mountains had been illegal because they did not have the authority to make such a decision or to send me anywhere.
In the beginning of the Communist Party Revolution in 1949, the revolutionary army were much-loved because they did a lot of good for people. However, during the Cultural Revolution, they became more and more corrupt. At that time, they controlled our city and abused their power, behaving as badly as possible. Management positions were for sale. They asked people to come to my home, to tell me that I had to visit the director of the city often, suggesting that that was the way to buy myself into a position again. But because I looked down on them, I did not do it.
So, I was at home every day, playing Taijiquan, reading, and cooking for myself and my wife. That is why I am able to cook so well.
When Mao Tse Tong was getting older, he developed bronchitis and had difficulty breathing. So Tsu An Lai organised a herbal movement, wanting to discover a new remedy for bronchitis. I found staying at home very boring, so I went to the city and told the director that I wanted to research herbs and that I wanted to go into the desert for that purpose. They were afraid I might make problems for them, so they agreed and told me that it would be a good idea. I told them that I needed tools for travelling and a group of people who could help me. They found a small truck, provided a driver and gave me seven people. I took them into the desert at the beginning of the spring in 1973. From the city to the desert, it was more than 40 km. In between there were two big farms and a small hospital with only 10 beds. Because this hospital was part of the network of hospitals for which I had been responsible, the director came out to welcome me. He was walking on crutches because he suffered very severely from rheumatism. He was very happy to see me and invited me into his home.
This director was an old Communist Party member. In 1938 he had joined the Eight Route Army led by the Chinese Communist Party during the War of Resistance against the Japanese. Usually this kind of person would have had a very high position, but he had always been against any form of corruption and this made his leader unhappy. So from city director he was appointed farm director, and from farm director he became the Communist Party director of this small hospital. His home was old and the walls had holes in. There was just some old and basic furniture. He was lucky in having a very good wife, but they had not been blessed with a son or a daughter.
He had been ill for a few years and in these years he had visited the best hospitals in Beijing, Zhandou, Urumqi and other places. The medicine they had given him had not worked and his illness became worse daily. When I saw him he could hardly walk. During lunch, he asked me to help him and said that he was just waiting for the day that he would be in bed, paralysed by the rheumatism. I tried his pulses and wrote him a herbal prescription, which his wife immediately took to the hospital's herbal pharmacy by bicycle. After ten minutes, she came back empty handed. I asked her what had happened. 'Was there a shortage of herbs?' She said 'No, but the pharmacist asked whether you had made a mistake because this herbal prescription was for liver conditions and not for rheumatism'. I laughed and asked her 'What kind of medicine or herbs did the other hospitals prescribe?' 'Herbs and medicine for treating rheumatism or rheumatoid arthritis', she answered. 'Did they work?' 'No, it became worse'. So I explained, That was because this is not a case of rheumatism or rheumatoid arthritis.' 'Then why does he have pain in the joints?' she asked me. I told her: 'Because he is angry'. I said to him 'Everything that has happened over the past few years - you do not like it and it has made you angry'. 'Yes, that is true' he said. 'So you started to drink a lot of alcohol?' 'Yes, drinking alcohol makes me forget my problems'. I told him 'It is the alcohol that has damaged your liver. The angry binqi moved to your joints, so your joints are painful. Therefore I want to treat your liver to bring the angry binqi away, out of the joints. Do you think that this is right?' 'Yes, I will try'. He then asked people to guide us into the desert.
I love the desert. Sandy hills, an unlimited view. Many trees without leaves, able to survive in this dry climate. The desert is quiet, especially in spring. The snow is just melting. The sand is still slightly humid. The air is fresh, with the smell of young grass, very different from the freshness near the sea. You encounter the stools of wolves. In our tents during the night we were a little bit afraid, and talked until sunrise. This life was special, and very interesting.