The Cultural Revolution that happened from 1966 to 1976 in China is the most memorable part of modern history for me. The Cultural Revolution, which is also called “ Ten years of upheaval.” started after the civil war between two political parties, the Nationalist Party and the Communist Party. China’s economy and society declined, but also a Cultural Revolution started. In addition, many people were killed by the Communist Party even though there was no justified reason for their death. Moreover, the economy did not increase as well as the communists had promised, so many people could not get enough food to eat. Therefore, people who lived during the ten years of upheaval suffered through many difficulties and were poor. My grandparents were very poor, but they still got through the hardest time of their lives. Their early life has always had a deep influence on me because it reminds me of my roots, it brought my family together, and it has encouraged me to be proud of my current life in America.
Because of the Cultural Revolution, my grandparents could not be good parents for their children. In that period, my grandparents lived in a small village in Guangdong province in southern China. They had to work with all the villagers together because there was no private land for families. All the people had to farm together the a whole day to get some food, but they did not earn too much money. For example, they had to farm from six o’clock at the morning to eight o’clock at night every day. During this time, they would have a two hour break. In addition, the place they worked was a little bit far from their home. Therefore, they had no time to take good care of their children or family. Furthermore, they could not bring home enough food even though they worked very hard. In that period of the Cultural Revolution, all the land was communal property and all the grain was handed over to the Communist Party center in the village. In addition, each village had a government center that distributed the food and each family could get ten pounds for each family member in a month. Their family has six people including my great-grandfather. It meant they could get sixty pounds grain for each month. However, each person needed more food to get enough energy and nutrition for their body. According to my grandfather, they needed at least 120 pounds grain in a month.
Moreover, my father had a difficult childhood during the Cultural Revolution. He started to take care of his family when he was ten years old, because he was the oldest brother in their family and my grandparent had no enough time to take care of them. He started to catch fish in the river and sell them out in order to get a little bit money. He did all the housework after school and took care of his younger sister. He always had to wash clothes, clean up the house, and cook meals for the family. Sometimes he would go to do farm work with my grandparents. Furthermore, my father had not finished his studies because my grandparents were poor and had no skills to earn more money for my father’s education. Therefore, my father stopped going to school and stayed home to help the family even though he was very young. In that period, many children who lived in the village could not finish their studies even though they really wanted to.
Finally, when I listen to my grandparents or father talk about their early life, I realize that living in a foreign country is a great challenge and not just a trouble for me. In fact, it is not easy to live in a foreign country as an immigrant. Learning a different language is a huge problem for immigrants. In addition, cultural differences make it hard for immigrants to socialize with Americans. For example, my cousin Andy was born in the Unites States and he does not speak much Chinese, my English is not as good as his, so it is hard for me to communicate with him. However, when I compare my life with my grandparents early life in the Cultural Revolution, I feel lucky. I have a good chance to learn more than my grandparents have learned and I have a good chance to pursue a higher education. At this moment, I am not afraid of my foreign life in the U.S. despite what I am facing or how hard it is to live here sometimes.
Today, when I watch a movie about this period, I think about my grandparents’ early life and how it affected my grandparents, father and me. Currently, my grandparents do not work anymore. They are not as poor as they were in their early life, but they still remember what happened to them. When my grandfather chats with me, he always tells me not to be afraid of my life. He reminds me not to waste my time and to cherish everything I have. He always says that everything that happens in my life is my own treasure. Maybe if my grandfather said that to me before I came to America, I would have not listened to him, but now, I will. I believe that everything that happens in my life is my own treasure even though some things ever are painful.