Paintings as a Window onto Historical Events:
The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Cultural Revolution

A series of paintings by BiLan Liao

The Window
30 in x 40 in
Oil on Canvas

     My recollections of life during the Chinese Revolution and Chinese Cultural Revolution are as a frightening dream that lives deeply in my mind forever. The Cultural Revolution was a compilation of calamities that almost destroyed the whole of China, but also destroyed many lives, including the lives of members of my own family.
     "The New China" began in 1949. Mao Zedong's objective was not to build a peaceful new China. Mao's "Classes and Classes Struggle" theory was just the opposite, to create an environment of constant class opposition. In Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, Mao states, "It will take a fair long period of time to decide the issue in the ideological struggle between socialism and capitalism in our country . . . ." "Capitalism" was as an enemy to the Chinese Communist Party from the beginning and until the end of the Cultural Revolution.
     According to Museum of the Cultural Revolution, "Red" Chinese Government classified people in two ways: "The Five Kinds People of Red" and "The Five Kinds People of Black." "The Five Kinds People of Red" were Revolutionary soldiers, Revolutionary cadres, workers, peasants, and peasant farmers. "The Five Kinds People of Black" were educators, scientists, doctors, artists, and business people, who were all considered "Capitalists." The Communist Party deprived "Capitalists" of their right to vote and their freedom of speech. These "Capitalists" and their families endured many hardships under the influence of the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution. My father was considered a Capitalist due to his being a doctor and an outstanding business man. During that time, my father was designated with the title, "Capitalism hat," and the "Five Kinds People of Black," which resulted in a stream of frightful experiences to be endured by him and our family over a period of twenty years.
     I have so many memories and images relating to the Cultural Revolution deeply buried within my mind. I have put those memories and images on canvas to help people understand this time in Chinese history, and to let our family's posterity remember these generations'hardships.
     This painting is the introductory piece to my series of paintings about the Chinese Revolution and Chinese Cultural Revolution. This painting depicts me painting my series of paintings next to the window. Many photographs of my family are posted on the wall: photographs of my mother, my father, my grandmother, my brother and me, two younger sisters, my aunt, my uncle's children and my mother's step-brothers. On the table is an open book; in the book there are photographs of Chairmen Mao and Vice Chairmen Lingbiao, who betrayed Mao during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

40 in x 30 in
Oil on Canvas

     When my father was age fifteen, he began to study to be a doctor under a famous Chinese doctor, Lu ShiQi. In 1947, when my father was twenty-six years old, through introduction, he married my mother. She was twenty years old. During that time, my grandmother and my father owned the middle level of the Guan Huan Hotel, where he maintained his doctor's office and pharmacy. My father practiced medicine in his office, and my mother helped my grandmother take care of the hotel. Business was good at first, but finally my family had to close their businesses, because of the civil war between Mao Zedong and Jiang JieShi. During that war, wounded solders would fill the hotel, and my parents spent all of their financial resources helping them. After the new China had risen, my father built a new business, establishing a wholesale steel supply company in 1950. This business did very well.
     However, in 1953, China began the "San Fan and Wu Fan" movement against the capitalism that existed in China at the time. My father was an example of capitalism, and he dissatisfied the "San Fan and Wu Fan" movement. In 1955, the Chinese government imprisoned him for six years for being a "Capitalist" and for "dissatisfying" the Chinese Communist Party. It was a huge disaster that befell my family. My father could not have imagined the hard life my mother with three young children and my grandmother would have after his leaving.
     The painting is designed using a closed composition, especially with respect to the figures. My concept in this painting is to view an unfortunate event happening in my family at a moment depicting each figure's emotion and activity. Figures gather on the lower part of the large building to view an oppressed feeling. Sun light comes into the building, but it still has a feeling of coldness. Out of the sky the dark clouds symbolize a storm coming. Two banners are seen on the door; translated into English the meanings of the words are: "Happiness and perfection are coming (left)," and "Long itinerary of good fortune and spring forever" (right). The banners have a satirizing meaning about the Chinese idealistic life of Chinese communism.
     My father (left in front) holds his head in his hands, knowing the hardship that will happen to his family after his leaving. My mother is shown so sad and very slowly packing my father's clothing. The face of my sister, BiTao, (in the background) appears in pain, the grief over my father's leaving is so great, as she looks at my parents. My grandmother (right, front) tries to calm herself to help her son relax. One year old, I do not understand what is happening in our family. My brother, who may understand a little, peeks at my father carefully.

My Father
48 in x 24 in each
Oil on Canvas

     During the latter half of 1958, my father became very ill while imprisoned, so the Chinese government released my father from imprisonment for health reasons. That same year in September, my sister, BiTao, died in an accident at her school, the Chu Xiang Jie elementary school. Her death had an enormous impact on our family. The school would not provide details of the accident or details of her death to our family. Our family was provided with seven dollars, Chinese money, in order to cremate her body. To my parents, the world looked like a poor and painful place for our family. In 1959, while the Chinese economy was very poor, Chinese Vice Chairman Liu ShaoQi tried to promote greater marketing freedom for business growth. Following Liu ShaoQi's new movement, my father opened a Chinese pharmacy, but after a few months, Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong turned against Vice Chairman Liu Shaoqi and imprisoned him for leading a capitalist movement in China. Liu Shaoqi died during his imprisonment later during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
     The Chinese government instructed my father to report for imprisonment again for continuing to be capitalist, so my father escaped to northern China, in Xingjian Province, where my aunt was living. He found work there as a doctor at a military construction facility. After a few months my father sent a letter to my mother, but the Chinese government intercepted the letter. My father was then returned to imprisonment for again following Capitalism and escaping, but he was still allowed to practice medicine at the confinement location. He was finally released from imprisonment in 1964.
     Due to my father being labeled capitalist during the Chinese Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, my father and family experienced much bad fortune. As a result, the Red Guards searched and confiscated "capitalistic" items from our home, such as clothing and medicine. The Chinese government arranged a job for my father, who worked as an engineer to help to design production for a neighborhood committee-run small factory. My father had to teach himself to become an engineer under pressure of the Chinese government. He was emotionally changed very much, and he was not happy in that career. He would not talk about his deep feelings and did not want to talk about his past.
     I feel so sorry that I did not understand, while he was alive, how difficult it was for my father, as my sisters, my brother, and I all thought my father's choices had brought a terrible life upon us. It was only after he was gone and I was older that I understood my father's feelings about his lost career and his difficult life. I never thought, though, that my father would finally take his own life. I am very sad for my father that he went through such difficult times in China and that he finally chose such a very sad ending.
     I designed my painting about my father as a triptych. The first painting describes my father's imprisonment and the darkness of his life's beginning. There is a poster on the wall; the meaning is, "To admit guilt for Chinese people." High on the wall, a small window represents my father's lack of hope for escaping: escaping imprisonment, escaping his powerlessness of providing for his family, escaping the loss of his success as a doctor, and escaping the torment of his loss of social status.
     In the second painting, a large poster hangs from my father's neck, a paper cap on his head. He stands on a stool outside, punished for being "Capitalist." This was a common method of the times of publicly ridiculing those who had offended Communism by being "capitalistic" or for committing other crimes against the people during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. This was done because the "Red" government and Red Guards wanted to show how much they followed Mao's directives by punishing otherwise good people. In this second painting, across the sky rolls a dark tornado to symbolize the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and under that tornado is a red sea of Red Guards. During the Cultural Revolution, hundreds of millions of students joined the Red Guards; they were politically naive, unquestioningly following Mao's ideology. Mao used the inexperienced minds of young people and the ignorant minds of the uneducated to achieve his objectives.
     In the third and final painting, I wanted to design a silent, hopeless, and melancholy environment. In the corner of a room, a table has fallen to the floor; a noose hangs from the ceiling, indications of my father's final ending. On the wall, hangs a Chinese poem by the famous Chinese poet, Wei Tianqiang, the poetry meaning: Asking God.
     In 2006, I visited my father's birth place, the village of Liao JiaWang, and talked with some people who knew my father, who respected my father for his medical talents, for his fearlessness in speaking out against ignorance and injustice, and for his reputation of helping people. Sometimes I wonder if my father had not lived in China during the time that he did, that he might have had a better life and a happier ending.
     After the Cultural Revolution had effectively ended, the Chinese government declared that my father's case and treatment, along with many millions of others, during and up to the Cultural Revolution, had been an injustice. My father's story is not only the story of one person or one people. Ignorance and the failure of people to critically evaluate the ideologies and practices of their own governments and their own societies can lead to results that are not only extremely painful and damaging to individuals and their families, but can result in the decline of the entire society.

30 in x 40 in
Oil on Canvas

     In 1960, China began to experience a food shortage, because the Chinese people were following Mao Zedong's ideas against Capitalism. Millions of the Chinese people died for lack of food. I remember that we did not have meat or oil for many months. One day, my grandmother cooked a meal for us that included meat. It tasted like smoked bacon. We enjoyed the meal very much; it was so good.
     After one helping, we asked her for more, but she told us that there was no more. We asked her, "Grandmother, why isn't there any more?"
     It was then that she looked at us with a happy smile on her face and replied, "Because, I only caught one mouse."
     In the painting, my grandmother (left) is sewing, mending a cloth. My brother, GuoQiang, is licking his bowl. I, as a little girl, am asking my grandmother for more meat. My mother is shown hanging a poster on the wall in the kitchen, translated into English the meaning of the Chinese word on the poster is "peace." My mother hoped to bring peace into our family, since my father was in the prison. Three banners are seen on the wall around the door, translated into English the meanings of the words on these banners are: "Communism is Chinese ideal heaven" (to the right of the door), "Determined to follow socialism" (to the left of the door), and "Rich food and rich clothes" (above the door). All of these phrases were often used during the period.

24 in x 36 in
Oil on Canvas

     In 1958, the Chinese Communist Party began the "Great Leap Forward," a movement to develop the Chinese economy, but the first Vice Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, Liu Shaoqi, and General Deng Xiaoping, who was President of China after the Cultural Revulotion, learned that the "Great Leap Forward" had many problems, including that it was no help in improving the Chinese economy. Liu, Deng, and other Chinese leaders reformed Mao's Chinese traditional isolationist ideas of the "Great Leap Forward." They brought more open, Western ideas, such as scientific, governance, management, and economic plans to help the Chinese economy.
     However, in 1960, Mao began to move against these men's reforms, and accordingly, they began to lose their political power. In 1966, Mao launched the Chinese Cultural Revulotion, which resulted in the imprisonment of Liu in 1967, Liu being labeled a Capitalist and traitor. While he was in prison, Liu required medical care, which Mao denied him, resulting in Liu's death in 1969. In 1967, Deng was criminally charged as a Capitalist and sent to perform manual labor under guard at a factory as punishment. My father was also imprisoned for being found guilty of being a Capitalist. My father's imprisonment placed a very heavy burden on my mother; left to be responsible for four children and my grandmother.
     In our city of Changsha, Hunan Province, no one wanted to hire my mother, because of my father's criminal status as a Capitalist. Finally, though, my mother obtained work transporting building materials using a hand drawn wagon. I still have the deep image of my mother suffering doing that work. She needed to pull full wagon loads of the construction materials from a storage building to the builders on the construction site. The distance from the storage building to the construction site was about one mile; however, on the way was a steep hill of about one-quarter mile in length, the "Tiangxin Ge" hill close to our home. There were many times that my mother could not pull the wagon up the hill. It would seem as a hopeless and unending situation. My brother and I would wait after school for my mother to come up the Tiangxin Ge hill. When we saw her approaching, we would run to her and would try to help her up the hill, using the force of our very small bodies to help push the wagon up the hill.
     All through these difficult times, my mother would come home wearing a happy face and a positive attitude, because she loved her family and did not want us to share in her misery, but many times, I saw my mother crying secretly in the bedroom. I was so sad for my mother, and I just hoped that I could help her. From her I learned to have willpower, which has been very useful during my life.
     In May 2008, I visited the Tiangxin Ge hill in Changsha with my husband, Matt, and my friend, Vance. Standing at the bottom of the hill, I told them this story about my mother, about my memories and feelings, about my mother's many burdens during those times.
     During my travels back to China, I sketched many compositions to place this memory on canvas. Finally, I chose a "weighty" composition, placing more imagery in the lower left, with the hill seemingly impossibly steep and unending. The weight of the block seems too much to pull, and the hill seems impossible to climb. The wagon casts a shadow adding more weight. The tall wall on the left and the dark gray colors contribute to a feeling of pressure. There is a red banner crossing the road; the words on the banner have an ironic, intensely contrasting meaning in the lives of many Chinese people of the time, "Your world will be red (good life) if you follow Chairman Mao."
     No words can describe my love for my dear mother. My mother died in 1988, at a relatively young age. She had offered so much of herself to her family, to her children. I have so many stories to write and paint about my mother's life. For the time being, I can only furnish this one small fragment about my mother, but I will continue to write and paint about my lovely mother.

One Dollar Dream
30 in x 40 in
Oil on Canvas

     About 1965, my father returned home from one of his imprisonments. My mother only could make a little money from her job. Over the years, my mother had sold or exchanged family assets, such as furniture, clothing, and jewelry for food. My father looked for work, but it was not easy to obtain work quickly. One day, he heard that a factory had many dirty machine rags that needed to be washed so that they could be used again. My father secured the work for very low compensation, but there was a tight timetable for completing the work, so my father asked a neighbor to help. My father and the neighbor cooked the dirty machine rags in boiling, caustic water to remove the machine oil. My brother, GuoQiang, and I rinsed the rags in the river after school. We used a mallet to beat the rags on stones and rinsed them again and again to take the machine oil and dirt out. The work was very hard labor for my brother and me, but we had to do this work to support our family. My young sister, BiJing, who was six years old, and my grandmother dried the rages along the river on the stones, and guarded the rags so people would not steal them. In 2006, when I interviewed BiJing about this, she told me that she had been beaten by thieves many times while she tried to guard the rags. When the thieves came, she yelled and yelled, but my brother was too young and my grandmother was too old to catch and fight them. It was a terrible memory for all of us.
     We were so exhausted and poor. I continually dreamed of a miracle of money suddenly appearing before me. One late afternoon, tired and not knowing when I could ever finish washing the rags, while I continued to wash the rags in the river, suddenly, I saw something, a paper, floating toward me on the river. It was one dollar! I could not breathe. I thought that if I could only reach this dollar, I could buy anything I wanted in the entire world!
     This was one whole dollar, and I had to be very careful to try to pick the unexpected money out of the flowing river to fulfill my dream. So, I gingerly, but quickly, walked out into the river, then carefully reached out with a stick to close the space between me and my dream. With the precision of an astronaut on a spacewalk, I extracted my prize from the river.
     Once I had the dollar in my possession, I hid the dollar in my pocket. In the evening, on my bed, I did not feel tired. I was so happy, holding my cherished dollar close to me.
     The next day, I went to the store very much alone, as I wanted no one to know that I had one dollar. If my family knew I had the dollar, I would need to give it to the government as it was found "outside money," but I was not about to give up my prize to the government. When I got to the store, I spent the entire dollar on candy, which I ate in hiding.
     Afterwards, though, I felt sinful that I had hidden the dollar from my family. I felt guilty that I had bought the candy only for myself, in a time when we were all hungry.

(Painting 1 of 3 of the "Education" Triptych)
48 in x 24 in
Oil on Canvas

     This painting represents how education can and does fail for the children of the oppressed, not only my sister, not only my family, not only the Chinese, but for the children of the world. In September of 1958, my sister, BiTao, went to school, as she usually did, presumably saying goodbye to my family for the last time as she went out the door. My sister, BiTao, was five years older than me. She died in 1958 in China, when she was only nine years old. My sister's death had an enormous impact on our family. After her death, my family did not want to talk about BiTao, because it was very painful for my family for many years. I want to remember BiTao, and I want others to know about her too. I want to create a painting about my sister BiTao, to keep her memory alive and to tell her story.
     She said goodbye to my parents for the final time. She was in the second grade, and she was very talented at music and dance. Since she was the oldest sister, she helped my parents with the housework. They loved her very much.
     In the schools at that time, students were taught manual labor learning by doing. The students performed this manual labor at their school when they had breaks from their class work. One day, during their class break, my sister and her classmates sat along a wall outside their school. Behind that wall was an enormous pile of coal dust for the coal factory next to the school. Using the coal dust, the students used their small hands to form balls of coal at their school.
     Li AiJie lived next to the school. Li AiJie was eighty years old in 2006 and still lives in the neighborhood where the school was once located. According to Li AiJie, the pile of coal suddenly shifted against the wall, collapsing the stone wall, covering the children with stone and coal dust. First, the school staff and Chinese police pulled my sister out of the stone and coal, which had covered her little body. They put her in a classroom on a desk, but forgot her. My sister bled to death, forgotten, on that desk. Sweet little BiTao was one of many who did not survive. As this is written, tears are shed again for her, my beloved sister BiTao. Her memory is preserved here and will be on canvas, so that she, many of her classmates, and others like them throughout China may not be forgotten.
     After my sister's death, the school and Chinese government refused to take responsibility for my sister's death. My parents could not afford the luxury of voicing their anger of the injustice of how my sister and her classmates were treated, because my father was considered a "Capitalist." Finally, the Chinese government gave seven Chinese dollars (about ninety cents U.S.) to my parents for the cremation of my sister's body.
     First, I designed a number of compositions for this painting. I designed a classroom where she dies on a desk, and out of the classroom her soul goes to heaven. The painting's concept is that she goes to heaven and finds her happiness after her death. However, when I painted a rough painting of this composition, I did not like it, because I felt this composition communicated too much pain. This would be in opposition to my goal of showing the positive, the hope of her achieving final paradise. Next, I designed an abstract style for the painting. That concept was of my sister, BiTao, flying in the sky with beautiful flowers and angels surrounding her. I found a beautiful girl to pose as a model, but again, I changed my mind, because I decided to keep my series of paintings all in the same style.
     I sketched many compositions and wrote many ideas for the painting. Finally, I composed the painting where my sister, BiTao, says goodbye to my parents and walks out of the door for the final time in that morning. There are four posts inside the room, and outside on the wall, on the left, is Mao Zedong's picture of when he was speaking in 1949 of a new China beginning. On the right post on the wall is a picture of a student studying. Outdoors, on the left post, is writing that means "Long life of the people's commune." Outdoors, on the right is a post with writing that means "Head for Communism's utopia." The painting includes strong morning sunlight, which affects the colors in somewhat of a cool blue tone to provide the slightest chilling feeling.

(Painting 2 of 3 of the "Education" Triptych)
48 in x 24 in
Oil on Canvas

     Even though this painting is a depiction of my very subjective experience in education, it also can represent how, as adults, we can choose to pull ourselves out of educational failure through continuing our education, sometimes at great personal sacrifice in other areas of life, or even at great risk.
     During the Cultural Revolution, formal schooling was sporadic, disrupted greatly, sometimes for long periods. It was a chaotic time, with Red Guards harassing educators. Often, it was dangerous to go to school. During those times, some Chinese children, including myself, studied outside of school under the tutelage of friends of the family who had been professors and professional artists, musicians, writers, engineers, doctors, scientists, and other professionals.
     Since most textbooks had been destroyed by the Red Guards, our textbooks were handwritten by those teachers of ours. I went to their homes under the guise of a guest. Lookouts were posted at the windows during study time. The textbooks were well hidden when not in use, as our homes were frequently ransacked during inspections by the Red Guards. Two of the textbooks, which my teachers wrote for me, have survived and are among my most cherished possessions. One of them was totally written by brush in a traditional Chinese calligraphic style.
     The concept for this painting is a young student, studying in secret at home during the period. There are four text books on the floor: on the left is Mao Zedong's book that we used in the school as a student textbook; on the right are some textbooks that my teachers wrote for me. There are two posters in the sky. The top poster reads "Long life of Chinese Cultural Revolution." Under the poster that reads "Long life of Chinese Cultural Revolution," is writing that means "Destroy consciousness of capitalist." The painting includes dark clouds surrounding the posters. Dark clouds symbolize the darkness of the time. Strong sunlight comes through into the loft. The strong sunlight symbolizes bringing us hope. Many Chinese would identify with the Chinese Cultural Revolution being symbolized by dark clouds, and our hope being symbolized by sunlight.

(Painting 3 of 3 of the "Education" Triptych)
48 in x 24 in
Oil on Canvas

     Even though this painting depicts one scene of an event out of the experience of a specific person's life and is a view of a subjective experience, that experience can be understood on a grander scale. This painting depicts a young person who chose work over education, albeit in a specific situation and environment very different than the specific situations and environments of many young people today. However, many young people are faced with pressures, as BiJing was, to not continue education. Young adults are often pressured into choosing to discontinue education for some other life pursuit, and many people who make that choice are choosing to continue to fail by not pursuing an education, resulting in an unhappy life.
     This work shows, through the experience of my sister BiJing, the sacrifice of her education in order to provide child labor in support of Mao's Cultural Revolution. While the elite leadership of the Cultural Revolutionaries spoke of communistic equality and ate well, millions of Chinese children worked hard labor for long hours with little to eat.
     My younger sister, BiJing, was born on February 16, 1958. She was a sweet little girl. At about the age of seven, she began to receive much pressure from her classmates, because of the status placed upon our family due to my father being considered a "Capitalist." She was very afraid during this time and hid when people came to search our home and confiscate our possessions, sometimes daily. From that time, then, she began to acquire the desire to attain worker status, because at that time, workers had the greatest social respect and honor. Educated people were considered to be capitalist and were oppressed. When she was about the age of thirteen, BiJing decided to begin the process of attaining worker status.
     She obtained employment as a manual laborer with a government controlled building construction group. My young sister's job was to carry very heavy loads of dirt and stones on her small shoulders from place to place to be used to form building foundations. Many times, she would pass out on the road from hunger and exhaustion, but upon regaining consciousness, she would continue her work, because she wanted the honor of being a good worker. She never went back to school again, future opportunities totally lost to her -- forever. She has told me that she is fearful to this day due to those early experiences in her life. In 2006, she told me that her fear remains that Red Guards will come to her home.
     Many millions of people shared distressful experiences of the type that our family endured during the Cultural Revolution. Many Chinese people lost the opportunity to gain skills or education that could help them later in life. Accordingly, this is the reason that so many Chinese people of my age have worked so hard to help our children obtain the highest quality of education possible and to encourage our children strongly to take advantage of these educational opportunities now. Painful memories of the Cultural Revolution accompany us throughout our lives to this day.
     This painting' concept brings a depressing theme. My sister, Bijing is falling on the ground with her carrying tools. She wants to be a worker for honor and break away from my family despite the hardship she has to endure. A light comes through from the roof to point in an immense circle of darkness.
     There are seven posts in the sky. The right post reads "Long life of the working class." The second to the right post reads "Salute to the working class." The third to the right post reads "Long life of Chairman Mao." Other posters have similar context. Dark clouds symbolize the darkness of the time.

Unnatural Education
40 in x 30 in
Oil on Canvas

     The concept for this painting begins with a ransacked classroom. Chinese textbooks (language, mathematics, physics, chemistry, art, etc.) and classroom furniture has been thrown around the room by the classroom's own students in protest against the school. The students now follow Mao Zedong's new movement, the Cultural Revolution, beginning in 1966, which encouraged students to overthrow their own schools, due to the schools being considered as breeding grounds for capitalism.
     In the left corner of this painting, we see Mao's picture arousing the students for the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Six banners are seen throughout the room; translated to English, the meanings of these postings are: "Determined to follow Chairman Mao" (left on window), "To accept farmers' education" (right on window), "Farming is the youths' world" (under the picture of Mao), "Break the old world" (on the globe), "Confucius go to Hell" (on the bookshelf), "Reading books has no value" (on the desk), "Destroy Capitalism" (right on the desk). All of these phrases were often used during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Outside the window is seen a farm where a few youth are being "educated" (working) in the field; one poster reading "Learn from poor farmers." During this period, banners and posters such as these, as well as many pictures of Mao, were seen everywhere one turned in China. One youth, standing in the field, holds his head in anguish over the extinguishment of his future by being sent to the farm.
     According to the Museum of the Cultural Revolution, academic Chinese education was halted during the Cultural Revolution. Especially, from 1966 to 1976, most colleges, middle schools, and high schools were closed down or diminished to further the purposes of the Revolution. In 1968, Mao aroused Chinese students to desire a "natural education" from poor farmers. My brother, GuoQiang applied to be "educated" at a "natural farm." In doing so, he thought that his life would be better on a farm, very far from our persecuted professional family. My brother, though, found himself on the farm enduring the terrible hardships of a "natural education." My brother and many young people's worlds were destroyed by these "natural educations."
     Also according to the Museum of the Cultural Revolution, schoolgirls that went to these farms often had more terrible lives than schoolboys. Further, as cited by the Museum of the Cultural Revolution, a Chinese government report by the Chinese State Council of Educated Youth, in 1973, seventy percent of schoolgirls sent to those "natural farms" were raped during the Cultural Revolution. My brother, GuoQiang, thank God, advised me to stay home with my mother, and he took my place when it would have been my turn to go to a farm, so that ultimately I was not required to go to a farm for a "natural education." His experiences are an example of what most Chinese boys his age had to endure and an example of the resultant hardships they had to endure for the remainders of their lives.

30 in x 40 in
Oil on Canvas

     This painting's image is a strong memory of mine. I designed the women in the composition from my memory of my distantly related sister-in-law, and the boy is her son. The boy's face looks very tired and hungry. He wishes he had an egg to eat, but his mother needed to exchange the eggs for some rice ration tickets for their year's food.
     There are five posters in the painting. In the front, the poster reads "Cut Tail of Capitalism." The poster in the interior background reads "Study from Dazai." The Dazai was an example for Chinese farmers, but the Dazai was a false example. The Dazai concept was that farmers could produce much more grain from a unit of land than was possible to produce a highly unreasonable expectation. During that time, much leadership of the farmers exaggerated the productive value of farms in order to obtain more honor from the Chinese Communist Party. The poster on the left, on the electric pole, reads "Focus on grain." The long white poster reads "Long life of success of Chinese Cultural Revolution." The long red poster at the top means "Hold high flag of Mao Zedong's ideology."
     According to the Museum of the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Cultural Revolution deeply destroyed Chinese education, Chinese culture, and especially the Chinese economy. From 1966 to 1968, policies of the Chinese government, whether intentional or unintentional, fostered anarchism, former laws and rules, which kept order in the society, were abolished. Officers and workers stopped working in order to support the Cultural Revolution; transportation was highly disrupted. Within the first two years of the Cultural Revolution, China lost over one thousand million Chinese Yuan (one Yuan Chinese currency equal to about twelve cents American dollars) in Chinese total value of industry and agriculture. In 1973, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai took charge in order to turn for the better the Chinese economy.
     China was lacking food during the Chinese Cultural Revulotion. Townspeople were issued rice ration tickets for buying rice. Farmers planted rice, but they did not have enough rice to eat. In the Chinese government's guide, "Yi Liang Wei Gan" (meaning "Is Focused to Plant Grain"), farmers only could use their land for planting rice, as other crop planting was considered "Capitalist." The Chinese government communicated that they would give some financial help to farmers for planting their rice seeds, but farmers never received the Chinese government's financial assistance. At the end of the year, farmers were required to turn over rice to the Chinese government as a tax. If they did not turn over rice to the Chinese government, the Chinese government punished them.
     Many farmers did not have enough rice to give to the Chinese government for many reasons: some did not have money to buy seeds, to buy fertilizer, and/or did not have enough land. However, they were afraid of the Chinese Communist Party rules, so they tried to use eggs in exchange for rice ration tickets from townspeople, but some farmers needed to get rice to turn over to the Chinese government, and some farmers needed to buy rice for themselves. It was very common that farmers used eggs to exchange for rice ration tickets. My grandmother was very caring for our distant relative brother's family in the village of Liao. The distantly related family members were so poor; many times he brought his children to come to our home to ask for some rice ration tickets from us.

"Three Inch Feet" Great Grandmother
24 in x 48 in
Oil on Canvas

     My mother's step-grandmother, my step-great grandmother, was born into a wealthy family in Hunan Province. Her family owned a great deal of land in Xiangyin, Hunan. Her feet were bound by her parents, restricting her feet to a length of three inches, a wealthy family's symbol of high culture. However, the practice caused her, as it did many wealthy girls of high culture, to become disabled. As was the case for many girls and women, my great grandmother's foot binding was an extremely painful process.
     Although my step-great grandmother had a very well arranged marriage, I have little information about the man, just that when she was sixteen years old, her husband died, and they did not have children. People called her by the name "He Liu Shi" (Mrs. He Liu). She kept her so-called "widow's chastity," and she never married again, even shunning the company of other men. She adopted my grandfather, He Zhi, a younger cousin of her late husband, to help her, and then she introduced my future grandmother, one of her family servants, to He Zhi.
     Her terrible unnatural life and painful feet changed my great grandmother's heart, turning her into a cold, hateful woman. My grandmother died when my mother was eight years old, and my grandfather was not home much, so my great grandmother took care of my grandmother's three children, but she treated my mother and my aunt as slaves and mistreated the two girls who had lost their mother. For example, my mother needed to sleep with my great grandmother, who used my mother's small body to warm her disabled feet. My mother could not move. If my mother moved her body, my great grandmother used her long and sharp nails to pinch my mother's hands or her legs. My aunt told me that my great grandmother did not allow her or my mother to eat much food. Many times, she used a needle to stick my mother or my aunt when they tried to get food from the table. My great grandmother told them that they needed to wait until she and my uncle finished eating before they could eat the food leftover, but many times not much food was left for them, and the two sisters had to endure their hunger.
     All of her life was limited to her home. She needed help to walk; she had to hold a chair to help her move from room to room. Most of the time, she sat in meditation, praying to Buddha. The Chinese traditional culture destroyed her humaneness and feelings. She could have chosen to love, but she chose to be a hateful woman who passed her sorrow and pain on to her granddaughters.
     However, I chose a composition to depict my great grandmother in sadness, counting her Buddhist rosary and praying to Buddha on the bed in a very sad and hopeless situation. Her beautiful three inch shoes sit on a small stool next to the bed in shadow, and there is a chair in the room, used as an aid in walking. On the window is still glued the character "happy" from her wedding. The angle of viewing the figure and objects, looking down upon her in a stark room with only one small window, symbolizes her prison cell like environment.

My "Big Feet" Grandmother
24 in x 48 in
Oil on Canvas

     Chinese women's feet have held great symbolism in Chinese society; three inch feet showed the family status (wealth), had been considered more beautiful, in the more traditional culture, whereas "big feet" (normal sized feet) had shown that the family was poor, "wild," and not part of the traditional culture. In the lower socio-economic status, women who had bigger feet showed that a man at that level did not easily control his wife. In the traditional Chinese culture, when a woman married a man, the purpose of her life was only to follow the man for her entire life. Even if her husband died very young, the man's wife was not to be married again to another man or be with another man in any way. There were so many rules about how a woman's life was to be controlled.
     My grandmother's parent's family was middle class and educated, and they had my grandmother very late in life. She was their only child. They loved my grandmother very much. However, when my grandmother's parents tried to follow Chinese society's traditional rule of binding their daughter's feet beginning when she was very young, my grandmother cried and cried from the painful process of the binding. My great grandmother had experienced the terrible pain from the binding of her feet, which were kept to the traditional three inch length, so when my grandmother cried so much, my great grandmother then decided to forgo the bindings and let her daughter's feet grow naturally. My great grandfather loved his daughter very much, so he went along with his wife's wishes, and also provided my grandmother with the same education as a son would have received. In the Chinese culture of the time, only a son could have such an education. In that time, if a woman received such an education, the woman would be perceived as being less virtuous, as an educated woman was not as easily controlled by a man.
     When my grandmother was sixteen years old, my great grandfather began to worry about his daughter's prospects for marriage. In the traditional culture of the time, it was the father who had total control over every aspect of his daughter's marriage. The process of arranging a marriage in the traditional Chinese culture of the time was called Tiqing, but no one would ever come to his house for the purpose of arranging for a man to marry my grandmother, because his daughter, my grandmother, had acquired the bad reputation of having "big" feet.
     It was a great shame to a family if a girl never married or even if she married later in life. Finally, then, my great grandfather brought a lonely man, whose parents had died when the man was young, to come to live in my great grandparent's home. The man was from a noble family, but for some reason unknown to me, the man had inherited no wealth. My great grandparents owned a small farm, but the man did not know how to work on a farm; he was lazy and fell to drinking. My grandmother did not like the man and did not want to marry him, but if she did not marry the man, society's gossip would dishonor my grandmother's family, so my grandmother had to marry him to preserve her and her parents' honor. My grandmother married the man when she was about sixteen.
     My grandmother's parents had to help their daughter and the lazy son-in-law. Life was not easy for my grandmother and her parents, and my grandmother was not happy with the man she married. Consequently, my great grandfather was very sad about his daughter's unhappiness and poor prospects for the future with this man. After my grandmother had been married for a short time, sadly, my great grandfather passed away. Unfortunately, my great grandmother followed her husband in death shortly thereafter.
     Sad as losing her parents was, my grandmother's parents' deaths provided my grandmother with the opportunity to free herself from her husband, but in that time there was no way that a woman could divorce her husband. So, one day, my grandmother decided to leave her husband and her house secretly and ran away from her hometown in order to search for her own life and happiness.
     In preparation for her running away, my grandmother covered her face with grime from the stove in order to camouflage her face and to hide her beauty, because it was so dangerous for a young woman to walk alone. She traveled far on foot, day after day, and month after month. Through those long months, she begged for food and slept in temples along the way. She wanted to run as far as she could from her hometown, so that no one where she ended up could know her history.
     After several months traveling, one day, she was very hungry and thirsty when she walked into the Village of Liao, which is located in Hunan Province. She knocked on the door of the village leader, Liao YiTang's, home to beg for some food and water from him. He invited my grandmother into his house for food and gave my grandmother water to clean her hands and her face.
     Liao YiTang slowly discovered my grandmother's beauty, as her beauty was unveiled to him as she washed her face. He was very attracted to her. He was very interested to know about my grandmother. Liao YiTang was a highly cultured man, but he himself did not agree to the torturous binding of girls' feet. At first, he asked my grandmother to work for him as a housekeeper, as his wife had recently died. My grandmother accepted his offer, as she liked him and also saw an opportunity to cease her burdensome traveling and live relatively comfortable for that time.
     After a short time, Liao YiTang, asked my grandmother to marry him, and this is how Liao YiTang became my grandfather. My grandmother married my grandfather when she was about nineteen or twenty. I never knew my grandfather, but I have heard stories about him being an upper middle class farmer. He was honored and respected by the people of the Village of the Liaos.
     The painting is showing my grandmother leaving her lazy, drunkard of a first husband and her house secretly and running away from her hometown in order to search for her own life and happiness.

My Daughter
18 in x 24 in
Oil on Canvas

     Many millions of Chinese people shared distressful experiences of the type that our family endured during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, losing the opportunity to gain skills or education that could help them later in life. This is the reason that so many Chinese people of my age have worked so hard to help our children obtain the highest quality of education possible and to encourage our children strongly to take advantage of these educational opportunities now.
     Only allowed to have one child, my brother, my sisters, and I have supported our children toward achieving the highest educations possible. In the case of my daughter's, Anita's, education, her education includes a bachelor degree in management from ZhongShan University in China, a master degree in management from Purdue University, a master degree in statistics from Ball State University, and a Ph.D. in marketing from the University of Connecticut. Currently, she is an assistant professor at a university in Georgia.
     My brother's daughter, Qing, is currently a Ph.D. candidate student in accounting at the University of Wisconsin. Her bachelor degree is in accounting from Shanghai Treasury University. She also has two master degrees, a master degree in accounting from Beijing University and a master degree in statistics from Ball State University.
     Although painful memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution accompany us of the older generation throughout our lives to this day, my brother told me that he has never talked with his daughter about the Cultural Revolution because it is too painful to recount. My sister BiJing, though, told me that she has told her son about the Cultural Revolution, because she thinks it is important for the younger generation to know about the failures of the past, so they will not be repeated in the future. I agree with my sister BiJing.
     This is one of the reasons that I have created my paintings about the Chinese Cultural Revolution.