Learn from the Peasants

The “down to the countryside” movement spanned from the late 1960’s well into the 1970’s, during which millions of youths were sent to remote rural areas to “learn from the peasants”. This campaign was initiated by Mao, partly in an effort to dissolve the Red Guards – all those students that should have been in the schools but were wandering on the streets instead. In response to Chairman Mao’s command, young men and women left their city homes and went into the mountains and farms, some with great passion, some with great reluctance. A poster for this…

learn from peasants

My mom was in college then, but she had to go to a village to be ‘re-educated’ as well. Growing up in a big city, she probably couldn’t even tell the difference between rice and wheat. Needless to say, she found the farm work to be quite challenging.

She told me a story of her trying to plant in a rice paddy field. Each person was assigned a row. Some of her classmates grew up on farms and the task was quite simple for them – they went ahead with ease. But my mom couldn’t even manage to walk on those narrow wet slippery trails – she would take a step, and fall, and get mud all over her, and walk and fall some more. Fortunately her classmates saw her impediment and helped her out – after they reached the end of their assigned rows, they turned back and started working on my mom’s row from the other end. She is grateful for this act of kindness till this day.

Due to her incompetency in farm work, my mom was often pointed out as an example to show why this movement was necessary – all these spoiled intellectuals do need to experience all the hard labor that went behind their food! So much for them to learn! That said, I always wonder what the peasants felt about it back then – to see the precious farm lands being (mis)handled by all those youngsters.

Millions of people must have millions of stories during that crazy time period. Compared to so many broken families and tragic incidents, my family was probably on the lucky side. There are more stories to tell, but they have to wait till another day…


2 thoughts on “Learn from the Peasants

  1. Pingback: Happy Halloween, Remembering Vietnam, Chinese Warriors, Climate Denial, and Learning from Peasants | Science Traveler

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