This article is the first part of a manuscript left by my grandfather Xiangrong Cai on August 9, 1984. Some parts of the text could not be recognized and had to be omitted or guessed at, and these are not specified individually. For ease of reading, some punctuation has been modified and some subheadings have been added.

I still have two diaries named “Life Book” I and II. (Hereinafter referred to as the “Diary”). These were kept underground by my father and brothers during the White Terror period and only given to me after liberation. They record my participation in the underground Communist Party and student movements from August 17, 1938, to May 8, 1939. Of course, most of the content is my thought processes, learning situations, and daily trivialities at the time; Party activities are mentioned in relatively abstract ways. Although there are a few brushstrokes here and there that reveal quite a bit, such disclosure was not permitted by the party’s secret discipline at the time. Unexpectedly, forty-five years later, when I provided material to the party history studies, it became a reliable basis. Now, using the “Diary” as a clue, combined with my personal memories, I have compiled the following:

My Background

In order to explain how a young student from an exploiting class background became a conscious Communist, I would like to briefly describe my family and resume.

My ancestral home is Jiashan Cai in Dongtanba, Wumaqiao Township, Langzhong County1 (now Team 1 of the Four Teams of Wuma Township). My original name was Xiangen Cai, and my courtesy name was Zhenyu. During the underground party period, and after going to school, I used the name Zhenyu Cai. After arriving in Yan’an, to prevent my family from being implicated2, I changed my name to Rong Xiang, and after the liberation, I changed it to Xiangrong Cai.

From the time I enlisted, all types of registration listed me as “a family of seven people, a hundred acres of land, more than a dozen rooms, landlord composition, student background.” My great-grandfather, Guozheng Cai3, was a military scholar in the Qing Dynasty. From the plaque4 hanging above the main door that I saw in my childhood, it seemed that the family was quite prosperous. By my grandfather’s generation, the family had gone bankrupt. In my father’s generation, the family fell even further. Because the ancestral house and farmland were sold off, my father Chunxu Cai only attended a short-term private school in his youth. My father had a deep influence on us brothers and sisters because he can be considered a “rejuvenating figure”. In the very difficult economic conditions of the family, he was self-motivated, studied “The Analects” and “Mencius”. After gaining a bit of education, he went to study with the famous doctor Mr. Shaozhou Lai in Longmen Town, Shunqing (now Nanchong). After carrying the “yellow bag”5 for three years, he started his medical practice. Because of his good medical skills, he was favoured by Ninchong Luo6, the Division Commander of the Twenty-ninth Army of the Sichuan warlord Tian Songyao and became a “third-class civil medical officer” of the division. He used the money he earned for two purposes: one is to send children to school (two of his children graduated from university, and one from high school and another from middle school); the second is to buy land and build houses, to “revive the Cai family business”. The former did something meaningful objectively; the latter brought some difficulties to his children (especially me). However, his class determined that he would definitely do that at the time. He could not have foreseen the demise of the landlord class at that time.

My mother, Mrs. Zhao (name not recorded7), managed the household. She died in 1943 from depression caused by my “escape”. Otherwise, she should have worn a “participatory” hat8.

My elder brother Zhendong Cai graduated from the Chinese Department of Sichuan University in 1932 and has been teaching in Chengdu ever since. He participated in the Nationalist Party of China led by Xiang Liu9. In 1936, he returned to Langzhong and taught at Langzhong Middle School. In 1937, he became the inspector of the county government. After I went to Yan’an (probably around 1946), he became the head of the Education Department of the county government. He died in 195210.

My second sister, Yun Cai, married a physical education teacher Siqi Zhang after graduating from junior high school, and she is also of landlord composition. She was a primary school teacher after the Liberation and is now retired.

My third sister, Song Cai, graduated from the Normal Department of Sichuan University before the Liberation. She and her husband Pengjiu Zheng both joined the Communist Party in the early days of the Sino-Japanese war, but they both quit the party later. She has been teaching for over 40 years and died in March 1983.

Among all the five children of my parents, only my eldest sister, Xian Cai, did not go to school. She married Yingu Zhao, one of our cousins, who has a rich peasant family background. My brother-in-law is a poet and a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. Both of them have passed away.

This is what is meant by “seven people, a hundred acres of land, more than a dozen of rooms”. I was born in such a family.

I “began my studies” at the age of six, only reading “Three Character Classic”, “Baijiaxing”, and then a bit of Confucian and Mencius’ works (“The Analects” and “Mencius”), but I did not finish them. After studying in the private school for four years, I entered the county’s “Model Elementary School” (now Experimental Primary School) in the fourth grade at the age of ten (1932), and in the second half of 1933, I went to Chengdu and switched to “Sichuan University Affiliated Elementary School”. I didn’t get my elementary school diploma, since after only one year, I switched to “Jianguo Middle School” (now Dongsheng Street No.8 Middle School11) to study junior middle school, with the qualification of having “academic ability equivalent to an elementary school graduate”. In 1936, I returned to my hometown and joined Langzhong Middle School, graduating in the first half of 1938. After graduation, I went to Nanchong Middle School for the “Unified Examination” (now called the Standardized Exam). Since Langzhong County did not have a high school, I transferred to the “Sichuan Provincial Nanchong Middle School” in Nanchong (the school is located at Lotus Pond). I studied there for less than a year, and in May 1939, the party sent me to northern Shaanxi to study a youth training camp. From that point onward, I was fully immersed in the furnace of revolution.

Grandpa's manuscript page 1
Grandpa's manuscript page 2

  1. Langzhong County, formerly known as Baoning County, is located in the northeast of Sichuan Province and the middle reaches of Jialing River. ↩︎

  2. At the time, joining the Chinese Communist Party is considered to be a “disloyal” act by the Republic of China government. ↩︎

  3. According to the family tree left by my grandfather, there might be a mistake here. Guozheng Cai should be my grandfather’s fifth-generation ancestor. ↩︎

  4. Plaque: A wooden board used for inscriptions or paintings, usually hung above the door or in the main hall. ↩︎

  5. “Yellow bundle” is a traditional term, which means the bundle of medical books and instruments that a doctor’s apprentice would carry with him. ↩︎

  6. Ninchong Luo (1898-1958) was a senior officer of the National Revolutionary Army during the Republic of China. ↩︎

  7. In traditional Chinese societies, women often only had a surname, without a given name. ↩︎

  8. This is an euphemism for “being given an undesirable label”. ↩︎

  9. Xiang Liu (1888-1938) was a military and political leader in the Republic of China. He was the chairman of the National Government of the Republic of China from 1931 to 1932. ↩︎

  10. It is possible that my grandfather wrote 1962 here. But 1952 is more likely considering the historical background. ↩︎

  11. More likely my grandfather was referring to the Northwestern Middle School. ↩︎