Nostalgia: Abduction

In Feitianwugong Village lives Yu at the age of 89. On July 30th in 1934 in lunar calendar, his father went to work in the cornfield with him before it was too dark. When they just arrived at the cornfield, a gang came up to them. Yu’s father was shot, and Yu was abducted. The gang requested 300 yuan from Yu’s mother. In order to save her son, she sold everything she could and even borrowed money from others. After half a year, Yu was released. Maybe because of such experience, he does not like to talk.img_4689img_4690

Nostalgia: The Snake Catcher

At his sixties, He is a snake catcher. Besides farming, he often catches snakes in the remote mountains. These areas with few families living remain traditional and natural. Many villagers have the skill of catching snakes, which counts as their part-time job. The nephew lives with the He family. At the age of 7, the boy was left alone since his mother was diagnosed with cancer, while his father died from cerebral hemorrhage. The responsibility to take care of him went to the Hes. Since the nephew is only a teenager, and the family is not rich enough to make a living, the local government offers them 640 yuan every month. Some entrepreneurs in Ninghai help them as well.

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Nostalgia: The Enemies of “The Emperor”

In 1949, the militia of the village killed a member from the Liberation Army. In order to quell the rebellion from Yankeng Village, thousands of soldiers from the Liberation Army gathered at Shanjia Village. The commander lived in the house of Zhang. Though it was a small village with few people, they had 8 guns in total. The villagers with guns all had connection with the leader of the militia. Zhang’s husband identified the eight villagers for the Liberation Army, who confiscated their guns.

At that time, the leader, whose nickname was “the emperor,” had already escaped to the remote mountains. When he heard the news, he threatened Zhang’s husband to send 150 kilogram of rice as apology. Afraid of his local power, they fulfilled his request. Soon, “the emperor” was still arrested what he had done under the pressure of the Liberation Army.

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Nostalgia: The Daughter of a Translator

The old lady is from Shanghai. His father is a translator for a Japanese officer invading China. I was too shocked to link her with the gorgeous ladies from Shanghai. His father made a decent living in old Shanghai, and the family could be even classified as middle class. At the beginning of the 1950s, her mother disclosed everything that her father did during the time period ruled by Japanese invaders. His father was arrested, therefore. At the 1960s, he was released from the prison but lost the Hukou* from Shanghai. It was the age of food shortage, so the government tried to move people to the countryside to release the pressure of urban areas. The whole family moved responding to the call.

*Hukou: A household registration record officially identifies a person as a resident of an area

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Nostalgia: Explosion

In 1938, the militia of Shimen Village hid three grenades in an obsolete shack half way up the hill. Hearing the news, several children went uphills and stole the grenades. Since the structure of grenades was simple, the children disassembled them. Feeling excited about the detonator, they decided to ignite it. The bravest boy, who was eight years old, was the one holding it. There was no firework as expected. However, the right hand of the boy was injured; all of the fingers broke. After seventy eight years, this boy now becomes a man washing vegetables at the bank of the stream. He is only able to pick the vegetables with these broken fingers.

(Shimen Village, Fenghua)img_4539img_4540img_4541

Our Documentary Nostalgia

We finally made some progress on our documentary Nostalgia! Here is my script in it!

He is my dad, an accountant of a foreign-funded corporation.

This is I, Emma, studying in an American high school.

My dad likes photography. Every weekend, he drives into mountains. He used to take pictures of landscape, but he shifts to the people there for the past two years.

The Siming Mountain is the mother mountain surrounding Ningbo.

This is how my dad, with his photos in hands, walks on the mountain roads without a specific destination.

He meets everyone like old friends of his, even though for some of them, it is their first meeting.

In order to make the villagers feeling comfortable telling personal stories to an invader of their houses, dad strives to become friends of them by engaging in their daily lives.

He thought the lives of him and these villagers were two parallel lines whose ends will never meet or overlap until he meets this old lady.

She is a 97-year-old mother, losing the ability to listen or speak.

She comes home from the temple only when her son comes back, as if there is telepath between them.

A son and a mother sit face-to-face, accompanying each other wordlessly.

Zhang is the 75-year-old son of her. Every other month, he comes into the mountain from Ningbo, which is 80 kilometers away, taking the responsibility caring for his mother from the hands of his  younger brother, who comes from Shanghai. They take turn living in the house renovated from a former sty.  Their constant company with their mother has lasted for more than ten years.

Overflowed with joy,  dad is deeply engaged in the process. At this moment, time stands still.

In summer, I go back to Ningbo. Being moved by his works, I become the curator of his photography exhibition. It turns out to be successful. I, with dad, go closer to the lives of these old people. Behind each and every one of them hides a touching story.

These two people are diagnosed with cataract. When dad wants to contact a doctor for them, the old lady rejects.

I am so impressed by them that I ask my dad, “What else can we do for them?”

This is a photography exhibition at a larger scale, and we welcome more people to come.

The exhibition opens with the support from all sectors of the society.

Dad even invites Zhang and his mother to the opening ceremony.

The photography exhibition is successful. All we do is to benefit more people in the Siming Mountain.

One rainy day, I experience his way into deep mountains with Zhang again.

Coming into the mountains is coming back home. As long as his mother is there, deeply inside the Siming Mountain locates their real home.

No matter how tough the trip is, men residing far away from home are unable to let go their initial concern.

Everyone has their own road back home. The soil far away from us lightens and warms our souls.

We live in the same world. We are not separated by a frame, and they are not frozen at the moment of picture. 

They are the epitome of our past generations. They were born at a time of political turmoil and have suffered their entire lives. They are always right there for us until the end of their lives.

Eventually, we have to say goodbye.

However, we are never willing to say goodbye to the land.

They are ourselves.

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Nostalgia: Brotherhood linked by Soft Rush

Four farmers are hired to plant in 200 mu* of soft rush field in Shenjiao Village, Yinzhou. Farmers from Shandong province are hired to do easy tasks such as transplanting in winter and harvesting in the summer which require a large amount of simple labor force in limited time. These four farmers are in charge of farmwork which requires masterful skills in the eight months in between the transplanting and harvesting months. The boss provides them with tools, consumables, fertilizer, pesticides, etc. Their job is to build timber piles, nylon nets, fertilize soft rush, and get rid of bugs, without taking economic risks. Within the eight months, for nearly four months, they are required to do precise and intense work everyday.

After harvesting in the summer, everyone of them gets 25,000 yuan from their boss as their salary. Since they have neither social security nor agricultural insurance, this salary is their income for the whole year. Due to the fact that four of them were nearly seventy years old and that younger people are not willing to work for such a low income, nobody plants soft rushes anymore these years.

Four of them were fertilizing in the field when I visited. They had to move back and forth countless times all on their own to finish fertilizing. The most painful task is to kill bugs, however. The sharp leaves with pesticide will penetrate their skin, resulting in ulcers. (Shenjiao Village, Yinzhou)

* 1 mu ≈ 0.1647 acre

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Nostalgia: An Orphan Accountant

He is Li, 81 years old. At the age of seven, his parents died, and his uncle sent him to an orphanage in Fenghua. The orphanage, which actually was a school, was sponsored by Chiang Kai-shek* for raising orphans in Fenghua, Xiangshan, and Xinchang. At the age of 14, the orphanage was shut down when the Kuomintang lost control in mainland China. Li was sent to a peasant family, but he suffered from discrimination. For example, when eating salted vegetables, Li was only allowed to eat leaves. However, others were eating stems even with lard in order for more flavor. He rebelled a year later, and under the mediation, the peasant family allowed him to leave and even gave him a house according to the local tradition. He was the only intellectual in the village who had gained an education in the orphanage. For most of his life, he worked as the accountant of the village until his retirement. (Baifenbi Village, Fenghua)

*Chiang Kai-shek: Leader of the Kuomintang

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Nostalgia: The Snake Doctor

He is Mao, 80 years old. For decades, people from Ninghai, Xiangshan, Fenghua, and Xinchang who were snake bite victims tramped over hill and dale to find this snake doctor. Mao was not from a family of snake doctors; surprisingly, his grandfather was the leader of the beggar’s gang. His father begged for his entire life, while he also begged for 15 years with his father. At the age of 18, he went to City God Temple of Shanghai, learning how to treat patients bitten by snakes. Before, there could be as many as 50 patients. In order to collect herb-medicine for them, he had to look for herbs all over the mountain. In recent decades, patient number decreased as the local ecosystem deteriorated. Both the local Department of Health and his son, who hid his phone, prevented him from practicing, so he did not have any choice but to quit his career. (Feitianwugong Village, Xinchang)60×75.jpg

Nostalgia: The Vicissitudes of Life

The couple is 87-year-old Lu and his 81-year-old wife. In 1948, he went to Shanghai to learn his trade, apprenticing in a coal dust ball stove company. 10 years later, an incident happened in China that changed countless people’s fates. In May 1961, the government initiated the Down to the Countryside Movement, in which Mao sent privileged urban youth to poor mountainous areas to work as farmers. Lu volunteered to serve in Ninghai. Farming in Ninghai was not an easy task. He did not even know anything about agriculture. Due to the numerous mountains in Sangzhou, he had to carry manure buckets uphill on his shoulder. When he was too tired to labor, the rural production team did not care and deducted his work points ruthlessly, leading to food shortages in his family. At the hardest times, his wife chose to eat husk so that her husband and children would not starve. (Sangzhou, Ninghai)

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The Down to the Countryside Movement was initiated to even out the gap in the urban and rural area as well as reducing the amount of young people fighting for limited job opportunities in the urban areas. Lu’s vicissitudes were resulted from the Down to the Countryside Movement alone; should he not have come to the coutryside, he could have gotten a decent job in the city, and his family would less likely have experienced these hardship. Lu was not the perfect person for farming because he had never tried to before. Although it was designated to bring benefits to the newly founded nation by maximizing the amount of people with jobs, it also brought hardships to people like the Lu family. The movement forced people to the places doing jobs that were so unsuitable to them that they could barely survive.