A Crime That Saved a Village

My father was classified as a rightist during the Cultural Revolution. As punishment, our whole family was exiled to a harsh rural region. (Image:  ralph repo  via  flickr  CC BY 2.0 )
My father was classified as a rightist during the Cultural Revolution. As punishment, our whole family was exiled to a harsh rural region. (Image: ralph repo via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

It is a universal law that good is rewarded with good and evil brings retribution. That’s what my late father used to tell me. I discovered the truth of this first-hand during the Cultural Revolution.

One day, I arrived at my parents’ house for a visit. My father was sitting in the yard enjoying the lovely afternoon. He had just recovered from a serious illness. A fortune teller passed by and said: “Hey mister, you look great! You must have just recovered from a serious illness. Do not worry. You will have longevity.”

The fortune teller sat down with my father and explained that he had saved numerous lives in the past, and so God had added years to his life. He explained that my father’s lifespan had been extended from the age of 64 to the age of 84, and that all of his descendants would be blessed.

Before leaving, the fortune teller turned to me and said: “You will have what you are bound to have. Don’t force your way to get what is not meant to be yours. Ordinary life is only clouds and mist, but maintaining great virtue and kindness will bring fortune and longevity.”

I did not take his words seriously, but my father told me:

They finally harvested all the sweet potatoes before dawn and hid all the food. (Image: ralph repo via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

They finally harvested all the sweet potatoes before dawn and hid all the food. (Image: ralph repo via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

A family exiled to a harsh rural region

My father was classified as a rightist during the Cultural Revolution. As punishment, our whole family was exiled to a harsh rural region.

Later, my father became the leader of the local communist organization. This was in the years when the Communist Party made exaggerated promises to the peasants, which left many households without food. This was especially so during the steel and iron campaigns of 1958, at the beginning of the “Great Leap Forward,” where every family had to work on furnaces to make steel, and every household had to give up their pots and pans so the military could use them for steel production.

The Great Leap Forward, from 1958 to 1961, was one of Mao Zedong’s most catastrophic campaigns for China. It was based on coercion, terror, and systematic violence. It led to the Great Chinese Famine, one of the worst mass famines in human history. The Great Leap Forward caused the deaths of 18 to 45 million people.

A crime that saved a village

One day, it was announced that county officials planned to come to the village to search for and confiscate the remaining grain supply in the village storehouse, which was almost empty. This was a common practice during the Great Leap Forward. My father was worried, and met with other village officials late at night to discuss how to preserve the remaining scarce food supplies. It was a matter of life and death.

Everyone in the village worked together to dig a cellar in a hidden location to hide the rest of the grain. At the same time, they rushed to harvest the leftover sweet potatoes in the fields. This was done with the utmost secrecy at night under the moonlight.

They finally harvested all the sweet potatoes before dawn and hid all the food. My father passed out on the ground due to stress and exhaustion. At noon, my father received the officials from the county, but they could not find any grain.

My father joked: “In all my life, that is the only time that I have been a thief, a leading thief, who led an entire village to steal. So I acted as a criminal that time, but saved the lives of a village. For this reason, my lifespan has been extended for 20 years. God is fair.”

I am telling my father’s story out of respect for him, and to give you readers a concrete example of the old Chinese saying that good is rewarded with good, and evil brings retribution. (Image: ralph repo via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

I am telling my father’s story out of respect for him, and to give you readers a concrete example of the old Chinese saying that good is rewarded with good, and evil brings retribution. (Image: ralph repo via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

My father said:

My father lived 84 years and 112 days.

I am telling my father’s story out of respect for him, and to give you readers a concrete example of the old Chinese saying that good is rewarded with good, and evil brings retribution.

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