The Teacher Holocaust
These stories are excerpts from the Chinese Holocaust museum, the author of which has attempted to document the Cultural Revolution with first hand accounts of the atrocities that occurred. The excerpts were slightly edited to improve readability. To read the entire original article by Youqin Wang of the University of Chicago, click here.
The Scale and Degree of Violence Against Teachers
In the afternoon of August 5, 1966, some tenth-grade students at the Girls Middle School attached to Beijing Teachers University started "beating the black gang," a group comprised of three vice-principals and two deans (there was no principal). Many students came to join in. The students splashed ink on the clothes of these five, forced them to wear "high hats," hung boards with their names crossed out by red X's on their necks, forced them to kneel on the ground, hit them with nail-spiked clubs, scalded them with boiling water, and so on. After three hours of torture, the first vice-principal, Bian Zhongyun, lost consciousness and was put into a garbage cart. Two hours later she was sent to the hospital across the street. There, she was later found to have been dead for some time. Another vice-principal, Hu Zhitao, suffered bone fractures. The others were also severely injured. Bian Zhongyun, fifty years old, who had been working for this middle school for seventeen years, was the first educator to be beaten to death by students in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution.
Large-scale violence had, however, begun earlier at the Middle School attached to Beijing University. Liu Meide was a vice-principal and a chemistry teacher at this middle school. On July 31, on the day the "working group" that was in charge of the school in June and July received the order to withdraw from school but had not yet left, a group of students launched a violent action against her. They hacked Liu's hair, put dirt into her mouth, and beat her. Liu was forced to crawl on the playground and repeatedly say: "I am Liu Meide. I am a poisonous snake." One day in August, she was ordered by the students to climb on a table and kneel there. A student placed one foot on her back, posing as per Mao Zedong's description of how to struggle against landlords: "force them down on the ground and then place one foot on them." After a journalist of the Beijing Daily took a photograph, the student kicked Liu from the table to the ground. Liu was pregnant at that time. Her baby died from prenatal injuries soon after the birth. Many teachers at this school were tortured during the same period.
At the Middle School attached to Qinghua University, the birthplace of the Red Guards, Wan Bangru, the principal, and his vice-principal, Han Jia’ao, were forced to put a piece of black cloth on the front of their shirts, on which were written in white characters: "first head of the black gang¡" and "second head of the black gang," respectively. Beginning from early August, they were beaten black-and-blue many times. Their hair was cut raggedly. Wan's kidneys were seriously damaged. One day the students of class 6401 (the eighth grade) forced Han Jia'ao to kneel on the floor of their classroom and took turns beating him, one after another, with a club, whip, or leather belt for more than an hour, and then burned Han's hair. Some teachers were forced to beat each other and were told, "f you don't beat each other, we will beat you both."
A female staff member, Gu Hanfen, not only had half of her head shaved, but was also blinded in one eye as a result of being beaten. In late August, the violent beatings expanded to younger teachers, and even to some students. At midnight of August 26, 1966, having been beaten and insulted for the whole evening at a struggle meeting, a twenty-six-year-old chemistry teacher named Liu Shuhua committed suicide by jumping from the top of the school's chimney.
On August 17, 1966, at Beijing 101st Middle School, students tortured more than ten teachers. They forced teachers to crawl on a path paved with coal cinders until knees and palms bled. They whipped their instructors with copper-buckled belts. Some female teachers suffered having half of their heads shaved, in a hairstyle called "yin-yang head." The painting teacher, Chen Baokun, was beaten badly and then drowned in a fountain.
On August 19, 1966, the students of Beijing Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth middle schools held a "struggle meeting" in the Zhongshan Concert Pavilion at Zhongshan Park, which is next to Tiananmen Square. On a stage in front of an audience of thousands they whipped and kicked more than twenty "members of the black gang" from the three schools and the city's Education Bureau.
Sun Guoliang, the head of the Beijing Municipal Education Bureau, suffered three fractured ribs. Wen Hanjiang, the vice-principal of the Eighth Middle School, lost consciousness as he bled on stage. According to an interviewee, all were so severely beaten that they "no longer looked human."
On the evening of August 19, 1966, at the Middle School attached to Beijing Foreign Languages College the Red Guard students beat Zhang Furen, a Chinese teacher, and Zhang Fuzhen, an administrative staff, to death. In mid-August 1966, the students of Beijing Sixth Middle School (which is one kilometer from Tiananmen Gate and across the street from Zhongnanhai, where the party center is located) made the former music classroom into a jail, with a watchtower and a spotlight on the roof. They wrote "Long Live the Red Terror" on the wall and later dipped brushes into the blood of victims to repaint the characters of the slogan. This jail existed for three months until November 19, 1966. Nine teachers were jailed there during the entire time span. Some teachers, students, and "class enemies" from outside the school were also imprisoned there for various periods. A deputy dean of the school who had been imprisoned there for three months died less than a month after being released. Three men-a custodian, Xu Peitian; a student, Wang Guanghua; and a man who owned houses for rent near the school, He Hancheng -were beaten to death in the jail.
On August 25, 1966, the students of the Second Middle School attached to Beijing Teachers University beat three people to death on their campus: Jin Zhengyu, a literature teacher; Jiang Peiliang, the party secretary, the highest-ranking cadre at this school; and Fan Ximan, a student's mother. The principal, Gao Yun, was ordered to stand under the hot sun, while boiling water was poured on him and thumbtacks were stuck in his forehead. Gao came close to dying several times that summer. On that same day, Liang Guangqi, the head of Beijing Fifteenth Girls Middle School, was beaten to death when she was jailed on campus.
At the Middle School attached to Beijing Teachers College, Yu Ruifen, a female biology teacher, was knocked to the ground and beaten in her office. In broad daylight, she was dragged by her legs through the front door and down the steps, her head bumping against the cement; a barrel of boiling water was poured on her. Although she died after approximately two hours of torture, this did not satisfy the students; all other teachers on the "ox-ghost and snake-demon team" were forced to stand around Yu's corpse and take turns beating her.
In general, the brutality of students in colleges and in elementary schools was not as severe as in middle schools, but it was nevertheless serious. At Beijing University, hundreds of people on the "labor reform team of ox-ghosts and snake-demons" were forced to clean the campus with irregularly shaved heads, while wearing boards with their name and title (such as "member of the black gang" or "reactionary academic authority") around their necks and receiving gratuitous insults from many students who came to "learn revolutionary experiences from Beijing University."
For example, Zhu Guanqian, professor of aesthetics, had his head shaved and then was forced every day to pick up garbage with other "enemies" in front of the convenience store near the student dormitories. On August 4, when Professor Wu Xinghua of the English Department was cleaning the lawn, some students forced him to drink polluted water from a ditch containing waste from a chemical factory near the university. Immediately, he became very sick. He died that night, at age forty-four. On August 24, students from the Department of Biology used a copper-buckled leather belt to whip one of their lecturers, Hu Shouwen, at his home. His bloody shirt stuck to his skin, requiring his wife to use warm water to soften the shirt for removal. Hu's neighbor Cheng Xiance, the party secretary for the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, was also beaten that day. On September 2, Cheng Xiance committed suicide by drinking two bottles of insecticide after suffering a long period of torture, which included being beaten and having an X-shape shaved on his head. On October 9, Shen Naizhang, professor of psychology, committed suicide after suffering various humiliations.
On August 24, 1966, the Red Guards of the Middle School attached to Qinghua University transported truckloads of Red Guards from twelve middle schools to Qinghua campus, where they beat the administrators and professors. After several persons at the Department of Electronic Engineering were beaten, their blood stained the ground. Someone marked a circle around the blood and wrote "dog blood" That day Red Guards ordered those on the "ox-ghost and snake-demon team," under the lashes of whip, kicks, and punches, to pull down a white marble monument which was built in 1905 to commemorate the founding of the school. That night, all school-level cadres at both the university and the attached middle school were detained in the Science Building, and there in a small room, a beating was inflicted upon each of them. No one escaped without serious injury.
In elementary schools, the oldest students were thirteen years old. At Beijing Lishihutong Elementary School, a teacher surnamed Ye was forced to swallow nails and balls of excrement. The students of Beijing Yuquan Elementary School shaved half of the heads of four female teachers. At Beijing Sanlihe Third Elementary School, after students shaved half of her head, the music teacher, Ms. Zhang Jiamin, and her husband, the painting teacher, Mr. Zhang Jiaji, were forced to slap each other's face in front of many of their students. Zhao Qianguang, the dean of Beijing Zhongguo-Guba Friendship Elementary School, committed suicide by jumping from a chimney after being insulted and beaten. Zhao Xiangheng, the principal of Beijing Shijiahutong Elementary School, committed suicide by jumping from a high building. On August 27, Guo Wenyu, the principal of Beijing Kuanjie Elementary School, died after being beaten and pushed face down into dirty water. Lu Zhenxian, the dean of Guo Wenyu's school, was beaten to death on the same day. Meng Zhaojiang, Guo Wenyu¡'s husband, was tortured at the same time and died two days later.
Even kindergarten teachers could not escape the violence. Some teachers of Beijing Zhongshan Gongyuan Kindergarten and several kindergartens in Beijing's Dongcheng District were denounced and beaten in the Zhongshan Concert Pavilion; there, students from middle schools beat them and shaved their heads.
Attacks against teachers also occurred in the provinces. In Shanghai, on the evening of August 4, students of Huadong Teachers University arrested more than 150 professors and administrators at their homes, put "high hats" on their heads, hung boards with words such as "member of the black gang" and "reactionary academic authority" around their necks, paraded them through the campus, and then forced all of them to kneel on the "Communist Youth Square" for a "struggle meeting." Afterwards, the "Shanghai Writing Group," which played a leading role in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution, encouraged students in other colleges to take similar actions. At the Middle School attached to Huadong Teachers University, eighteen teachers were forced to crawl several laps around the sports ground. The female teachers among them were given "yin-yang heads." Students of Fuxing Middle School struck some teachers on the head with hammers, and one teacher's skull was broken. Jin Zhixiong, a librarian of the school, committed suicide. Xue Zheng, the principal of Shanghai Third Girls Middle School, was forced to eat excrement while cleaning toilets, and some students used thumbtacks to fix a "big-character poster" on her back. Lin Xiuquan, a teacher of Tongji Middle School, was beaten to death on campus.
In Tianjin, students of Nancang Middle School put garbage baskets on the heads of teachers, drew black X's on their shirts, and shaved the female dean's head. A custodian named Yao Fude at Tianjin Hongqiao District Jinzhongqiao Elementary School committed suicide by jumping into a river near the school after he was badly beaten. In Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, after returning from the first meeting of Red Guards with Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square on August 18, 1966, the Red Guards of Changsha First Middle School started beating teachers and students from "bad families." The person beaten most seriously was a female vice-principal, who was openly religious. In addition, she had half of her head shaved.
Please visit Youqin Wang's Chinese Holocaust Museum website for a through account of the Cultural Revolution.
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