This article comes from Humans of China (WeChat ID: humans-of-china), which aims to document and tell the stories of the many varied people of this vast country, one individual at a time.
I will turn 94 years old this year.
I live in an old peoples home which costs us around 3,000 kuai a month. They take very good care of me here, but most things I can do myself anyway. I’m fit, healthy and very up to date with current affairs. I don’t feel bored or lonely and in my old age, I like to live somewhere quiet and relaxing.
I wake up at five every morning and get washed, dressed, make my bed and go for a walk. After breakfast, I like to sit in front of the TV and watch the news or the opera. I enjoy living a simple life.
I’ve lived such a long and healthy life because I think I have always tried to stay positive and happy, drinking a little alcohol each day could also be a reason.
I first became a soldier at the age of around 17 in 1944 with the Nationalist Party in Hunan province. Back then men didn’t really have a choice and had to join the army and become a soldier. If you didn’t agree then you’d be beaten until you did agree. I was given a yellow uniform and a gun.
I was only with the Nationalist for six months. At the time, the Japanese had already invaded large parts of China and just across the mountains from where I was stationed was a Japanese Army base. But I didn’t engage in any kind of fighting, which was lucky.
Around two years later, I became a member of the Red Army. Again, the uniform was yellow and the hat had a red star on it. I didn’t engage in any kind of war because the Japanese had already been defeated in most parts of China by the end of 1945. I had heard the horrendous things that they’d done but never saw them with my own eyes.
I had always wanted to be a soldier. I wanted to join the army and I wanted to try and defend China from the Japanese. Even one man can make a difference.
When I joined the army, my mother was scared about me leaving but we were very poor and she knew it would be better than staying behind. My dad died from sickness nine days after I was born. I have eight siblings. I’m the youngest and I am the only one left alive now.
After eight years of being a soldier, I finally left the army in around 1954. When I returned home everyone felt so relieved. After returning home I took up work as a farmer and also did some business with the local government. I was very talented at math. I was always very good at using an abacus for calculations.
I married at the age of 32 and my wife was just 18 years old. She was a very beautiful young lady and very talented. She was the midwife in the local village and she could just about do most things for herself. We had seven children but one died at just a few days old. She died at a young age; she was only 43. I am used to her not being here but I would have loved to have grown old with her.
After 1949, life was much better but still tough in the 1960s and 1970s. People had no money but we had food and water, which was enough at that time. During that period I did encounter some trouble because of the six months I spent with the Nationalist Party. I was treated pretty badly and would be beaten by very young men who were members of the Red Guard. They would ask me what I had done wrong, but in my eyes I hadn’t done anything wrong.
I knew I was innocent. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t scared when I was a soldier either. As a soldier you can’t be scared. I am very proud of my eight years of service for my country.
Photos courtesy of Cameron Hack