Dependent Origination

Life and Death in Shanghai

Posted on: April 27, 2011

by Nien Cheng

[很多剧透,小心啊;)]

又名上海生死劫。很好看。郑念(原名姚念媛)是名门之后,爸爸是海军副部长(vice minister of navy)。1935年的她二十岁的时候去英国留学,就读于london school of economics, 据说很名校,出了不少名人。和同学郑康琪结婚,毕业后回到中国先在重庆呆了一段时间,然后老公出任驻澳大利亚大使,在澳大利亚生活了几年,女儿郑梅萍就出生在澳大利亚。1949年的时候她应在上海的老公要求带着女儿从香港回到了上海。老公说他决定留下来。于是一家人开始了在communist China的生活。

老公担任Shell在中国地区的general manager直到很幸运的在1957年病逝。Shell继续聘任了郑念当做British general manager的助手,帮助协调和政府,雇员的关系,直到1966年Shell撤出中国。郑念本人对自己能够作为几乎唯一任职高管的在上海的中国女性,并且能够在老公去世之后还维持以前的生活水平,感到非常自豪。

文革开始没有多久,她的家就被抄了,和女儿隔离,不能说话,一个月后在一次专门针对她的批斗大会后以间谍的名义被送进了上海第一看守所。至此开始了她长达六年半的牢狱生涯。据她自己的分析,很多也是出狱之后才认识到的,Shell是在周总理的邀请下留在上海的,如果能够从她这里拿到一份认罪的供词,就可以借机进攻总理。所以她从一开始就单独囚禁,大概以为这样的一个重视享受的阔太太,用不了多久肯定就认罪了。

郑念从小家庭生活就很优裕,更不要说婚后了。在上海的独立房,有佣人,管家,厨子,园丁来打点一切。平日里往来也没有白丁,都是有头有脸的人物。她自己喜欢读书,喜欢收集瓷器。听她描述自己的爱物,细致周到,虽然她自己没有提,但是看得出来都是价值连城的宝物。后来抄家归还的时候,上海博物馆就要走了十五件。

但是就是这样一个养尊处优重视享受的人,面对verbal abuse, physical abuse, 经历了六年半,就是没有认罪,始终坚持自己的清白,要求中央政府登报道歉。从林彪倒台之后,逼迫她认罪的政治利益没有了,才在1973年上半年释放。但是就在这之前,对她的迫害才刚刚达到顶峰。一副特别制作的手铐紧紧地铐在她的手上,先是在狭小的黑暗的小黑屋里关了二十四个小时,然后回到单人牢房继续了十一天。中间手铐cut into wrist deep, almost reaching the bones,但是她都没有低头。开始的时候她也担忧过觉得手要残废了觉得很难过,但是旋即想起了以前旅行途中认识的无手画家,倍受鼓舞,觉得如果god let it happen and 自己虽然残废仍然会找到生存的道路。

郑念顽强坚持自己的清白的最主要的原因是她认为如果自己认了这个莫须有的罪名,那不光自己一辈子都要生活在罪犯的阴影下,女儿在这个社会里也没有了任何发展空间,所以她才一次又一次的从depression, despair里面挣扎出来,和狱警,审讯者斗智斗勇。

但是她完全不知道的是女儿郑梅萍已经在1967年6月,她入狱不久,被造反派打死了。我看前言的时候就觉得她的女儿多半遭遇了不幸,否则前面作者介绍的时候肯定会提到的。行文根据郑念自己的经历,直到1972年冬天她要求购买新的冬衣却收到了梅萍的棉袄时,她才意识到女儿可能很久以前就不在人世了。

郑念出狱之后又在上海生活了七年,等到了政治气候回暖,开始和美国有所往来的时候,申请出国探望妹妹们,才离开中国。从她出狱,确定女儿的死亡之后,她就在计划有一天离开中国,再也不回来了。她在加拿大住了两年多,依靠妹妹申请到了绿卡,之后一直住在washington d.c., 直到2009年去世,身边没有一个亲人。

故事荡气回肠,让人十分佩服她的勇气,她的执著。当然也非常佩服她的能力。虽然她的前半生其实都是在当housewife, 但是不论是做shell的general manager’s assitant, 还是六十五岁到美国重新开始生活,都能够依靠自己的能力打开一片天地。她离开中国的时候因为是探亲,所以chinese bank accounts等等都留在身后。但是夫妻俩还有海外账户,所以她landing之后还有钱用。但是她自己之后在美国的三十年生活,主要是靠这本书的版税,还有因此而来的演讲邀请,来承办的。虽然只有她自己一个人,虽然每天黄昏心力不济的时候都会想起梅萍,但是她晚年的生活是充实快乐的。

面对非常的abuse, 她一直有理有利有节的fight back,持续经年。很多人,很多大男人都经受不起这些折磨,sleep deprivation, psychological manipulation, dingy living conditions, less than enough nutrition, 有的认罪,有的还编造出造反派们想听的种种谎言故事,因此拽了更多的人下水。但是一个纤纤弱女子却在绝境里展现了无与伦比的勇气和对自己价值观的坚持。不容易啊。太难得了。

另外我看完最大的感受其实是有钱好啊。而且一定要有海外户头,以应不时之需。有钱日子就是要过得容易很多。看她就知道了。

当然正经一点的感受比方说这是我读的第一本深刻探讨文革的起因,其中各个阶段的幕后目的的一本书。以前看的多以appeal to emotional or physical pain为主的伤痕文学居多。这次有大开眼界的感觉,原来批林批孔后面是这么回事,红卫兵和知青上山下乡是有因果关系的,etc。不是以前没有听过,但是这次真的看进去了。

最后放一张郑念和女儿梅萍的合影。我觉得郑念比女儿还漂亮。

8 Responses to "Life and Death in Shanghai"

很想看这本书!看过几本关于小时候养尊处优的女性经历文革的故事,非常佩服这样的人,也觉得人的耐受力真是无限的。感觉有的人因为有文化,心事多,死得快,有的人却可以被文化教养支撑着度过很多难关。

you reminded me
in fact i read another series from chen dan yan on some prominent people’s lives during cultural revolution in shang hai before too.

here: https://chenjie66.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/%E4%B8%8A%E6%B5%B7%E7%9A%84%E7%BA%A2%E9%A2%9C%E9%81%97%E4%BA%8B/

and
here: https://chenjie66.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/%E4%B8%8A%E6%B5%B7%E7%9A%84%E9%87%91%E6%9E%9D%E7%8E%89%E5%8F%B6/

just for summary purposes🙂

this one is definitely better, in fact much better than chen dan yan’s works. not only does the author is writing about her own experience, she is also a lot more insightful than chen dan yan. many reflections about human nature, about chinese’s nature, are still true today. i should have written down the pages where i encountered such wisdom but i didn’t😦 but they are so true.

in contrast, chen dan yan is touching a very superficial layer of the experiences and mainly just appealing to the sentiments/emotions of her readers.

this thread on douban is a rarely-good book discussion (in comparison to the usual no-content replies when a website grows bigger).

http://book.douban.com/review/2737360/

they say way better than me about the book and the author and what it meant for contemporary China.

one thing i don’t agree is the point that Cheng Nien is like a “foreigner” and it is due to her education in Britain. No that is like wrong. Nien Cheng is more Chinese than any of us. She is versed in the traditional culture and values and she sticks to what she thinks right. Why is that coming from foreign influences? Why cannot it come from breeding and, of all possibilities, Chinese culture? Not the contemporary one but the older (and therefore people are less interested in) culture?

这本书我也看过,特别喜欢。而且她只有一个肾,好坚强啊。

@lili: did you write about it before somewhere? i remember i saw someone said they loved this book and i think that was how i first remember there was such a book. and that was years ago

i cannot remember why i put it onto the reading list recently (well within two years) –> must have seen its name or see it mentioned somewhere (maybe from douban?)

I read in a blog a lady by the name of lily f, claiming that Meiping was her “small aunt”. Lily f said she used to sleep over in Meiping’s house in the sixties untill she went to the “desert” ( may be she was “deported ” to the west of China. Can anyone shed some light on who this Lily f was. Thanks.

by the way I enjoy reading the book a lot.Though I am late ( it is now 17th Dec 2012) in discovering the book, it is better late than never.Nien Cheng was a remarkable lady.Very well written.

The blog I referred to is : andyleitravels.blogspot.com ( on Lilyf)

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