(Kāi Mn Bn Xu)

(Open-door schooling)

From the day they arrived at colleges or universities, Worker-peasant-soldier students were responsible for the mission to "attend the school, control the school, and reform the school." Under a new educational policy, the "open door" policy, workers, peasants, and soldiers were invited to lecture in universities, and university students were required to work for specified periods on farms, in factories, and on military bases.

学工/學工 (learning from workers)

Our class of 18 university students went to the Shanghai No. 5 Textile Factory to live and work for a month in the second semester of our freshman year. Like workers, we worked in three shifts. Our teachers came too because they were asked to learn from the proletariat to reform their ideology.  While there we had classes in shifts as well.

My job was to watch a huge spinning machine on which there were a number of bobbins with which a fiber was spun into thread and on which the spun thread was wound. When they were full, I replaced them with new bobbins. I finally managed to carry more than 20 spindles on one arm after practicing for a week. I found the workers very rude. In my section, my classmate and I were treated like young kids, either being ignored or ordered to do this or that. Only after they learned that we were university students did we receive some respect.

There was one thing that I had to admire of the workers. With machines running unceasingly, they worked in shifts doing the same thing month after month, year after year without feeling bored. I realized that it's impossible to continue working like this without strong willpower.  Inside me I secretly decided that I would rather be a peasant than a worker if I had to choose between these two jobs.  Some classmates and I returned to the factory on every Sunday for the rest of the semester, but of course, an outing for several hours was very much different from working in shifts.


One of our teachers was  German. He didn't live in the factory dorm, but came over every day to hold his class and participated in some activities with us.

During our stay in the factory, we often visited workers' families. One of the main purposes was to listen to their accounts of their sufferings in the old society and happiness in the new, a then popular activity called "忆苦思甜" (recall bitterness and think of happiness). What we had learned appeared later in our discussions and essays in German, and even in the learning materials complied by our class.

学农/學農 (learning from peasants)

Although most of us were "peasants" in someplace at one time, we were still required to go to countryside to learn from peasants in order that we "wouldn't forget them" and "wouldn't change our 'color'".

Our class went to a production brigade in the Hongqiao commune which was in the outskirt of Shanghai. Generally, there was no dorm in countryside. The production brigade put all of us, ten girls and eight boys, in one big empty storage room. There was a curtain hanging in the middle to separate boys from girls. Because no public restroom was available, we used chamber pots (马桶 ), one for boys and one for girls. We took turns to clean them every morning. To minimize noise caused by using a chamber, we had to sing a song each time someone using it.

One classmate was responsible for cooking, and the rest of us worked on the field during day. We did all kinds of work, such as planting and harvesting vegetables, making them ready to be shipped to cities, transferring sewage from latrines located far away to the production brigade's manure pits, etc. We competed with each other in order to show how hard we could work and to test our ability to overcome hardship. In the evening we had class and worked on our own learning materials. As in the factory, we also visited peasants and listened to more sets of stories about their sufferings in the old society and happiness in the new. By the time of departure, local peasants and we had built good feelings toward each other.  We left so good impression on them that they said, "you are truly our students!"

学军/學軍 (learning from soldiers)

Our class's session of "learning from soldiers" took place during my junior year. I had had some military training in Northeast China, but this was completely different--training in an artillery company (composed of several platoons). To show our determination to learn from soldiers, we marched for about 6 hours to the military camp located in the outskirt of Shanghai.

I was the no. 3 gunner in the squad to which I was assigned. That is, whenever I received a command, I would turn a wheel as quickly as possible to move the bore of the artillery piece towards the target. It took me a long time to practice, but I passed the test by the end of our "learning from soldiers" session. In addition, we also received training to shoot guns. Endless hours were spent holding a gun and focusing on a target.

The training was extremely hard; however, there were some unforgettable happenings. One morning, there was one article entitled "Learning from the student" on the company's blackboard newspaper that attracted everyone. It was about me not wasting food.  Here is what had happened.

Our class ate in one room. We each had two big metal bowls, one for a staple and the other for a dish. Every meal time, there were two barrels on the floor, one containing a staple and the other a dish. At one supper time, I saw half a handful of rice drop onto the floor when one classmate tried to put rice into his bowl. It stood there for a while. Having worked on the field in Northeast China and suffered from meagerness of food, I deeply sensed the meaning of the lines of the Tang poem "The Peasants' Lot" by Li Shen (772-846), "Who knows that on the dining plate every single grain means hardship." I simply didn't have the heart to let the white rice go to waste. I secretly picked it up, put it into my mouth, and swallowed it without knowing that a soldier saw the scene. He wrote the article that night which was published immediately. I became famous in the artillery company overnight although I didn't know who the soldier was. Later, when they learned that I had come from the nationally-known hero brigade, I was invited to give a talk about my brigade, my former comrades and me.

In addition to training, we were learning from the national role model soldier, Lei Feng , and looking for any opportunity to do people good turns. For example, we girls helped clean the artillery company's pigsties every morning.  Some helped other classmates wash laundry; I amended classmates' shoes, etc. To add variety to soldiers' entertainment, I did solo-dances to some songs, such as a traditional song "Song of four seasons", a revolutionary song "Singing a song to the party" whose text had been taken from Lei Feng's diary.

Facing those young but sincere-looking soldiers who usually came from rural area far away reminded me of my experience in Northeast China. Despite different time and space, our goals were the same --- to protect our fatherland. I was sure that they were prepared to give their life for our fatherland and at any time.

实习/實習 (practicum in Wuhan)

Practicum was the last requirement for completing my university study. My class' practicum was held in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province. As one of the national "key" projects, Wuhan Iron and Steel imported steel rolling machines from Germany, the so-called the 1.7 meters project. Interpreters and translators were in urgent need. My class took over the translation task. Under the guidance of a few senior translators, our class translated an enormous amount of technical materials from German into Chinese for three months. Meeting real-life needs enhanced our translation skills.


In Wuhan, we visited a number of significant places. This picture shows the place in which Mao lived during the first half of 1927 while undertaking revolutionary activities, including teaching at the Institution of Peasants' Movements. Here he completed his brilliant work "Investigative Reports on Peasants' Movements in Hunan". Some other revolutionaries and Mao's wife Yang Kaihui and his three sons lived here as well.



Here is the monument of the Great Strike of February 7, 1923 (二七大罢工), an anti-imperialist, anti-warlord strike of the Beijing-Hankou Railway workers led by the Chinese Communist Party. During this strike, in Hubei many party leaders and 52 workers were killed, and more than 300 people were wounded.

The two elder men were among a few who survived  the strike.

  The Jiu nu dun (九女敦) Monument is to remember nine patriotic female soldiers who sacrificed themselves for the Taiping Rebellion (太平天国 1851-1864)

The First Chang Jiang Bridge at Wuhan was built over the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) in 1957. Including its approaches, it is 5,511 feet (1680 m) long, and it accommodates both a double-track railway on a lower deck and a four lane roadway above. It was built with the assistance of advisers from the former Soviet Union.


Other research on open-door schooling: