Peasant Autonomy
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Story 96

A village south of Nanjing, China – 1938

Underground resistance

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Charles Wiriawan)

Near Nanjing, China.

Lao Er is delighted. How awesome is that secret room underground which his elderly father and mother had dug! The entrance is behind the cooking place in the dark kitchen of the small farm, hidden under a big board with clay and straw on it.

Last year, war reached their district. Firstly, the Japanese soldiers raged in a beastly manner against the city dwellers. Then, they came down through the countryside, looting, raising fire, murdering, and raping. Lao Er succeeded in hiding in the reeds with his wife Jade. Shortly thereafter, they went to the free Chinese hinterland, 2000 miles to the west. Jade was pregnant and wanted to give birth in a safe place.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Raymondtan85)

Near Nanjing, China.

Months later, Lao Er received a letter from Ling Tan and Ling Sao, his father and mother. They urgently ask him to return. They were all alone now on the farm. His two brothers who helped on the farm had gone to the mountains to join the guerrillas. The parents were resolute in their decision to stay on the farm. They are attached to the earth. They feel obliged to take care of the land even in these difficult times. This earth has fed their family already for so many generations, through good times and bad times …

Jade did not want to go back to the area where the enemy was ruling. “Here we are helping to build up a huge army to defeat the enemy later on. What can we do there, before the eyes of those devils?” she screamed. Afterwards, she understood that Lao Er can not ignore the call of his parents. Together with their baby they returned.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Chi King)

Near Nanjing, China.

The last part of their journey home was the most dangerous. They were no longer in the hills any areas where the Japanese wouldn't dare to go. Jade cut her hair short and made her face dark with mud. In her dirty blue cotton jacket and trousers, along with her feet in big sandals of plaited rice straw, she looked just like a man, a peasant. She carried a basket on her back and under it, her child. And thus, they walked to the farm in the night.

How happy Jade was afterwards that they had gone together. Her parents-in-law had dug a small secret room, where she and Lao Er could hide with their baby. They will deepen the underground room. They will make it a sleeping place for guerrillas from the hills and a storing place for weapons and food they want to hide for the enemies - to hand over as little as possible to them. Together with a few other villagers they will perform small attacks in the countryside and perhaps even in the big city … There is so much to do.


In Dragon Seed – the story of China at war (1941) - the American author Pearl Buck describes the life of Chinese peasants at the time of the Japanese occupation: the terror, the harsh laws, the anger, the solidarity, the resistance, and the collaboration. Meanwhile the farm work goes on because the land keeps drawing their attention.

Go to:
= the next page: The Indian peasant leader - a hacienda in Peru – 1938, story 97.
= the Table of contents, story 96.