Return to China
The end of the Burma Road
Some people were able to return to Manchuria after the war, but only for a short time, then to see the Communist take-over. Japan was vanquished, the Russians fighting Japan did not return to Russia, but stayed and so acquired all the arms and ammunition which Japan had left behind. They had already prepared their Chinese Communist Army, and one supposes that after having had experience of Japan for fifteen years, people thought Communism could be no worse. Especially as at the beginning (it is a Communist technique always), the behaviour of soldiers and officials was exemplary. Then came the sudden change. Gradually, missionaries had to leave again, their presence a hindrance rather than a help to the Church.
I had been helping out a little in India, but now with another missionary, Miss Dorothy Crawford, set off for Hong Kong, like Abraham, `not knowing whither we went!' It was to `Free China', and at least Miss Crawford knew she was being lent to the English Presbyterian Mission in South China. I was being lent to the Church of Christ in China (to which most Missions were affiliated), which had its headquarters in Shanghai. From there, in Hong Kong I received the request to go to
K'unming, in the province of Yünnan, to help conserve and expand the work already begun there by the Chinese themselves. K'unming, `beautiful brightness' city, capital of
Yünnan, `south of the clouds', was a very ancient walled city. To it and through it led the elephant track of Marco Polo, along which road came the tribute of silk for presentation to the Emperor, so long ago. The people in high positions in
Künming were often descendants of those exiled from Imperial favour in days gone by. Some of them had precious little love of country, and thought that money could buy everything. There were the tribes-people also, displaced by the Chinese, who now kept to the hills or lived in their boats on the canals, and spoke their own dialects-a sturdy, independent folk. There were, of course, Missions working in the district, the China Inland and the Church Missionary Society and a Methodist Mission, and others, but the area was so large and the work so varied, there could be little overlapping. A big difference was in language, real Chinese and Peking accent versus local dialects. As Chiang K'ai
Shek and the Chinese armies retreated before the Red Army into Free China, making their capital at Nanking and coming further south, so many had come to work in K'unming, for the Services and Government, and many of them were Christian. During the war, the Burma Road had great significance as a supply route of arms to China; there was also an airfield, and there had been both American and Australian troops stationed there. Presumably it was the latter had made a ring road encircling the city, with beautiful eucalyptus trees planted on either side. What had been an ancient and almost forgotten city became, because of the war, a `boom' town.
The Christian Chinese who spoke Chinese in its purer form, wanted a church in which to worship, so they built one, very small, but very beautiful, on a piece of land outside the city wall, and `called' a minister. There was a thriving congregation, even a `robed choir!' Next, they built a school, primary and kindergarten, so that their children would be taught and speak in `proper Chinese'. Eventually Chiang K'ai Shek and the Government moved on to T'aiwan, leaving only a few of the original Government Service people behind, notably one Mr. Lin, who was a railway engineer, and his wife, a
Western trained doctor, who spoke English and some others of the intellectual and educated class, and some English-speaking. What was to become of the little church and people at the end of the Burma Road now? Church of Christ in China headquarters decided to make it a starting point for local evangelistic and social work, and amongst the tribes-people of the canals. K'unming was a network of canals, taking most of the freight traffic. These canals led to a large and beautiful lake. Headquarters already had four Chinese missionaries to employ here, all were ministers who had escaped from Communism in the north. There were also a Canadian family, and an Australian doctor and nurse (from Korea). They wanted other women workers for the educational and semi-medical social work. It sounded all right, to accept, and go there. There would be an American refugee family there also who would show us the ropes, they said.
`Headquarters' was a long, long way from K'unming and surely did not know what they were letting their missionaries, Chinese or foreign, in for. The doctor and nurse had been `placed' down by Indo-China, where they improvised a hospital of sorts in a rented temple. Of the Chinese in various places was one from Manchuria, who had suffered both under the Japanese and the Communists. From a great church and honourable position in it in Manchuria he was now the poorest of the poor of pioneer evangelists. He had known the depths of suffering, terror and fear, but now come through them, to fear nothing at all.
My Australian colleague and I surveyed the `missionary quarters' alloted to us with some dismay, and she summed up our situation very aptly with: `I think we are the victims of remote control!'
The piece of ground on which was built the church and our little house, was really swamp, for it was below canal level, so the buildings were on little islands, between which were trenches to hold the overflowing water. We grew vegetables on these raised beds. One gardened in wellingtons! By the side of the church was a great bank of arum lilies, which grew wild in
Y�nnan. K'unming was-over 7,000 feet above sea level, and the altitude affected us a
little. To hurry meant shortness of breath. Water boiled at a lower temperature, so cooking took more time. Summer was tropical, winter chilly and misty, but summer or winter, day or night, we had mosquitoes, and the risk of malaria, so we used nets and took quinine tablets. The little house was like a capital `H' in shape. The bar across the middle was one room, the two uprights, two rooms opening off the horizontal one. There was a lean-to kitchen of sorts opening towards the back, with a charcoal brazier-type stove, large earthenware water-butt and a few shelves and a table. The two rooms were our bed-sitters, with incredible broken-down single iron bedsteads with wooden boards to support a mattress, a wardrobe and a table-desk. Beyond the bedroom was a closet opening to a nearby water trench, and here was a wooden round bath tub. The water had to be kept in it to prevent wood shrinkage-as I found out after having it fall to pieces round me one day! You only poured water out when ready to pour clean water in; you simply opened the door and poured water out into the trench.
The sitting room had an ancient couch, with locally made wooden frame stuffed with straw. There was a table, corner cupboard, a few plates and two cups-and that was about all! What looked like the dust and dirt of ages was on everything. We didn't even have a kettle, but found on a piece of waste ground a tin (American Army discard) and in it boiled the water for that first day's tea until we could go shopping. There was a well in the compound, but sometimes we had to go to the canal for water, and the canal was a highway for the freight boats, and where women washed vegetables and scrubbed buffaloes and children played and splashed.
For a few days we suffered from a sort of spiritual jet-lag, but at last saw our way forward, cleaning the house, buying in necessities, finding our way around, arranging our day to day living. My Australian colleague, like all Australians, was very handy with any tools, and could also make yeast bread, the yeast made from potato and sugar in a jam-pot, and she was also a gardener, also could treat trachoma (a common eye disease), and vaccinate against smallpox. I made an oven out of two biscuit tins, one inside the other, the intervening space packed with clay. We could bake bread this way, with charcoal under the oven, like the Irish oven pot method. Meat supplies were limited. Later as times grew harder, we were glad to be able to buy a piece of' donkey. This Miss Cranstoun soaked in Chinese sauce and brown sugar before braising; and this treatment took away the grey colour.
For work, Miss Cranstoun helped our minister with secretarial work, visited the sick, and in the afternoons held clinics for simple ailments, vaccinations, etc. There was an elder of the Church who was also a Western-trained doctor, and he helped her, and she helped him. I of course was directed to the school to take charge of the kindergarten section and train teachers, and teach English and Scripture in the school, and start Sunday school work. My heart failed me
when I saw the kindergarten section-about a hundred and twenty or so small children sitting in rows, with two or three young girls as trainees to teach them. The sorting out of this had best be left to the imagination! When it came to Bible class or Sunday school, or Church prayer meeting, our little house sitting-room turned itself into a church hall.
To the east of us, over the compound wall, were fields and fields of vegetables, all fertilised each morning by the night soil from the city, brought in wooden buckets on carrying poles, dumped into prepared pits and stirred well. To the west, over the wall, outside Miss Cranstoun's window, was a tannery, actively smelling in the evening. So we closed our windows morning and evening accordingly. Miss Cranstoun expressed it in her usual laconic way: `Now we know why St. Peter, lodging at the house
of one Simon, a tanner, went up to the roof-top to pray!' So much for our first weeks, not knowing where to turn, but we got to know other missionaries in the district, especially the China Inland Mission. This Mission considered itself spartan in its life-style, but for us, a visit and tea at their Mission house was like the Ritz! I missed Manchuria and the northern Chinese. Here many Chinese spoke Chinese but were Cantonese, as different in temperament and character as, say, a Yorkshireman and Dubliner, or Ulster Scot and Italian. Soon I was able to sort out the regular differences in the local dialect and accents, and speak whichever tongue was required, not well, but enough to go on.
The Church in Free China
My overall memory of K'unming is of violent contrasts. `Roughing it' in the simple life-`Never was anything more difficult than the simple life' as my colleague said-yet were set amidst scenes of great beauty, the silver lake, the high mountains, the old walled city, the picturesque canals. The Chinese Church was here pioneering, but by the accident of well-to-do Chinese having passed this way, there was, not a make-shift room to be `the place of worship' as would have been in Manchuria, but a beautiful little building, the architects of which had probably been educated in England or America. The pulpit, at the side, had a raised panel on the front which carried a silver sword (the sword of the Spirit). The font had its water symbolism; the Communion table was fronted in dark wood, along the top of which were golden `flames', to signify the power of the fire of Pentecost. Above the table on the wall was a large, three-dimensional cross in old Chinese silver, with a raised pattern on it of the vine, except for a circle at the cross-section which enclosed a Chinese `cloud', to mean the presence of God. There were beautiful Chinese candlesticks, (to represent Old and New Testaments) on the table, lit at Communion service. Behind the church was choir-room and vestry, at the other end, the entrance hall, with small rooms off for stores, like large cupboards, so there was never
any clutter. There was also a small organ, harmonium type, not always an asset, I'm afraid. All this was such a contrast to anything I had known, not only in Manchuria but in Belfast! No one could have accused the people here, as Haggai did his hearers, of thinking of our own comforts first and not building the House of God.
The third contrast was in the people around, beggars and down-and-outs who haunted the city by day begging alms, but at night lived in makeshift huts outside the city wall, from which they issued to rob and steal wherever they could-and then spend it on opium: nothing mattered but opium. The most wealthy Chinese of
Y�nnan got their wealth from growing opium. This class did not like missionaries! `Begin where they are' had been a good way to work in the past, so we tried it again here. I set up an afternoon `free school' for these beggars' children in a room in the compound. Whitewashed and furnished with some old desks from the school, and a blackboard and a Bible, and a beautiful picture of Jesus with the children of the world, we had the essentials. Any children who came would bring a very small `fee' returnable after a week's attendance. A Chinese Christian girl, one of my trainees in the kindergarten section of our local school, was eager to help in the project too, as she was free from other classes in the afternoons. Of how the `school' worked, the story of Kwoom which follows is a fair indication.
Among the children who came to the afternoon free school were those who were not pure Chinese but belonging to a tribe. There were various tribes around K'unming, Lolos, and Miow, Large Miow and Small Miow. In a mud but on the bank of a canal lived a Lolo boy called Cheng K'un, with his little sister, father, mother and grandmother. The father had a boat, went fishing on the lake or carried passengers. The mother grew cabbage and other vegetables in a patch of ground. One day the father fell ill with pneumonia, and soon there were no earnings and the family nearly starving. Cheng K'un thought he would go to the Laughing Buddha Temple to pray, but it seemed to him when he went there, that the Buddha only laughed.
Someone said to him: `Ask the doctor at the Chinese Mission', so he came and found Miss Cranstoun, who was not a doctor, but she found help for them, and the sick man recovered. The next contact was when Cheng K'un, wandering around, saw a notice on the church compound gate, and a big red notice pinned to the trunk of a tree on the canal bank. He could not read it, but someone who saw him looking at it told him it was about the free school each afternoon. Cheng K'un joined, and with other children like himself learned to read, even to write a little, and count. He heard wonderful stories too about Jesus the Son of God and the wonderful things that could happen if people believed in Him, and the wonderful things
people could do if they had God to help them. There were games and fun, and handwork, to make things with paper and paste. If there was any paste left over, it was good to eat! It had been made with flour, hadn't it? and flour was good food. So Cheng K'un learned for three years, then left about the age of ten or eleven to work as a waterboy in a big Chinese house across the city. We saw him again before we left K'unming. He brought us for a `goodbye' present, the `words of God'. This was on paper he had picked up somewhere, with great difficulty and not good writing, he had written out a number of Bible texts which he had learned and remembered from his school days. The words were all about God guiding and protecting us through the dangers that were to come. It was most extraordinary that a small boy should have thought everything out like this: the `words of God', and surely too, the Word of God finding its place in a little boy's life.
Prayer meeting night
Usually the whole `Church' met at the home of one member. In a city with no transport but on one's feet, and the walking distances to church often several miles, it was a good idea to have `the Church in someone's house' on a rota system for the weekly prayer meeting. More often it was our turn to clear out the superfluous furniture and bring in chairs, to squeeze in quite a crowd. One of the elders used to amuse us by the way he began, jogging God's elbow: `Don't You remember how last week I asked You to help so-and-so? That help has come, and we thank You very much.' There was a woman whose husband was a bus driver on the Burma Road, who reported that the bus had run into a cliff, her husband had had both legs broken, but she wished to return thanks because he had not lost his luggage!
`The interruptions are the work!'
So we used to be told in Missionary Training College, to warn us against getting into a rut, or thinking of work too much in `sacred' and `secular' terms. We really had practice of this in K'unming; everything that happened each day could be an opportunity for contact. Perhaps it would be a tribeswoman and her baby arriving at night, too tired and afraid to continue her journey into the mountains. In this place of `The Way of Jesus' can we let her sleep anywhere? We can. A big, folded rug spread on the floor, and a coverlet, and she stays with us and has a meal before going off next morning.
Then there was one in the congregation called, by translation of his name, Mr. Lucky. Mr. Lucky was a bank clerk, not good looking, a rather foolish sort of person, which perhaps accounted for the fact that he was aged thirty and still without a wife. He wanted a raving beauty, and none of the kind he wanted
would have him, so he was very distressed. There was, however, a girl in the choir who `would do', and he thought that if I would teach him how to read staff notation, than he might join the choir and make her further acquaintance. He couldn't sing-but we struggled on with staff notation until the day came when he took his place in the choir. From my place at the organ I could hear him singing what he thought was tenor. His aim was eventually realised. The happy pair were united in matrimony. After that, he was transferred to a distant part of the province, among a backward people, and once there, the two of them realised that Christianity meant more to them than they had thought. Previously they had not `thought' much; now they confessed themselves proud to be Christians, and in that distant wild place were teaching the people around them of the way of life in Christ.
Christmas in Yunnan: (Christmas Eve)
The whole congregation and friends had Christmas dinner, on Christmas Eve together. Each had already paid something into the common fund, and an account of how it had been spent would be read later to the assembled guests. The `good managers' would then shine and win hearty congratulations. But before this, outside the church building on an open space, mud brick stoves had been built, and soon rice was boiling in cauldrons, pork sizzling in pans, soup being stirred and tasted; while another band of workers had placed tables and benches in a large circle, and set down bowls and chopsticks.
When all had arrived, passing through the lantern lit and decorated gate of the compound, the minister said Grace, and then followed `freedom from speech' (parodying the Atlantic Charter), for a good half hour. It is not considered good manners to talk much at a Chinese meal. `Show appreciation by eating' is the idea. After the meal ended, there was conversation while the dish-washing squad was busy; then people began drifting over to the church, which was now dimly lit by the candles shining on the Christmas tree, and the choir was in place singing `Holy Night'. People as they came in, knelt or stood to pray; then followed the service, much as it would be in Ireland. Next day, Christmas Day, came the carol singers, often one of them keeping time with a drum. Later will gather a large congregation, for there will be baptism of new members into `the Church family'. I was to see this happening while planes zoomed overhead and a bomb fell near, shaking the whole building, yet there was no pause in the ceremony.
On `being ready'
There is a Collect in the Book of Common Prayer which prays `Keep us from all hurtful things, that we may be ready, both in body and soul, cheerfully to
accomplish that which Thou wouldst have done.' Yünnan means `south of the clouds', but now the clouds of Communism were much nearer, and Free China was being promised `liberation!' So we were to be `ready', ready for anything.
The Red Army coming south, met with little or no opposition. Their coming was more infiltration than open advance. There was much early propaganda and Fifth Column work. In every kind of institution, even primary schools of small children, there was an agent among the teachers to indoctrinate pupils, and spread fear and dread. So there was a general exodus of the intellectual and educated class, of Government servants who had held high office, and of very wealthy people who could afford to get out. Others took a chance or were ready to accept the new ways. We expected there would be fewer people attracted to the Church, for we had heard of its suppression and difficulties in other places. The reverse was the case. More people applied for baptism, and one explained it thus: `In these days, it seems that right is wrong, and wrong right, or "evil" is explained away in evolutionary terms. This small community is in danger-I had rather be counted in with it and you than with the mob!'
The school at which I had worked lost most of its Board, and would surely be taken over for the new education. Already there were small children able to `hackle' me in a Scripture lesson! So I was thankful when my `service' there was no longer required. Instead, we had heard that buildings not in use each day could be taken over for Army use, or, be heavily taxed. So I set up my kind of kindergarten in the church building, charging a fee also. (In Communist thought, to do anything without charge was `bribery!') We had a thin rail across the church, dividing pulpit, etc. from congregation seating space, and on this rail hooked dyed sheets as curtains. The church seats could be put against the walls; we had some little tables and kindergarten chairs made, and painted them; made up boxes of home-made toys and teaching materials, and were able to take in about thirty children of the local rather well-to-do people. They benefited and so did we: saving the building from take-over or taxing, in the meantime anyhow. Actually the building was too small to be of much use to the Army. Two of our little kindergarten children were the sons of a Red Army Officer, a high-up one! I hoped father was sending them to a kindergarten in a Christian Church because he knew a good thing when he saw it (for it was a good kindergarten), but also more likely he had some sympathy for our condition and was secretly helping us. The fact of sending his small sons there was almost a guarantee of non-interference, at least for a while.
Some of the Army had already taken over that part of the compound where we held dispensary and the Poor School, so these activities had to close down. It was one of the Communist arguments against the Church, that `it did nothing to help the people', was `the opiate of the people'. First they made any social work for the people impossible, then followed the accusation. Far from being an opiate, Christianity is dynamite.
Resistance on the part of the Government of Chiang K'ai Shek, had been nominal in these remote regions. A token resistance later took the form of air raids, the planes coming from a great distance, arriving at the same time each day, dropping a few bombs on what could be called `military targets', then going away again. There was little damage and few casualties, for the whole city evacuated to safety every day. People streamed off to the rice fields for cover. Our compound was quite near the city, but daily we had the elderly and women and children who could not walk far. As well, one day we saw, escaping from the wrath to come, not only people but a little white mouse!
The `Homes of Jesus'
During the Japanese war in China, when Christians were scattered abroad, there grew up a movement called `The Homes of Jesus'. They were little groups of Christians with no church building left, and no ministry, who started living together and having all in common, like the Church in the first century. When the Reds in their village propaganda work, came to a certain village and summoned all to a public meeting, Communism was then explained in glowing terms to the people. `Each for all, and all for each.' Then the people were asked to give an opinion on what they had just heard. A leader in the local `Home of Jesus' answered in all innocence that he thought `Communism does not go far enough!' and invited the speaker to come and see how `they' did it! That was not the kind of criticism the speaker had expected.
Brush up your English
One day a girl came to see me. She spoke English well, and was being used as a teacher of English in an important Government Department (Communist). She had asked for and obtained permission to come to me to `brush up' on English grammar. When she asked if I could take her for lessons some evenings, I was really reluctant to agree, for I had very little free time. But our motto-the `Being Ready' thought-was to `Refuse Nothing' that was asked of us. So she came. After a short time of lessons, she said: `What I really want in this hour is to learn about Jesus Christ. Will you teach me
'The pressures and the turning of the screw
The coming of Communism was a different thing from a change of government. We were used to changing flags and national anthems, and took such changes in our stride, but now many of us had had experience of life under
Communist regulations, knew the propaganda and the arguments. Some of the most evil things in the world are things which are perversions
of what could be good. Parts of Communist doctrine sound quite good, and attract idealism, seem even to resemble Christianity, but there is a twist which makes it a perversion. Is not Satan supposed to be a fallen angel, Lucifer, who `fell from Heaven'? One saw how the techniques, like brain-washing and mental tortures, can kill the soul. `If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.'
The Church was being pulled in all directions. It must be absolutely self-supporting: help from foreign countries was treason, missionaries most likely were spies; if you didn't go along with all the Government commanded you did not love your country, were unpatriotic. There was supposed to be `freedom of religion', but this meant freedom to attack religion, and many ways were thought up to circumvent the practice of religion or religious observance of any kind, not only Christianity. Our pastor at prayer meeting read through as a prayer, the verses of `Peace, perfect peace'. . . `Our future all unknown'. . . `Death threatening us and ours', and we made that hymn an act of Faith.
Notice would come to the minister that he must repeat the latest slogan, anti-foreign, as part of the service; not to do so could mean the dispersal of the congregation. Our people of course knew that he had received his orders; the only foreigners were my colleague and I, but the pastor gave us warning of what was to come by the singing of a hymn: `Blest be the tie that binds, Our hearts in Jesus' love.' If the slogan were particularly offensive, he added another hymn to erase the impression: `In Christ there is no East or West!'
Like a patchwork quilt
Going back in memory to those times in K'unming, the ups and downs of the work, the contrasts, the gradual take-over of Communism, of not being able to plan anything in advance, the sequence of times and places and people is still confused in my mind. It was like a patchwork quilt: large bits and small ones, colours which blended, and squares whose colour didn't match, or didn't fit with different shapes. One dark patch was inflation. With the fall of Chiang K'ai Shek's Government, money had less than the value of the paper it was printed on. So if we cashed a cheque at the Bank
of China, we did not walk, we ran to the market to buy what would be beyond our price in half an hour. We
got some left-over American Army stores: a large tin of cheese (liquefied, as we found out), some cocoa or dried milk.
Many missionaries were leaving, and could at that time go by air; later, by the Burma Road, a most hazardous route. Three of our company went this way: the doctor and nurse who had been in Indo-China, a Canadian missionary and his family, and a Methodist girl who was ill. The difference between their going and our not going was the arrangement between their Mission Boards and the Chinese Church headquarters. In their case, ultimately it was the Board which was responsible. If the Home Board told or advised them to leave, they could do so. The China Inland Mission had the reputation of never leaving, but this time they were told to pull out. One of our good friends in that Mission was shot by the Communists. Miss Cranstoun and I were under the Chinese Church direct, as `Chinese missionaries', and might not of ourselves decide to go or stay.
If we decided on our own, to go, suspicion would fall on the Chinese Church as employing people who did as they liked (i.e. were really Imperialist spies). Our only way
of going was to be dismissed, given `the sack!' Communications with Church headquarters in Shanghai were not easy, letters were censored, those to whom our presence was an embarrassment did not like to say so! and those who feared for our safety likewise could not say so publicly; there were also friends whose loyalty was bigger than politics or nationalism and would still wish us to remain in any case. So, while others were going, we stayed.
A wee `patch' about pictures
I had two pictures I loved: a Fra Angelico `Annunciation' (Italian Primitive) and a Corot print which reminded me of Assembly's Buildings in Belfast. Now a Chinese artist friend gave me a flower study which he had done as a student. `I shall in future not be allowed to paint anything but Mao Tzu Tung' he said ruefully, `so I am giving what I have away.' I thought I could post my pictures by a last chance air mail to Hong Kong, `to await arrival' some day. It was going to cost a great deal, at inflated prices. The girl in the Post Office said: `Not at all. Why should you pay all that to `these ones'(!) I'll send them printed matter.' And she did! What is more, a year later I recovered them in Hong Kong. Even as I was talking to the girl, outside was the hubbub of bugles and drums, shouts and cries, and-we went to the door of the shop to see the reason. Down the street came a straggling procession of men, all roped and with boards behind their heads proclaiming that they were `enemies of the People', being taken to execution. Leading the procession in jubilation, beating drums, was another procession, this time of small boys collected from the schools, about nine or ten years old. They would witness the last acts, the kneeling down, the shooting in the back of the neck. It was horrifying.
The search for butter
We heard that on the other side of the city was `someone' who had a big tin of New Zealand butter for sale, so I searched them out and bought it. Coming back through the city as dusk was falling, I wondered whether there were a `short cut' over the city wall instead of a long walk through the gates. I was sure the city wall had some places needing repairs; it wouldn't be China if it had not. Asking a man, he assured me there was a way through, and he conducted me down alleys, through shops-in the front door, out the back-up steps, down steps, and then sure enough, a way out, and so home. I was not long in until another missionary, a German, sent to ask if I could come to help in some small matter connected with their people, and I walked along the canal bank and came to their place. When I was leaving again, he insisted on sending two servants with lanterns to escort me back: `It would be most dangerous for a woman to walk alone!' Miss Cranstoun and I had a good laugh, as I remembered the hour before and where I had been, all without the least feeling of not being `safe'. It must have been the inbred generations of freedom which being `British' means.
`Choose your own spy'
A sixth sense was telling me that soon foreigners would not be allowed to exist without supervision and surveillance, to have someone report on all their comings and goings. We had not used a servant, but now thought we would find one and forestall the attempt to plant one on us. We got a decent, half-witted middle-aged woman whom we addressed as `Elder Sister-in-Law'. (In China, courtesy titles run to aunts and uncles and in-laws.) Sure enough, she soon had her instructions to report on us once a week. As often as not, we told her what to say.
She made bread once, but as she could not find the `so-da' (baking soda) used washing soda instead.
Some of our congregation were now prisoners, their crime being that they had been employed by the last Government. Slowly, the Church was leaving the mustard seed life of growth and expansion, to become the leaven, which is hidden. There was a special hymn by which one Christian could make himself known to another:
Jesus, most pure and brave, Jesus, whose heart is wide,
Ransoms me from death, travels at my side.
Jesus, all Truth and Grace, lets me no longer roam,
Leads me in new life to His Father's home.'
The last time I heard it was from some amongst those going to execution.
Getting my own back
Now everyone had to work in field or factory, even mothers with young children. Little children were to be put in nursery schools, for eight hours a day. The `schools' were sometimes empty rooms or sheds attached to a factory or shop, with nothing in them at all! A few `child minders' were set to look after them, probably very old women. It caused an outcry even amongst the most obedient citizens. So I got a new job! Government officials came to the house to ask, would I see these places and help, and train some younger girls to take charge? I would be given a remuneration, be given a Communist pass or visa to go around. Perhaps they thought I might refuse, I am not sure. Some missionaries would have refused. Some criticised me for `working for the Reds'. But I accepted on certain terms: that I did not receive remuneration, but that through the girls who would come for tuition, there should be a contribution from the Government to help the expense of running the kindergarten in the church; also that the girls for training should come to me rather than I go to some hall, because I had the church kindergarten material at hand for illustration. These terms were accepted, and I inwardly delighted that they were paying for us, instead of the other way round.
So I had busy mornings, trying to make life easier for a lot of babies and small children, and in the evenings, my colleague greatly assisting, the teachers crammed into our room for basic training, and for making toys and so on. One of the pupils herself put me wise as to which of the group had been appointed to `take notes' of all I said or did. Of the group, over twenty in number, six or seven began coming to Church on Sundays. When we finally left, the group gave us a farewell letter, and me a hand-woven silk picture. The letter was like a testimonial and helped us on our way. My picture was of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. (Being borne up to heaven!)
Going to the pictures
There was a picture house in K'unming, run by a woman. Now and again when she was showing a foreign film, Miss Cranstoun and I would go. Then she had orders to show only Russian propaganda ones, and box office receipts fell. One day, Miss Cranstoun came in to say that at the cinema was `The Marx Brothers'! Of course we went, and laughed at the famous comics, but laughed even more at the puzzled reaction of the audience, almost entirely Red Army, who had thought they were going to see the family life of Karl Marx. The film was taken off, of course, and the proprietress reprimanded, but with tongue in cheek she stuck to her story of thinking it was about Karl Marx.
The workers go to the pictures
Every street and district had its appointed `watchers' reporting on all the rest; so when the question of relaxation and culture for the masses was brought up, it was decided that people
must go to the pictures. There was marked reluctance so to do, but a representative lot of people would be assembled, and
escorted by police, led to the cinema. (They had to pay, too.) After the propaganda film, the viewers would be marched off to a nearby hall, and questioned about what they had seen and the moral thereof. If they did not satisty the examiners, so to speak, they were taken to see the picture all over again. Some of the proletariat thought that amusement for the workers had been overdone!
One of the pictures: `The origins of the Internationale'
We saw a little steamer on a presumably Russian river, chugging up and down along the same stretch of water, in charge of a girl captain. This was a real Slav beauty, hefty, with blond hair blowing in the wind. She has her inspiration about the tune for the Internationale, dashes to the saloon, where she is joined by the entire staff of officers and crew, and as she sings her song, they take down the orchestral parts on small scraps of paper. The captain, clutching these in her hand, goes on deck again, but a sudden storm blows the papers out of her hands and everywhere around. However, all is not lost. The local peasantry retrieve the bits of paper from thorn hedges, or impaled on the horns of cows, or whatever, and immediately realising that these are parts of a great whole and work of genius, deliver them up to their district Commissar. He, musical also, assembles everything, so when the whole orchestra is ready to begin, so are we, the cinema audience, to rise and make the welkin ring with the Red Flag.
Part of the Army specialised in propaganda open air theatre, a kind of morality play. Attendance was compulsory and the entertainment lasted four or five hours. We had to go to one such, and brought our two guests with us. The two were Phillipino air pilots who had brought V.I. P.'s to the city, and then were put in our charge until they should make the return flight. The play theme was: poor peasant, beautiful daughter, owes rent to landlord. Gives daughter to landlord in lieu of rent. Daughter is seduced by son of the house, escapes and gives birth to a child in a cave. Her trials have now made her hair turn white, hence the name of the play: `The White-headed Woman'. In the cave she hears far off martial music; it is the Red Army advancing, so all will soon be well, and
she will be `liberated'. The landlord and son are soon executed, the girl's father has taken poison so he is dead too. The father took a long time over the poison so one of the Philippinos whispered, in strong Yankee accent, `If we don't go now, we'll die before the old man does!' (And I dare not be seen laughing.)
The task one of our friends was set
She was Sister-Tutor in the Church Missionary Hospital, now taken over. She had meant to stay and work with the new regime; but she was locked up in the dispensary for two days and told to count the aspirin tablets, to see whether there really were two million! (That was the estimate of all the bottles in the store.) Then she was accused of having stolen hospital pillow cases, because hers were the same as in the hospital. It was finally established that she had herself supplied the hospital with pillow-cases, not the other way round. So she got out while the going was good.
One could no longer get up and go. One had to apply for permission to leave the country. There must appear for so many consecutive days, a notice in the Press about one's contemplated departure, therefore if there were any debts owing, claimants should collect. This was an open invitation to blackmail from disaffected servants or the like. Yet I did not hear of one single case where. anyone accused a missionary of owing him anything.
Thoughts about `waiting on the Lord'
In the early days, it could mean `to mount up with wings as eagles'. In later years, and with a heavier task, it was `to run and not be weary'; in the last years, the hardest of all, it was `to walk and not faint'. Finally, `having done all, to
My memories of K'unming and Y�nnan are kaleidoscopic, patch-work, jumbled, and of the sheer confusion of life under Communism. We already had had a year of it, and were feeling more and more like the `mouse' in the cat and mouse game. Now we were almost the last of the white people left in K'unming, dependent on the Chinese Church decision whether to go or to stay, and now also on Government decision whether we would be allowed to go. It was already too late. I was not the sort they easily allowed to leave the country: I was one of those who `knew too much'.
It took a long time to get the local Chinese Church Committee to settle at last on a form
of words which would `satisfy the authorities' about our eventual departure. My colleague was young, and was `due furlough', I was old and would soon retire: they recommended that we go. It was important to get it all in writing, to show that we were really and truly, employees and being dismissed, not `agents of Imperial Powers' acting as spies, using the Church as
`cover'. Meanwhile we saw how `recruits' were being obtained for the Korean war. By selection and force from the schools, lorry loads of teenage boys were collected and sent off to the front-many crying. We saw too the beginnings of the young Red Guards who would inaugurate later the `Cultural Revolution'.
Cultural Revolution beginnings
Ordinarily, Chinese homes were like clans, with a feudal pattern of life. Small children received a great deal of T.L.C.-tender, loving care. There were always family members or retainers available to keep an eye on little ones and watch over them. From their earliest years they would hear: `Be a good child. Mind your manners. Don't hit anyone. Don't say bad words. Do as you are told.' Now these family systems were being denounced everywhere: all over the country small boys, little more than babies, were taken, or given as hostages for safety, to the authorities, to become what was called `wolf children'. Wolf children were to be brought up in such a way that they would know no affection nor loyalty to any place or person. They were passed from foster home to institution to special school, not to know the meaning of love or home security or mercy or pity. Such little ones often made up the processions when prisoners were led to execution, and were accustomed to witness such scenes of death and cruelty: a deliberate hardening process. This was Mao Tzu Tung's bright idea, forming the nucleus of the Red Guards later to be exploited as a weapon in the struggle for power.
`Losing face', and self-criticism
At the beginning of the new ways, every group imaginable, schools, colleges, factories, farms, met at selected times, to criticise oneself and confess one's shortcomings. It seemed harmless enough and reminded one of the `Oxford Group' Movement with its insistence on `coming clean'. At first the mutual confessions were not too serious, like oversleeping or forgetting to clean one's teeth. Then the confessions took on a more sinister character, when they were a way of getting one's own back on someone else. In the guise of confession one could say: `I thought my work-mate was a lazy, idle rascal, and jealous of me, so I confess to angry emotions about him!' Soon, tit for tat, they were pulling each other to pieces, and a foundation was created of mutual distrust.
Chinese `face' had a very good side to it. It was like a social cement, concerned one's own dignity and other people's. To `lose face' was like `letting the side down'. Some was `old school tie and all that', but it was a civilised way of behaving. The new thought undermined this too, and gave free rein to bullies. I have seen more sensitive people, not so able to answer back, and
hotly accused by a shouting crowd, even reduced to tears (in itself a shameful loss of dignity and `face').
The next stage in the process was to introduce the thoughts of Chairman Mao, in his `Little Red Book'. In the `criticism' connection, he almost forgave sin! There were comic instances too, in the endeavour to drag in the Chairman all the time. A woman who drove a truck admitted to being nervous about driving along some rough road, but when she opened the book at random for `guidance', there it was: `Pursue your goal with determination' (or words to that effect). So she revved up and proceeded forward. In a few instances, in a tight corner, I invented some aphorisms of Chairman Mao for myself, and got away with it, as the hearer had not, I suspected, really studied the Chairman's wee book, so could not contradict me!
`Our future all unknown'
Three of our Chinese ministers were meeting together in our room. The subject of discussion among them was the likelihood of soon having no stipend, for Communism said that to take money from the congregation for nonproductive work was to be a `blood-sucker'. One of the three was a learned scholar. He proposed to sit outside Post Offices and such places and earn by reading and writing people's letters for them, a public scribe. Another said he had been brought up in the country, so would set up as a market gardener, his congregation `buying' the cabbages. The third proposed a donkey or a bicycle, going round the villages as a huckster, selling household things, and doing a bit of evangelism too. My heart swelled with pride as I overheard them, for not one had said: `I'll be resigning from the Ministry.' They were the fishermen of the Church, prepared to ride out the storm on the dark sea.
A wealthy man, and land-owner, had bribed some measure of safety for himself, so that he had not like others been accused of being a landlord. He went to Peking to be instructed and used, but it was rumoured he was planning to double cross, and `They' found out. While he was still in Peking, a contingent of the Army descended on his home in
Yünnan, and killed every single one of his family, even babies in arms, over a hundred people, then burned the place down.
`They know no better'
It was refreshing to learn sometimes that not all the village teaching achieved its purpose. Groups of students used to go round the villages, instructing the
people in what they thought was Darwin's Origin of Species, the evolution of man from the apes. (Darwin would have turned in his grave if he had heard them!) The lesson was: `You cannot do wrong. "Sin" is a bourgeois theory. You are in the process of evolution, and only doing what comes naturally.' An old Methodist missionary had a small house and garden at a lakeside village. He was now retired, and hoping to end his days in the country where he had lived and worked for many years. This group of students which had been in the village came to his house, wrecked his garden, pushed him around and were very rude. His Chinese housekeeper comforted him: she said: `It is only to be expected they would behave like this. They were telling us in the village this week that they were not even human beings! that their ancestors were monkeys! They were not even ashamed to say so! So they know no better than to behave like animals.'
`You have nothing to lose but your chains'
This saying began to look like the truth. The banks were gone; there was no contact with the outside world, no postal service in or out. If ever we were to go, we should need money for the fare, and in the meantime, to live. For a short time we did get some help, not from the black market but the grey one. While merchants could get to Hong Kong, they would take a cheque with them. But that soon stopped. Sixth sense once more told me that in the future it could become an offence to trade with a foreigner; so before that came to pass-as it did-we began quietly selling all we had of furniture, clothes, bedding, personal possessions, putting the proceeds away carefully for travel some day. Chinese friends just as quietly bought (or put their names on, to be collected later) what we had. Surveillance on us seemed to be stepped up for a while, and we had surprise visits from military and officials. It was extraordinary how often we were found doing just the right thing for the proletariat to do! Once they came when I was scrubbing the floor; at another time we were sitting down to a meal with our servant, and she was eating the much desired `white' rice, and we the `brown' (with husk on). Ours, the unpolished was more nutritious, but we did not explain, just took the credit! We used to seat our guests on what looked like the best seat, a straw-stuffed couch. It was full of fleas, for that was where the dogs slept.
`As having nothing'
Older people belonging to what were the upper classes, had a very hard time. Because of their background, they could not easily get a work permit, and without a work permit, neither could they get work. So standing by the roadside one saw them trying to sell personal possessions, bits of
jewellery, ornaments. We too were finding it hard to get food. There was a shortage of everything, and seldom meat of any kind. My colleague grew green vegetables, and we could buy a little rice, and also ate chaff (sometimes more bran than chaff). Salt was in short supply, and sugar, and there was no milk. We had our tin of liquefied cheese and tin of cocoa. Once I took a good china cup and saucer and a few desirable things like a fountain pen, and joined the roadside traders, coming back in triumph with something to eat, perhaps a piece of pork. There came to me, standing there, the strangest sensation of being free, of being independent of material things, lifted out of myself, and to understand `as having nothing, yet possessing all things'.
The story of the Red Army officer
Our minister and the local Church heard a strange tale of an officer in the Red Army who in the resistance coming south from Peking, had been wounded and left in a no-man's-land place of sand dunes. `Missing believed killed.' But this man had earlier a Christian friend, who had given him a small New Testament. He had not wanted the book, but put it in a back pocket and forgot all about it. In the course of conflict up north, there was a building in the line of fire which was a Bible college. Fortunately it had been vacated, but this officer in a sudden burst of anti-religious anger, gave the order that it should be destroyed. He had forgotten that too. Much later as he recovered consciousness after the battle that had passed him by, he heard a whispering sound in the silence. He thought it must be the wind in the reeds; but the sound was intermittent, not regular; then as consciousness returned more fully, he discovered that the little New Testament had been blown from his pocket and was lying on a rock. The whispering noise was when the wind turned the pages. Somehow the wounded man dragged himself to it, to look down and read `I am the Light of the World . . .' and there and then he surrendered in faith. This surely was his `miracle'. When eventually he was found, he was operated on (most likely at what had been a Mission hospital now taken over), his leg was amputated. He was no longer any use in the Army. He remembered about the Bible school and his conscience smote him for his part in its destruction. He traced it to its new address, admitted his fault and asked forgiveness. He received teaching there, then set out to be a freelance evangelist-a peg-leg evangelist-and was a very good one too.
We were being taken care of: God's pre-vision
Of this, that God had His hand over us, we began to be sure, when the street marches and demonstrations began. Smear campaigns and villification always took this form: public denunciation first, then accusation. We did not
escape them. School children and others, carrying banners, paraded and accused us of, in our evangelistic travels, putting poison in village wells. My particular `crime' was of `spiritual bribery', i.e. gaining the affection of children and so preparing the way for Christian influence. Strange as it may seem (but not so strange to one who knew China) these processions and denunciations happened when we were not there! We had gone somewhere else that day, or arrangements had been made a day late. Somebody was in the background to help, and behind them we firmly believed was the guiding hand of God.
There were countless regulations, forms to be filled in, passport photos taken, offices to be visited, and we knew that our reactions to frustrations and petty annoyances were all being carefully noted. Actually, it was easy to be patient, just because we were very tired. A last visit to Army headquarters for the last visa stamp. When I entered the office I found a young man, rank of captain possibly, and-such a rare thing-he was alone in the office. His back was turned, and I instinctively recognised in his appearance that he was not a local man, but from the north, perhaps Peking. Again, instinctively I addressed him in that beautiful pure Peking accent, forsaking the
Y�nnanese one for the moment. It all happened in a flash; and in a flash he responded, turning with quick joy at hearing his own `civilised' tongue (though astonished that a foreigner had so spoken it!). He just must have been homesick or lonely at that moment to appreciate it in this way. Of course in seconds he had put on again his Army face-to-foreigners again, but after having stamped our passports and handed them back, he called for them again and quickly wrote something in each. Number two official was entering the room at this moment, and it was so contrived that he saw him hand the passports to me, as if for the first time, and curtly dismissing me. But written in the passports under his official seal were the orders that on the journey Miss Cranstoun
was not to be parted from me, nor I from her. We did not know it at the
time, but learned later, how very much this intervention was to help us on
`Going, going, gone'
There were two false starts, `to try us!' Word would come to leave at 5 a.m. so there would be a last rush, then on to the road, and then were told: `Plane not for you today.' It was meant to annoy, but we did not show annoyance. On the contrary we often used rather pitying language, like `they have not had enough practice in running planes yet. Everyone has to learn. Whenever suits them will suit us; there is nothing to worry about. The morning walks to the airfield are delightful.' However, one day we really went. Leaving all the pots and pans to our `servant' Elder Sister-in-Law, who was overjoyed to receive such, making last minute farewells and dressed in all we possessed, layer upon layer,
we set off carrying a small hold-all and basket. At the airfield we had to strip to the skin while a woman searcher went through all our clothes. We were being taken a thousand miles out of our way, to Ch'ung King, and in the small plane fitted with bucket seats, mostly Army personnel were travelling. Their luggage was piled on the vacant seats and down the middle of the floor, so we had to stand, clinging precariously to each other and the luggage. Then we arrived outside Ch'ung King, from sub-tropical climate to bitter cold, and here again had a long wait. There was a restaurant in which the other passengers ate hearty meals; we were not allowed even a drink of water. By late evening on reaching Ch'ung King city we were directed to a Methodist Mission house, where with other refugees we were hospitably received by the missionary's wife. I think we stayed the night there, but I cannot remember!
It was next day when we went to register at the town hall, and were treated most rudely, ordered to board a tug that night, due to sail next morning. Here our hold-all and basket were sealed with sticky tape, and we were warned not to open them. As we sat most of the night in the drizzling rain the paper tape suffered somewhat, so in the morning the soldier was eager to accuse us of having broken the seals. At last gentle persuasion and reason prevailed, so we were actually allowed to occupy a `cabin' for a time-six wooden berths and no door-but here we rested thankfully and for a small sum were given a simple meal. Our journey down the Yang Tze had begun.
Coming to the next port, we were to change ship, transferring to an even smaller one crowded with people, deck passengers under a canvas awning. The only place for us was up forward at the capstan, where we stood in the teeth of a biting wind and even snow. We stood there the whole day until we reached another river port, where most of the passengers departed. We must stay, of course, but were now allowed to move to a more sheltered part and to sit down. One who was our guard allowed us to move because he was also glad of some shelter. A few more passengers came on board but gave us a wide berth. The rain, drizzling, had succeeded the snow of the morning. We sat on the iron deck, the ship's lanthorn shining across the dark water of coming night, when a Chinese woman came along by the ship's rail and said: `I am so sorry for you.' I made some reply, but then the guard hearing voices, came back. The woman turned from us, but she stretched out her hands over the water and prayed aloud for us, for God's help and protection, and added: `Don't leave them sitting in the rain: I ask You to stop the rain!' A feeling like fear came to us then, for the rain stopped. Surely it was to us a sign, and a preparation for what was next to come.
The next step: The darkness
I do not know which town it was, but we followed our guards up and up many flights of steps from the river's edge, up the steep streets of the town. Now we were on show, on public display. Soldiers with fixed bayonets in front and behind, and we two walking between, were exhibit A for the watching people. We caught some expressions of pity, and fear, as we passed. We came to a building which might originally have been an inn or hotel, for food was still being served on the ground floor; now it was a makeshift prison. W e were taken upstairs some three flights and given our room. It was in darkness as the door closed on us and was bolted outside. No wonder it was dark: there was no window, a very small slit near the roof let in a chink of sky. There were wooden boards to sleep on, and a wooden bucket to serve as latrine. The whole place would measure about six feet by nine. Here we remained for nine days, being brought rice and cabbage in a basin twice daily, which we knelt on the floor to eat. There were no means of keeping clean or tidy any more, as our hold-all and basket had been taken from us, and most of what we had as well. (But they gave us a receipt!)
The nights were darker than the days as we took it in turn to watch and keep the rats away. As soon as it was really dark, down came the rats from somewhere in the walls, and in spite of precautions bit through our clothes in many places. Also a few times, endeavours were made to frighten us, by guards bursting in when we were half-asleep, and holding torches over us would shout: `You are in Communist hands now!' And so we were, but for this situation, away down below consciousness was our Christian Faith. Fatigue and malnutrition had some part in the lethargy we felt, like suspended animation. But this negative state, and absence of emotion, began to change, becoming positive and vital. We both were conscious of it, recognising it in each other before we spoke of it. A strange joy had begun to fill our every moment, with an entire absence of fear, a deep awareness of security, a knowledge, positive, that we were `in the hands of God'. It was astonishing and humbling even to consider that we were being counted as `worthy' to suffer for Jesus' sake-for after all, that was why we were there. This mysterious joy made us not merely patient in contact with those around us, but to feel even a measure of affection and pity. Sometimes I think that the silent witness of those days may have been the best I ever bore, just because this presence of God so filled our hearts. It was not going to matter to us whether we lived or died. We did think that we were going to be put to death. However, in some fashion we could not guess at, we had been put through some sort of test, and had passed? We were one day allowed downstairs to have a proper meal. I begged to be allowed out to buy a needle and thread and small piece of cloth, to make a birthday present for my colleague. (It materialised later as a baby kangaroo
pin-cushion, Miss Cranstoun being Australian.) My request was granted, and I was taken to a shop not far away to buy what I wanted. Even for that short distance I could hardly walk without stumbling every few yards. Now we were allowed to go on to the next stage, and have company.
Company at close quarters
For the next lap in the journey we were joined with other missionaries who had been gathered up here and there; a Swede, a Norwegian, an English girl, a German, two Americans, and an Italian Roman Catholic priest. They all had had hard times, especially the young priest whose schoolboys had been organised and incited to `accuse' him publicly of cruel treatment. (He had made some of them wash their ears!) As usual we were deck passengers, but on this lap received much kindness from the engineer of the flat-bottomed tug. He indicated that at night we might climb down the iron ladder into amidships, where the engineer and his helper shovelled coal into the boiler. Off this engine room was a strip of room where the engineer and his helper usually slept. It had two long shelves, bunk fashion, with a right-angled turn at the end. Eight people could half-sit, half-lie on the two shelves, while another lay on the floor alongside. Whoever lay on the floor had to rise twice nightly, so that the floor board could be lifted and the piston greased. Our refuge was dark, which was just as well! but it was warm, a very welcome warmth.
By day we were crowded on deck again; becoming quite used to the `toilet' arrangements. These were a projecting board with a space cut in it, over the stern, with a rail to hold on to while one faced inwards. As usual, Miss Cranstoun had the right words for it: `Flush toilet in reverse!' Then there was the scenery, the Yangtze Gorges, one of the wonders of the world. Great cliffs towered on either side of us; the river poured narrow and deep between and over great ledges of rock, with their whirlpools. Our progress was like going downstairs in a boat. We came to the edge of a `step', surveyed as it were the waters below, then would suddenly plunge over the sink to the lower level. There were some days of this travel-but not nights-and so came to the next stop, quite a large town.
Life at a Labour Party Tribunal
As we could see, we had come to quite a large place, but here we were herded together and walked a long way to a kind of headquarters of the Labour Party Tribunal, as near as I could translate the notice board. It was in a slum district. The building had a central hall from which a staircase led to rooms above, which were built round a central landing. The rooms were half partitions of bamboo, the beds the usual planks, the wall `decor' squashed bugs. It
was a more frightening place than a real prison, for every day and night the Tribunal sat in the hall below, and we above could look over the bannisters and see the offenders brought in. The `wrong-doers' were people who had wanted to strike, or refused certain work, or had complained, or hadn't worked hard enough to `fulfil their norm' or work quota. Here they were shouted at, brow-beaten, slapped, kicked, or accused of political wrong-thinking. The last-mentioned were mostly sentenced to execution if not taken out to the back there and then and shot. My mind was so given over to pity and horror that I took refuge in looking from my window at the gambollings of a small black pig in the mud of the lane. Few people walked that lane: it was a road to Hell for ordinary folk. One almost choked over the quite good food we could have when we went downstairs in the evening to that awful room, and remembering all that had happened in it during the day.
The food was good, but also top price, and our money was not in inexhaustible supply. It was not a happy thought that we were providing funds towards the upkeep of the Tribunal! Unfortunately for me, I was the eldest of the party, and except for the priest, the most fluent Chinese speaker. A priest, being Roman Catholic and a man, was at a disadvantage from the start when there was anything to be done. Father S. was a very fine person, and we could consult and discuss, but towards the `powers that be' he must `keep a low profile'. So someone, and it had to be me, must take the strain of responsibility to speak for the group. Some of the others were far from well, and if they should speak, could so easily say the wrong thing. After some days with no more word of moving on, I began to ask innocently if they were prepared to feed us for nothing? and quoted the line from the Communist song which says: `Yours is mine, and mine is yours.' It worked! Again we were moved, to another steamer, but this time on the broad river. Conditions were not so bad, and the weather improved. All we suffered from was monotony, all of us showing signs of strain. Our guard disappeared. We signed once more, for about the fortieth time, a paper declaring that we were `leaving of our own accord'-which was certainly true by now. And so we come to Hankow.
The Hankow Hotel
It seemed strange to arrive at a place and not be in charge of a guard. Instead we had been instructed to put up at the Hankow Hotel. Dusk had fallen and rain begun again, but the thoughts of going to a real hotel gave us the energy to walk up the hill from the quay and find our destination. The Hankow Hotel was evidently not for us; it had been taken over to be Government offices. No doubt we could have found a Mission or church that would give us shelter, but we knew that might make difficulties for them. Also, we had been told where to go: it was a police order. If we now acted on our own initiative, as typical
bourgeois, they would fault us for sure. So while the others clustered round the Hankow Hotel-it was now past 10 p.m. I ferreted out the correct police office, and had great pleasure in rousing them from sleep to tell us where to go! Also to see that they recorded our arrival, and fulfilled the letter of the law. We were now directed to the market area, to look there for an inn. We found the market area, and like any market after a day's trading, there were plenty of decayed cabbage leaves and refuse around, but we found a humble place where we were received, even with kindness, by the host. Next day the usual nightmare of filling in forms and queuing at offices, until we got permission to board the train that night for Canton. We had tickets for nine, and four seats. We nearly missed the train because of `tormenting by delay' of soldiers on the platform beside the train, who stopped to search and annoy us. It was thanks to our market area inn-keeper that we boarded it after all. He ordered them away, saying: `I am in charge!' He may have been put in charge of us, or pretended he had. Our eighteen hour journey we made in silence, we had been `so near and yet so far'.
Hankow to Canton
For this, almost the last part of the journey, we were to be given a `good impression'. All was changed; we went to a hotel for the night, to have the first wash for a long time, and a quiet rest. Next morning we must have our passports stamped again, to allow us to reach the border. A Chinese formerly in the employ of Thos. Cook, was a tremendous help to us. Afterwards we secretly gave him all we had left of our cash, in gratitude.
The passport office had a wall almost all glass, looking out on a courtyard. We had just finished our business when suddenly closed vans began to arrive in the courtyard, soldiers with tommy-guns took up positions all round, and out of the vans tumbled prisoners-poor, wretched men for execution. One was so near me at the large glass window that I could see the pallor of death on his face, and the silent tears coursing down his cheeks. The young passport officials leapt on the counter with merry glee, to get a good view. My view was of their evil looks and cruel faces, all shouting and screaming. Our Cook's man hastily moved among us whispering: `Don't speak, oh, don't speak!' The prisoners were by now pushed into a kneeling line and shot in the back of the neck or by the soldiers with the guns. Sick and weak with the sight of such horror, we were taken straight away to the last train, this time one for Kowloon and Hong Kong.
The V.I.P. train
This was just the train to impress fact finding missions, and for V.I.P.'s
showing ready and willing to be led up the garden path. It was comfortable, it was spotless; cleaners kept on cleaning all the time; it had a loud-speaker and patriotic music, and `attendants' hovering over us. Two sat down opposite me, for more `questioning', which was indeed an ordeal for me now. I quoted slogans at them and `texts' from Chairman Mao's Little Red Book, and at last we reached the border. Now for a walk through a long, open-air corridor with walls of barbed wire each side, and more Army checkpoints to inspect what luggage was left amongst us. A young fellow kneeling to undo someone's bedding roll said, without looking up: `My mother is a Christian.' Then we `crossed the bridge', and found someone to meet us. The bush telegraph must have been in action. Now still another train, and coffee with milk in it, and an apple. And the Union Jack flying.
There followed an American missionary home with hot baths and V-spring mattresses, and being vetted and weighed. My colleague was chalk-white; I was yellow and wrinkled and weighed 87 lbs. But in spite of river water tea, and all kinds of germs, and tropics and snow, we didn't even have a cold. For the first night neither could we sleep on the Beauty-Rest mattress, but had to lie on the floor! But as my colleague said: `In the matter of mattresses, we must persevere!' The salaries we had not been able to receive were in the bank waiting for us, so we could shop and repair the ravages, and pick up things we had sent to Hong Kong a year before `to await arrival'. And so on, and so on, until at last we were home.
At home, one day I was talking to one of the ladies of the Women's Missionary Association Executive Committee, and saying how different the end had been from the beginning. Instead of sowing and reaping, and casting a net and fishing, we were quite powerless to do anything. Her answer was a great comfort: `When people are helpless,' she said, `persecuted and cast down, yet obviously sustained by God alone, and not forsaken, somebody notices!' This too is witness.
At home another day I met a learned gentleman, who said: `How fortunate you were to have seen the Yang Tze Gorges!' It is all in the point of view!