Re-enacting Bandit Revolution in Hakka-land (Jinggangshan)

If “bandit” or “greenwoods hero/chief” apply, they begin to sound iike a caste term for one particular category of wildcountry lumpenintelligentsia: primary-school-educated hakkas limited by (proudly contended) ethnicity and poverty to a sub-Middle School education, deriving their imagined future selves from “martial” romances and perhaps opera, which however they learned to read and interpret despite the abbreviation of their schooling. And which evolved into an identity as protectors (sort of) of the victimized and poor when this could be done vicariously by terrorizing the well-to-do or (if harder) their private body-guards and armed retainers.

Whatever else and however else they performed through their heroics, the one thing that as a class or type they averse to was teaching, enlightening by doctrine and abstract persuasion. That o course was part of the bundle that Red took into the hills, but there was an ordering distinctly “outdoors” in touch. The “banditized” hakka instigator at one point or another would of course be enmeshed in the complexities of land reallocation and class sifting, but the rule seems to have always been: strike first, explain second, then back for another strike, third”. My own guess is that the sermonizing was a specialty of (true) outsiders; and that the school-room forum was replaced by politically-veneered entertainment (singing mainly, backcountry opera when resources made it possible). Examplified toughness and hero-imitation (mask-wearing), dramatically displayed largesse too, were how the bandit (that is, the non “civilized” modernist) promulgated his creed, won a following. (Of course ritual and magic were there also, but never in the Red-sympathetic narratives).

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A series of Yuan Wencai sub-cameos comes close to delineating the standard modality of this stratum’s world view and lifeplanning (for males, that is):

“His face was round and full and he was of medium stature; his skin was white and clean – one look and you would place him as a “scholar” (bookworm..). He was laconic and softspoken, always; and (took care to be seen as) morally upright, uncompromised. …
(which led eventually to a schoolroom friendship with He Zhizhen’s (Mao’s Wife 3) elder brother and participation in the student movement (May 4th).”

In those days, frictions ran deep between the “old settlers” and the immigrants (wailaihu di keji ren), with the former oppressing the latter grievously; Yuan was of Hakka blood so even though his family had inhabited his village for many generations he was still scorned and sneered at by the “Old” family kids, adding another layer to oppression by Warlords and powerful local bosses. This (prejudice/ostracizing) is probably what impelled him to join the “Horse Sword Fraternity”, then later the Revolution.

When he was still (too) young for activism, he was an avid reader, especially of wuxia knight-errant (hero) stories. He was a believer in (reckless) righteousness, and would never dodge a fight on behalf of a friend. You might say that he joined the Horse Swords brotherhood in the same way as the (heroes of old) Outlaws of the Marshes joined their’s- forced into it by oppression, his “cause” to pillage the rich to succor the poor. Many times he led his followers to rob the grandees of the vicinage, but even though much wealth flowed through his hands (that way) he lived sparsely and never indulged a foolish expenditure. (Later), though he spent so many years in the Jinggang mountains, he never once contemplated building even the smallest house for himself, but instead lived with peasant families.

(Let me add that) at the time (late 1920s), boy-girl relations were rather easygoing/casual. When a pair took a fancy to the way it went when they sang “banter-songs”, and were pleased with each other, that was enough for them to become man and wife, and start living together.

But Yuan Wencai (“the scholar”) was not of that ilk: he was puritanical and stayed clear of girls….”…
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