Loving Memories of Mother
I was deeply grieved to learn of mother’s death. I love my mother. Of her hardworking life, in particular, a great many things will forever be cherished in my memory.
我家是佃农，祖籍广东韶关客籍人，在“湖广填四川” 〔1〕 时迁移四川仪陇县马鞍场。世代为地主耕种，家境是贫苦的 〔2〕 ，和我们来往的朋友也都是老老实实的贫苦农民。
I come from a tenant farmer’s family. My original family home was Shao Guan, Guangdong Province, into which my ancestors had moved from another province as settlers. During the mass migration of peasants from Huguang to Sichuan Province, my ancestors moved to Ma An Chang, Yi Long County, Sichuan. From generation to generation, they tilled land for landlords only to eke out a bare subsistence. People who associated with them as friends were likewise honest impoverished peasants.
Mother gave birth to thirteen children in all. But only the first eight of them survived while the next five were drowned at birth by my parents against their will because they were too poor to raise them all. How anguished, sad and helpless mother must have felt! She did manage, however, to have the eight children brought up all by herself. But she was too busily occupied with household chores and farming to look after the kids so that they were left alone crawling about in the fields.
母亲是个“好劳动” 〔3〕 。从我能记忆时起，总是天不亮就起床。全家二十口人，妇女们轮班煮饭，轮到就煮一年。母亲把饭煮了，还要种田种菜，喂猪养蚕，纺棉花。因为她身材高大结实，还能挑水挑粪。
Mother was a hardworking woman. As far as I can remember, she would always get up before daybreak. In our household of more than twenty members, all women would take turns to do cooking for one year. Apart from cooking, mother did farming, planted vegetables, fed pigs, raised silkworms and spinned cotton into yarn. Tall and of strong build, she could carry two buckets of water or manure on a shoulder pole.
Mother worked hard from dawn till dusk. When we kids were four or five years old, we found ourselves automatically helping her with farm work.At the age of eight or nine, I could not only carry heavy loads on a shoulder pole or on my back, but also knew how to farm the land. I remember whenever I came back from school and saw mother busy cooking in the kitchen with sweat streaming down her face, I would immediately lay down my books and sneak out to carry water on a shoulder pole or graze the cattle. In some seasons, I would study in the morning and work in the fields in the afternoon. During the busy season, I would spend all day working by the side of mother. It was then that she taught me a lot about the knack of farming.
佃农家庭的生活自然是很苦的。可是由于母亲的聪明能干，却很舒服。我们把桐子榨油来点灯。吃的是豌豆饭，菜饭，红薯饭，杂粮饭，把菜籽榨出的油放在饭里做调料，这种地主富人家看也不看的饭食，母亲却能做得使一家吃起来有滋味。赶上丰年，才能缝上一些新衣服，衣服也是自己生产出来的。母亲亲手纺出线，请人织成布，染了颜色，我们叫做“家织布”，有铜钱那样厚，一套衣服老大穿过了 〔4〕 ，老二老三接下来穿还穿不烂。
The life of a tenant farmer’s family was of course hard, but we somehow managed to scrape along because mother was a clever and able woman. We used oil squeezed from seeds of tung trees to light our lamps. We ate rice cooked with peas, vegetables, sweet potatoes or coarse grain, and all seasoned with rapeseed oil — food which landlords and rich people would scorn to eat. Nevertheless, mother’s cooking was done so well that everybody ate with gusto. Only in a good year, could we afford to have some homemade new clothes to wear. Mother would spin cotton into yarn and then asked somebody to have it woven into fabric and dyed. We called it “home-spun fabric”. It was as thick as a copper coin and was so durable that after the eldest brother had grown out of the home-spun garment, it could still be used by the second and third brothers in turn without being worn out.
劳动的家庭是有规律有组织的。我的祖父是一个中国标本式的农民，到八九十岁还非耕田不可，不耕田就会害病，直到临死前不久还在地里劳动。祖母是家庭的组织者，一切生产事务由她管理分派。每年除夕，分派好一年的工作以后，天还没亮，母亲就第一个起身烧火做饭去了，接着听见祖父起来的声音，接着大家都离开床铺，喂猪的喂猪，砍柴的砍柴，挑水的挑水。母亲在家庭里极能够任劳任怨，她的和蔼的性格使她从没有打骂过我们一次，而且也没有和任何人吵过架 〔5〕 。因此，虽在这样的大家庭里，长幼叔伯妯娌相处都很和睦。母亲同情贫苦的人——这是她朴素的阶级意识——虽然自己不富裕，还周济和照顾比自己更穷的亲戚 〔6〕 。她自己是很节省的。父亲有时吸点旱烟，喝点酒，母亲管束着我们，不允许我们沾染上一点。母亲那种劳动简朴的习惯，母亲那种宽厚仁慈的态度，至今还在我心中留有深刻的印象。
It was characteristic of an industrious household to be well-regulated and well-organized. My grandfather was a typical Chinese farmer. He went on doing farm work even when he was an octogenarian. He would feel unwell without doing farm labour. He was found still working on the farm even shortly before his death. Grandmother was the organizer of the household. She was in charge of all the farm affairs, assigning tasks to each member of the household. On each New Year’s Eve, she would work out all job assignments for the coming new year. Mother would be the first to get up before daybreak. Soon grandfather would be heard to rise from his bed, followed by the rest of the household. Some went about feeding pigs, some cutting firewood, and some carrying water on a shoulder pole. Mother always worked without complaint despite hardships. Amiable by nature, she never beat or scolded us, let alone quarreled with anybody. Consequently, large as it was, the whole household, old and young, uncles and sisters-in-law, lived in perfect harmony. Out of her naive class consciousness, she showed sympathy for the poor. Despite her own straitened circumstances, she often went out of her way to help out those relatives who were even more needy than herself. She lived a very frugal life. Father would occasionally smoke a long-stemmed Chinese pipe or drink some wine. To prevent us from falling into the same habit, mother kept us children under strict control. Her diligence and frugality, her generosity and kindheartedness — all have left a lasting impression on my mind.
Chinese peasants were honest and peaceable, but disaster befell them just the same. Around 1900, when Sichuan Province was hit by successive years of drought, numerous poverty-stricken peasants went hungry and had to go out in crowds to seize food from the homes of landlords. Thereupon I saw with my own eyes how a group of shabbily-dressed peasants and their families were savagely beaten up or slain by government troops, the road stained with their blood for some 40 li and their cries rending the air. In those days, my family also met with increasing difficulties. All the year round, we went without rice to eat, and simply lived on edible wild herbs and kaoliang. In 1904, especially, when landlords, riding rough shod over tenants, pressed for higher rents on the let-out pieces of land, we, unable to meet their demands, had our tenancy cancelled by them and were forced to move house on New Year’s Eve. On that miserable night, my family tearfully separated and thenceforth had to live in two different places. Shorthandedness and crop failure due to the natural calamity brought misfortune on my family. Mother, however, did not lose heart. Adversity had deepened her sympathy for the poor and needy as well as her aversion to the heartless rich. The painful complaint she had uttered in one or two words and the innumerable injustices I had witnessed aroused in me a spirit of revolt and a desire for a bright future. I made up my mind to seek a new life.
我不久就离开了母亲，因为我读了书。我是一个佃农家庭的子弟，本来是没钱读书的。那时乡间豪绅地主的欺压，衙门差役的横蛮，逼得母亲和父亲决心要节衣缩食培养出一个读书人来“支撑门户” 〔7〕 。我念过私塾，光绪三十一年（一九○五）考了科举，以后又到更远的顺庆和成都去读书。这个时期的学费，都是东挪西借来的，总共用了二百多块钱，直到我后来在当护国军旅长时才还清。
Not long afterwards, I had to tear myself away from mother when I began my schooling. As the son of a tenant, I of course could not afford to go to school. My parents, however, faced with the bullying and oppression of the local evil gentry, landlords and yamen bailiffs, decided to scrape up enough money by living a very frugal life to pay for my education so that they could make a scholar of me for the family to keep up appearances. At first I was sent to an old-style private school and in 1905 I took the imperial examination. Later, I went farther away from home to study in Shunqing and Chengdu, both in Sichuan Province. All the tuition fees were paid with borrowed money, totalling more than 200 silver dollars. The debt was not repaid until later I became a brigade commander of the Hu Guo Army 〔11〕 .
光绪三十四年（一九○八），我从成都回来，在仪陇县办高等小学，一年回家二三次去看母亲。那时新旧思想冲突很厉害，我们抱了科学民主的思想想在家乡做点事情，守旧的豪绅们便出来反对我们。我下决心瞒着慈爱的母亲脱离家乡，远走云南参加了新军和同盟会。我到云南后，从家信中知道 〔8〕 ，我母亲对我这一举动不但不反对，还给我许多慰勉。
In 1908, I came back from Chengdu to set up a higher primary school in Yi Long County. While teaching school, I went home to see mother two or three times a year. In those days, there was a sharp conflict between old and new ideologies. Due to our leaning towards science and democracy, we met with opposition from the local conservative influential gentry in whatever we attempted for the benefit of our home town. So I decided to leave, without my mother’s knowledge, for the faraway province of Yunnan, where I joined the New Army 〔12〕 and Tongmenhui 〔13〕 . On my arrival in Yunnan, I learned from my home letters that mother, instead of frowning upon my new move, gave me a lot of encouragement and comfort.
从宣统元年（一九○九）到现在，我再没有回过家一次，只在民国十年（一九二一），我曾经把父亲和母亲接出去，但是他俩劳动惯了，离开土地就不舒服 〔9〕 ，所以还是回了家，父亲就在回家途中死了，母亲回家继续劳动一直到最后 〔10〕 。
From 1909 up to now, I have never paid a visit to my home town. In 1921, however, I had my parents come out to live with me. But, as confirmed farm laborers, they felt unwell without land to till and subsequently had to return home. Father died on the way back, and mother continued to do farm work at home to the very last.
As the Chinese revolution continued to develop, I became more and more politically aware. I joined the Chinese Communist Party as soon as I discovered the correct orientation of the Chinese revolution. When the Great Revolution of 1924-1927 failed in China, I completely lost contact with my family. Mother alone supported the whole family by working on the 30 mu of land. I did not hear from her until the outbreak of the War of Resistance to Japan. When she was informed of the great cause in which I was engaged, she eagerly looked forward to the success of China’s national liberation. While living the hard life of a peasant woman at home, she was aware of the difficulties and hardships that our Party was then undergoing. During the seven years after the outbreak of the War, I managed to send her several hundred yuan and some photos of myself. Mother was getting old. She was always thinking of me as I was of her. Last year, a letter from my nephew says, “Grandma is 85. She’s no longer as vigorous and healthy as before. She’s eager to see you and chat about things that have happened since you left home…” But I never lived up to her expectations because of my dedication to the cause of the War of Resistance Against Japan.
The most prominent characteristic of mother was her lifelong participation in physical labour. She did cooking in the kitchen just one minute before giving birth to me. Her ardent love for agricultural production remained undiminished even in her old age. My nephew says in another letter to me last year, “Because of old age, grandma is no longer in good health, but she still does manual labour, and is particularly fond of spinning cotton into yarn…”
I owe mother a debt of gratitude because she taught me how to cope with the numerous difficulties that I ran into at home so that later during my over 30 years of military and revolutionary life I have never bowed down to any difficulty. She also bequeathed me a strong constitution as well as a strong inclination for labour so that I have been able to work untiringly.
I owe mother a debt of gratitude because she imparted to me knowledge of productive labour and a revolutionary will, thus enabling me to take to the revolutionary path. By keeping to this path, I have come to realize more and more clearly that this knowledge of productive labour and this revolutionary will are the most valuable assets in the world.
Mother is gone and I shall never see her again. This is an everlasting sorrow. Mother is an “ordinary” person and one of the millions of labouring people who have made and are still making Chinese history. What can I do to repay her my debt of deep gratitude? I swear to remain ever loyal to our nation and the people, ever loyal to the Chinese Communist Party — the hope of our nation and the people, so that all those who share the same lot with my mother may live a happier life. That is what I can do and what I am certainly able to do.
May mother rest in peace!
〔1〕 “湖广填四川”译为the mass migration of peasants from Huguang to Sichuan Province。“湖广”为旧时一个省份。元代湖广相当于今两湖、两广。明、清时湖广专指两湖。四川曾因天灾人祸，人口锐减，湖广农民乃大批迁入。
〔2〕 “世代为地主耕种，家境是贫苦的”译为From generation to generation, they tilled land for landlords only to eke out a bare subsistence，其中only用于不定式前作“结果却……”解，往往表示一种不幸的结果。又，to eke out是成语，后面常跟a bare subsistence或a living、an existence、a livelihood等，作“勉强糊口”解。
〔3〕 “母亲是个‘好劳动’”不宜照字面直译，现按“母亲是一个勤劳的妇女”译为Mother was a hardworking woman。
〔4〕 “一套衣服老大穿过了”意即“衣服因老大长大了而不能继续穿下去”，故译为after the eldest brother had grown out of the home-spun garment，其中had grown out of是习用短语，作had grown too large to fit (clothes)解。
〔5〕 “她的和蔼的性格使她从没有打骂过我们一次，而且也没有和任何人吵过架”译为Amiable by nature, she never beat or scolded us, let alone quarreled with anybody，其中根据上下文的内涵，把“而且”译为let alone，作“更不用说”解，是英语成语。
〔6〕 “还周济和照顾比自己更穷的亲戚”译为she often went out of her way to help out those relatives who were even more needy than herself，其中went out of her way是成语，作“特地”、“不怕麻烦地”（to make a special effort, especially in spite of difficulties）解。
〔7〕 “培养出一个读书人来‘支撑门户’”译为so that they could make a scholar of me for the family to keep up appearances，其中to keep up appearances是英语成语，作“装门面”（to keep up or maintain an outward show）解。又，为了把原文的意思交代清楚，译文中出现添加成分for the family。
〔8〕 “从家信中知道”译为I learned from my home letters，其中my home letters等于my letters from home。
〔9〕 “但是他俩劳动惯了，离开土地就不舒服”译为But, as confirmed farm labourers, they felt unwell without land to till，其中confirmed作“成习惯的”（habitual）解。
〔10〕 “母亲回家继续劳动一直到最后”译为mother continued to do farm work at home to the very last，其中to the last（或till the last）是成语，意即to the end或till death。
〔11〕 The troops that rallied against Yuan Shikai when he attempted to restore monarchy in 1916.
〔12〕Western-style army organized toward the end of the Qing Dynasty.
〔13〕 The United League of China (1905-1912), the antecedent of the Kuomintang.打赏