ALTHOUGH, IN MY BRAINWASHING, THIS WAS ONE OF THE most important steps, I did not understand it at the time. I thought that the Communist Party still regarded me as the arch-enemy and was preoccupied with my past, not with how I should be reformed vis-a-vis the future. I believed that it had separated me from my family in order to facilitate my eventual prosecution.
Ever since my detention in Soviet Russia, I had consistently tried to explain away my conduct as something I had been compelled to do under pressure. Thus, I had claimed that the plot between Doihara and me had been a case of kidnapping and I had covered up my relations with the Japanese.
I had also warned the adult members of my family to cover up for me while in Soviet Russia, and now that I had returned to China it was more necessary than ever to keep the true story of my relations with the Japanese a secret. I would have to be very careful to avoid a slipup—especially with my nephew Little Hsiu. On the first day of our arrival at Fushun, I discovered that he harbored some sort of resentment against me because of the incident on the train. Soon after we were locked in our cell, I felt something crawling on my neck and I asked him to see what it was.
If this had happened in the past, he would have come over to me promptly. But on this occasion, he pretended not to hear me and did not make a move. Later, when he finally did come and discovered that it was a caterpillar and brushed it off onto the floor, he muttered under his breath, “What is the use of liberating a living creature, if, after liberation, it may be destroyed by someone else?”
I felt very much upset by his remark which was so clearly meant for me. A few days later, when Little Jui was tidying up my blanket and mattress, I asked him to pick up the blanket and shake it out. This was somewhat distasteful to the others in the cell because it was filled with dust. Pu Chieh frowned and another of my nephews put his hands on his nose and said to Little Jui, “Be kind to us. This will choke us to death.”
Little Hsiu, at this point, immediately stopped what he was doing, took the blanket from Jui, and tossed it on the kang. “This cell is not only for you,” he said. “We have to live here too. Why don’t you think about us? This will not do.”
“What do you mean by ‘we’ and‘you?’ ” I said, frowning. “Don’t you have any manners left?”
He did not answer me, but turned his head away and sat at the table without saying a word. After a while, I noticed an angry expression on his lips as he scribbled on a piece of paper. I wanted to see what he was writing and did not anticipate that as soon as I reached for it he would tear it to pieces. But I felt sure I had seen a line which read, “Wait and see who will come out on top.”
Since the incident on the train, I had tried my best to show goodwill toward him and I had talked to him in a most amicable way. Later on, I had had an opportunity to talk to him alone, specifically about the train incident. I told him that it had not been done with malicious intent; that I had loved him all the time, that I had been hysterical and had not slept for five days. Since that time, whenever I had a chance, I had explained to all of my nephews about the importance of a close family relationship according to Chinese traditions. Confronted by an emergency, we should cooperate fully. Whenever Little Hsiu was not around, I would say to the others, “Watch out for Little Hsiu. Be careful not to let him do anything wrong. Try to please him.”
Thus, by the time the newspaper article had aroused hope in our minds, Little Hsiu’s attitude had become completely normal and when the guard ordered me to another cell, it was Little Hsiu who, along with another nephew, Little Ku, picked up my bedding and suitcase and carried them for me to my new cell. They left immediately after they had put my things down.
I felt so desperately alone before my new cellmates that I did not know whether to sit down or stand up. There were eight prisoners besides myself in the cell and when they saw me enter, they remained silent and their attitude was very formal. Later, one of them took my bedding and placed it in the comer. At the time, I didn’t realize that this was a gesture of respect since the spot they had chosen was the best in the cell, warm in winter and cool in summer. I could only think that the separation from my family was fraught with danger.
I sat down silently for a while and then stood up and paced back and forth. Finally I walked to the door and knocked several times.
“What is it?” a rather stout guard asked as he opened it.
“May I talk to the Center Chief about something?”
“What do you want to talk to him about?”
“I wish to tell him that I have never been separated from my family and I feel most distressed and uncomfortable.”
The guard nodded his head and asked me to wait. Upon his return he told me that the Center Chief would allow me to go back to my original cell. This made me extremely happy. I folded my bedding myself, and one of the guards helped me pick up my leather satchel. In the passageway, I ran into the Chief. “There is a higher standard of food for those of you who are a little older,” he explained. “We felt that if you continued to live with your family and I gave you better food it might have had a bad effect on them.”
I refused to believe that this was the real motive and thus, without waiting for him to explain further, I immediately said, “Never mind; I guarantee that they won’t be upset.”
I nearly said, “How could you have supposed they would be like that?”
The Chief grinned and asked me if I had ever thought that the time might come when I should have to learn to take care of myself. “Yes, yes,” I replied, immediately. “But I have to practice it slowly, bit by bit.”
“All right.” The Chief nodded. “But you should begin practicing right away.”
By the time I had returned to the cell with my family it seemed as if the half-day separation had been for a whole year. When I explained to them how the Chief had told me to “practice bit by bit,” they interpreted his remark as indicative that the government did not intend to maltreat me.
Ten days later, a guard again ordered me to pack up my things and I decided that I would take the opportunity, while Little Jui was packing for me, to pass on a few words to my family. But, fearing the guard might hear, I decided it would be best to write a note. Also, since there were two men in the cell who were former Manchukuo officials and not family members, it seemed safer to write. The note was purposely vague: “We have lived very well together. After I leave I hope you will continue to help one another. I am very much concerned for each and every one of you.”
I gave the note to Pu Chieh and told him to pass it around to the others. I felt that after they had seen it they would be able to understand its meaning—to have one heart and to remain united.
My nephew again took my bedding and carried my suitcase to the cell I had been put in the previous time, and the occupants again placed the bedding in the same place as before. Unable to sleep well, I paced back and forth for a while and later knocked at the door until the same short stout guard opened it. His name was Liu.
“Mr. Liu, I have something . . .” I said.
“You want to see the Director?” he asked before I had finished my sentence.
“I wish to talk with you first. I . . . No, it isn’t that I wish to move back to my old cell. I want to ask if I can meet with my family once a day. So long as I can see them, I’ll feel much better.”
“Every day during the exercise period in the courtyard, won’t it be possible for you to see them?”
“But I wish to talk to them privately. Do you think the Director will permit this?”
“According to regulations, people are not supposed to talk to one another who do not live in the same cell. But I’ll ask for you.”
I got permission and, from that day on, when I took my stroll in the courtyard each day I could meet with my family and talk with them for a while. My nephews would then tell me what was going on in their cell and whom they had talked with. Little Ku still maintained his carefree attitude, Little Hsiu did not show any sign of bitterness and Little Jui still continued to wash my clothing and darn my socks. Thus, one problem that had bothered me was solved.
But meanwhile new problems had arisen. For the past forty years, I had always reached for the clothing that had been readied for me and eaten the food that had been placed in front of me. Now these habits were a great hardship. Things like a rice ladle, a carving knife, a pair of scissors, a needle and thread were utterly foreign to me. I had to do everything myself and I was trapped in a very distressing situation. In the morning, by the time everyone else had finished washing their faces, I would just be ready to dress; and by the time I was ready to wash, everyone else had finished. When I brushed my teeth, I would realize that I had forgotten the tooth powder, and by the time I had finished dressing everyone else had already eaten breakfast. I was always late and always behind schedule and yet was always rushing about the cell like mad.
But what bothered me the most was that I knew my cellmates, all of whom were former military officers of the Manchukuo imperial regime, were laughing at me behind my back. In former times, these people had not been qualified to raise their heads in front of me, and when I had first arrived in the cell, even though they did not call me the “Upper One” as my family members did in private, they had not dared to use the familiar “you.” They had either called me “Mister” or some other title in order to show their respect for me. But now I knew they were joking silently about my predicament and this made me ill at ease.
There was also something else that made me feel even more uncomfortable. Since the first day of our arrival at Fushun, each cell had established a “duty” system by which the cleaning and honey bucket chores were rotated. Before I had been separated from my family, I was not required to do this, but now, what would I do if I had the “duty”? Should I empty the honey bucket for everyone? It seemed to me that this would be an insult to my ancestors and to my nephew’s ancestors and their heirs. Fortunately, the Center solved the problem for me. Two days after I had been moved to my new cell, a man who was an active member of the Communist Party cadre in the Center came to the door. “Pu Yi,” he said, “will not get cleaning duty.” To me, these words made me feel as if I had stepped from a corner of death.
One day, while we were taking our daily walk by twos and threes, when the Center Chief appeared, as he did every day to say a few words, I noticed that he looked at me closely as if he were sizing me up. Finally, he called out my name, “Pu Yi.”
“Yes,” I answered as I walked over to him.
“Your clothing was issued at the same time as the others. Why is it that your suit is not in the same condition?”
He spoke quietly and in an amicable tone. I looked at my clothing and that of the others. Everyone else was neatly dressed; their suits were pressed and clean; and yet mine was rumpled; a pocket was torn, a button missing and there was an ink spot on the lower part of my jacket. My pants legs seemed of different lengths and my shoes were improperly tied.
“I’ll tidy up right away,” I replied in a low tone.
“You should watch more carefully how the others manage their daily lives,” the Chief said. “If you learn from others, then you’ll progress.”
Even though the Director’s tone was not unkindly, I felt embarrassed and angry. This was the first time I had ever been reprimanded in public as incompetent and it was the first time that I had ever been exhibited before the eyes of so many people as a useless thing.
Desperately embarrassed, I turned around in order to avoid having to look at my fellow prisoners, and I went to the foot of the courtyard wall and stared at its gray stones. I was seized with a terrible depression and I felt that in all my life I had never been able to get away from gray walls; all my life I had been a prisoner. But heretofore I still had some kind of dignity and position. Even in my little circle in Changchun, I had still maintained some special privileges. Now, within this particular set of walls, all was gone. I was treated as everyone else and had been humiliated before everyone else as incompetent. Thus the gratefulness that I had developed for those who had allowed me to be exempted from cleaning duty was washed away from my heart forever. It was in this mood that I spent more than two months in Fushun. By the end of October, the Center was moved to Harbin.
On the train, en route to Harbin, only a few of the younger people still had some interest in conversation. The others had little to say and if they did talk it was always in a very low tone. I was silent most of the time. Quite a few other prisoners, I noticed, could not sleep at night and could not eat properly in the daytime.
I was not as apprehensive as I had been when I had first returned to China, but I was still more tense than anyone else. This was the time that the American armies were approaching the Yalu River, during the Korean War, and it was not long after the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army had left China to enter the Korean campaign. I noticed that Pu Chieh could not sleep either and I stealthily asked him how he felt about the war situation. “To leave the country to participate in war is like making an offering of incense before ghosts,” he replied in a dull tone. “The end is soon in sight.”
What he meant was that China would soon be defeated and Manchuria would be occupied by the American Army. Pu Chieh feared that when the Communists realized that the situation was hopeless and the country would soon be lost, they would kill us to prevent our falling into American hands. Later I found that this was how all the other detainees felt.
When we arrived in Harbin, I felt even more hopeless after seeing the new Thought Control Center which was a prison, originally built by the Japanese to house those who had opposed their regime. It was two stories high and in the center was a watchtower; circling it were two fan-shaped buildings. The gates were all made of iron bars one inch in diameter. The cells were partitioned by cement walls; each could accommodate seven to eight persons, but in my cell there were only five. Owing to the Japanese design there were no kangs and we had to sleep on the floor. I stayed in this prison almost two years.
One night, in the city nearby, there was an air-raid alert and the wailing noise of the sirens stayed in my mind a long while before it was erased. At this time, I believed that the Chinese would be defeated and, as a result, I would die. I still remember very clearly that when we learned about the first victory achieved by the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army on the Korean front none of us chose to believe it. By the end of that year, when we learned that the Chinese and Koreans had driven the American Army to the 38th parallel we were very suspicious. After the New Year, when a member of the Center’s Communist Party cadre got up on the watchtower and announced the news that the Chinese and Korean armies had retaken Seoul, I still held to my belief in a United States victory. In February, when the press announced new regulations for punishing antirevolutionaries, the Center feared that we would become unduly alarmed if we should read them and withheld the newspapers from us. We, of course, who did not know the real reason, supposed it was because of a defeat in Korea and were thus strengthened in our conviction that the earlier reports of a Chinese victory had been false. I came to believe that I was approaching a period of great danger. At night, I was afraid to hear the sound of the cell doors and, in the daytime, the sound of automobiles. Whenever I heard them, I suspected that soldiers were coming to take us to a public trial.
My cellmates’ situation was no better than mine. Like me, their appetites became smaller and smaller and their voices lower and lower. I remember that at this period whenever there were sounds on the stairway, all of us tried to peer through the iron bars of the cell door to take a look. If a stranger appeared, all the occupants of the cell became stony silent. It seemed as if each and every one of us were facing his last day of judgment.
Just at the point when all of us were plunged into the deepest despair, the Chief of Public Security came to the prison to give us a talk. From his speech, which lasted over an hour, we got some hope. He told us that the People’s Government did not wish to send us to death; it only wished us to pass through a reorientation and re-education process in order to be reformed. He said that the Communist Party and the People’s Government believed that the majority of us could be remolded into new men, and that the ideal of Communism was to reform the whole world, society and the human race.
“You people,” he explained, “have only thought of death and you people seem to believe that all the arrangements we have made for you are preparatory to your execution. But you should realize that if the People’s Government wished to eliminate all of you, we would not have let you study.
“All of you seem to have developed many illusions regarding the Korean War. Some of you have thought that the People’s Volunteer Army would most certainly lose and that the Americans would come to Manchuria. Therefore, you have been afraid that the Communist Party would kill you first. Some of you have had blind faith in the military power of the United States, but I can tell you categorically that the Chinese and Korean people will triumph.
“The reform policies of the Chinese Communist Party will be vindicated on the battlefield. Victory is assured. The Communist Party never engages in empty talk!
“Perhaps you people say to yourselves; All right, then, if you don’t wish to kill us, why don’t you let us out? But if we were to let you out without remolding your personalities, not only would you again commit crimes, but the people of China with whom you must live would never forgive you. Therefore, you must study hard and achieve complete reform.”
At the time, none of us paid any attention to the Chief’s remarks about being remolded through study and learning. As I saw it, it seemed absurd to suppose that by reading a few books one’s thoughts could be changed. And as for the possibility that the American soldiers could be defeated, this was preposterous. My cellmates, who were military men, all agreed that even if the United States did not use the atomic bomb, its superiority in conventional weapons was sufficient for it to be without equal in the world.
But not long afterward, we were again allowed to read newspapers and we came to the conclusion that the information from the Korean War theatre was not entirely untrue. The ex-officers pointed out that although the number of casualties on both sides could easily be falsified, gains and losses of territory could not be altered indefinitely and that the news that the U.S. Commander in Chief had indicated his willingness to negotiate could not be a fabrication. Furthermore, they thought the reports that the Americans were talking about a cease-fire were significant. As a result, the ex-officers began to have doubts about a U.S. victory and, needless to say, I was thrown into complete confusion. In one way, however, I began to feel more comfortable. For if the Communist Party were not to collapse, then it would not execute me before its dissolution.
Meanwhile, our study and brainwashing routine was changed. Previously our studies had seemed to be on a laissez-faire basis and the Center did not interfere with us. Now, however, Communist Party cadre members who were in charge of the Center personally took a hand and guided us. We were given topics to study such as “What is a feudal society?” and we were required to discuss them and to take notes. Later, one of the cadre said, “As I have mentioned before, in order to remold one’s thoughts it is necessary to understand what one’s original thoughts were. Each man’s thoughts are inseparable from his past history and from the position he held when he started out in life. Therefore, you must begin with your own history in order to conduct an analysis. To achieve thought reform, each one of you must, without any hesitation, and with complete objectivity, reflect on your own history and write an autobiography.”
Is this what they call reform? I thought to myself in silence. It is no more than a pretense at using “thought reform” in order to secure a confession. Perhaps the Communist Party feels that now the war situation is more or less stabilized it will have time to try us publicly instead of lining us up against a wall and shooting us.
My former attendant, Big Li, had been the actual witness of my departure from Tientsin for the Northeast. Before I had left, he had prepared all my baggage and clothing and when I had hidden in the rumble seat of the car, it had been he who had closed it over me. If this were to leak out, no one would believe my kidnapping story at the hands of Doihara. It was thus imperative that I see Big Li, but this could be handled only during our exercise period in the courtyard when I had the privilege of meeting with my family group.
At this time the routine was somewhat different than before. With the exception of my father-in-law, who had died, and my former physician, who had arthritis, the remaining members of our group all participated in service work, such as carrying water or rice, helping in the kitchen, and doing other menial tasks. It was therefore not easy for me to meet them all at once since they had to be at different chores. However, there were some benefits from this arrangement, since it meant that their movements were comparatively free and they could relay messages. I thus utilized this situation to ask Little Jui to tell Big Li to come and see me quietly.
Big Li approached me in a very obedient manner, as if he were waiting for my instructions. I lowered my voice. “Do you still remember when we moved from Tientsin?” I asked him.
“You mean when we actually left for Manchuria, or slipped out of the gate, or when I packed up your things?” he asked.
“If the Center should ever ask you about how I left Tientsin, you should say you don’t know a thing. It was after I left that you packed my things; do you understand?”
“After you left.”
“Yes, after I left. You took orders from another man that you should pack my things and send them to Port Arthur.”
Big Li nodded and left quietly. The next day, Little Jui told me that Big Li had asked him to give me this message: The previous night he had told one of the clerks of the prison that when I was in the Northeast I had been kind to my servants and I had never scolded people or beaten them. Also, he said that when I was in Port Arthur, I locked my door for a whole day and refused to see the Japanese.
When I heard this, I felt that Big Li was fabricating a little too much. Why should he mention Port Arthur? I told Little Jui to tell him not to talk any more and that if anyone should ask about the situation in Port Arthur he should say that he knew nothing.
I was most satisfied with Big Li’s loyalty and felt secure. Meanwhile, I reminded my nephews again that I had commenced to write my autobiography. I wrote down my genealogy, how Tzu Hsi had designated me Emperor, how I had spent my youth in the Forbidden City, how I had to seek refuge in the Japanese Legation, how I had spent my life in Tientsin. Then I wrote about my “kidnapping” and the unfortunate years in Changchun.
This draft of my autobiography, after much editing, was finally put in its final form and presented to the authorities. From the way I had written it, I was sure that everyone would see that I was a repentant man. But after I had delivered it, I felt that my writing was not a sufficient demonstration of my repentance. I ought to think of another way to prove to the government my “sincerity” and “progress.” What should I do?
At this time the prisoners felt that they only needed to demonstrate repentance in order to dupe the authorities. But even from this standpoint, I did not think I could compare favorably with the others. There were three phases of work in which the prisoners could demonstrate their repentance: study, “duty” functions and daily life. In my cell, the best performance in the study phase was shown by our Section Chief, Wang, a former major general in the legal division of the Manchukuo army. He had studied politics and law in Peking. His cultural standards were comparatively high and he could comprehend new terms and new ideology faster than the rest of us. The other three ex-officers in my section were like me. They could not understand terms like “subjective point of view” and “objective point of view.” But still their progress was faster than mine.
During discussion sessions they all could repeat set talks. What was most difficult for me was that after we had completed talks on, for example, “a feudal society,” each of us had to write a summary of what he had learned. During the discussion period I managed to talk simply about what I knew of the subject, but writing down my own understanding was not so simple. In addition, the process added to my fears. For example, a feudal emperor was the biggest landlord and this fact seemed to contain a judgment against me personally. If I had been the biggest landlord, then not only could I be punished from the standpoint of being a traitor to my country, but it also meant that I could be executed from the standpoint of land reform and there would be no way out for me.
I also had difficulty with my “duty” functions. After I had arrived in Harbin, I had volunteered to participate in these, but this act of volunteering was really the only evidence of my progress; my actual work was without any such indication. This was the first time in my life that I rendered service to others. But the first time that I served meals in the cell, I nearly spilled a bowl of vegetable soup on someone’s head. Thereafter, whenever it was my turn to serve, there was always someone else who volunteered to help me. They did this not so much out of kindness, but because they did not wish to run the risk of having food spilled down their backs.
My living habits were not comparable to the others. My dress was still untidy and I still had to depend on my nephew Little Jui to wash and mend for me. Since the time the Center Chief had pointed out my untidiness in public, I had a feeling of shame. I tried to look after myself and to wash my own clothing, but I always made myself wet. When I found I could not control the soap and the scrub board, I felt resentful. And when I waited in the courtyard for Little Jui to do the job for me and saw how other people looked at the clothing and socks in my hand while I waited for my nephew to wash them, I felt ashamed.
Thus, after I finished my autobiography, I decided to try once more. I felt that I must at least try to do my own washing even though it was so difficult for me. Otherwise, the Center would never believe in my reform.
After I had worked myself into a “great happy sweat” washing a white shirt, I noticed that once it was dry it had become a colored shirt—like a watercolor painting. I was shocked. Later, Little Jui came over and took the “ink painting” from the line and tucked it under his arm. “This should not be handled by the Upper One; it should be done by me,” he said in a low voice.
His remark was pleasing to my ears and I felt that he was right. It was not good for me to do the washing. Even if I tried, I could never do it well. But if I did not do this kind of thing, how could I demonstrate my reform to the Center? I must find something I could do extremely well.
I still had some jewelry and treasures left; more, in fact, than anyone else. Even the items not concealed in the bottom of my suitcase were worth quite a bit of money. Among them was a set of seals used by Emperor Chien Lung (1707-1799), after his son had taken over the throne. They were invaluable and consisted of three separate seals carved on precious stones which were linked together by three carved chains made of precious stone. The workmanship of the carving was beautifully done. I decided to use the seals to show my “self-enlightenment” and “self-awareness.”
It so happened that on this day some government officials came to conduct an inspection, and through the iron bars of my cell, I saw the man who had told me, when I was in Mukden, not to be too tense.
By the manner in which the Center Chief accompanied him, I decided that he must be of a higher rank. Even though he did not wear an army uniform, I felt that if I should present my contribution to him, it might have a beneficial result. I waited until he passed in front of my cell. Then I bowed and said to him, “I request your permission, Mr. Chief; I have something that I wish to contribute to the People’s Government.”
I tried to hand over the seals of Emperor Chien Lung, but he did not take them. “You are Pu Yi, I presume,” he said. “Well, you should take up the matter with the Center here.” He then asked me a few personal questions and left.
I thought that if he had actually bothered to examine my gift he would have appreciated its value and would not have been so casual. However, I had no alternative but to discuss it with the Center Chief and so I wrote a letter and asked one of the guards to pass it along with the seals.
For days I had no news. I couldn’t help but become suspicious. Could it be that the guard had taken the treasure himself? However, a few days later, the Center Chief came up to me in the courtyard and spoke about them. “Your letter and seals of precious stones reached me,” he said. “Also,” he continued, “the contributions you made while in Soviet Russia have been turned over to us here. But regardless of this, I think you should know that from our standpoint, men are more valuable than treasures and a man who has been reformed and remolded is even more so.”
The real meaning of his words was not understood by me for many years. At the time, I only thought that since he had mentioned the need for reform, it meant that I was in no immediate personal danger. I never dreamed that real danger had come.
One day the earpiece of my eyeglasses broke and I asked the guard to take them to Big Li to be repaired. Big Li could fix anything and whenever I had had trouble with my glasses in the past he had taken care of them for me. I never expected that his attitude would change.
It was characteristic of the Control Center that voices downstairs could usually be heard upstairs. Not very long after the guard had taken my glasses, I could hear from below the rumbling of Big Li’s bass voice and even though I could not make out his words, I could tell that he was not happy. After a while, the guard brought back my glasses and, in an apologetic way, asked, “Could you think of some way to fix them yourself? He said he has no way of repairing them for you.”
I felt angry and disgusted and told the guard, “If I could have repaired them myself, I wouldn’t have asked him. Last time they broke he repaired them for me. I hope you will ask him again.”
This time Big Li did not refuse, but I noticed the job was done carelessly; he had only used string and the original hinge was missing. Upon deliberation, I realized that Big Li had changed and that the change had not occurred suddenly.
A short time previously, because I had not seen Big Li for several days, I had sent Little Jui to fetch him during our exercise period. On Jui’s return he said, “Big Li is busy and has no time.”
This incident had occurred shortly before New Year, 1952. Another was to occur at the New Year celebration party itself, for which the Center had asked us to prepare some theatrical programs for our own amusement. The theatre was the empty space in front of the sentry post and the program was a play written and performed by my nephews, Little Ku and Little Hsiu, and also Big Li. My other nephew, Little Jui, did not take part. They used a question and answer form to make jokes about the happenings among the prisoners and also imitated their gestures. I knew it had mainly been written by Little Ku and at first I thought it quite humorous; but later, I stopped laughing.
They had begun to make sarcastic remarks about people who were suspicious and who believed in ghosts, spirits, prayers and divinations of the future. Later, they talked about a man who had begun to understand lots of things in prison, even though he “still wants to be a servant to others” and “wants to serve other people obediently.” As a result, he was aiding another to maintain an attitude of master and to resist reform.
Upon hearing this, I immediately understood that the one who was being castigated and the one they had in mind was me. Also, I understood why Little Jui had refused to participate in the program and became worried for fear that he might not be able to carry on in the face of this.
Actually, however, even Little Jui began to show changes. Big Li, Little Hsiu and Little Ku had been continuously absent from the courtyard, and now even Little Jui reduced his presence there. My dirty clothing had accumulated and, after the New Year party, Little Jui stopped coming to pick it up.
Then another incident occurred. It was my duty day and I was waiting to receive the food outside the cell door. Little Jui was distributing it. After he had given everything to me, he handed me a note folded into a small square. I immediately put it into my palm and then passed out the food as if nothing had happened. When the meal was finished, I pretended that I wished to go to the men’s room, where I secretly opened the note and read it. “We have all committed crimes,” it said. “We should confess everything to the government. In the past I have hidden things for you. Confess what you have in the bottom of your suitcase. If you can take this initiative, the government will be lenient with you.”
At first I was so angry I felt as if a flame had burst in my chest. But in a while my anger subsided and I was overcome by a chill of loneliness. Everyone was leaving me. It was some sort of omen. I tossed the note into the toilet to be flushed away, but I could not erase the sentiment that the note had brought to me. I deliberated about the past and the present of these four young men and I felt that the change in them was unbelievable.
Big Li’s father had served in the Summer Palace, and had waited upon the Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi. Because of this, when the palace had dispersed the eunuchs, Big Li had been allowed to become a servant at the age of fourteen. Later, he had accompanied me to Tientsin and was in my service, along with some other boy servants. Later on, he had formally become my personal attendant. When I left Tientsin, I had taken Big Li with me. In Soviet Russia, he had nearly fought with a Japanese who had refused to step aside for me. He had always been respectful and willing to listen. When he had taken my instructions to destroy the jewelry and treasures he had done it thoroughly. I could not figure out why he had changed.
Little Ku was the son of Pu Wei. When his father, as Prince Kung, had died, I had given him the title and had tried to build him up as one of the hopeful elements for the future restoration, and he had felt that this was his lifelong wish. When we had been in Soviet Russia, he had written a poem to show his loyalty. He had been educated by me to become a devout Buddhist and had become attracted to a branch of Zen Buddhism. Upon our arrival in Harbin, he still had shown his loyalty to me. I hadn’t expected a man like him to have written a sarcastic program containing innuendoes against me. Apparently his loyalty was not in existence any more.
What was completely unforeseen was the change in Little Jui. I could explain the changes in others like Big Li, who did not belong to the royal family, or Little Hsiu who was still upset because I had denounced him on the train, or Little Ku who had become infatuated with Zen Buddhism. But what was the reason for the change in Little Jui? Little Jui was the descendant of Prince Tuan of the Ch’ing House. His family had declined in importance after his grandfather and uncle had become involved in the Boxer Rebellion. But Little Jui, at nineteen, had been sent for by me to come to Changchun, and I had allowed him to study along with the other members of the royal family, under the same tutors. Among the young students of the Inner Court he was considered one of the most trustworthy and sincere. I realized that he did not have as high an I.Q. as the others, but he was not tricky and it had been better for me to have someone steady like him about.
During our five years in the Soviet Union his loyalty had been complete and, thus, when I was about to return to China and feeling that my life would be in danger, I had discussed with my brothers-in-law and my brother the problem of “selecting an heir to the throne,” for I had decided to choose Little Jui. After he had learned of this decision, needless to say, his devotion was really beyond words. But now this young man had told me I was “guilty.”
The unimaginable change in my nephews, and above all in Little Jui, raced through my mind. I sought to discover the reason for it in the events that had occurred since our return to China, but I found that I could find no valid reason even if I were to admit to myself the supreme power of the Communist Party.
And so I leaned for a moment against the wall and tried to find some small comfort out of what had happened. I found that my only consolation was that my brothers-in-law and my brother had not shown any signs of change, but even this could not erase my worry over whether Little Jui would actually denounce me before the prison authorities.
If he were to tell of what I had in the double bottom of my satchel, my future seemed most uncertain. This treasure consisted of 468 items of gold, diamonds, pearls, etc. I looked upon them as my livelihood for the second half of my life. Without them, even if I were set free, I would have nothing to live on. It never occurred to me that I could support myself and, furthermore, since I had hidden the jewelry for such a long time, if I were to surrender it at this late date, it would only prove how long I had been cheating. In view of this, I finally decided that all I could do was let the problem ride and do nothing.
But about a week later, when it was Little Jui’s turn to bring our food to us, I noticed that although his manner was dignified, he didn’t look at me. Instead, he stared at my leather suitcase. Two hours later, after we had begun our studies in the cell, he suddenly came back again and stood in front of the cell door, and then, just as suddenly, left again.
I saw clearly that his eyes had stared at the suitcase and I concluded he was about to go and see the Center Chief. I could no longer remain calm. I knew that instead of waiting to be exposed, the time had come for me to assume an active role.