The following story from a book published in 1945 offers a fascinating insight into the life and mentality of ordinary people in wartime China.
[Teng Chan] saw the beginning of the war as a bachelor in Shang-hai and Nanking, met and fell in love with a girl, and was married, lived through the worst of the bombing in Chung-king and is now the father of two children.
Working in a Chinese government office he is one among thousands of public functionaries. Before the war, he was a prosperous young member of the middle class; but, like his fellows in government offices, he has been hard pressed economically as the war has gone on and on. He has suffered far more than millions of Chinese and far less than other millions.
Before the war, Teng had a remunerative job in a business firm in Shanghai. He drew $300 Chinese a month, which was the equivalent of $100 American. He paid $28 for a room in an apartment house and $30 for food–often eating fish and chicken, which were comparatively expensive–sent another $30 to his father in North China, and spent the rest of his income on clothes, incidentals, luxuries, and amusements.
He drank wine now and then, smoked fifty cigarettes a day, frequented cabarets to dine and dance and took girls out on week-end pleasure jaunts. By persons who didn’t do these things he was called a “man of many crimes;” but he was merely a young man enjoying life.
He could afford his pleasures because he was without a family and didn’t have to provide against rainy days. He changed from one girl to another so frequently that he was nicknamed “Don Juan.” The fact was that he didn’t want to forgo his precious freedom before the “right” girl came along.
When war came to Shanghai, Teng was sent to Nanking to take charge of a branch office of the concern. In Nanking his routine was interrupted by as many as eight or nine Japanese air raids a day; but he was never injured, and he was never short of money.
He gave up his job and went to work in a government office which was moved to Hankow early in 1938. In Hankow he continued to eat in restaurants with his friends and colleagues; some of these places were noted for their fish and for excellent pies made of flour from small green beans and stuffed with glutinous rice, ham, and other delicacies. He kept on taking girls to foreign movies and Chinese opera.
He received practically the same salary from the government as he had received from the business in Shanghai and Nanking, and the cost of living was almost the same.
After the fall of Hankow he went to Chungking in early 1939, and everything began to change. The enemy had blockaded all of China’s seacoast. Imported goods reached the hinterland only in small quantities which trickled in from Hong Kong and over the Burma Road. Opportunists saw in this condition a chance to make money and took to hoarding and other selfish practices. Prices began their upward march, and soon some of the articles needed for human comfort went beyond the purse of men like Teng Chan.
Teng cut down his various pleasure pursuits to a minimum. After a day’s hard work, he would stay in the barrackslike office dormitory–which, in his early days in Chungking was a building of tile, brick, wood, lime, and mud. He would sit on his bed and chat with three fellow workers who slept in the same room instead of talking over a coffee pot in the Hazelwood or some other downtown coffee house. He seldom went out, and he met fewer and fewer girls. He ate in the office mess hall, where eight persons would sit at a table, quickly emptying dishes of fish and chicken. Even pork and beef were served less and less frequently; when they appeared, it was in small quantity.
Teng had to weigh his purse before he took money out of it. He was still drawing the same salary, but money had lost a third or more of its purchasing power. One of the rare occasions on which he gave a party was when a foreign friend brought his overcoat to him all the way from Shanghai after traveling nearly a year by way of India and Burma. The party which Teng gave in honor of his friend at the White Rose Restaurant, with dishes of duck and chicken, cost him $35 Chinese. The same dinner during his Hankow days would have cost less than $20. He considered his money well spent. He would have had to pay twice $35 to buy a new overcoat, and he already was running short of clothes.
One reason why Teng gave few parties was that he was thinking of marriage. Some of his friends insisted that he could face the increasing hardships of life better if he had a wife.
“Love is great,” Liang Ou-kwai used to say.
Young Liang had joined the government in its long march
westward hardly a month after his marriage, leaving his wife behind in his native province Chekiang, with the promise to come back to her as soon as the war was over. In her life the days lengthened into weeks, and the weeks into months and years until finally she left her baby boy–never seen by his father–with her mother-in-law and took to the road.
For the love that Liang said was “great,” she accepted the hazards and hardships of a long journey which would have been difficult for a strong man. She was typical of many young wives of China who, afoot or in some other way, traveled hundreds of miles to join their husbands after separations which had become unbearable. She was happier than some of her sisters in the faithfulness and constancy of her husband. Liang cried for joy at meeting her, though he didn’t kiss her in public–that is not the custom in China, even for a modern and highly educated couple like the Liangs.
The musician’s wife, for instance, had a different meeting with her husband after her long journey to Chungking. He worked in a government broadcasting station, where he had become enamored of a girl in the choir whom he “married.”
Under such circumstances, some wives–especially, uneducated girls from the country–meekly yielded to their husbands and agreed to stay under the same roof with the woman who was kept as a mistress or as a second wife. But the musician’s wife had had some schooling and had adopted some of the new ideas. She charged her husband with bigamy and desertion, and would have sued him for divorce if it had not been for the two children she had brought along with her.
There were domestic tragedies that would not have happened without the war. There are unfaithful husbands in China as well as elsewhere, especially among men separated from their wives for months or years.
Teng had made up his mind to begin looking for a girl to marry, and he wanted to make no mistake. He wanted to be a husband like young Liang and to have a wife as loving as Liang’s.
Love, he found, was a much more complicated affair in wartime than in peacetime. He had no desire to marry a soldier’s wife or fiancée. Such a woman, left with small means of support, with no news from her soldier husband for as long as two years, sometimes became desperate and began to look for other men–it might be any man who would support her.
The Legislative Yuan of the National Government, in view of this situation, promulgated a law under which soldiers’ wives were not allowed to seek divorce, to become betrothed, or to marry. In case of betrothal, a wife could be punished by six months’ imprisonment or a fine of $1,000. One guilty of bigamous marriage could get seven years in jail or be fined $5,000. Adultery could bring three years’ imprisonment or a fine of $3,000. A girl legally betrothed to a soldier could not seek annulment of the betrothal. Adultery on a wife’s part could be punished by five months’ imprisonment or a $1,000 fine.
After the war had been in progress for a considerable time Warrior Family Aid committees were set up by the All- China Troop Comforting Association in Chungking and other cities to provide food and other daily necessities for soldiers’ wives. When they were created, a soldier’s wife like Mrs. Wang Li-sze could send her two small sons to “Know Trouble Chang,” secretary-general of the Chung- king Warrior Family Aid Committee. After learning of their difficulties he would sign an order for money and tell one of his staff to take the ragged boys out for shoes, socks, and coats. He would promise to try to get rice from the Chung- king Food Bureau. If his measures failed to keep the family on its feet he could send the children to a war orphanage.
Teng’s field was limited to those modern Chinese maidens who were available in the marriage market. Most of them were newly graduated from middle schools or colleges. Some were working in government offices like himself.
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A thoroughly modern Chinese maiden is emancipated both legally and socially, and usually wishes to keep her job after marriage. Teng had no objection to a working wife. He found that most of the younger working girls wanted to wait a few years before marriage, but he was doubtful about their merits anyway.
He preferred a college graduate, who was good at running a home and could save the cents without losing the dollars. He thought a girl who had been working for some time would know better than a girl fresh from school how to use each hard-earned cent and each hard-earned dollar. If his wife wanted to work after marriage, let her work. Life was hard and was certain to get harder and harder as long as the war went on, and it would be better for two to be working and earning. This idea might never have occurred to Teng in peacetime.
The road to marriage, he found, was not without its difficulties. He could not marry the girl across the desk in his office, as some of his friends had done. Across his desk, there sat no girl. Most of the girls in the building were married or engaged, or were too young for a man well over thirty.
The war has at times brought Chinese boys and girls closer together. Casual meetings on busses, boats, and trains developed into long-term friendships; and chance introductions of those who shared the same dugout, into life partnerships.
If Teng had had any favorable chances he had not taken full advantage of them; and some of his meetings with young women were tragic rather than romantic. While walking along the street after an air raid, he saw a young woman whose left arm had just been blown off by a bomb. She told him she had been holding her child with this arm, and the child was nowhere to be seen when she regained consciousness. For a long time, she said, she did not feel any pain, because she was overwhelmed with grief at the loss of her baby.
As she grieved over the baby she suddenly realized that her husband, who had been with her during the air raid, also had disappeared. His death was certain.
Teng was moved to tears. He took from his purse all the money he had, $50 Chinese, and gave it to the woman as she was carried away on a stretcher to a hospital.
Teng had no desire to go to a matchmaker. Matchmakers’ services were dispensed with by well educated young people in China. He did go to Liang, his friend and colleague, whose wife knew a host of modern Chinese maidens of marriageable age and mood.
Through an introduction by Mrs. Liang, Teng finally met the girl whom he married. She, too, worked in a government office. She had made the long journey from Nanking to Chungking with her mother and elder sister; but by the time of the marriage she was an orphan. The mother and the two girls were in a dugout during an air raid in which a bomb fragment penetrated the dugout. The mother was killed, and the elder sister received crippling injuries.
The days before and after the tragic event, of August 19, 1940, were not appropriate for tears, first when the girl lost all her possessions in one bombing, and then when she lost her mother in a second raid. He and the girl walked in the moonlight one night–but it was to a salesroom for a coffin, hoping that the body of the mother could be sent to a temple across the Yantze River before another alarm sounded.
During those days Teng had to save every cent he could against his wedding, which was to be about a hundred days after the death of his girl’s mother, according to Chinese custom.
Commodity prices still were rising, so that the government had to adopt control measures. Though profit and excess- profit taxes were imposed by the government, greedy merchants continued with their profiteering practices; and even a person like Teng was sometimes called in jest a “hoarder” because he was saving his money to get married.
The most he could put away each month was $200 then equal to about $40 American. He received an increase in salary, but his raise was insignificant compared with the increase in the cost of living. The girl was impressed by his saving and, to help him, refused all his offers to buy her presents and all his invitations to restaurants and the movies. They met only to walk in a park or along the streets.
The delay in the marriage drew protests from some of Teng’s close friends. Liang quoted an old Chinese saying about “hearing noises on the stairway but seeing nobody coming down.” Teng could see disadvantages himself, because a wedding ceremony delayed for three months would cost two or three times as much, with the rise in prices continuing.
The movement for thrift had spread to everything. In peacetime, young couples had not begrudged lavish spending at their weddings. Those who were well-to-do and modern used limousines for bridal chairs, while the old-fashioned preferred the “flowery sedan chair.” Before the war there would have been a parade in which the bride’s trousseau and dowry would have been shown from one end of the street to the other. The wedding ceremony would have been followed by a costly banquet.
These were extravagances which Teng had to dispense with in his wedding. Economize he must, but not so far as to do without a ceremony. Some couples inserted advertisements in the papers proclaiming themselves man and wife, while others simply began living together without an advertisement. These unions were called “puppet organizations.”
When Teng’s wedding came on February 23, 1941, it was properly solemnized. A floor of the One Heart restaurant in downtown Chungking was simply but fittingly decorated for the ceremony. For the wedding march, one musician friend of Teng’s played his violin and another a piano Teng had borrowed from the American pastor of the Methodist Church.
The bride was dressed in a white silk gown which she had bought from one of the numerous secondhand stores in Chungking. (At first she had thought of renting a new gown; but that would have cost almost as much, and she thought she could sell the secondhand one to another store at the purchase price–as she later did.) Instead of a best man and a maid of honor, for whom it would have been necessary to buy clothes, two small flower girls followed the bride during the wedding march.
The wedding, with a simple dinner for friends and relatives of both parties, cost a little more than $2,000. Half was paid by the groom and half by the bride–which shamed Teng, but which he could not help. There was a week’s honeymoon, as all public functionaries were given a week for marriage leave. Then the newlyweds moved from hotel to hotel until their efforts to find the cheapest one landed them in a dingy room for which they paid $10 a day. This kind of life, staying in one hotel today and another tomorrow, having breakfast in one restaurant, lunch in another and supper in a third, is described in wartime China as, ta yu chi, (following guerrilla tactics).
Teng and his bride had to follow guerrilla tactics because the house which Teng had engaged a contractor to build was not ready until two weeks after the wedding. The marriage was at the beginning of the retrogressive age of mud and bamboo in Chungking. Most of the buildings of tile, brick, and wood had been destroyed by bombs and were being replaced with structures of mud and bamboo with straw roofs. Even for a shanty of mud and bamboo Teng had to pay $800, which represented nearly two months’ salary.
Despite the sums he paid for his wedding and for the house and other things that went with the making of a new home, Teng considered himself fortunate when he saw how much more others had to pay when they were married later. Sun, a typist in another government building, spent more than $4,000 when in 1942 he married a girl who worked in his office. Chu, the English-language secretary in still another government office, marrying a girl who worked across the desk from him, paid nearly $10,000 in 1943.
No matter how high the cost of matrimony or how hard life became, young couples in love continued to marry. Even in the worst of the “fatigue bombing,” when Japanese air raiders came five or six times a day, a girl who was the daughter of an overseas Chinese in America arrived by plane in Chungking to be married. As Liang once told Teng, love was bomb-proof. The ceremonies became more and more simple, and more and more expensive, until an increasing number of couples found it expedient to join the mass weddings held two or three times each year in Chungking. For those weddings, each couple paid only $200.
All those who married had to face a hard problem, best described by the common Chungking saying, “It is much easier to find a wife than to find a house.”
It was well to know a contractor like the one who built what Teng called his home–a home which he and his wife, and later his children, shared with rats. It had a straw roof which was twice blown off by bombs. After each bombing disaster Teng had to get the contractor to repair, in fact almost to rebuild, his house; and each time he had to go to an executive in his office for an allowance to help him meet the cost. The cost was approximately $2,000 each time.
Even badly damaged houses were repaired, for every available house in Chungking was occupied and every occupant, once in a house, meant to stay, even if the landlady brought suit in court charging her tenant with refusal to pay the rent she demanded.
A contractor charged $2,000 for a house with two small rooms built for the Suns and more than twice that amount for another of the same size built several months later for the Chus, not because he wanted to exploit the wartime demand for houses but because, as he said, the price of rice had gone so high, and he and his men had families to support.
The workmen who built Chungking’s houses were so pressed for time that some of them, hardy and fearless men, continued to work during air raids. Mrs. Teng once hired a carpenter to make a table and a couple of stools out of some old pieces of wood she had collected, and he went ahead with his work after an alarm was sounded. Mrs. Teng asked him to go to the dugout, but he replied in his native Szechwan courting. Teng was often in dialect, “Pa sha tze,” which to a northern ear like Teng’s sounds like “Afraid of sand,” but in Szechwan means, “What is there to fear?”
After marriages came babies, except with those who felt they could not bring up babies in wartime. The coming of babies raised new problems. Teng had to buy more nourishing food for his wife, although he couldn’t afford it, and had to get a new mosquito net at an exorbitant price to replace an old and worn one, so that his wife would be better protected against malaria. He had to make sure that she didn’t have to run to a dugout during an air raid. Several wives of his friends lost babies because of malaria or because of running to reach dugouts before the bombs came down.
When these worries were almost over and the baby was soon to come, Teng had to worry about sending his wife to a proper maternity hospital. His hospital bill was well over $3,000. That was the cheapest hospital rate he could get anywhere in or near Chungking when his first baby was born on August 15, 1942.
By that time, Teng had received further increases in pay so that his monthly income, including salary, living subsidies, and allowances, amounted to a bit more than $1,000– which, at the official rate of exchange then prevailing, equaled $50 American. In addition he was given five tou (94 quarts) of government rice per month: two for himself, two for his wife, and one for the baby.
As time passed, Teng’s income increased–but not as fast as the cost of living. When his second baby was born in 1944 he was paid something more than $3,000 a month; but he would have paid nearly $10,000 if he had sent his wife to a proper maternity hospital. This he could not afford to do. The child was delivered at home by a doctor of the health clinic of the Social Welfare Center run by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Through all these difficult days, Teng’s wife put all her earnings into the family budget and saved every cent she could. Her earnings were two-thirds of her husband’s. She could have drawn six tou of government rice for the two adults and two infants of her family except for a government ruling that in case both husband and wife worked in government offices only the husband would be entitled to receive the rice allowance.
The ruling was announced in the autumn of 1942, and immediately caused protests by women. After heated discussion, women public functionaries organized an association in whose name strong representations were submitted to the authorities urging cancellation or revision of the ruling.
The government changed the ruling to read: “In case both the husband and wife are government employees, only one of them (either husband or wife but not both) shall be entitled to receive a rice allowance.”
Mrs. Teng could do nothing about it. She would not, for instance, lie to her superiors by telling them that she was unmarried or that her husband did not work in another government office. She loved her husband and would not insert in the newspaper an advertisement that she had divorced him. An additional allowance of six tou of rice meant much, and she knew some women were telling lies to get it. They did so because they were hungry and they had to eat in order to live. When they tried to get from the government a little more than the law permitted, it was far less than what the war had taken from them.
Mrs. Teng had to retrench. Instead of hiring a wet nurse, she nursed her own baby. Wet nurses are important in Chungking, for cow’s milk is scarce and milk powder is costly. The housewife and young mother who is better off than Mrs. Teng but not rich enough to buy cow’s milk and Klim powder goes to a wet nurse. The salary paid depends upon many factors–the quality of the milk the baby is getting, the financial condition of the family, the fondness of the family for the baby, the age of the nurse, and the generosity of the housewife. A good-looking and young nurse who seemed to keep a baby happy was paid as much as $2,400 a month in the spring of 1944 in addition to food and clothing. The average pay was likely to be between $1,200 and $2,000.
To get the services of a wet nurse, a Chungking mother goes to Golden Soup Street, which is down a hill off the main street leading from the suburbs to the downtown business center. In front of an apartment house on Golden Soup Street she can find, at almost any time between five and ten A.M. daily, as many as twenty to thirty wet nurses and maid servants who are seeking employment.
Mrs. Teng went there, not for a wet nurse, but for a maid. The Tengs both worked in government offices, and there was only the wife’s elder sister, who was weak and slow of mind because of her bombing injuries, to help care for the babies and do the housework. A maid was essential.
On her first visit to the servant mart in 1941 Mrs. Teng hired a maid at a monthly wage of $30. Each time she hired a new one the wage was higher. After her second baby was born in 1944 she had to pay $450. The servant’s wage in Chungking is a perfect barometer of the upward trend of the cost of living.
Mrs. Teng made many visits to the servant mart, because her servants never stayed longer than a few months. They quit one after another, to open a small shop or take a job in a factory, because such work paid better than work as a servant. Each time a maid quit, Mrs. Teng had to take over the household affairs herself until she could hire another one.
Mrs. Teng began her day’s work at six o’clock. She spent no time on make-up, as she could not afford lipstick, rouge, and face powder. The maid, when she had one, prepared the rice gruel for breakfast; but Mrs. Teng scrambled the eggs herself, because she could please her husband’s taste. When eggs were too expensive, she would send the maidservant out for a couple of crullers, which, soaked in sauce, would help her husband eat more gruel.
Mrs. Teng’s own breakfast had to be eaten quickly, for she had to nurse the baby before going to her office. Office hours started at seven A.M. in summer and at eight A.M. during the rest of the year. While nursing the baby or eating breakfast, Mrs. Teng had to tell her elder sister in minute detail what to buy at the market so that the latter, with her bomb-shocked mind, could remember every item. Mrs. Teng could not let the maid do the marketing lest she take “squeeze” out of the day’s small allotment of food money.
Mrs. Teng finished her morning’s work in her office at noon and started for home. She almost always traveled on foot, even when she was expecting a baby. Teng, whose office was near his home, returned before she did, and tried to make himself useful by giving one of the babies a bath, or by cooking some dish which he and his wife liked. He learned cooking from her, and after much practice became quite good at it.
The first thing Mrs. Teng did upon her return was to nurse her baby, who had been crying for an hour from hunger. Then she ate her lunch, as hastily as her breakfast, because her office hours in the afternoon were from one o’clock to five except during the summer heat, when they ended at four.
In the evening she nursed the baby and helped with the cooking until finally her hard day came to an end.
Day in and day out, a Chinese housewife like Mrs. Teng is busy six days a week. On Sunday she has a day away from the office but not from her endless household chores. It is the day to have an extra dish or two–perhaps a meat dish to vary the monotony of vegetables, and she must go to market herself.
With her allotment for the day’s food in a pocket inside her faded cotton gown, and with a shallow market basket on her arm, Mrs. Teng set out for market at six o’clock on a cool Sunday morning last spring. She had risen an hour earlier than usual to feed the baby and to measure out two bowlfuls of rice for the breakfast gruel, which the maid would cook.
On the ten-minute walk to market, Mrs. Teng met a friend coming back. She gleaned the news that there was no pork, and that other meats were very high.
The narrow alley which led into the thatch-covered market place was jammed with men carrying produce into market in large baskets on the ends of poles, and housewives coming out with their purchases in market baskets. Mrs. Teng elbowed her way through the crowd, peering into the baskets of other housewives and asking them about prices. Nothing was wrapped: vegetables and fish and eggs all were arranged in neat layers in the market baskets. Strangers answered Mrs. Teng’s questions cheerfully. Bystanders joined in with suggestions.
The stalls were formed by groups or rows of large round baskets full of produce, which served as counters. Over each set of baskets a whole family presided. The cash register was a basket hung from a rafter by a rope and dangling at shoulder level. Into this the salesman tossed the paper money.
Mrs. Teng’s first purchase was from a stall handling pickled greens. Salty things, she thought, made rice taste good. She found brine-soaked spinach cheap, and carefully picked out, piece by piece, thirteen ounces. She placed them herself in the tray of the simple scales which the salesman held. Then he put them in a neat pile at the bottom of her market basket.
The bamboo shoots at the next stall interested her. But the big ones, the size of a cow’s horn, were too tough, she thought; and the little ones, the size of asparagus tips, were too expensive.
She moved on to the vegetable counter, where a grandmother was industriously shelling peas and beans. Mrs. Teng looked over them carefully and, after much bargaining with the old lady, purchased a catty of shelled green peas. A catty is a large dipperful, amounting to more than a pound.
Mrs. Teng skipped the fish stall. Fish is not for a family such as hers. It is too expensive. Bean curd–which is a standby in Chinese meals–was on sale at small folding stands between the vegetable and fish stalls: the dried curd was brown, and looked like yesterday’s waffles. Mrs. Teng was looking for things for jaded appetites, and the bean curd lost her attention when she saw a man with crabs. Her husband liked these, and she must buy some though it was extravagant. After consulting another woman near by she bought a bunch of crabs tied up with a long piece of grass.
Her most serious job was her purchase of twenty eggs. She knelt beside the two large baskets of eggs watched over by a young boy, and picked the eggs out one by one, as carefully as an American housewife picks her tomatoes or her peaches. Every egg must be examined for cracks, weighed in the hand, held up to the ear, and shaken. Each egg that passed inspection went into her basket next to the string of crabs.
Then came the inspection of chickens. The chickens were fully feathered and very much alive. Their feet were tied together with straw, which didn’t seem to bother them; and potential customers lifted them up by their wings to examine them, which didn’t seem to bother them either. They were extremely placid chickens. Mrs. Teng thought chicken too high. She could afford chicken only once in a great while.
That finished her marketing for the day. In two hours she had spent all the day’s food money, well over $200. Yet there was no fish, no chicken, and no pork in her market basket.
By cutting down her expenditures on week days and spending a little more on Sundays and holidays, Mrs. Teng managed with about $5,000 for food, excluding rice, each month. Six tou of government rice was not sufficient to feed her family, so that she had to buy from one of the rice distribution centers an extra tou or so each month. For this purchase she had to borrow an identification card from some friend who was single or didn’t have a big family. She could not use her own card or her husband’s because they got government rice. In addition to food expenses, fuel cost her $900 a month.
The earnings of the two Tengs were hardly enough to make ends meet, however hard the wife tried to stretch the money. All Mrs. Teng’s valuable possessions–a fur overcoat, a pair of gloves, and some dresses, brought to her from down river by relatives and friends–were sold to secondhand stores. She had left only old dresses, washed and remade to look like new ones.
She could buy from her office cooperative some daily necessities, which are rationed by the month, such as twelve ounces of vegetable oil, a little more than a pound of salt, and a little more than a pound of sugar. Once in several months she could buy a few yards of blue or white cotton cloth, a tube of tooth paste, a box of shoe polish, or a shirt for her husband. In this respect she was more fortunate than wives who did not work in government offices, because she could buy things at fixed prices from the cooperatives of both her own and her husband’s offices.
She fought hard against rising prices and did everything she could to make up for the depreciation of the Chinese dollar. By March, 1944, $300 Chinese wouldn’t buy what $1 had done in prewar days. She brought from her office old newspapers and other waste paper to use as fuel or as toilet paper. She made shoes for her babies out of the rags of worn-out clothes. Once she brought home a dog which had just been killed by a motor car, because she had been told dog meat, cooked with onions, was delicious. She had heard that one of the war lords was noted for his fondness for dog meat; but she found she didn’t care for it.
She turned to animal husbandry, but there her resourcefulness failed her. All the pigs, the goats, and the chickens which she tried to raise died, one after another, either of winter cold and dampness or of some contagious disease. The death of the goats was particularly disappointing for she had hoped to get milk as a supplementary diet for her baby.
Nor was her experiment in agriculture successful. Within the tiny courtyard of her home she tried to grow cabbages, peas and beans, a few rows of corn, and tomatoes. The cabbage grew well, and there were days when her elder sister didn’t have to buy cabbage from the market. But the peas and the beans, the corn and the tomatoes were killed by the summer sun.
During all the difficult years, only once did Teng want to resign his government post for a better position elsewhere. He withdrew his resignation when his chief promised him a better future. The promise of happier days has been the buoy to which all Chinese have clung in the seven stormy years of war.
Liang Ou-kwai, Teng’s friend and former colleague, is now the father of four children, including the one his wife left to the care of his mother in Chekiang Province. Liang resigned his government job because he had to have more money with so many mouths to feed, and because his elder brother needed an assistant in his machine shop.
The Ting Feng Machine Shop in the outskirts of Chungking is one among hundreds of industrial plants driven by the war from the coastal provinces to Chungking and other cities of western China. Their journeys were modern odysseys, full of dangers and hardships. Their operations in the interior constantly have been threatened by bombs, by shortages, and by high costs.
The Ting Feng Machine Shop made a hazardous 1,500- mile trip from Shanghai to Chungking. When the battle of Shanghai began, Chinese soldiers helped to remove the machine shop’s equipment from the fighting zone. With a loan of $2,000 Chinese from the National Resources Commission the owners started their journey westward, going first to Hankow.
All the machines were placed on junks, and ten foremen and experienced workers were picked from a working staff of eighty to supervise the journey. The rest were told to follow when they had made arrangements for their families. The junks traveled on Soochow Creek from Shanghai to Soochow, where they entered the Grand Canal and sailed north to the Yangtze. The 200-mile trip was accomplished despite the attacks of enemy planes. The junks were machine-gunned no fewer than six times and two workmen were wounded.
From Chinkiang, capital of Kiangsu Province, to Hankow, a distance of 439 miles, the journey was by steamer, and all was uneventful except for an occasional sight of Japanese planes.
At Hankow the machines were set up in twenty days, and work was begun. With sixty workmen, partly old Shanghai hands, the shop started on the production of military compasses, bomb fuses, and other military and commercial articles. Japanese bombs were a frequent menace, but the plant worked day and night shifts for seven months and filled most of the orders received.
When the Japanese approached Hankow in August, 1938, the shop resumed its westward journey. Through the good offices of the Industrial and Mining Readjustment Commission of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, it got space on the congested steamers and reached Ichang, below the Yangtze Gorges, within three days.
From Ichang few steamers were sailing westward, and every one was jammed. Rather than keep the machines idle the owners caused them to be set up; and they were operated in Ichang for about fifty days.
When all hope of a steamer passage proved futile, he again resorted to junks. The junk trip through the rapids of the Upper Yangtze lasted two months and was both exciting and dangerous. The majestic Yangtze Gorges offer much of nature’s magnificence, but the 462-mile voyage is a contest with mad currents. Towed by their crews, the junks sometimes made as little as five miles a day. They always were in danger of capsizing and sometimes were half full of water.
This was the machine shop into which young Liang went to work when he left the government office. It was one of the numerous factories which suffered in the bombings in Chungking. Many of them eventually moved into bomb-proof shelters carved out of the cliffs above the mighty Yangtze and Chialing rivers.
The story of the machine shop and the story of Teng are ordinary stories in wartime China. They are not unusual. Everyone in China has a story. The old woman behind the counter of a small roadside cigarette shop lost all her dear ones and all her property in the bombings, and she is trying to get through her old age by selling tobacco. The food vender who carries a miniature kitchen suspended from the ends of a pole over his shoulder has a story; so has the street- corner barber who half cuts and half extracts the hair of his customers with his primitive scissors; so has the driver of the bus that runs on charcoal; so has the driver of the horse- drawn cart, and so has everyone in China from Chiang Kai- shek to the humblest peasant.
The war has affected the rich as well as the poor, and after seven bitter years they sometimes meet on the same financial ground. The poor street corner food vender may find among his customers an official who has been forced to buy such simple food by the fact that he is earning little more nowadays than the vender. The one-time taipan (manager of a business firm) who used to have his own car but has gone bankrupt considers himself lucky if he can get on a bus without standing in line for half an hour (excerpts from: Hawthorne Cheng et al., China after Seven Years of War, ed. Hollington K. Tong, 1945, pp. 2-23).
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