Reconstruction of Water Conservancy


If you travel the suburb and counties of Guilin, you may see there are many reservoirs around, big and small. They remained there quietly. Some of them people still use it, others are abandoned. Because farmers are not growing many rice as they used to be.
All these reservoirs were built during the time of People’s Commune (1958-1983) on the call of Chairman Mao "The water conservancy is the agricultural lifeline". In the history they constructed a lot to solve the problem of irrigation since we cultivated the rice paddy three times more than the size before liberation (1949).
These reservoirs were the products of that time, just like the Great Wall was made in Qin Dynasty (221-207BC). We can’t do anything like this since the time has been changed. News you may get from the media that somewhere the government paid millions of money to demolish one or two of nail households for the building of highway. And everything is getting more expensive, compared with the time of People’s Commune that thousands of people moved out of villages with just little compensation for the construction of reservoir.
I’m proud of that I had the experience of Xiushuili (reconstruction of water conservancy) in the commune that I was sent to work as Zhiqing about 40 years ago. We used the water for our rice irrigation was from a reservoir in the north of Guilin. It was named Qinshitan, it was the biggest one. It covers 400 square km and the dam is about 50m high from the ground. One old farmer from our village recalled when he worked in the construction field of reservoir in 1958. He said, the work was hard, everything was done by hand. People who carried two baskets of earth to the top of the dam could get one ticket, and 5 tickets could change one bowl of rice. He said that he was not died there because his son shared his some rice, for his son was young and strong and could get more tickets. It was the time of Big Famine (1958-1962) in China.
Every winter was the time that people were sent to Qinshitan reservoir for the reconstruction. For the local farmers, they didn’t like it. It’s too far from home that they couldn’t take care of their housework, like to breed pigs, and to grow some vegetables. So the commune always sent Zhiqing and some young farmers for this job. For our Zhiqing, we like this job, because we could get more working points than it at home. We made 6 points at home, but 10 points in the construction field of water conservancy. The other thing we like it was that at the last day of the task, there was big dinner with fat pork to reward.
The first day, we gathered in the center of commune, Zhiqing and young farmers were waiting to be sent to Qinshitan by hand tractor. There were 8 Zhiqing from our production brigade, 4 boys and 4 girls. It was a long way and very bumpy by tractor to get there. Our leader Laomo was an ex-serviceman from commune office. He was in charge of the accommodation in the village where we based. Laomo kept the best house for himself, another good one he arranged for 4 girls, for it was easier to ask them to play card with him in the evening. But something happened beyond his plan. The owner of that house, an old man, he refused any female to enter his house or to stay in the garret upon his bedroom. So we 4 boys got an unexpected benefit. The garret was a storehouse of rice stocks. We could put stocks as thick as we like for our beds. It was so soft and warm; we thought it was the most comfortable bed in the world. We were so excited to play on beds till midnight. The next night, we were so quiet, we were too tired to talk, because the work was very heavy. The part of ditch that we constructed was damaged a lot, we needed many concrete to fill it up. The materials to make concrete, like crushed stone, sand and cement, we had to carry on shoulder with distance. The hard work was ok, we were young, but the worse thing was the poor food. Everyday we had same thing, cabbage, also called "Baicai". It looked yellow after cooked, because too little cooking oil. We felt hungry only two hours after meal. We ate anything what we caught in the field, like rat and lizard. I still remember how delicious of lizard after burned by weeds.
Young people always can find some pleasures, even though in tough life. We had a day off once a week; we went a town nearby for the market day. It was a big gathering for Zhiqing from different brigades, even from different communes. It was excited that we could meet some Zhiqing girls, yes, we were at the age to have beautiful imagination of love in the future. A big bowl of rice noodle with a full spoon of fat was our lunch and could refresh us. We found someplace to lie down, offered cigarette around. It was real good time that we could have.
The owner of the house that we lived in was a good old man. He was single, but he liked boys, no matter how messy and dirty we made the house. The garret we lived was on the second floor without stair, only a bamboo ladder. We went to pee 4 or 5 times a night, because the dinner was too thin. It’s horrible to go to the toilet downstairs every time at cold night. But it was too noisy to pee from the window. So the big wood pillar by the wall was our urinal, every morning that place was flooded. I didn’t think that he saw nothing, but we never heard any complaints from him. I have a late apologize for what our stupid behavior when we were young, and hope he is still alive.
It was the big day at the end of the task. It was busy even several days before. Some young farmers were sent to the market for searching fat pigs. This was not our job, butcher was too bloody for us, and it affected our appetite.
The dinner was really great, one big iron pot boiled with water. Pork was cut into pieces the size like a match. Ten people sit around one pot, no talk; everyone opened eyes, hold chopsticks in hand. We didn’t know who said "it cooked", and then the banquet started. The early pieces of pork I just swallowed down, I don’t know the taste. Not very long time we finished, actually cleaned the pot. This great dinner impressed me for a long time, and was a part of beautiful memory of our Zhiqing Life.