In 1967, as the Cultural Revolution ravaged the nation, the Red Guards took university professors and administrators prisoner, and forced them to construct what they called “Cow Sheds” on the campuses of universities throughout China. These Cow Sheds were actually makeshift prisons to house the professors and administrators, who were derogatorily called “Cow Devils” by the Red Guards.
The purpose of the Cow Sheds was to reeducate and rehabilitate the Cow Devils, so that they could reopen the universities and begin educating students in a pure and proper Communistic manner. The Red Guards in charge of the Cow Sheds were often students of the professors.
The living conditions for the imprisoned Cow Devils were often unsanitary and unhealthy. It weakened them, and made them vulnerable to disease.
Their reeducation consisted of hard labor, and beatings during repeated Struggle Sessions. They also had to memorize quotations from Mao’s Little Red Book, and were thrashed severely whenever they failed to remember a quotation with exact accurateness. Many perished from the harsh living conditions and constant beatings from Red Guards.
Ji Xianlin was a professor imprisoned at Peking University. He was head of the university’s Eastern Languages Department. In the 1990’s, Ji wrote one of the few firsthand accounts in existence of those who survived persecution, in a book entitled, The Cowshed: Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
Many of Ji’s peers perished during this dark time in Chinese history, but Ji managed to live a long life. In the post-Cultural Revolution era, he became a popular and highly-respected intellectual. He passed away in 2009, at the age of 97.
Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 25: All-Round Civil War.
Categories: Series (History): The Cultural Revolution