Exiled Pilgrims

Memoirs of Pre-Cultural Revolution Zhiqing

Peng Deng

Exiled Pilgrims contains thirty-two personal accounts by people who, as teenagers, went to rural China in 1964 and 1965. Barred from high school or college by political discrimination, the authors left the cities for the countryside in hopes of redeeming their “original sin” while making a difference in rural China with their hard work, only to find out that their idealism was futile in a mundane world and absurd time. Thus their pilgrimage to an illusory utopia turned into a painful search for truth and a tough struggle to liberate themselves against enormous odds.
The book is the first and only collection of stories by members of a once marginalized and heretofore largely unheard-of group in contemporary China.

"The stories of these young 'exiled pilgrims' bring the reader uplifting examples of the resilience of the human spirit. Their stories are heart-breaking, but the voice is never cynical, and hope is a constant. Exiled Pilgrims is a treasure."
Carole Head, High Point University


"The stories compiled here detail the daily life of a strange and fascinating period, always with emotion, often with humor, showing that one can speak about serious things without being dry. Reading this book is an excellent and pleasant way to understand the real China under Mao."
Michel Bonnin, School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, Paris


"These individualized accounts reflect the shining—and somewhat sad—lives of pre-Cultural Revolution zhiqing. In their stories, the authors not only record their personal experiences, but also provide insightful explanation for the origins, evolution, and impact of such phenomena as the implementation of the class line at schools and the utopian orientation among the Chinese youth in the early and mid-1960s. Together with the valuable photos and rare documents, stories in Exiled Pilgrims give us a fairly comprehensive portrayal of the collective journey of pre-Cultural Revolution zhiqing."
Liu Xiaomeng, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing