Exiled Pilgrims

Memoirs of Pre-Cultural Revolution Zhiqing

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

Paperback List price

EUR €38.00USD $50.00

Biographical Note

Peng Deng, Ph.D. (1990), Washington State University, is Professor of History at High Point University. Among his many publications in English and Chinese are Private Education in Modern China (Praeger, 1997) and (Deng ed.) Wusheng de qunluo: wenge qian lao zhiqing huiyilu [ Silent tribe: memoirs of pre-Cultural Revolution zhiqing, 3 vols.] (Chongqing Press, 2006 & 2009).

Review Quotes

"...in his book, Exiled Pilgrims: Memoirs of Pre-Cultural Revolution Zhiqing, Peng Deng, a zhiqing-turned historian in the United States, provides us with touching stories that unveil the experience of 1.3 million youths who went to rural China before the Cultural Revolution thereby rescuing a crucial component of the history of Shangshanxiaxiang (上山下乡/Sending-down or Rustication Campaign) from public oblivion. [...] Deng's Exiled Pilgrims, with original zhiqing narratives, stands out in telling honest truth. [...] Exiled Pilgrims contains precious primary source materials for students of the history of contemporary China before, during, and after the Cultural Revolution. It is also a great reference book for the studies of gender and Chinese society, if students look closely into the different destinies and distinct personal feelings of male and female zhiqing in the stories."
Qian Liu, American Review of Chinese Studies, volume 18, no. 1 (Spring 2017) "This book fills a void in the existing literature on China's zhiging experiences and is a must-read for both serious scholars who specialize in China studies and anyone who is interested in learning and understanding the twists and turns in the first thirty years of the PRC's history and overall legacy of the Maoist era."
Yi Sun, University of San Diego, Journal of Global South Studies (Spring 2018)

Table of contents

Peng Deng
Michel Bonnin
Peng Deng

Part I The Call of Mountains
Youth Training School in Chengdu
Tang Longqian
In Remembrance of Those Long-Gone Years
Han Xiu
The Road to Xinjiang
Dong Danan
Between Chongqing and Yunnan
He Ying
Boarding the Westbound 413
Jin Xiping
Friends in Southern Hunan
Zhang Jianfu
Tales of Camp Harmony
Wu Baichun

Part II An Illusive Utopia
Three “Higher Intellectuals” on Our Farm
Song Xiaotao
Behind the Clouds
Ren Zongjing
Grain “Looters”
Jiang Xuchu
Snow Leopard
Pang Tongmin
We Were Once All “Hukou Soldiers”
Li Zhonggong
Unlucky Émigré
Shi Ming
My Days in Well Pass
Ding Yumin
Sixth Aunt
Wang Yuanling
Lost Love in the Daba Mountains
Zhang Yiting

Part III On the Altar of the Revolution
Songs of October
Liu Changyi
Withered Youth
Li Zhongmei
The Choice between Life and Death
Ma Wenhua
Massacre in Nanjiang
Yang Xingquan
Born to Be Criminals
Zhang Mengjie
In Those Wintry Days
Zhou Bangxian
The Fortieth Anniversary of Wang Baiming’s Death
Zheng Wendou

Part IV The Long Journey Home
My Twelve Years as a Zhiqing
Wang Shiyan
Teacher Qin
Wang Lingfu
Ten Years in Dragon Spring
Wan Xiaonong
Self-Taught Doctor from the Mountains
Li Wei
My Dream of College
Jiang Shuling
Troublesome Personal Data Form
Xia Xianzheng
The Ordeal of Job Hunting
Zhao Minghe
Disability Certification
Li Suhua
The Long Way Home
Li Zisen
My Father
Deng Yuanshu

Appendix 1 Directive Concerning the Political Evaluation of High School and Middle School Students in Chongqing Municipality in 1964
Appendix 2 Political Evaluation Criteria for Admissions by Non-Special Fields of Study in Colleges
Appendix 3 Political Evaluation Criteria for Admissions by Secondary Schools



All interested in the history of the PRC in general and shangshan xiaxiang [sending-down/rustication campaign] and zhiqing or zhishi qingnian [educated/rusticated youth] in particular.

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