Tuesday, May 23, 2017

莊稼地裏的「祕密通道」Banned Books Mean Everything

曾錚的圖片故事(12)Jennifer’s Photo Stories (12)

Rong and I at Mianzhu Park on July 30, 1984.

Rong and I in junior middle school

The girl with me in these two photos was THE best friend of mine in primary school.  Her name was Rong. Other than my parents, she was the one who influenced me most, and was almost a mentor for me in many ways.
I remember she only transferred to our school when we were already in grade 4. She was assigned to sit at the same desk with me. 
At that time I had almost no friends at all in school. My father was relocated to that remote small town as a “black pawn of reactionary capitalist-roader” during the Great Cultural Revolution. Intellectuals were regarded as the Communist Party’s enemies; and our family was almost the only intellectual family in the town. In order not to get ourselves into more trouble, my mother didn’t encourage me to play with other kids. If I became involved in a fight, it could be interpreted as a “class struggle” and bring us disastrous consequences. 
However, Rong was somehow different from other children. Her father was the principal of the middle school in our town, so I instinctively regarded her as my own “class”, and felt safe to be with her. Gradually, we became good friends. 
More importantly, she had so many wonderful books! During cultural revolution, almost all literary classics were burnt as “poisonous weeds”. Other than those boring text books with only essays to praise “our Great Leader Chairman Mao” and the party, we had nothing else to read whatsoever.
Rong’s coming changed everything! Her father had somehow managed to hide and keep a wealth of banned books, including “Journey to the West”, “A Dream of Red Mansions” and many fair tale books translated from foreign languages. 
One by one Rong “stole” those books from home, brought them to school and shared them with me. 
In order to “squeeze” out time to read the books, we later learned how to pretend to have stomachaches or other problems when we had PE lessons. And we became very good at it! So when other kids were doing PE on the playground, we two stayed in the empty classroom and secretly read our forbidden and “stolen” books. 
We also tried to sneak out when everybody else was taking a nap at noon. We would usually hide in the farm land where the crops were very tall. If we sat on the ground and hid inside, nobody could see us from outside. Although it was terribly hot, especially in summer, we didn’t mind. Compared with the tremendous happiness we gained from the books, the hardships of reading under the baking sun with streaming sweat was nothing. 
It was under such circumstances that I read  “Journey to the West”, “A Dream of Red Mansions”, “Andersen’s Fairy Tales”, “Grimm’s Fairy Tales”, etc., for the first time as a fourth-grader. 
For me, those were the happiest times throughout my childhood. The banned books opened my eyes and led me into so many wonderful worlds where fairies, princesses, princes, gods, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, etc., existed. Although the Communist Party wanted to wipe out our traditions and take away our beautiful things, my innocent heart somehow found a way to connect myself with other and better worlds through those wonderful banned books.
About 20 years later, when I read “Zhuan Falun”(http://en.falundafa.org/falun-dafa-books.html) for the first time, I suddenly felt that the reason I was so “thirsty” for all those books in all those years was that I needed to prepare myself properly so that one day when I came across “Zhuan  Falun” , I could understand it all at once.
Unfortunately, Rong moved to another city with her family after we graduated from primary school. But our friendship and communications remained. So one of the two photos you see here was taken when we were in junior middle school, and another was done after we had graduated from high school; when I traveled all the way from Mianyang City to Mianzhu County to visit her. 

Click here for info about where to read or buy Jennifer's book in English and Chinese, as well as where to watch award winning documentary based on Jennifer's story: "Free China: The Courage to Believe"

Sunday, May 21, 2017

曾錚的圖片故事(11)Jennifer’s Photo Stories (11)

Brainwashing in Different Eras 被洗腦且快樂著

This photo is my sister(right) dancing a Mongolian dance called “Ode To the Grassland” in late 1970s. Some of its lyrics  go like this:
“Twinkling stars in the sky may be numerous and countless
But they are no match for the number of the sheep in our commune
The clouds in the sky may be white and bright
But they are cast into the shade by the pure color of the cashmere of our commune
Our grassland can only thrive 
Under the brilliant radiance of our dear, great, esteemed and beloved Chairman Mao
 Following the guidance of our dear great Communist Party
We little herdsmen are growing up strong and happy
This kind of lyrics may sound disgusting for us now. However, we didn’t feel so when we sang the song and danced with it happily. And I heard even in today’s China,  “red songs” during the Great Cultural Revolution are still very popular among many people. 
Looking back at that time, I hope this photo can remind us what an absurd period we had lived through; and how brainwashed we were.
The problem is: Are we free of brainwashing today? Definitely not. Only the brainwashing methods are different; so many of us are still being “happily” and willingly brainwashed without realizing it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017


看了因修煉法輪功而遭受十年牢獄之災的清華大學學子虞超的Charles Hugo《記憶片段(一)》,感慨良多,想起自己同樣因修煉法輪功被關勞教所的經歷,寫下以下感言:


記憶片段 (一)












Friday, May 19, 2017






















Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wonder of Nature 窗外



Today, on New York's hottest day of the year, I suddenly found that outside my once “bare” window, layers of green foliage have grown to such thickness without me ever realizing it; and are humbly offering me not only some delightful shade from the sun, but also refuge from the overlooking building opposite my window. 


I also observed that in winter, the sunlight always graciously beamed into my house to warm and light it up. But now, in summer, as the sun is higher, its light only stays outside so that my house won’t become hotter.


I am totally in awe of nature; and I am very grateful for life’s wonderful arrangements for all of us.


So, I am sharing these two photos taken from the very same window in two different seasons so that everyone can feel what I experienced today!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Excerpt from Witnessing History

Introduction about me and my book Witnessing History in the new publication catalog of America. 

“I was dragged into the middle of the courtyard and electric shocks rained down on my body, each jolt making me tremble uncontrollably as it pierced me with a violent burning sensation. I sat on the ground clenching my teeth to stop crying out, my head spinning….Both of [of the officers] were prodding me but I wouldn’t let go of my knees. The crackle grew louder and I could feel the current rippling through my body. As it grew in intensity I squeezed my eyes shut, mustering all my will against the black despair sweeping over me and against this monstrous evil threatening to engulf me.

Suddenly something snapped in my brain and I felt the whole world collapse into darkness with a great roar. ‘Hundreds of hardships drop at once, to see how one lives!’ I cried out deep within my soul. Then I collapsed, unconscious, on the ground.”

Witnessing History Should be Mandator Reading

Photo: Information about my book Witnessing History in the new publication catalog of America. 

Witnessing History-One Chinese Woman’s Fight for Freedom

Praise for Witnessing History
“A glimpse not just of the true face of the Chinese government but of the threat holiness poses to the powerful….A useful counterbalance to the reckless enthusiasm of our leaders and media for the Chinese miracle…Should be mandatory reading.”
-Sydney Morning Herald

A woman, whose only crime was following the tenets of Falun Gong, is “reeducated” through forced labor.

Zheng (Jennifer) Zeng was a graduate in science from Beijing University. She was a wife, a mother, and a Communist Party member. But because she followed a spiritual practice called Falun Gong, her life in China was shattered. For adhering to the practice’s simple tenets Truth, Compassion, and Forbearance, she was sentenced without trial to reeducation through forced labor. Her “enlightenment” took the form of beatings, torture with electric prods, starvation, sleep deprivation, and forced labor. She was compelled to knit for days at a time, her hands bleeding, to produce goods contracted for sale in the US market. Many Falun Gong practitioners died under the harsh conditions. Zheng Zeng was lucky.
This is testament to her ordeal and that of thousands still imprisoned for their beliefs.

5 1/2 X 8 1/4
360 pages

Click here for info about where to read or buy Jennifer's book in English and Chinese, as well as where to watch award winning documentary based on Jennifer's story: "Free China: The Courage to Believe"

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

In Rain or Snow We Come Here for You

Falun Gong practitioners demonstrating
Falun Gong exercises and displaying baners
in Brooklyn's Chinatown on May 13, 2017
as part of World Falun Dafa Day festivities
in New York City to celebrate the date
25 years ago—on May 13, 1992—
that Mr. Li Hongzhi first publicly taught
the traditional Chinese spiritual discipline.

風雨無阻 爲你而來


An Ordinary, But Extremely Extraordinary, Chinese-Style Mother

Jennifer (center) with her sisters, mother, and father. (courtesy Jennifer Zeng)
I once hated my mother when I was a child.
No matter how well I behaved, and how many awards I won in school, she seemed never to care about my accomplishments or to appreciate me. Sometimes I even wondered: Would she feel upset if I died?
When it was finally the time for me to leave home for university, I felt very happy. I had chosen a school thousands of miles away.
I fell in love at the university. When my relationship with my boyfriend developed further, it seemed that there was nothing that I could hide from him. He was very surprised when he found out my “extreme” mindset towards my mother, while I felt very upset that he wouldn’t side with me.
However, the broad-mindedness of my boyfriend gradually melted the resentment in my heart, as he always tried to convince me that there were no parents in the world who didn’t love their children.

A Parents’ Sacrifices

Later on, we married and had a lovely daughter of our own. I started to remember much of my mother’s chatter, which had been annoying to me when I was a child, such as: “One will never understand her parents’ sacrifices until she becomes a parent herself,”  or “No matter how far away a child travels, she is always on her mother’s mind,” and so on.
Jennifer and her mother when Jennifer was one-year-old. (courtesy Jennifer Zeng)
Jennifer and her mother when Jennifer was one-year-old. (courtesy Jennifer Zeng)
Once my daughter suffered from pneumonia and high fever, and I felt as though a huge stone was pressed down right on my heart. I almost couldn’t breathe. I rushed her to the hospital in the middle of night.
Then I suddenly remembered a story that my mother had told me before. My mother had to work in a remote mountain area, where medical conditions were extremely poor. When I was one-year-old, one day I suddenly had measles and a very high fever. My mother was really scared. She held me in her arms and walked over dozens of miles of mountain trails in the darkness until she arrived in the city before dawn to seek treatment.
With the growth of my daughter, the meaning behind the sentence, “One will never understand her parents’ sacrifices until she becomes a parent herself” became clearer and more tangible for me. One day I suddenly realized that the reason my mother had been very stern and strict with me was that she didn’t want me to feel too good about myself and become too arrogant, as I had been receiving too many compliments from everywhere.
Regretfully, when I realized this, I was already living thousands of miles away from my mother and had very little chance to give delight to my parents.

Great Motherly Love

However, it was not until I was released from the Beijing Female Labor Camp after having been detained for one year for practicing Falun Gong did I really understand how great motherly love could be.
Jennifer meditating in 1998 in a park in Shenzhen City, China. (courtesy Jennifer Zeng)
Jennifer Zeng practicing the Falun Gong meditation in 1998 in a park in Shenzhen City, China. (courtesy Jennifer Zeng)
When I secretly went back to my hometown to visit my parents shortly after I was released, I learned that when I was imprisoned, my sister had also been fired and detained for practicing Falun Gong. Then she was driven into hiding as she was on the national wanted list.
I couldn’t imagine how huge a blow this must have been to my mother, who had always felt so proud of her three daughters. In the special environment in China, where everybody was brainwashed by the Communist regime, and where family members of Falun Gong practitioners could also be persecuted, many people had chosen to side with the powerful and give pressure to their family members who practiced Falun Gong.
Until that time, no one knew how great my mother was. She didn’t complain; she didn’t blame any of us; nor did she even show to anyone her fear or alarm.
When my sister, who was hiding and working in a small bar in another city almost 100 miles away, contacted my mother, she immediately took a long distant bus to go to that city to visit my sister. After finding out that my sister didn’t have a room of her own, had to sleep on the floor in the bar after all the customers left in the middle night, and didn’t even have any place to store any changes of clothes, my mother decided to act as a regular “transporter” for my sister. My mother would travel every several days between two cities by bus bringing clean clothes to my sister, and bringing back the dirty ones to wash for her.
In order not to have the informers living just downstairs discover her whereabouts, my mother always managed to finish her trip in the same day, and bring as little luggage as possible so that nobody would guess that she would travel to another city. She had to travel back and forth for about 190 miles in the same day.
Apart from taking the long-distance bus, she also had to transfer local buses several times in both cities. Most importantly, she had to be very careful not to be discovered or followed by the police. Otherwise my sister could be exposed to immediate danger. Who would imagine that a retired old woman in her sixties could act so swiftly and smartly and outwit the professional spies and informers?


When I went back home after being released from the labor camp, my mother and sister had been “living” in this kind of condition for months.
Jennifer with her mother in early 1999, in the last photo Jennifer took with her family before the persecution of Falun Gong began. (Courtesy of Jennifer Zeng)
Jennifer Zeng with her mother in early 1999, in the last photo Jennifer took with her family before the persecution of Falun Gong began. (Courtesy of Jennifer Zeng)
I decided to help my sister to find a safer and better place to hide. However, when everything was done and arranged, and when I boarded the train as planned to meet my sister, she was not there.
Not knowing what to do, I had to get off the train at the next station some 37 miles away and then took a taxi back to my parents’ home. Not knowing what had happened to my sister, how could I just leave?
It was already early morning when I arrived. As soon as I entered, I saw a lot of luggage scattered on the floor; and my messy-haired mother was trying to sort things out.
Upon seeing me returning, she said with a blank face, “Your sister was arrested yesterday. These are all from her luggage which your brother-in-law just took back from the detention center; and here is the receipt of the items confiscated by the police.”
My father suddenly pushed me out of the door, and shouted, “Go! Go away! Don’t stand here and wait until the police find out who was going to travel with your sister!”
I stood there, dumbfounded. I looked at my mother’s face; and suddenly found that she looked so much older after just one year’s separation. Much of her hair had turned grey. And her eyes were hollow and very dry, as if, after having seen too much ugliness in her life, nothing could ever make her cry again.
I clenched my teeth and then turned around and quickly walked away. Not being safe myself, I was unable to help my sister anymore. However, I knew that mother would continue to help her. Mother would go to the detention center to visit her, and bring her basic necessities she would need there.

Embrace and Protection

The motherly love, the unconditional motherly love, which never imposed any judgments, and which rose up far beyond all the political theaters of the absurd, would forever support and accompany my sister, and forever support and accompany me as well.
Later on I managed to escape China and lived overseas. For more than a decade, I have never been able to go back, as the persecution has still been going on. My mother flew alone across the ocean twice to visit me.
When my friends asked her to stay with me and not go back again, she always gently shook her head, and I knew why. My father was too old and his health didn’t allow him to travel by plane to visit me. How could mother stay and leave my father alone in China?
The last time when I sent off my mother at the airport, when we had to say farewell to each other in front of customs, I saw that the eyes of my mother, my always very tough mother, suddenly turned red. She abruptly turned around and quickly walked away, so that I would not see her tears falling.
As I stood there watching my mother’s back in a red sweater gradually disappearing in the stream of people, somehow a term suddenly emerged in my mind, “a Chinese-style mother.” Yes, this was an ordinary, and yet an extremely extraordinary, Chinese-style mother.
Although living in a peaceful era, she still had to suffer again and again, bitter, unnecessary and groundless separations that felt like death. Yet she never complained. And she always tried her best to open her arms, arms that were turning older and stiffer, to embrace and offer protection to all her loved ones.
It will soon be Mother’s Day again. I wrote this article with my face bathed in tears. I wanted to dedicate it to mother; yet I hesitated, as I didn’t want her to know that I once had that kind of extreme mindset towards her when I was a child.
Mother is getting older now, and I don’t want to upset her.
 Jennifer Zeng is the author of “Witnessing History: One Chinese Woman’s Fight for Freedom and Falun Gong.” Before she was persecuted in China for her faith, she was a researcher and consultant in the Development Research Center of the State Council, the State Cabinet. Her story is featured in the award-winning documentary “Free China; the Courage to Believe,” co-produced by New Tang Dynasty Television and World2Be Productions. Zeng has a blog and posts to Facebook