Love Beyond Reeducation in Communist China

Posted By on January 2, 2010

My grandfather was imprisoned and sent to hard labor for “reeducation” in Northwest China for 18 years after China became a Communist regime. He was father to six children; the youngest was 3 months old when he was sentenced. His crime: he was a bank manager. He was one of many thousands of Chinese people who were considered counter-revolutionaries, along with doctors, educators and landowners. Some were released after a short time but many died from the conditions they endured, lacking in nutrition and family support.

dad, paternal grand dad, mom, me and dad's younger sister

He was released in 1976, the year Chairman Mao died. In most pictures, his eyes are sunken with deep lines on his face, evidence of the years of misuse. What kept him alive, I could only imagine, was hope. Two years after his release, I was born. He had the opportunity to enjoy my infancy as if it was his second chance. He named me Su Min Yi.

I always had a general idea what it meant but it wasn’t until recently that I looked up the name in the Oxford Chinese Dictionary.

“Su” means to revive or become conscious again. The character is a combination of vegetable shoots, a fish and grain. “Min” means sensitive or clarity. Yi means ceremony, ritual or human relationships. I stared at the words for a long time. It made so much sense to every cell in my body.

Despite losing his life and family in the prime of his life, he found reason to live and time to love. The power of a government, the wealth of a few individuals and the invisible weight of loyalty or duty is nothing — NOTHING — compared to the perseverance of the human spirit.

When I see light in people, I am at peace. When I see pain, sadness or anger in people, I am at peace too because I know there is something valuable there. What we choose to do with it is a choice. The Dalai Lama was once asked, who is your greatest teacher. Mao Zedong, he replied.

About The Author

I am a Chinese-American mother of three boys, parenting with the traditions worth keeping from the East and West. I continue to learn new ways of raising a family and myself.


4 Responses to “Love Beyond Reeducation in Communist China”

  1. Thank you for this dramatic and deep story.

  2. Tatiana says:

    A friend showed me this quote from Albert Einstein and I thought of your piece about your grandfather:

    “Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of others; above all, for those whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends; and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of others, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving.” – Albert Einstein

  3. Julia Carr says:

    Amazing Story Min Yi. Thank you for sharing with us. I’m glad to receive your email as well; you have a powerful message for people today and we are lucky to know you.
    I look forward to reading more.
    Your story serves as inspiration to know that healing can happen across generations and this knowledge can help one to discover their life purpose.
    To heal…to love…to serve…and to remember…(in no particular order).

  4. Heidi Mason says:

    Min Yi~

    This is an amazing story………and very inspiring to me! Thank you for sharing. I look forward to participating in one of your upcoming family constallation workshops. I will not be available for the next one (I will be in my final Lifeworks seminar @ Wings) but sometime soon after that.

    Thanks again for your wonderful insight!


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