When I turned 7, it was time to attend school. On my first day, my father took me to the primary school specifically run for the children of tungsten miners and supporting staff. In front of the school principal, I was asked to count 1-20. I did that, and then I was off to the class.
In the first the few days, I did not know my teacher’s name, but remembered the teacher had a few red stripes along his neck, possibly resulting from a traditional treatment for heat stroke. The first song I learned at school was “Little Spotty Cat” (Xiahuamao). At the end of the first year, I became a member of young pioneers, and received a few awards in the form of pencils and notebooks, as result of my academic excellence.
From the second year onwards, the cultural revolution came in full force. Learning knowledge had given away to reading Mao’s little red book and his new directories. Everyone carried a copy of Mao’s red book in a specially-made red bag. We began each school day by reading a few paragraphs of his writings, and sometimes followed by newspapers’ commentaries.
Although these events had affected us in many ways, I somehow remained an academic high-achiever in my class throughout all those years. To pass time, I would read whatever books I could get hold of. I had read times and again the used textbooks of other grades such as Yuwen (Language), Shuangshu (Mathematics), Lishi (History) and Zhiran (Natural Science), which were left by my elder sisters and brother. In my fifth (final) year of primary school, I was regarded by my classmates as very knowledgeable with a nickname of “Shifu” (Master).
Our after-school activities included playing wood spinners, cards and pebble games. One kind of card games involved making thick square cards with paper. You put one such card on the floor, and the other would try to hit it with another similar card. If the card on the floor was turned over after hitting, this card would belong to the new owner (hitter). What a low tech game it was!