Preface to Bold Plum: with the Guerrillas in China's war against Japan by Hsiao Li Lindsay
In 1947, when I started to write my story, Bold Plum, the tumultuous events in China of which I had so recently been a part were swirling through my head. While my husband Michael was teaching at Harvard University in the United States, I spent long hours sitting at a desk in our university lodgings. My thoughts raced ahead, faster than I could write them down. For some reason, my memories came to me directly in English, not in my native Chinese. I wrote as if I were speaking with a friend, although I was all alone and very lonely in a foreign country.
I wrote steadily, all day every day for three months, without stopping. When I had finished, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and pleasure. All the emotions stored up during those chaotic years of survival and hardship had now been put down on paper.
Hsiao Li in her Beijing apartment
I wrote in English because I wanted people throughout the world to know how the Chinese people had suffered during the anti-Japanese war and how they had fought courageously with very few resources. My story is one woman’Äôs experience of the Chinese resistance to the Japanese occupation. My narrative is from a particular point of view, and an unusual one at that, of a Chinese woman activist married to a non-Chinese, who lived and worked side-by-side with the Communist Army in the guerrilla areas of north China and with the Chinese Communist Party at their wartime headquarters at Yenan.
My story is also a love story between myself, a Chinese woman, and an English man, Michael Lindsay, who became Lord Lindsay of Birker. A Chinese woman marrying a foreigner was almost unthinkable at the time. My story is one of courage and the hardships we endured during our life together under the Japanese occupation of China from 1937 - 1945.
At Yenching University in Beijing, Michael and I were secretly helping the Chinese Communist Army in their fight against the Japanese. We were almost caught by the Japanese on the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941, when the University's protected status as an American institution ended. We dashed out one gate of the University just as the Japanese secret police came in the other gate to arrest us. For two and a half years we were constantly on the move with the Communist Army in the guerrilla areas of north China, trying to evade the Japanese Army. In 1944 we made a dangerous 500-mile journey with frequent crossings of Japanese lines of control to reach Yenan, the wartime headquarters of the Chinese Communists.
Times have changed since 1947. There is now ever-increasing interest in China in the English-speaking world. My story is part of the history of a turbulent period in China seen through the eyes of a woman who lived through it.