THE PEOPLE'S WAR
40. The Field Mouse
|我参加民兵小分队，数次潜入国民党战线的后面，拯救过一个不幸的妇女，绑架过一个地主，杀掉过一个土匪。我不想过分渲染，把这一切说得多么了不起。因为正是这些为数众多的小分队在成千上万的中国村庄里的活动，才使装备很差的中国人民能够不断地打败部分由美国武装起来的蒋介石军队。我也不妄称我的同伴们有什么不寻常的地方或有什么特殊的才能。他们中除了极个别的例外，都是农民。他们都不是共产党员，但是他们拥护共产主义事业。因为他们像千千万万中国青年男女一样认识到，只有共产党才能把他们从悲惨生活中救出来，而蒋介石却一个劲儿地把他们往火坑里推。至于他们的观点是否错误，或者到头来证明他们所拥护的竟是一种更加糟糕的独裁制度，那要由历史来做出判断。||I SHALL not seek to romanticize the several expeditions I made with militiamen behind Kuomintang lines by pretending that there was anything unusual in rescuing a woman in distress, kidnaping a landlord or killing a bandit. For it was just such numerous groups operating through thousands of Chinese villages that were to enable the poorly armed people of China consistently to beat the troops of Chiang Kai-shek partially armed by America. Nor shall I pretend that there was anything unusual or particularly talented about my companions. They were, with rare exceptions, all farmers. Though none of them were Communists, they supported the Communist cause, because like thousands of other Chinese boys and girls, they saw in the Communists the only hope of rescue from the grim life they were living and into which Chiang Kai-shek was pressing them deeper every day. Whether their views were mistaken or whether they were committing themselves in the long run to a worse dictatorship is something history can decide.|
| The leader of the particular
group to which I attached myself was a sly peasant student of twenty-four,
named Tang Wen-liang, and nicknamed, because of his elusiveness, the Field
Mouse. He was the head of the Armed People's Committee of the seventh district
of Anyang County and he had about 250 militiamen under him who operated
in groups of ten, twenty and thirty men.
He was quite a tiny man, not more than five feet tall and about a hundred pounds in weight, with a wind-and-sun-tanned face, and he wore a blue uniform jacket over a pair of peasant pants. Like so many others, he had come into the revolution by way of an unhappy, feudal marriage. When he was fifteen, his father, a man of forty, had locked him in a room with a girl bride he had never seen before and laconically told him to produce a son. For three days and nights, the Field Mouse sat stubbornly on the floor while his bride huddled on the kang, alternately crying and alternately making timid advances which the boy always rejected. On the fourth day, when his father unlocked the door, the boy emerged not only a virgin but an unfilial son.
In the night he ran into the hills back of his town and joined a newly guerrilla unit of the 8th Route Army. Because he could read and write, e was immediately made commander of a squad of troops. A doting grandmother harnessed a donkey, pursued the boy and rode to guerrilla headquarters. She found her grandson engaged in military maneuvers on a threshing ground. Before the eyes of his troops, she slid off the donkey, seized the Field Mouse by his jacket collar, curtly asked him a question or two and struck him a blow with a whip between the eyes. Berating the astonished company commander for stealing children from their homes, she then and there secured her grandson's release from the army. Mournfully lowering his head before the snickering of his troops, the Field Mouse followed his grandmother home.
Within a few days his father hired him out as an orderly to the officers of one of Chiang Kai-shek's regiments. Menial tasks and officer blows led him to seek a method of escaping the army. With cunning deliberation, he formed "live-and-die" friendships with each of six different soldiers. One by one, he led these friends to a thicket of trees and, after swapping ancestral names with them, said:
"Now, dear friend, let us both swear to die at the bottom of the blockhouse if we do not succor each other in distress."
A few nights later, one of these carefully selected friends was on
sentry duty. The Field Mouse persuaded him to fire into the air as he
sneaked out of the encampment. The night was frosty and ringingly icy.
The Field Mouse ran straight for a village where his faithful grandmother
awaited him with a suit of peasant clothing. Happily, he made his way
Having severed the ties of affection that bound him to his family and
the ties of village feudalism that bound him to the past, the Field Mouse
was, when I met him, dedicated heart and soul to the Chinese Revolution.
Contrary to what might be expected, he was extremely gay and full of pranks.
He was a favorite of women, especially voluptuous peasant women, second
wives or concubines of rich farmers around the age of thirty, but, though
he used them all as messengers and spies and liked to joke with them,
he was not attracted to them sexually, claiming that he disliked women
and had no time for them outside his work, not even in his dreams.
Yet the Field Mouse did much of his work behind the lines with the
aid of peasant women. These women probably liked the Field Mouse because
he was so tiny and appeared so helpless, as if he needed mothering. Then,
the Field Mouse treated women with a kind of impersonality, which I suppose
appealed to them because it was a different approach than either the mealy-mouthed
formality or the brutal familiarity practiced by other Chinese males.
Finally, the women made alliances with the Field Mouse much as they would
with a protector or an avenger.
This village was located in the middle of no man's land, which would have made it peculiar enough, but there was the added fact that all the people in the village were related by blood and all had the same family name of Tou. The village had been established nearly half a millennium ago, shortly after the first emperor of the Mings drove the Mongols from the throne in Peiping. In an old temple at the corner of the village, there were the ancestral tablets of twenty generations dating back to the first Tou who had made his way into these hills. Above the door of this temple, there were inscribed the words: WE ARE ALL FROM ONE FAMILY. Yet the members of this family were now killing each other.
It can be imagined that the atmosphere in this village was a little
unusual. We had entered after dark and while some militiamen took up outposts
on the heights above the village, the Field Mouse, Mr. Chen, Liu Ming-chi
and I walked somberly down the one and only street. Depositing me for
safety in a house occupied by two women, the Field Mouse went off to gather
She had been sent by her parents to Toumachuang when she was seventeen
to be the second wife of a rich peasant named Tou Hsikung. She soon displaced
the first wife from the bed of her husband and was in turn displaced by
a younger third wife. The ministrations of three wives, however, failed
to satisfy Hsikung's lusty appetites and about twice a week he used to
go boldly into the bed of a poor farmer's wife - a girl named White Flower,
who was a native of the village and whom Hsikung had known since childhood.
Now Mali was a partner of Hsikung in a bandit suppression organization
that had milked the village pretty dry during the war. Both men had worked
harmoniously together in kidnaping people and amassing land, but the sudden
lust of Tou Mali for White Flower broke up the happy partnership.
When the Japanese had retreated from this area, Tou Mali had gone with
them. The Field Mouse had then come into the village and begun the land
reform. Shortly afterward, the Kuomintang came into Anyang County, the
Field Mouse fled and Tou Mali returned. The village, however, remained
about midway between the two men, who waged a kind of warfare for the
affections of the people.
The struggle between these two men was a rather weird affair. Tou Mali
and his Home Returning Corps visited Toumachuang two or three times a
week in the daytime. The Field Mouse generally came after dark. Originally,
Tou Mali had a much stronger force, but the Field Mouse had whittled it
The Field Mouse had a peculiar affection for his ex-militiamen. He would never take them back in any of his militia corps, yet he bore them no grudge and went out of his way to be kind to them. I remember one of his former militiamen who had been forced into a Home Returning Corps and then had deserted and gone to work in a coalpit. He was living a rather hard life and the Field Mouse heard about it. The next time the Field Mouse came to the village he brol4ght a piece of soap and a towel which he asked the worker's wife to give him. The man was so grateful, he wept and told his wife: "We treated Old Tang [Field Mouse] so badly and here he sends me presents. It's too much."
Thus, the Field Mouse built up his reputation for kindness and broke down the influence of Tou Mali, head of the Home Returning Corps, among the people. The Home Returning Corps leader was not unaware of this and he began to set traps for the Field Mouse. First, he sent a messenger over to say: "There is no personal enmity between us. If you need anything, just tell me." Then he wanted to arrange a meeting with the Field Mouse.
The Field Mouse was not averse to meeting Mali, but he was afraid of a trap. Finally, he sent back the following word: "you come into the valley with twenty men and I'll come with twenty men. A li [1/3 of a mile] from each other, we will stop our forces. Then you and I will come out alone. You will carry a gun and I will carry a gun. If you want to talk, we will talk. If you want to shoot, we will shoot."
By way of showing the sincerity of his offer, the Field Mouse ended up with the usual oath: "May I die at the bottom of the blockhouse, if I do not keep my word."
Unfortunately for the local ballad makers, this meeting never came
about. Yet, Tou Mali swore he would kill the Field Mouse. Knowing the
habit of the Field Mouse to come into Toumacbuang in the night, Tou Mali
surrounded the village one day just at dusk. He left the path to the village
open so that Tang could walk into his trap, but let nobody out that could
"Will Old Tang come today?" she asked.
Another time, Tou Mali sent his chief gunmen with a couple of henchmen
to ambush the Field Mouse. Unsuspecting, Tang walked alone into Toumachuang.
White Flower flew out of doors and warned him. Beating a hasty retreat,
Tang collected a couple of militiamen and set out to capture his would-be
assassin. A running gun fight ensued along the hilly paths. When the Field
Mouse plugged the chief gunman, the other two turned their hats around
in token of surrender and gave up their arms.
Some of the Field Mouse's tricks were quite cute and showed an inventive mind. In starting propaganda work in new villages behind the lines, he found that people were scared to open their doors at night, so he had no way to call meetings and get in touch with his public. It was unthinkable that he break into the homes of people he wished to impress, so he devised a peculiar scheme of his own for contacting the people.
One night he took ten of his men to a village that had hitherto denied his ardent night-time wooing. Parking his men in a circle in the middle of the street, he called out in a loud voice: "The meeting is now open." He gave a short speech announcing that he was from the 8th Route Army. Then he asked if anyone had any questions. Imitating the quavering voice of an old woman, one of his militiamen said: "We know you 8th Route Army are very good, but why don't you come more often?"
When the Field Mouse had answered this question, his men, one by one,
imitating farmers or their wives, spoke up so that the villagers in their
houses would think a regular meeting was really taking place.
"Oh, no," would come the answer. "But there must have been a lot of people there."
"Are you sure you weren't there?"
Everybody believed everybody else was at the meeting, but was afraid
to admit it. As a result, the next time the Field Mouse came, both men
and women put on clothes and came outdoors when he called a meeting.
| Besides being a propagandist,
the Field Mouse was also a literary man of sorts. One day when the two of
us were walking along a mountain trail, the Field Mouse suddenly halted
and pointed to a small mimeographed newspaper, about five inches square,
pasted to a tree. "I have an article in that issue,?he said. And sure
enough, on going closer, I saw his by-line - Tang Wen-liang - printed under
the biggest headline in the paper. It was a rather simple story of some
seventy-five characters about a raid behind the lines, but Old Tang seemed
rather proud of his effort.
The Field Mouse kept simple notes on all his operations. One day he read from his notebook a summary of a month and a half's activity of one of his militia bands of thirty men, which I give below.
11 defensive engagements; 21 operations behind the lines; four meeting engagements; seven attacks, 11 propaganda meetings; eight intelligence gathering operations; three letters delivered; six mining expeditions; exploded three blockhouses; burned seven village gates and one tower; captured 19 Home Returning Corps members, one Kuomintang captain, one adjutant and an orderly, five documents, four shovels, 17 rifles, two pistols, 30 tou of millet, 40 enemy insignia and $60,000.
A pretty busy record for thirty men, it must be admitted.
Behind the last two items in Tang's notebook hung a story that illustrates the cunning, the daring, perhaps the rashness and even the duplicity of this many-wiled boy.
One night, the Field Mouse had received, through a spy, news that a Home Returning Corps under a landlord named Pan had set up barracks in a large stone mansion in a certain village deep behind the enemy lines. The spy reported that the people were suffering much from the depredations of this corps, which was fairly strong, but which might be successfully attacked and maybe captured if taken by surprise. Armed with this information, the Field Mouse set out at dusk and reached the village around ten o'clock in the evening.
Climbing over a wall surrounding the house, Tang and his men dropped into a courtyard, but found themselves blocked by another wall too high to climb. Immediately they began to dig a hole in this wall, intending to squeeze Tang through. Those inside woke up and the Field Mouse and his men were forced to abandon their surprise tactics and make a direct assault on the gate. Bursting into the inner courtyards, they found that the Pan Corps had already gone. A search revealed one naked member of Pan's Corps under a bed, sixty thousand dollars, and forty insignia - not a very good haul.
Disappointed at his failure, the Field Mouse wanted to pursue the Home
Returning Corps, but realized he could not go far as he would be caught
behind the lines at daylight. Then a brilliant idea came to him.
Slyly, he asked the members of a few landlord families how they would
feel if that happened.
Then turning to two of his militiamen, he said: "Quick, grab
him and take him outside and execute him." The militiamen led Pingtze
away. From beyond the village came the sound of a shot.
"Arrest that man," said the Field Mouse. His men dragged
the captain from bed.