Yang Xiaokai "Record of Demons and Gods"

Captive Spirits

Book Introduction#

This is a memoir of the prison during the Cultural Revolution, with a variety of characters, including pickpockets, architects, engineers, university professors, doctors, entrepreneurs, politicians, and more. The writing is good and highly readable. Author Yang Xiaokai not only records his experiences but also incorporates his own thoughts into the text. His ideas and beliefs change along with his observations, which is an aspect of the book worth paying attention to.

Author Introduction#

Yang Xiaokai became famous in the 1960s for his work "Where is China Heading?," back when he was still called Yang Xiguang. Through his own efforts, he made outstanding contributions in the field of economics and gained worldwide recognition once again. From the book, one can see that he is a person with charisma, his own thoughts, a humble attitude towards learning, and the ability to put theory into practice. As a young man who did not attend university, he learned English, calculus, economics, and many other subjects from engineers and teachers in prison. These laid a solid foundation for him to be admitted to the Economic Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences after his release from prison and opened up broader horizons for him.

Some may say at this point: if he hadn't had this prison experience, he might not have achieved such accomplishments. - I dare not say such a thing. History cannot be assumed, and even if we assume he didn't have this experience, I believe that with his talent, he could have made even greater contributions. Suffering is not a necessary element for individual success. Moreover, why are there so many engineers and other highly educated intellectuals in prison? Isn't this worth reflecting on?

Similar Books#

This book is very similar to Wang Xuetai's "Prison Memoirs," which also records stories from the same era and the same prison. In "Prison Memoirs," there is a chapter that mentions Xu Zhangben, who left a deep impression on me. Xu Zhangben and Qian Xuesen were both alumni of the California Institute of Technology. Xu Zhangben researched anti-missile systems, while Qian Xuesen researched guidance systems. Xu Zhangben returned to China while Qian Xuesen stayed in the United States. The former opposed Marxism during the "Anti-Rightist Movement" and was arrested for expressing views and motives similar to those of the multi-party system in the United States. One was imprisoned, while the other gained fame at home and abroad. This comparison reminds me of Wu Ningkun and Li Zhengdao in "A Drop of Tears," who made essentially the same choice and faced similar experiences.

Their experiences highlight one truth: the influence of the times and the environment on people is extremely important.

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