Among my happiest times in China were my stints of physical labor with the peasant team at the Evergreen Commune (Sijieqing Gongshe), where I felt very warmly welcomed and was patiently helped. I felt that we all became friends, despite language limitations. I admired the stamina of the peasants, who worked hard from early to late each day, and were impressed by their practical knowledge and the diligence with which they tried to improve their crops. They spoke frankly and enjoyed a good hearty laugh. I was invited into the peasants’ homes, including for a meal that was probably the simplest I’ve ever eaten, generously shared.
Ann with her roommate in China
Ann took a Chinese name, Tang Fandi. In “Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” (which she co-authored in 2007 with Lincoln Cushing), she explained her name: The Chinese translation of my surname required five characters, too many for me to learn to write and awkwardly excessive compared to the usual three, and even two, for Chinese names. To simplify, I chose the Chinese character tang (meaning soup which has water in it) for the initial sound in Tompkins and as a nod to our seafaring life, followed by the characters fan and di which were meaningful both as a word and as a pun on sounds, Ann Tompkins, or “Ann T.,” sounds like “anti,” and fandi means anti-imperialist. So Tang Fandi – or, one might say, Anti-imperialist Soup – became my Chinese name. My students jumped to their feet as I entered the classroom (the thundrous noise startled me the first few times), greeted me as Teacher Tang Fandi, paid close attention in class, and worked hard to prepare their lessons and memorize overnight vocabulary lists of twenty-five words or more.”
Ann Tompkins co-authored a book with Lincoln Cushing titled “Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.’ These posters are just a small part of the rich resources from which Ann will draw in writing her new book, “Across Oceans and Revolution: A Principled Life.”
Ann in China with her son and husban
Ann has returned to China several times, including to marry Wang Yaohua and adopt a son, Wang Zhong Mei.
Here is the caption written by Ann during the Cultural Revolution:
“Old man, blind and nearly deaf. He is trying to hear the singing of the others in his dormitory who were entertaining the guests. This man could not have expected to be alive at this age under the old society and, as with the other old people in this Home of Respect for the Aged, he is extremely appreciative of the Socialist system and Mao Tsetung.”
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