It was getting colder with each passing day. The lake in Beihai Park was covered with a thick layer of ice. The roadside trees had been stripped of their foliage, leaving their bare branches and twigs shivering in the biting wind.
Peiping had been besieged by the powerful PLA forces. The city gates were shut tight and supplies of grain, vegetables, fish and meat were cut off. We had to make do with the pickled turnips we had laid in long beforehand and sometimes ate home-grown soybean sprouts instead.
Now and then the PLA artillery was heard booming while entrenched inside the city were an enormous number of Kuomintang troops. Though bottled up like turtles in a jar, they could nevertheless cause a tremendous loss of life and property to the local inhabitants should they put up a last-ditch resistance. To surrender or not to surrender ― that was the question awaiting prompt solution by General Fu Zuoyi, then in command of the KMT troops. Faced with the dilemma, the General was obliged to call in some local scholars and celebrities for consultation.
They met in Zhongnanhai amidst an extremely solemn and tense atmosphere. General Fu made a brief opening address, in which he expressed his willingness to listen with an open mind to all opinions. Thereupon, all was quiet except for the tick-tock of the clock on the wall. For a long while, the whole gathering kept silent and looked questioningly from one to another with eyes full of misgivings. They were afraid they could get themselves into great trouble by speaking in favor of the peaceful liberation of Peiping.
At long last, however, silence was broken when many began to speak up one after another to urge the General to give first priority to protecting the local people and the cultural relics of the onetime capital, and therefore do everything he could to ensure a peaceful solution as soon as possible.
The General, who had been listening with patience and attention, finally rose to his feet to thank everybody for speaking their minds plainly.
After the meeting, people lost no time in spreading the good news, feeling more and more hopeful of the peaceful liberation of Peiping and the final speedy conclusion of the long dark night.