The four men in the photograph, which was taken in the early 1980s, are brothers. Liu Yongyan, Liu Yongxing, Chen Yuxin and Liu Yonghao all come from the same farming family. In the past 20 years their names have often been mentioned, as living examples of how China's rural poor could rise to great riches. In 2001, the four brothers topped Forbes magazine's China rich list.
In 1977, 26-year-old Liu Yonghao received his first pay packet. He'd been sent to work as a teacher at the Sichuan Technical Cadre Management College.
Liu Yonghao said, "I remember my first month's salary was 28 yuan. I was quite excited. How did I spend the money? Ten yuan went on food, then I bought a cheap, simple but decent suit for myself. It was a 4-pocket Zhongshan suit. You know, I was a teacher, so they told me I should get a suit, or at least dress formally."
Liu Yonghao lived in the village of Gujia in Xinjin county, Sichuan Province. He was the youngest of the four brothers. They had all been to college and had been assigned to work at state-owned factories or government-sponsored institutions.
In September 1978, the Third Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the CPC announced the Reform and Opening Policy and published the basic guidelines for economically-focused development. In rural areas, the household contract responsibility system gradually came into effect, after being introduced first in Fengyang County, Anhui Province. In the first year, the amount of food Fengyang's farmers sold to the government equaled the total for the previous 26 years.
Gujia village, lying on the Western Sichuan Plain, had not yet implemented the responsibility system. Reform seemed a distant prospect for the farmers there. But the Liu brothers, who were well informed by village standards, had an idea.
Chen Yuxin said, "We desperately wanted to set up an electronics factory, because electronics was our forte. My eldest and second brothers had both studied radio technology. Liu Yonghao and I also knew something about it. So we'd long before decided to operate an electronics factory. What would we deal in? Console set radios, which were quite popular at the time."
But when the Liu brothers went to register their enterprise, the authorities rejected their application.
Liu Yonghao said, "The Party secretary seemed irritated by our idea. "What? Following the capitalist path?" he shouted. "No way!" We left without another word."
Laughter in Moon Village, filmed in 1981, follows the tortuous experiences of a self-employed rural "Rich Uncle" as he rose from rags to riches. In those days, anyone involved in mixed farming like him, was labeled an "adherent of capitalism".