Peking — Just a decade ago chopping wood, cleaning house, and working in a tractor factory were all part of the daily routine of Deng Xiaoping, who is China's most powerful leader today.
These and other surprising details of Deng's 21/2 years in political exile during the early 1970s were revealed Wednesday in an newspaper account by one of his daughters.
The article, appearing in the Communist Party's People's Daily, did not mention Deng by name, but the references to the ''second-greatest capitalist-roader'' and his family were unmistakable.
The essay entitled ''The Days in Jiangxi,'' was credited to ''Mao Mao,'' either a pseudonym or the author's childhood nickname.
This is the first time such detailed information about the persecution of China's present leaders during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) has been made public. It appeared on Deng's 80th birthday, though the Chinese press made no mention of that. No independent verification of the article was immediately available.
''Shortly after my parents arrived in Jiangxi (Province),'' the author wrote, ''they were assigned to work in the Xinjian County tractor manufacturing plant at their own request. The factory was about 20 minutes' walk from where they lived. Father and mother worked in the morning in the factory. Father worked as a fitter at a lathe. He had been a fitter when he was young in France and after so many years he could still work as conscientiously and proficiently as before. Mother worked cleaning the coils (of the tractors). Father was the second-biggest capitalist-roader in the country, so he was escorted to the factory by armed guards. He was not allowed to speak or to move about on his own when working....
''Even so, it was a very good opportunity for them to have contact with the outside world ... and with the masses after a long seclusion....''
In 1966, Mao Tse-tung launched an attack on Liu Shaoqi and Deng, labeling Deng as the ''second-greatest capitalist-roader in the party'' after Liu. Deng then lost his post as general secretary of the Communist Party and was assigned to work in the canteen of a cadre school in the Peking area for reeducation. He disappeared from public view in December 1966.
The People's Daily essay picks up Deng's life in October 1970 when he, his wife, and his elderly stepmother were flown to Jiangxi and assigned living quarters in an abandoned Army school, where they stayed until he was brought back to Peking in February 1973.
''When life got settled down, winter came quickly,'' Mao Mao writes. ''The winter in the south was very cold because there was no heating and it was always freezing inside the house. Mother's health was getting worse and worse.... To cope with the severe cold, father even washed himself with cold water. To my mind, only those who are not afraid spiritually of the cold can conquer serious coldness.''
Presumably ''Mao Mao'' had firsthand knowledge of the days in Jiangxi from visits and may have lived there with her parents for a period.
The lengthy and well-written account presents throughout the picture of an ordinary man who ultimately was made stronger by adversity.
''My father was reserved and reticent,'' Mao Mao says. ''More than 50 years of revolutionary life fostered in him a temperament that would never be cowed in times of danger and never be overwhelmed at times of success. He was especially optimistic about his personal fate.''
The isolation and loneliness of those years, however, are apparent from the account. They were aggravated by the certain knowledge that his children were experiencing similar if not worse hardships.
Deng's eldest son, Deng Pufang, was a physics student at Peking University when the Cultural Revolution began. He reportedly was forced from a fourth-story window and is now disabled.
After the political demise of Lin Biao - Mao's designated successor, who betrayed him - in 1971, the harsh conditions were somewhat eased. The party Central Committee granted Deng's request to have Deng Pufang join his parents in Jiangxi, where they could personally take care of him.
Through all these experiences, Deng kept his loyalty to Mao intact, the account indicates. When he heard the news on Nov. 5, 1971, that Lin Biao had been killed, Deng had only one thing to say: ''There could be no justice under heaven if Lin Biao stayed alive.''
Mao Mao writes, ''Lin Biao's self-destruction was an important turning point for the Cultural Revolution and undoubtedly it was also of great influence to my father's political career.''
Deng received word in May of the following year that he might be permitted to return to his work in Peking. In August 1973 he was reelected to membership in the party Central Committee.
Deng's youngest son, Deng Zhafeng, studied physics at the University of New York in Rochester and reportedly works in the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C.
''The Days in Jiangxi'' appears to have been written by the second of Deng's three daughters, who is in her late 30s. Little is known about his daughters.