Reviews

Rewriting History

Ting Guo reviews Women and China’s Revolutions by Gail Hershatter

Despite its revolutionary and socialist origins – as women in the garment industry marched through New York City in 1908 demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights – International Women’s Day on March 8 has become a rather commercial holiday in many places around the world. That includes China, my socialist motherland. Taobao, the world’s biggest e-commerce website, uses the day as a shopping festival, and was able to hit 30.8 billion yuan (approximately $4.5 billion) in gross sales for women’s fashion, accessories and cosmetics in 2017. This year, however, a 1949 speech delivered by the socialist writer Ding Ling (1904-1986), a winner of the Stalin prize for literature in 1951, went viral on Weibo.

This speech, entitled ‘Thoughts on 8 March’, was delivered in the Communist heartland of Yan’an on August 3, 1949, a few months before the founding of the People’s Republic of China. As Ding Ling wrote:

“Aware, modern women should identify and cast off all their rosy, compliant illusions. Happiness is to take up the struggle in the midst of the raging storm and not to pluck the lute in the moonlight or recite poetry among the blossoms.” 

Essays

A Migrant Pen

How Fan Yusu wrote dignity back into migrants’ lives – Ting Guo

In April 2017, an article written by a migrant worker named Fan Yusu went viral on Chinese social media. The piece, titled simply ‘I Am Fan Yusu,’ was published by Beijing-based new media outlet NoonStory and recounts Fan’s family life in a small northern Chinese village, as well as her own story of running away to the southern island province of Hainan, returning home, and becoming a country teacher – all by the age of 12 years old.

Fan goes on to illustrate her present life as a domestic helper in booming, cosmopolitan Beijing. She details how a mistress to the husband she works for begs for his love; how the capital’s migrant children struggle to obtain an education; and how her fellow migrant workers gather together in local reading groups. Many college-educated urban intellectuals and journalists have said they feel “humbled” by Fan’s command of language, her obvious literary talent, and her sharp insight into the marginalized social class to which she belongs.

Q&A

Blood Letters of a Martyr

Ting Guo talks to Lian Xi about his new biography of Lin Zhao

On May 31, 1965, 33-year-old Lin Zhao was tried in Shanghai and sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment. She was charged as the lead member of a counter-revolutionary clique that had published an underground journal decrying communist misrule and Mao’s Great Leap Forward, a collectivization campaign that caused an unprecedented famine and claimed at least 36 million lives between 1959 and 1961.

“This is a shameful ruling!” Lin Zhao wrote on the back of the verdict the next day, in her own blood. Three years later, she was executed by firing squad under specific instructions from Chairman Mao himself.

Reviews

How the Chinese became Christians

Ting Guo reviews Jennifer Lin’s Shanghai Faithful

Legendary preacher and religious rebel Watchman Nee is often thought of simply as someone who denounced denominationalism as a sin and advocated a radical separation from Western missions. When viewed through the personal lens of his grand-niece Jennifer Lin, he becomes something very different: a fashionable young man who loved racecars, was a world-traveler, and collected Life Magazine and Reader’s Digest.

Jennifer Lin starts her book with a question: how did the Lin family become Christians? She begins with her great great-grandfather, who worked as a cook for a household of Anglican missionaries in Fuzhou, the affluent capital of Fujian province. Following the defeat of the Qing in the Opium Wars of the mid-19th century, Fuzhou became one of a handful of “treaty ports” where Westerners were given special privileges to trade and prosthelytize. The cook’s son — Lin’s great grandfather — proved particularly bright, and received a modern education that changed his life. He became a doctor, allowing his son, Lin Pu-chi — Lin’s grandfather — to attend St. John’s University in Shanghai. At St. John’s, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of the Republic of China who “stirred the hearts of the Chinese people like no one before” spoke to Lin Pu-chi’s class. “The basis of a democratic country is education,” the revolutionary said. “Give unto others what you have received,” Sun exhorted the students. “Let your light shine.”

Essays

Emojis on the Wall

On Hong Kong campuses, a bulletin board Cold War – Ting Guo

As someone who grew up in post-Tiananmen mainland China, democracy walls on Hong Kong university campuses always evoke a sense of bittersweet nostalgia in me, for the liberal era I was just young enough to miss. The campus walls pay tribute to the original Democracy Wall in Beijing, where in 1978 people put up posters expressing their political opinions and recalling their suffering during the Cultural Revolution. The Democracy Wall and the “Beijing Spring” it had ushered in were both shut down in 1979, foreshadowing the bloody end to the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.