Lin Zhao: The Great Fire Stealer
◎ Jin Zhong
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Lin Zhao’s secret execution in Shanghai on 29 April 1968. On the day after her death, the authorities demanded reimbursement for the cost of the execution bullet from Lin’s mother. In this issue, we commemorate her with articles and the publication of her long poem－The Day Prometheus Suffered.
Lin Zhao, an outstanding student from Peking University, was labeled a rightist when she criticized the Anti-Rightist Campaign, and was imprisoned twice. This intelligent and thoughtful young woman comprehended the brutal nature of the campaign and Mao’s autocracy, and wrote a huge number of words criticizing the totalitarianism of the Communist Party, including an essay of thousands of words written in her own blood. Hu Jie’s documentary In Search of the Soul of Lin Zhao and other related materials reflect the unrivaled vigor and depth of Lin’s criticism and her excellent literary talent. Her last words and poetry written in blood remain a treasure of our civilization. One day, her lovely verses will be widely read along with the ancient classics.?
Ancient Greek hero Prometheus sacrificed himself to steal the fire of Zeus for mankind. What Lin Zhao did was essentially the same; she is the “Prometheus” of contemporary China. She not only sacrificed herself for righteousness, but also continuously fought evil with her pen and blood to reveal the ignobility and darkness, and to call for freedom and light during the ten years of her persecution (long-term imprisonment and short-term release). Lin was so innocent and bold that she paid no regard to life and death. Her writing, spirit and devotion passed down a flame to subsequent generations, a flame that has become a priceless intellectual resource for the Chinese people in the new Century.
What is the significance of Lin Zhao to the Chinese people today? Mainland scholar Ai Xiaoming has had a good answer to this question: “Years of cruel political struggle have not only devastated lives, but have also led to deep-rooted cynicism. As a result, even though we live inhuman and dishonest lives, we think we are smart. Dual personality, dual masks and dual words are seen as a reasonable strategy for life.” Ai points out that internalized fear helps the totalitarian government implement comprehensive monitoring and control. The story of Lin Zhao challenges our attitudes and our moral bottom line, blazing a path of freedom for the pursuit of personal wholeness.
Chinese nationalism has throughout history praised resolve that “neither riches nor honors can lead astray, that poverty cannot shake, nor threats nor force can bend.” It has approved of the arbitrary and obstinate sentiments of intellectuals, and Hu Shi’s declaration that “I would prefer death with sound to a silent life” has become the motto of many intellectuals. There have been other models of virtue such as Yu Luoke, Zhang Zhixin and other anonymous martyrs in Lin Zhao’s era, and subsequently others such as Zheng Nanrong. More recently, the female students Wang Qianyuan and Chen Qiaowen have also demonstrated bravery, for all that their contributions and encounters differ from Lin Zhao’s. They insist on their beliefs regardless of the difficulties they face, and criticize a vulgar view of life, heedless of the criticism of others. Fighting their lonely battles to put their personal values into practice, they are the inheritors of Lin Zhao’s spirit.
(2008-4-28 Hong Kong）
Translated by Isabella Lam