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UPDATED: March 5, 2012 NO.10 MARCH 8, 2012
Forever Young Lei Feng
Our times need the spirit of an altruist hero more than ever
By Li Li

A SHINING MODEL: Lei Feng cleans his truck (REN YONG)

"Although laws stipulate citizens' rights and responsibilities, people need to go beyond the law during emergencies. Even in a market economy, there must be people who are willing to make sacrifices. After people have their material desires met, they will long for higher happiness by showing compassion and conducting altruistic behaviors," wrote Gu Jun, a sociology professor at Shanghai University.

The kindness and selflessness Lei embodies is also deeply rooted in Chinese culture. The ancient philosopher Mencius who lived 2,300 years ago said, "The benevolent man loves others and the courteous man respects others" and "I shall give up my life for righteousness."

At a press conference on February 27, Luo Shugang, Executive Vice Minister of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, called on the public to learn from Lei's selflessness for helping others, dedication to his career, self-motivated learning and thrifty lifestyle.

"In a world of global-scale problems, such as the financial crisis, climate change, environmental degradation, wars and famines, no single country or region can offer solutions alone. Now more than ever, people need to turn to Lei Feng's thoughts and deeds for inspiration. 'Lei Feng spirit,' which has become part of China's cultural and historical assets, offers a new perspective for constructing a better future for mankind and a harmonious world," says a recent editorial from the Beijing-based Guangming Daily.

 Who Is Lei Feng?

Lei Feng was born on December 18, 1940, to a farmer's family in Wangcheng, central China's Hunan Province. At the age of 7, he lost all the members of his immediate family and was adopted by a distant relative. He graduated from middle school in 1956 and then worked as a tractor driver on a local farm. He went on to be a bulldozer driver at the Anshan Iron and Steel Co. and in 1960 he joined a transportation unit of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) based in northeast China.

Lei was killed on August 15, 1962, while directing a truck as it backed up. A pole struck him on the head.

Lei had a habit of keeping a diary to detail his deeds and experiences, which was published after his death and became one of the bestsellers of the time.

According to Lin Ke, a secretary of late Chairman Mao Zedong, China Youth magazine approached Mao in February 1963 to write an epigraph for their special coverage on Lei. Mao wrote "Learn from Comrade Lei Feng" in traditional calligraphy.

The magazine published Mao's writing on March 2, 1963. Three days later, it was republished by People's Daily, PLA Daily, China Youth Daily and Guangming Daily. The news media later published handwritten epigraphs by other Party and state leaders, finally immortalizing the solider as an emblem of selflessness and devotion.

Quotes from Lei Feng's Diary:

"People's lives will end but there is no end to serving the people.

I want to devote my life to serving the people endlessly.

There is only one aim in my life: to be a useful person to the people.

It's a great glory to become a nameless hero.

To live is to serve the people—live to make others happy."

Email us at: lili@bjreview.com

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