Communist folk tales: The good deeds of Lei Feng

It’s Communism Week at CRP! I’m kicking off with some classic stories about the good deeds of Communist folk hero Lei Feng, the ultimate socialist Boy Scout. HSK 4-5.

Had a complaint a few days ago that my fable about a pretty bird was too political, so I figured I’d give ya’ll something more exciting to complain about. Break out your Little Red Books, it’s Communism Week at CRP.

Because Chinese Communism is an increasingly touchy international topic, a quick note: I am putting up these stories because they are historically, academically and linguistically interesting, not because I am promoting any political viewpoint. To maintain a pleasant, learning-focused environment, I don’t allow political comments here. If you express your political opinions in the comments – positive, negative, or neutral – I will delete them.

Right, so Lei Feng (雷锋) was a larger-than-life Communist people’s folk hero. Though tales of his good deeds spread like wildfire and took on a mythic quality, he was actually a real person: a People’s Liberation Army solider who lived from 1940-1962, dying at the age of 22 when he was struck by a falling telephone pole in the line of duty. But his legend never really waned: he is still considered the personification of Mao Zedong Thought and the ultimate socialist Boy Scout. He was held up by the Party propaganda machine as a person to emulate, someone with a perfect moral character and devotion to the socialist cause, so much so that children were encouraged to foster “Lei Feng Spirit” (雷锋精神).

In this post, I translate one of many, many stories about Lei Feng’s general do-gooding. I chose this one because it’s got all the best elements of a classic Lei Feng tale: over-the-top selflessness towards the common people, grand statements of loyalty to the Party, and all the rest.

Some Language Stuff

If this is your first foray into Communist-themed reading, you’ll learn a few new words that are common to writing from the 1940s-1970s:

单位 dān wèi – work unit
解放军 jiě fàng jūn – [People’s] Liberation Army (PLA)
同志 tóng zhì – comrade
毛主席 máo zhǔ xí – Chairman Mao
党 dǎng – short for “共产党”, the Party / the Communist Party.

There are also a few names of places: Shenyang (沈阳), Liaoning (辽宁) and Jilin (吉林) – all places within northeastern China.

This post centers around good deeds that Lei Feng did while traveling around the northeast on army business. I had a little bit of trouble translating some of the travel-related sentences, because the way people talk about travel in Chinese is slightly different than the way we do in English. For one thing, if someone is traveling within China, the phrase 去外地 qù wài dì is used. At first glance, “去外地” just means “to go other places”, but this is specifically used to mean “other places within China”, not “other countries”. Trips outside of China are usually described as 去国外 or 去外国. Also, pay attention to the word 出差 chū chāi. This specially means “to travel on business”, as opposed to traveling for pleasure.

想都没想 xiǎng dōu měi xiǎng – Phrase means “without even thinking about it” or “without a second thought”.

Source here




有一次,雷锋外出,在沈阳车站换车,出检票口的时候,他发现一群人围着一个背着小孩儿的中年妇女。原来这名妇女从辽宁去吉林看丈夫,一不小心把车票和钱都丢了 ,雷锋连忙用自己的津贴费买了一张去吉林的火车票塞到大嫂手里,大嫂眼含热泪地问:“小兄弟,你叫什么名字?住哪的?是哪个单位的?”




雷锋说 :“不要感谢我,应该感谢党和毛主席啊!”


Show English translation »
Beginning in 1961, Lei Feng was often invited to go to other cities to make reports, and [since] he had many opportunities to travel on business, he also had many opportunities to serve the people.

People often said [of him]: “When Lei Feng travels for business, [he rides there] on a train of good deeds.”

One time, [while] Lei Feng was out and about, he was changing trains at Shenyang station, and when he was at the ticket booth, he saw a group of people standing around a middle-aged woman who was carrying a small child on her back. Turns out this woman was going from Liaoning to Jilin to see her husband, and accidentally lost her ticket and her wallet, so Lei Feng quickly used his own allowance to buy a ticket to Jilin and pressed it into the woman’s [lit: “elder sister’s”] hand. Her eyes brimming with tears the woman [lit: elder sister] said: “Little Brother, What is your name? Where do you live? What is your work unit?”

Lei Feng answered: “My name is Liberation Army, and China is my home.”

One day in May, Lei Feng braved the rain to go to Shenyang. In order to catch the early train, he woke up at 5:00 A.M., took some dry steamed buns, put on his rain gear and set out upon the road. On the road, Lei Feng saw a woman carrying a small child on her back, and leading another little girl by the hand, and [she was] struggling towards the train station. Lei Feng didn’t give it a second thought, he took off his own rain gear and draped it over the woman’s body, picked up the little girl and accompanied them to the station. On the train, Lei Feng saw the little girl shivering from cold, so he took off the shirt on his back and gave it to her to wear. Lei Feng guessed that they hadn’t eaten breakfast, so he took out the buns he had brought and gave them to the women. When the train reached Shenyang, it was still raining, and Lei Feng took the women to their home.

The women gratefully said: “Comrade, how can I ever thank you?”

Lei Feng said, “You don’t have to thank me, you should thank the Party and Chairman Mao!”

In his diary, he wrote the following: “Everything I have was given to me by the Party, and all glory should belong to the Party, should belong to those comrades who enthusiastically helped me. As for the work I’ve done, it isn’t very much, my tiny contributions don’t measure up to what I need and hope [to give]….”

2 replies on “Communist folk tales: The good deeds of Lei Feng”

I wonder, since he’s so altruistic and does not give out his name, how does his real name even get spread by the public? Lol I jest, but thanks for the post!

Word of good deeds is always shared by others related to or in the same community as the recipient. There is no doubt that his name would come up in these celebrations of charitable deeds… they should be!!

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