When Lei Feng meets non-believers

Source:Globaltimes.cn Published: 2012-3-5 14:28:00

Nearly 300 militiaman and volunteers offer free service including haircuts, umbrellas or shoe repair for citizens on Shanghai's Nanjing East Road yesterday to mark the coming of Lei Feng Day, which is celebrated today. Photo: Lu Yun/GT

Today is Lei Feng Day. Lei Feng, a household name since the 1960s, is known for devoting almost all of his spare time and money to selflessly helping the needy. Late Chairman Mao Zedong called on the entire nation to follow Lei's example one year after Lei's death in 1962. 

However, debates over whether Lei Feng's spirit, mainly altruism, dedication, patriotism and modesty, is out of date seem to have grown more heated in recent years.

◆GT comment: Lei Feng's spirit a source of warmth in modern society, March 5

GT news: Lei Feng remembrance begins, poll finds most support spirit promotion, March 5
From students to government employees, tens of thousands of people have gone out to offer a helping hand in memory of China's icon of altruism, Lei Feng, amid controversy over the authenticity of the heroic figure's exploits.

GT news: No cap on Lei Feng profits,  March 5
Sales of memorabilia associated with Lei Feng, a young man who is held up as a Chinese moral model, and who died 50 years ago, have rocketed ahead of today's "Learn from Lei Feng Day."

GT news: Lei Feng's legacy, March 5
March 5 is the official "Learn Lei Feng Day," when local governments, schools and institutions commemorate and appeal to people to learn from the good deeds of Lei Feng (1940-62), a soldier of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Lei Feng is known for his altruism and devotion to the country and people.

GT in-depth: History's Heroes, Feb 23
A newly created Sina Weibo account named "Lei Feng," registered by a PLA squad which for the last 50 years has been tasked with tending to the famous deceased soldier's former bed, has sparked controversy over growing iconoclasm on the Web.

1. GT View Point: Lei Feng: still cool after all these years? March 5

2. Internet Votes:

3. Related Comments:
◆Is Lei Feng Far Away?
Despite various activities designed to remember the selfless soldier, people living in today's materialistic society wonder just exactly how far away they are from following Lei's examples. - Xinhua

◆Wanted: morally recognized modern icons 
Where have all of China's moral icons gone? The legendary Lei Feng, famous for his altruism and modesty, was spoofed by netizens as dying of excessive fatigue because he helped too many people. - Global Times

◆Comrades, learn from expat "Lei Feng"
Following the pattern of "Learn from Lei Feng," who "treated people with the warmth of spring," we should learn from this man and his firm faith in human kindness and honesty, his humane affection toward the Chinese people and the country, his commitment to help others under social pressure, and his heroic spirit of being ready to face fraud without caring for his personal safety. - Global Times

◆New Meanings of the "Lei Feng Spirit": benefit others as well as oneself
An official from Guangdong Province recently showed his understanding of the "Lei Feng Spirit" in today's society. He says that people cannot damage their own rights by learning from Lei Feng to help others. - CRI

4. Voices:
@陈家兴:  With the development of society, the "Lei Feng Spirit" has been ignored, misrepresented, and misunderstood. However, we should know that Lei Feng Spirit stands for a pure heart in life. We must insist upon this.

@天路少年: Lei Feng is respected as role model for his selfless, altruistic attitude. However, in my eyes, he is still a normal individual. I will still try to learn from this normal person to provide my help to others.

@沙元森: In today's society, it is a social need for us to learn from Lei Feng. Many people think the Lei Feng Spirit is outdated. I want to say that people and society have both become fickle. We need spiritual support to put them at ease. The Lei Feng Spirit is the type of support now needed.

★Lei Feng, a PLA solider who died in 1962 at the age of 22, was respected and remembered for decades as a role model for his selfless altruistic attitude, patriotism, and modesty. The words "Lei Feng" stand for anyone who is seen as selfless, or anyone who goes out of their way to help others in Chinese society.

The "Lei Feng spirit,” a cultural icon symbolizing selflessness, modesty, and dedication, was formed in the 1960’s and had an extraordinarily broad impact.

◆Inscriptions of China's national leaders for Lei Feng

How do people learn from Lei Feng now?

 ◆"Learn from Lei Feng Day":
March 5 is "Learn from Lei Feng Day," an annual event initiated by the late Chairman Mao Zedong in 1963.

 He Chaohai teaches children about the virtues of Lei Feng Photo: Courtesy of He Chaohai He Chaohai, founder and spokesman of the Lei Feng Information Exhibition Hall in Fengtai district of Beijing, teaches children about the virtues of Lei Feng.
The Shanghai subway started a campaign to call on the public to learn from the "Lei Feng Spirit" by placing boards and paper flags containing Lei's pictures and Mao's quote "Learn from Comrade Lei Feng" in stations along Line 6 and Line 8 in March 2011

Changsha government of Hunan Province asks the primary students to write the new chapters for Lei Feng Diary in 2012.

◆Art works about Lei Feng:
The radio drama "Lei Feng's Heritage" will be shown in China National Radio on March 4, 2012.
A book record Lei Feng's life published in Febuary, 2012.

◆People learn from Lei Feng in daily life:
Chen Guofu, a 85-year-old soldier in Sichuan, provides aids to over 50 poor students
Zhang, a 46-year-old shoeshine man from Shandong Province, offers shoe-washing services for free in the spirit of Lei Feng.

The "Lei Feng Spirit" confronts troubles
In today's society, the Lei Feng Spirit has encountered some problems. As a popular saying on the Internet goes, "the post-1970’s generation learned form Lei Feng, the post-1980's generation revolted against Lei Feng, and the post-1990’s generation has forgotten about Lei Feng."

◆The Life of Lei Feng is questioned:
The hundreds of photos that have recorded Lei Feng's daily life were questioned by Internet users. They said that the photos may not have been taken on the spot. Zhang Jun, one of the photographers who took photos of Lei Feng, explained that most of the photos were taken of Lei's actual daily life. A few of the photos were taken afterwards, according to Lei Feng’s diary.

◆The Lei Feng spirit is confused over the Peng Yu incident:
In 2007, a case involving a young man who was punished for a carrying out a good deed caused quite a stir in Chinese society. Peng Yu, a kind young man, helped an elderly woman named Xu Shoulan when she fell while running to catch a bus. In the process, she broke several bones and claimed that Peng was responsible. The court ruled that Peng should compensate Xu 45,000 yuan ($6,852).

After the case, many people were no longer inspired to follow the lessons of Lei Feng when deciding whether or not they should help others.

◆People begin to ignore the Lei Feng Spirit:
The Shanghai subway started a campaign to call on the public to learn from the "Lei Feng Spirit" earlier this month by placing boards and paper flags containing Lei's pictures and Mao's quote, "Learn from Comrade Lei Feng" in stations along Line 6 and Line 8.

However, for some commuters, the campaign has been an empty gesture.

"I doubt this campaign has any effect in making people become friendlier on the subway. Anyway, the posters look old-fashioned and will be taken down soon after March 5," said a frequent Line 8 commuter surnamed Jiang.

Out of China, Lei Feng also enjoys increasing popularity in more than 30 countries. He Zhaohai, vice chairman of the China Lei Feng projectcommittee, said countries such as the United States, Japan, Singapore and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have organized activities with the theme of "learning from Lei Feng."

Foreigners' opinions:
@Mark Rowswell (an Canadian actor known as 大山 in China):
I took part in an activity about Lei Feng spirit. The media asked me about my opinion of this kind of activities as a foreigner. I told them helping others is without border and nationality.

@Wendy Larson (in his book From Ah Q to Lei Feng: Freud and revolutionary spirit in 20th century China):

Lei feng is the quintessence of the idea of permanent revolution during peaceful times, as he translates the common vocabulary of struggle into his life work.

Foreign "Lei Feng":
"American Lei Feng" to pay tribute to soldier:
American Leif Rogers, a customer service manager in a bank in Liaoning Province, is not adored by Chinese people because of the size of his wallet, but for his selfless spirit to help those in need and his devotion to the deceased soldier Lei Feng, who is widely respected in China.

◆The reciprocal principle: American's generosity begets Chinese generosity
Mangano and his wife and three children came to China in 2001, choosing to live in Harbin, capital of northeast Heilongjiang Province, where he went to work at a bilingual kindergarten while his wife taught English as a tutor. Despite not speaking much Mandarin, Mangano was determined to be part of the community, so he threw himself into volunteer work, teaching English to children in remote rural areas and visiting nursing homes, where he would entertain the elderly residents with his saxophone.

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