On March 5, 1963, Chairman Mao initiated the ‘Follow the examples of Comrade Lei Feng’ propaganda campaign.
Born in Wangcheng, Hunan Province in 1940 and orphaned at an early age, a quick read of Lei Feng’s Diary will tell you that his was a life devoted to the socialist cause, filled with the revolutionary will to work arduously for self-improvement and the heroic spirit of being ready to take up cudgels for a just cause without care for his own safety. Sadly, that life was cut tragically short – Lei died in 1962 at the age of just 21 when, as a member of a transportation unit of the PLA, a telephone pole, struck by an army truck, struck him.
According to his official biography, that is. Some are cynical about the official details of Lei’s life, and believe his diaries to have been doctored. The propaganda campaign began at a time when the Chinese economy was recovering from the Great Leap Forward, the failure of which had seen Mao’s image suffer. Skeptics have noted, for instance, that the campaign presented a collection of 12 exceptionally high-quality photographs of Lei performing good deeds while he was supposedly just an unknown young man engaging in mundane tasks.
Yet while Lei’s prominence in school textbooks has declined over the years, he remains part of the national curriculum, with March 5 annual ‘Learn from Lei Feng Day,’ marked by various community-minded actions, such as cleaning up schools, parks and other public spaces.
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