This section contains more information on heroes, real and fictional, featured on our propaganda posters
蔡畅 1900 –1990
Cai Chang (1900-1990) was one of the first female members of the CCP and in 1919 went to France and then the Soviet Union as one of the group of Radical Chinese socialists led by her brother Cai Hesen. Like many early communists she was also a member of the Guomindang during the period when the parties were in alliance. Her work revolved around women's issues, and she worked alongside Xiang Jingyu who founded the Women's Movement in China.
Unlike her brother, Xiang Jingyu and many other radical young communists, Cai Chang survived the Nationalist purges of Communists (1928-31) and was one of the very few women who joined and survived The Long March (1934-5). At the Yan'an base she became the leader of the Women's Movement. In 1945 she became the only female full member of the Central Committee and in 1949 she was the first Chair of the All-China Women's Federation.
She continued to hold significant posts in the Central Committee until 1982.
Chen Yong Gui
Most usually pictured with a towel covering his head, Chen Yonggui was the leader of the Dazhai Production Team in Shanxi that, in 1964, was made the model of agricultural production. He began revolutionary work in 1942 and, until 1943 was illiterate, having learnt to read by studying Mao's works. He was a member of the Politburo from 1973-1980.
He is credited with the ingenuity, self-reliance and hard-work that allowed the commune to clear infertile land, terrace hillsides to withstand floods, and create irrigation systems to turn a useless expanse into productive land with manpower alone.
Irrespective of local conditions all agricultural production was exhorted to follow Dazhai's example and, by the 1970's, around 20,000 visitors a day made the pilgrimage to study this model of self-reliance. It was the benchmark of success, based on one of Mao's Constantly Read Articles "The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains" written in 1939.
By the late 1980's the model was discredited as it was revealed that the PLA and heavy machinery, rather than pure manpower and hard work, had produced most of the results.
Chun Miao was a film and storybook popularised in the Cultural Revolution. The village girl of the title becomes a barefoot doctor through political struggle, and the story promotes the Criticise Lin Biao, Criticise Confucius Movement.
The film was the only film made during the Cultural Revolution by the popular and internationally respected filmmaker Xie Jin, better known for Women Basketball Player No.5 (1957),Two Stage Sisters (1965) and Hibiscus Town (1986)
Married to Zhou Enlai in 1925, the couple had no children of their own, but adopted many orphans of revolutionary heroes, most famously Premier Li Peng.
Deng Ying Chao
Pictured here on the right, Deng Ying Chao (1904-1992) was the wife of Premier Zhou Enlai and revolutionary hero in her own right.
She appears in many posters and is particularly known for her political work advancing the position of women and children. Deng began her involvement in political issues at a young age, joining the May Fourth Movement (1914-1921) and the campaign to end footbinding.
An early member of the Chinese Communist Party (she joined in 1925), she was one of the few women who joined and survived the arduous 6,000 mile Long March. After 1949 she was revered as the Nation's 'elder sister' and held various positions on the Central Committee and on the Standing Committee of the NPC. She was Chair of the Women's Federation from 1949 to 1978.
Dong Cun Rui
Pictured on the right, Dong was made a PLA hero in 1963 and remained as a model hero well into the 1990's.
He had joined the 8th Route Army in 1945 and became a member of the CCP in 1946. According to the poster, he worked very hard and won many awards during the civil war.
In his last campaign the advance of the Communists at Longhua was blocked at the final stage by an armed pillbox on a bridge. Dong held a pack of explosives against the underside of the bridge and set it off, killing himself and blowing up the pillbox.
He Xiang Ning
An early revolutionary, He Xiang Ning was Minister for Women's Affairs in Sun Yat-sen's Kuomindang government. She advocated women's rights and, in 1924, organised the first rally in China for International Women's Day.
In 1948 she co-founded the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomindang. After 1949 she held several high-ranking positions in the PRC, including Chair of this same committee from 1960 to 1972 and Honorary Chair of the All-China Womens Federation.
She was also a renowned painter of the Lingnan School of Chinese Art and was made Chair of the China Arts Association in 1960.
Huang Ji Guang
Fighting for the Chinese People's Volunteers during the Korean War, Huang was killed at Sangkumryung in October 1952. Having used his last hand grenade, Huang threw himself at the machine-gun station of an American dugout. His action temporarily stalled machine-gun fire and troops were able to take the post.
In 1963 Huang, along with Lei Feng, Dong Cun Rui, Norman Bethune, Zhang Side and An Yemin, was initally made a model for the Navy. Soon afterwards they were presented as models to be emulated by the general population for their self-sacrifice, a role maintained into the 1990's.
Jin Xun Hua
Shanghai student and Red Guard, Jin was sent to Heilongjiang, in North East China in 1969.
When the local river flooded, sweeping away the poles supporting utility cables for the village, he and some other youths jumped into the water to save them. Jin drowned. In some versions of his bravery he died after the poles had been saved, whilst trying to rescue another young man. His story became the subject of comic books, supporting not only heroism for your country but also the Rustification Movement.
Jin Xunhua was soon extolled as a role model because of his 'selfless sacrifice'. This image was first published in the Jiefang Ribao or Liberation Daily in black and white, then as a colour poster. Praised in itself as a model painting, the image appeared on postage stamps and in smaller format as a personal print.
After March 1963 when Mao asked the people to 'Learn from Lei Feng' Lei Feng's diary became an object of study. It was reprinted, photographs of Lei Feng as a soldier were widely circulated and films and storybooks and comic strips about his life proliferated. Posters were also produced in vast quantities.
Probably the most well known and enduring army hero, Lei Feng is still used in campaigns to promote self-reliance and self-sacrifice.
Whilst his actual existence has been doubted, several stories of his demise have been told including being electrocuted by a pylon he was erecting and accidentally driving his truck into a pylon, but in 1997 Qiao Anshan, a retired soldier, admitted accidentally killing Lei Feng by reversing their truck into a pole covered in barbed wire, which struck and killed his best friend.
It is his life, however, that is revered as heroic. Born into poverty in Hunan in 1940, his father killed by Japanese and his mother driven to suicide by a landlord, the orphan Lei Feng was brought up by the Party. He became a squad leader in the PLA and his diligent study of Mao Thought allowed him to live an extremely frugal and honest life.
Stories of his complete devotion to the people and his country showed him sending his meagre savings to the family of a soldier killed; serving tea to his fellow soldiers and washing their feet after a long march; darning socks and mending shoes; helping old people and children; returning lost things. His deeds were not dramatic but taught people to be content, to love and support their country and to follow Chairman Mao.
Li Tie Mei
Li Tie Mei is the leading heroine in one of the 8 Revolutionary Model Operas and Ballets of the Cultural Revolution, The Red Lantern.
Set in the period of the Japanese Occupation the opera the story revolves around the underground activities by railway workers. When railway worker Li Yuhe is arrested, Grandma Li, imagining her arrest is iminent, tells Li Tiemei the truth about her family. She explains that Li Tiemei's parents had sacrificed their lives in the revolutionary struggle that Li Yuhe and the underground resistance continue. Li Tiemei resolves to follow the example of her father and carry the revolution through to the end.
Li Tiemei is resolute and strong, she hates her enemies and is determined to be a revolutionary.
Li Yu He
The principal character in the revolutionary model opera The Red Lantern, Li Yu He is a railway worker engaged in underground activities for the communist party.
Set in North China during the early years of the Japanese occupation, this opera was developed in Shanghai in the early 1960's and was later revised to become the most popular of Jiang Qing's model operas.
Li Yu He lives with his adopted daughter Li Tie Mei and a foster mother. When Le Yu He is betrayed to the Japanese commander he is tortured but refuses to give him information about the communist forces. The two women are also tortured and Li Yu He and the old woman are executed. Li Tie Mei survives, outwits the Japanese army and reaches the Communists, helped by the light of her red lantern.
The opera was released as a film in 1970.
Liu Hu Lan
A hero of the Civil War period, Liu Hu Lan had mobilised villagers in rural Shanxi to support the CCP and established a chapter of the Women's Federation there in 1946.
When Nationalist troops surrounded her village, Yunzhouxi, in 1947 and attempted to seize and remove their reserves of grain Liu Hu Lan led the villagers' resistance.. She was executed by the Nationalists.
As a hero of the rural population Mao honoured her with the slogan "A great life, a gloriuos death" and she served as a potent model of loyalty and dedication to the Party throughout the 1950s and 1960s. She is often represented in propaganda through the revolutionary statue erected In 1957as part of the Liu Hulan Memorial Hall in Shanxi.
Luo Sheng Jiao
A soldier during the Korean War, Luo Sheng Jiao was extolled as a hero for leaping into a frozen river to save a child, Cui Ying. He died.
Luo's padded winter uniform, shown flying behind him in this oil painting later produced as a poster, was said to have dragged him down in the icy water. The artwork emphasises both the bulk of the jacket and Luo's determination to run forwards to save the boy in freezing conditions.
Luo Sheng Jiao was extolled throughout the Mao Period for demonstrating the humanitarian values of a dedicated member of the Peoples Volunteer Army.
Norman Bethune was entombed opposite the renamed Norman Bethune Peace Hospital in Beijing. His remains were moved in 1952 to the Martyrs Cemetery in Shijiazhuang, Hebei.
Bai Qiu'en 1890-1939
Canadian surgeon and anti-fascist, Norman Bethune fought in the Spanish Civil War and joined Mao during the resistance against Japanese invasion. In January 1938 he joined the 8th Route Army on the Shanxi-Hebei border and is aid to have worked tirelessly as a skilled surgeon under very rudimentary conditions to save Communist lives.
He again set up a field hospital in November 1939 as Japanese incursions escalated. Whilst operating he cut himself and died of blood poisoning.
Mao wrote a tribute to him, thanking him for his selfless dedication to Chinese people. He was cited during the Mao Period as a model of humanitarianism and commitment to Communist ideals
Pan Dong Zi
Pan Dongzi was the leading character in a film made by the PLA's August One Film Studio and released in 1974 entitled Sparkling Red Star. It was very successful and it's message was reasserted through the medium of posters and storybooks and a new animated version of the film was released in 2007.
The story begins in 1931 when Pan is 7 years old and his village is liberated by the Red Army. 3 years later his father leaves to join the Long March and hands Pan a sparkling red star as protection.
He uses the star to support him in his struggles against a local despot, Hu Hansan. When Pan's mother is killed during a skirmish with the enemy, he is taken under the wing of the Party and becomes a smart and cheerful soldier in the guerilla warfare that follows. His bravery plays an important part in defeating the enemy and he also kills the local despot. The film ends with Pan joining the guerilla PLA forces fighting against Japan.
In 1969 a flood hit their area as the local river burst it banks. Lu Hua took her team along a mountain pass to a wooden bridge and crossed the river, determined to save the grain store and fertile land on that bank. The team ‘feared neither bitterness nor death’ and dived into the floodwaters to form a human flood barrier against the encroaching waters. The water was too strong and broke through their line. They were all swept away and died. Entombed in the cemetery at Fengxian they were celebrated as heroes who put the country’s property before their own lives.
An estimated 17 million urban youths were sent ‘up into the mountains and down to the countryside’ to work on farms and in forests in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In December 1968, after the first 2 years of the Cultural Revolution had brought violence, chaos and the end of productivity to the country Mao said ‘It is necessary for the educated youth to go to the countryside to undergo re-education by the poor peasants.’ It was Mao’s fervent youthful Red Guards who had been the troops of those early years, with all the schools closed in 1966 their formal education had abruptly ended, in the countryside they could learn about the life of the masses and the cities could rebuild.
Amongst their number were 11 students working as Team No.4 at Shanghai’s Huangshan Tea Tree Farm in Anhui. Led by female youth, Lu Hua, who had studied at Xiangming Middle School in Shanghai, the 8 other female and 2 male youths came from Zhejiang, Anhui, Jiangsu and Shanghai.
Song Qing Ling
Born into a wealthy Shanghai, Christian family, Song Qingling and her sisters Meiling and Ailing played a significant role in China's 20th century politics. the 3 sisters were partly educated in the US and all married important men, for Qingling it was Sun Yat Sen (1915), for Ailing, H.H. Kung and Meiling, Chiang Kaishek.
Song Qingling, after her husband's death, remained a revolutionary and went on to become an active member of the elite of the new PRC. The only woman present on the rostrum alongside Mao at Tiananmen in 1949 when he delivered the inaugural speech, she remained outside the Party until 1981, when she died an honorary Head of State. Nevertheless she was one of the 6 Vice-Chairs of the PRC, Head of the Sino-Soviet Friendship Association (she accompanied Mao on his 1957 trip to Moscow where she had established ties in the 1920's), Head of the Women's Federation, the China Defence League, the China Welfare Fund and the China Peace Committee. Much of her work involved working with other Asian nations, women and children.
Her image is that of a revolutionary patriot, strong yet gentle, steadfast, courageous, self-effacing and beautiful.
Wang Jinxi was born into a poor peasant family in Gansu Province, working through his childhood as a shepherd and a coal carrier. At 15 he began work in the Yumen Oilfield.
In February 1960 the Central Committee resolved to become self-sufficient in oil, a major part of the plan being to open up Daqing in Heilongjiang. Already recognised as a hero for industry, Wang and his No.1205 Drilling Team, undeterred by temperatures of -20 to-30 degrees C, took on the 'massive battle' and after 5 days of drilling they struck oil and production at Daqing began.
By 1963 Daqing was China's biggest and best oilfield, the leading model for industrial production. Wang Jinxi had become 'the ironman of Daqing,' as regardless of fatigue, injuries and the difficulties of oil drilling he persevered for his country.
From 1960 onwards, people were instructed to learn from the Iron Man, and he was made a national labour model in 1967, being elected to the 9th Central Committee in 1968. Wang Jinxi died of cancer in 1970, but remained as a hero whose qualities fought not only natural elements but also class enemies, revisionists and erroneous thinking.
Xiang Xiu Li
Shown here on the left, the text on the poster recounts her story of heroism:
Xiang was born in 1932 to a poor family and after 1949 she started work.
In 1958 she applied to join the CCP as a model worker and in December the same year, whilst making medicine in an factory an accident occured.
The ethyl alcohol exploded causing her to be seriously burnt as she fought to save the lives of her fellow workers and the country's property.
She died and was posthumously accepted as a Party member.
Yang Gen Si
Born in Jiangsu, Yang Gen Si joined the Red Army in 1944 and, in November 1950, died fighting with the Chinese Peoples Volunteers in the Korean War.
Already honoured for his heroic acts, Yang joined the volunteer forces as a company leader. His unit's advance was blocked by heavy machine gun fire by American forces entrenched in a dug-out defensive position. Yang threw himself at the nest, clutching a satchel charge of dynamite to his chest. The explosion killed the 40 American soldiers in the nest together with Yang Gen Si and the Chinese troops were able to advance.
Yang was made a hero in China and Korea, where a monument was built marking the place of his death.
Yang Zi Rong
Developed by the Peking Opera Troupe of Shanghai in 1970, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy was one of the 8 model plays and ballets of the Cultural Revolution. Based upon a scene in The Water Margin, the opera sees Yang Zirong kill a tiger single-handedly as he searches for a bandits lair. The story, set shortly after the Japanese War in North East China, first appeared in the 1950s as the first Peking Opera on a contemporary theme. It went through several revisions before its release as a film in 1970.
Yang Zi Rong is the leader of a PLA scout platoon pursuing a gang of bandits on Tiger Mountain terrorising the local community. He disguises himself as a bandit, infiltrates the gang which has Nationalist connections, and ends their reign of terror. It is his killing of the tiger (the paper tiger of Imperialism) that gives him credibility with the gang and allows his succcess.
Zhang Si De
Pictured on the left, the text tells his story:
Zhang joined the red army in 1932 and was injured three times. He completed all the various tasks required of him. After he arrived in Shanbei he changed his work many times but was always happy to follow orders. He loved his work, he loved what he did. Loving whatever you are engaged in is essential.
In 1944 he was using a charcoal burner in the mountains when the kiln roof fell in on him and he was killed. Chairman Mao joined his funeral in person and gave his famous Serve the People speech, highly praising Zhang Si De's revolutionary spirit.
Another poster describes his heroism in more detail. "In the harsh environment of the revolutionary struggle he had the job of relaying communications by foot alone. Zhang Si De was often in the jaws of a rainstorm. He would forge ahead against the piercing wind and even float on water to deliver urgent messages to destinations on time. On one occasion, to protect the letter from the downpour he took off his shoes, placed the letter inside, and ran on his bare feet. Zhang Si De always chooses to take on difficult jobs."
Zhang Zhi Xin
Pictured on the right, the text recounts her story as a hero:
Zhang was born in Tianjin, and joined the CCP in 1955.
During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) she held firmly to the truth and struggled against Lin Biao and the Gang of Four.
In April 1975 she was cruelly murdered by the Gang of Four. After her heroic acts were published she was admired by the people of all nations. She was called a soldier by the people. She was the pioneer of ideological emancipation.