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60 Years of Inspiration: How Lei Feng’s Selflessness and Dedication Continues to Inspire China Today

China60 Years of Inspiration: How Lei Feng's Selflessness and Dedication Continues to Inspire China Today

Ye Zigui, the deputy leader of the Lei Feng squad, believes that the “Lei Feng spirit” should be passed on to the next generation. Lei Feng, a young soldier who embodied the spirit of self-sacrifice, died more than six decades ago, but his legacy continues to inspire Chinese people. Ye Zigui appreciates traditional role models and modern variations, including movie stars who express similar values.

One such movie star that Ye Zigui is a huge fan of is Chinese actor Wu Jing. Wu Jing, a Chinese Kung Fu star, has played the role of a hero who sacrificed himself to help others in many movies. His latest work, the sci-fi blockbuster “The Wandering Earth II,” was embraced by audiences, especially youngsters, and earned about four billion yuan (about 578 million U.S. dollars) at the box office.

On Sunday, March 5th, China celebrated the 60th “Lei Feng Day.” This annual event aims to celebrate the life and spirit of Lei Feng, who devoted his spare time and money to helping the needy. Lei Feng died in an accident in 1962 at the age of 22. In 1963, Chairman Mao Zedong called on the nation to learn from him, and posters featuring Lei in his uniform and a cotton hat were put on display. He quickly became a public role model with enduring appeal.

The Lei Feng squad, formerly the military unit in which Lei Feng served, continues to promote his spirit of selflessness and dedication to serving others. The squad has adapted to the changing times and now includes civilian members who work in fields such as education, healthcare, and public welfare. These members carry out various activities to promote the Lei Feng spirit and encourage people to help others.

Ye Zigui believes that the Lei Feng spirit is essential for the development of society, and he hopes that more people will embrace it. He sees Wu Jing and other modern role models as effective ways to promote this spirit to younger generations who may not be as familiar with Lei Feng. Ye Zigui’s appreciation for both traditional and modern role models demonstrates how the Lei Feng spirit continues to evolve and inspire people in China today.

In recent decades, young people in China have developed an appreciation for role models from a variety of different backgrounds. Last year, a study led by the Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences revealed that primary and middle school students ranked scientists, actors, and doctors as their top three categories of idols. Similarly, a 2019 survey by Xinhuanet found that 81.12 percent of university students identified their role models as heroes, successful businessmen, scientists, and ordinary people who did great things.

The “Wandering Earth” series and TV drama “Three-Body” have put the spotlight on renowned sci-fi writer Liu Cixin, who has built a large following among young Chinese people. Ji Shaoting, head of Future Affairs Administration, a company that deals with the sci-fi business, including publication, consulting, and film-making, believes that people representing different social values are seen as role models at different periods.

Young people in China today were born during a time of fast economic and social development and have witnessed great progress in science and technology. However, according to Ji Shaoting, these changes do not mean that the Lei Feng spirit is losing its luster. Even in science fiction, which depicts extreme scenarios such as future disasters, the helpfulness and kindness of people remain essential.

For instance, in “The Wandering Earth” series, actor Wu Jing’s character ultimately sacrificed himself to save the earth. His altruism and selfless dedication are typical features of what Chinese people refer to as the “Lei Feng spirit.” Wu Jing is just one example of a modern role model who exemplifies the spirit of Lei Feng.

As society evolves, so too do the role models that young people look up to. Ji Shaoting believes that this evolution is a natural part of social development. However, the Lei Feng spirit remains a powerful force in Chinese society, inspiring people to help others and make a positive difference in the world.

Young people in China today admire role models from a variety of different backgrounds. While scientists, actors, and doctors are popular choices, the rise of science fiction has also brought attention to writers such as Liu Cixin. Despite the changing landscape, the Lei Feng spirit remains an important aspect of Chinese culture, inspiring selflessness and dedication to serving others.

The desire to help others is not limited to heroes or celebrities, but can be found among ordinary people as well. One example is the story of Gan Yu, a 28-year-old hydropower station worker who chose to stay at his post during an earthquake in Luding County, Sichuan Province, saving villages downstream from being flooded. Gan was rescued 17 days later by a local villager. Despite his heroic actions, Gan insists that he is not a hero and that anyone can achieve the nobility displayed by Lei Feng.

Zeng Qiangfei, another Sichuan native, was inspired by the actions of rescuers and volunteers who gathered to help his hometown during an earthquake in 2013. He became a volunteer in a local rescue team and flew to Türkiye and Syria this year to join the rescue operation after a devastating quake. Zeng saw in the operation that goodwill transcends languages and borders, and that the Lei Feng spirit is a universal concept.

This view is shared by a 56-year-old British man named James Elroy Edginton, who lives in Hunan Province, Lei Feng’s hometown. As an international faculty member at a local college, Edginton volunteers to help students from impoverished families and veterans, and is referred to as the “foreign Lei Feng”. He believes that the qualities attributed to Lei Feng are timeless and borderless, and that good deeds exist across history and around the globe.

Lei Feng is a role model for many Chinese young people who learn about him from an early age. However, the Lei Feng spirit is not limited to China and can be seen in the actions of people around the world. Despite changing times, the need for altruism and selflessness remains as important as ever.

The actions of Gan Yu and Zeng Qiangfei show that the spirit of Lei Feng is alive and well, and that ordinary people can make a difference in the lives of others. They serve as examples of the importance of helping others and of the lasting impact that Lei Feng’s spirit can have on individuals and society as a whole.

Lei Feng spirit is not limited to a specific time or place, but is a universal concept that can be found in the actions of people around the world. The stories of Gan Yu and Zeng Qiangfei demonstrate that anyone can embody the qualities of Lei Feng and make a positive impact on the world. As James Elroy Edginton notes, the qualities attributed to Lei Feng are moral strengths that transcend time and place and inspire people to do good deeds.

Ye Zigui, deputy leader of the Lei Feng squad, believes that the spirit of Lei Feng has already “gone abroad.” Ye recalled a visit by a local officer at a Chinese peacekeeping camp in Mali who left a message after viewing an exhibition that showcased the Lei Feng spirit. The message indicated that the Malian people also needed the same spirit to build their country. Similarly, an officer from Bangladesh, after reading some entries from Lei Feng’s famous diary, described it as “philosophical.”

According to Ye, the Lei Feng spirit still possesses influence and vitality, even after 60 years. Mou Zhenhua, the 27th leader of the Lei Feng Squad, said that over the past decades, the squad has participated not only in National Day military parades, international peacekeeping tasks, and global military competitions but also in firefighting, disaster relief, and rescue missions. The squad has also helped over 400 students facing financial problems.

The Lei Feng Squad has a tradition of making the bed of their “former squad leader.” Mou Zhenhua said that this was the moment when he felt closest to Lei Feng. In the squad, the role model of Chinese people for generations can be seen everywhere, including Lei Feng’s statue, photos, and copies of his diary, which are displayed in the room.

The wall of the room is decorated with gleaming red characters that read, “The former squad leader is always with us.” The Lei Feng Squad serves as an embodiment of Lei Feng’s spirit, which emphasizes selflessness, dedication, and service to others. The squad’s efforts reflect the legacy of Lei Feng and his contribution to Chinese society.

The Lei Feng spirit has been promoted in China through various campaigns, including those organized by the government and the Communist Youth League. These campaigns have been met with mixed reactions, with some people praising Lei Feng’s spirit as a model for selflessness and dedication, while others have criticized it as a tool for propaganda.

Despite the controversies, the Lei Feng spirit remains an essential part of Chinese culture, and its legacy continues to inspire many young people in China and beyond. As Ye Zigui noted, the Lei Feng spirit has already “gone abroad,” demonstrating its influence beyond China’s borders.

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