A Chinese General's Romance

Chinese generals are known for their great courage, bravery and commanding appearance. This love story tells that a general can be as gentle as anybody else. Surrounded by fragrant flowers in a courtyard, veteran General Zhang Zhenchuan, 76, tells his romance story engrossingly.

Born in China's Hebei Province in 1924, General Zhang took part in a number of wars in the Chinese history -- The War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-45), the Liberation War and the Korean War as a volunteer.

When Zhang returned from the Korean War, he, 30, was still a single. His superiors arranged him to meet several girls, but failed each time until he met Tang Xiaowei, a graduate from Yenching University (now Peking University).

Memory of their romance is so clear that he can easily recall details of his first date with Tang.

Standing in front of Xiaowei--a tall and attractive girl--the general who had experienced many battles, stood there dumbfounded with butterflies flying in his heart.

Dressed in neat and fresh uniform, Zhang impressed Tang as much as she impressed Zhang.

Zhang Zhenchuan was born in the countryside, while Tang Xiaowei was born in a rich family and received higher education. But the difference did not stand in the way of their mutual understanding.

After their first appointment, they could not help dating each other frequently.

On the Army Day (August 1) in 1954, they married. But they still lived in separation for their respective cause -- Zhang served in the army stationed in North China's Hebei Province while Tang worked at Beijing Daily as a reporter.

But the separation posed no barrier to their love, and they cherished the limited days for temporary family reunion.

By 1968, the couple had got two lovely babies -- one son and one daughter.

Nightmare happened in 1969, when Zhang Zhenchuan rode to inspect a mountain terrain. He was seriously injured in a car collision, resulting in severe cerebral injury and waist fracture with a possibility of paralysis for life.

Hearing the news, Tang Xiaowei quit her job in Beijing Daily and stayed with her husband in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province. Tang felt a heart-broken pain and resolutely shoulder up the heavy burden of caring for her husband and children.

Thanks to Tang's care and after years of therapy, Zhang recovered from the illness miraculously.

In 1974, Zhang resumed his job as army corps commander and was later promoted to the post as commander of the Hebei military command in 1983. Tang also got the chance to continue her favorite journalist career at Zhangjiakou Daily and then Hebei Daily.

"How time flies!" The 76-year-old Zhang sighed with emotion, seated by her wife in their green-covered courtyard. Retired from their respective posts, the old couple now live a peaceful life.

In 1991, Tang Xiaowei published her book -- "Great Shockwave of Half Century Ago" -- a collection of her articles. Zhang Zhenchuan published his 350,000-word memoir -- "Fight Hard in Battlefield" this year.

In their garden, General Zhang Zhenchuan plants various China roses, and when they are in bloom, Tang would scissor a flower every day to decorate their living room.

(China Daily 10/11/2000)