An outstanding woman soldier
Li Jing was born in 1937 in Pizhou County, Jiangsu Province. Her parents, both locally well-known doctors, named her Shengli (Victory) to express their longing for the final victory of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.
Li Jing’s parents were invited to work with the New Fourth Army after the Taierzhuang Battle. In 1943, Deng Zihui and Peng Xuefeng, leading officers of the fourth division of the New Fourth Army, assigned Wang Yintong, Li Jing’s mother, to the enemy-occupied area to mobilize defections of the puppet troops. Li Jing and her youngest elder brother went along with their mother. One night, the little girl woke up from her dream and saw with her own eyes the scene of her mother being killed by the reactionaries, a tragedy caused by some traitor’s betray. After this, Li Jing was brought back to the army and became the youngest soldier of its song and dance troop. After the Korean War broke out, Li, 15-year-old then, joined the Volunteers and went to Korea, working on the front.
Chairman Mao’s adopted daughter
Owing to her merits built in the war, Li was warmly received by Mao Zedong and other leaders of the central government. When Mao Zedong shook hands with Li, he asked about her name and family background. Li told Mao, “My name is Li Shengli, and my mother was killed by the enemy when I was seven or eight years old.” Mao kept silent for quite some time. Suddenly, he waved his big hand and said loudly to Li, “Yang Kaihui (Mao’s first wife) was a martyr, and so was your mother. You are surnamed Li, named Li Shengli, and I’m also a Li, named Li Desheng (Mao’s pseudonym used when he was leaving Yan’an), so please be my daughter!” Mao’s words brought tears to the girl’s eyes and moved all people around.
From then on, Mao, like a kind father, went into Li Jing’s life. Mao gave suggestions in books that she should read, checked her homework, taught her how to keep a diary and write home letters as well as how to get along with others. Once Li decided to send 20 yuan (US$ 2.41633) to her father in her hometown. Mao saw the form she had filled and joked, “Li Jing, it’s too stingy for you to send your father only 20 yuan a month, isn’t it?” Li replied seriously, “My salary is only 60 yuan (US$7.249) a month, and I have to eat and buy books. The sum of 20 yuan means quite a lot for me and it shows my filialness.” Still, Mao insisted that the sum was too little. He took up a pen and added a zero behind the number of 20 in the form. Li remembered clearly that the added 180 yuan (US$21.7470) was made up by one of Mao’s body guards with money from Mao’s personal savings, the pay for the publication of his works.
After the founding of New China, Li’s father remarried and her stepmother had a baby. Li knew she should express her congratulations but found it difficult to give them a decent gift. Once again, Mao sent 200 yuan to her parents on behalf of her.
During the “culture revolution,” Li worked as the head of the work team for the cultural area in the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee. Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife, who had been long hated Mao’s particular concern for Li, an intruder to their family, made up the story that Li Jing’s mother was not a real martyr and, with various excuses, managed to throw Li into a prison of the military forces. If Mao had not gotten the news in time and rescued her, Li would have not been able to come out alive.
A genuine disciple of the Mao-style calligraphy
Living by Mao’s side, Li frequently encountered with Mao’s calligraphy characterized with powerful and free-style strokes. At the beginning, Li only stood by and watched carefully when Mao took up his brush. Eventually, she seemed to have learned something. Once, following Mao’s style, she copied a piece of his handwriting. When Li showed this to Mao and asked for his advice, Mao decided to teach her the art of Mao-style calligraphy since she was such an intelligent learner.
There is a saying in the calligraphy circles that the only two who learned the essence of the Mao-style calligraphy are both females, one was Jiang Qing, and the other is Li Jing. Obviously, both of them were coached personally by Mao.
On December 26, 1999, the 106th Birthday of late Mao Zedong, Li held her personal exhibition, entitled “Mao Zedong’s Thought Remains Ever Bright: Li Jing’s Mao-style Calligraphy Exhibition,” in the Museum of Chinese History. Being interested in culture and art, Li became the president of Mao Zedong Culture and Art Society of the Chinese Ethnic Unity and Friendship Association after she retired. Though modest and not interested in the many honors offered to her, Li believes she deserves the title of “a genuine disciple of Mao-style calligraphy.”
(china.org.cn by Li Xiao December 24, 2002)