The Story of Hu Feng

I will be posting on this website the results of my research into the life of Hu Feng. Hu Feng was a Chinese writer and editor who was heavily persecuted as the alleged head of the ‘Hu Feng Counter-revolutionary Group’ (‘胡风反革命集团’). He spent 20 years in prison and ‘labour/reform camps’ between 1955 and 1975 and died in 1985 at the age of 82. This website will not just be about Hu Feng, but also his wife Mei Zhi and a number of the Chinese writers who were persecuted as alleged members of his ‘clique’, some tragically dying while they were in custody. This is a very large story and I intend to post large amounts of material over the next few years. Most of the original material is in Chinese and has not previously been translated into English.

Hu Feng and his wife Mei Zhi


Hu Feng (胡风), his wife Mei Zhi (梅志) and the writers involved in his ‘counter-revolutionary group’ (often called a ‘clique’ in western translations) left extensive accounts of their activities over the years, in the form of books, articles, correspondence and personal memoirs. They generally wrote very clear modern Chinese. Mao Zedong also had some direct involvement, as he wrote or edited many damning ‘editorial comments’ about Hu Feng and members of his group during the 1950s. He too wrote very clear modern Chinese, notwithstanding the nature of the content. Hu Feng was both an editor and a writer; he would write an article at the drop of a hat when he had something he wanted to say. Some of the personal correspondence between Hu Feng and the writers in his group has been lost over the years, but enough remains for us to form a fairly clear view of their lives, achievements and motivations. There are some exceptions, however, particularly in the case of writers such as Zhang Zhongxiao (张中晓), Lv Ying (吕荧) and [ ], who died either while in prison or as a result of persecution during the Cultural Revolution. We can be grateful to Hu Feng’s wife Mei Zhi for her accounts of those individuals that were published in the book of collected essays edited by Xiao Feng (晓风 – Hu Feng’s daughter) referred to below.

The key sources I have consulted are the following:

‘The Memoirs of Hu Feng’ (‘胡风回忆录’) [Started by Hu Feng and completed by his wife Mei Zhi after his death, based on diaries and other documents left by him plus her own recollections]

‘Hu Feng and I: Thirty Seven Recollections of the Hu Feng Incident’ (‘我与胡风:胡风事件三十七回忆’) [A collection of essays edited by Hu Feng’s daughter Xiao Feng]

‘A Record of the Unjust Case Against Hu Feng’ (‘胡风沉冤录’) [By Hu Feng’s wife Mei Zhi. There is an English translation of this book, but I will be relying on the original Chinese version and any quotes from it will be my own translations.]

‘My Personal Experience of the Hu Feng Case’ (‘我所亲历的胡风案’) [By Wang Wenzheng (王文正), who was involved in the interrogation of several members of Hu Feng’s group of writers who were taken into custody in Shanghai in 1955]

[NB: I will add further sources as I work through them]

Overall Plan

This website will be a work in progress for a number of years, but I hope it will eventually come together as a comprehensive biography of Hu Feng (or at least a source of detailed information for other biographers), with additional material in relation to his wife Mei Zhi and a number of the writers who were involved in his group. I intend to include many quotes from the original Chinese sources that I will translate into English myself, with appropriate footnotes.

I aim to include chapters covering the following:

  • An outline account of Hu Feng’s life.
  • A chapter on Hu Feng’s ‘thought’ in relation to literature, in particular his espousal of the values of ‘realism’ and ‘subjectivism’, and his opposition to ‘formalism’ and what he saw as the excessive popularisation of literature.
  • A detailed exploration of the circumstances that led to the criticism of Hu Feng’s work and that of other writers in his group, including his lengthy rebuttal of that criticism in a document which is generally known as ‘The Hu Feng 300,000 Character Letter’.
  • A detailed account of the arrest and interrogation of Hu Feng, Mei Zhi and many writers in his ‘group’ in 1955, and their subsequent imprisonment, including the political background and the (sham) legal basis for it.
  • A chapter on aspects of Hu Feng’s personality that underlay his success as a writer and editor and introducer of young literary talent, but very likely also contributed to his persecution and Mao Zedong’s decision to single him out as the focus of one of his ‘anti’ campaigns.
  • A chapter on Hu Feng’s wife Mei Zhi, who was an accomplished writer of children’s literature on her own account but also a devoted supporter of her husband throughout their lives together and mother of their three children (all of whom went on to have successful careers in China). She had great strength of character and in many ways is the ‘heroine’ of this story. I do not plan to include detailed information in relation to their children, one of whom is still active as an academic in China.
  • A chapter on Hu Feng and Mei Zhi as a couple and as parents, and also as members of their own respective families.
  • A number of chapters on writers in Hu Feng’s ‘group’, including in particular Lu Ling, Zhang Zhongxiao, Ji Fang and Lv Ying. I will also be discussing the role of Shu Wu (舒芜), who was a key member of Hu Feng’s group of writers, but who has been described as a ‘Judas figure’ because he supplied personal letters he received from Hu Feng to a journalist from the People’s Daily (this is mentioned in the Baidu Baike (百度百科) entry on Shu Wu). Those letters were later used as evidence in support of the persecution of Hu Feng and his group. Like the many other Chinese writers and intellectuals who failed to defend Hu Feng when he was criticised and after he was arrested, Shu Wu had his own reasons for what he did and I aim to express those as fairly as I can.
  • A chapter on the difficulties faced by Chinese intellectuals like Hu Feng and the writers in his group in dealing with the rapidly changing political scene in China between the 1930s and the 1960s, having to cope with the demands first of Chiang Kai-shek’s National Government and later Mao Zedong’s Communist Government, plus the relevance of their story and the persecution they suffered to the present day.

Michael Ingle –

About Michael Ingle

Retired lawyer studying the Chinese language and history of the mid-20th century
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1 Response to The Story of Hu Feng

  1. Michelle says:

    Very interesting introduction to Hutchings Feng. I look forward to the next chapter.

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