Jia Zhifang Remembers Hu Feng

Jia Zhifang (贾植芳)

I have translated below a chapter that Jia Zhifang (贾植芳) wrote for a book of reminiscences of Hu Feng, ‘Hu Feng and I’. This book was edited by Hu Feng’s daughter Xiao Feng and published in 1993 by the Ningxia People’s Publishing House.

This chapter is rather long (around 8,000 English words), but contains much detail about both Hu Feng and Jia Zhifang. Jia was born in 1915 and died in 2008. He worked mainly as a writer and a university professor (at Fudan University), but his life was long and filled with incident. He was jailed four times, three times during the Republican period in China because of his left-wing views and activities, and once after the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, because of his alleged role in the ‘Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Clique’ case. His last spell in prison was the longest of all, lasting 11 years, and was followed by many years of ‘work and reform’ and persecution during the Cultural Revolution.

Jia Zhifang was a very brave man with a remarkable personality. He was not ‘just’ an academic and a writer. He insisted on doing what he thought was right through a long period of major upheaval in China, despite the constant risk of being arrested and imprisoned. He published his first short story in a Taiyuan, Shanxi newspaper when he was just 15. Later he studied economics and sociology in Japan. He first got to know Hu Feng after submitting a story to him for publication in a Shanghai periodical while he was still a student in Japan. He and his wife Ren Min over time became close friends with Hu Feng, his wife Mei Zhi and their three children. The chapter I have translated below describes in detail how that friendship developed and how Jia Zhifang and Hu Feng were able to help each other through troubled times.

There are many anecdotes about Jia Zhifang. One of the most characteristic concerns how he raised funds to purchase medication for Ren Min when she suffered a stroke in 1997 (when Jia was himself 82 years old). They had been married by then for 55 years (though it is unclear whether they ever made the marriage ‘official’), but they had only enjoyed a little over 10 years of settled life together. Ren Min lived on for five years after her stroke, but Jia had then retired from university teaching and was hard pressed to pay for the medicines she needed. He did not complain but set to organising and publishing old draft articles, diaries and letters and writing reminiscences and essays, thereby raising the necessary funds.

Michael Ingle – michaelingle01@gmail.com


 Close Friendship with Hu Feng: Helping Each Other Through Troubled Times 

I first became friends with Hu Feng because we were thrown together by the shared fate of the times in which we lived.  The difficulties of that period in turn deepened the friendship between us so that we were able to help each other through very challenging circumstances.  The friendship between me and my wife Renmin, and Hu Feng and his wife Mei Zhi and their children, steadily grew as we navigated the trials and tribulations of those times.

After the so called ‘Hu Feng incident’ occurred in China in 1955, people everywhere were asking how Jia Zhifang could have become friends with Hu Feng.  In terms of age, he was 13 years older than I was.  He was born in 1902 in Qichun County in Hubei Province.  I was born in 1915 in Xiangfen County in Shanxi Province.  He was a southerner; I am a northerner.  We hailed from areas separated by more than a thousand kilometres.  We were not relatives, and our families did not know each other.  

Hu Feng and I both studied abroad in Japan, but he went there earlier than I did and also returned earlier.  He went to Japan as an exile, after he had been involved in the ‘Great Revolution’ (1924-1927) and later lived through the White terror of Chiang Kai-shek’s anti-Communist purge after the coup of 12th April 1927.  While in Japan, he was a student in the English Department of Keio University in Tokyo.  After he became involved with the Japanese left-wing literature and art movement, and also joined the Japanese Communist Party, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Japanese police.  In 1933 he was expelled by the Japanese and returned to China.   

In my case, I had been arrested and jailed by the Beiping police because I participated in the December 9th 1935 students’ patriotic movement.  After my release I fled to Japan and became a student in the Social Sciences Department of Nihon University.  After the Anti-Japanese War broke out in 1937, I immediately abandoned my studies and returned home to participate in the sacred war of resistance.  

While Hu Feng and I studied in Japan during different periods of time, we were alike in that we were both political exiles and Chinese students abroad.  This in turn was the main reason we later became friends.  Hu Feng said near the end of his life: “Although I feel guilty that many friends were dragged into the case against me, by the time they got close to me they already had their own thoughts and ideals, while I was even more motivated by my admiration for their talents.”  (See the memoir by Hu Feng’s wife Mei Zhi entitled ‘The Past Has Vanished Like Smoke’, pages 96-97).  

A year before his death, Hu Feng wrote a lengthy Afterword for a three-volume collection of his essays that was published under the name ‘Commentary Collection’ by the People’s Literature Publishing House in 1984-1985.  In this Afterword written after the terrible calamity he suffered, he reviewed the course of his whole life and literary accomplishments.  

After Hu Feng returned to China from Japan, he took on a leading role in the work of the League of Left-Wing Writers, which boasted Lu Xun as its great standard-bearer. Given the nature of his work he got to know many writers and also started to assist Lu Xun with the editing of his ‘Storm Petrel’ literary journal.  After Lu Xun’s death, encouraged by the local Party leader Feng Xuefeng, he took on the editing of the ‘Work and Study’ series of books.  After the War of Resistance broke out, he set up the literary journal ‘July’ and published it from Shanghai, then Wu Han and finally Chongqing.  After the New Fourth Army (Wannan) Incident of 1940, he was forced to stop publishing ‘July’.  In 1945 he set up and published a new literary journal, ‘Hope’, as well as the ‘July Poetry Collection’, the ‘July New Work Collection’, the ‘July Literary Collection’ and similar series of books.  

Over the period from before the war, through the whole of the Anti-Japanese War and the following War of Liberation, Hu Feng gathered about himself an ever larger group of writers and new literary figures whom he discovered among the readers of his journals.  Many of these writers became his close friends, resulting in the formation of a literary school known as the ‘Hu Feng School’ or the ‘July School’ of writers.  in 1955, however, this School was re-labelled the ‘Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Clique’, and most of the writers who belonged to it were branded as ‘Hu Feng elements’.  From that time on, most of them vanished from the literary world and their work could no longer be published.  

In the year before his death, when Hu Feng referred to the writers he had worked with in the Afterword he wrote for his ‘Commentary Collection’, he said with sorrow: “I have looked carefully at what I did. In the end the reason why we all became friends and kept in touch with each other was our shared attitude to the people’s revolution and our shared thoughts and feelings about literature.”  This also explains why the ‘Material Relating to the Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Clique’ published in 1955 identified the members of his School as a “counter-revolutionary faction concealed within the revolutionary camp”.  I too was one of the writers who contributed my work to the various literary journals and collected works that Hu Feng edited.

I actually got to know Hu Feng as a result of submitting my work to him for publication.  I was a student in Japan at the time.  Though I was studying social sciences at Nihon University, I had a great love for literature and had started to learn about creative writing in the early 1930s.  I had submitted work to various newspapers and periodicals and had also been involved in politically progressive social activities and organisations.  From the time I arrived in Tokyo I never stopped writing, apart from attending classes and participating in student cultural activities.  

Throughout my life I have loved to roam around bookstores.  While I was in Tokyo, I often visited the Uchiyama book shop in the Kanda district to have a look around, because it specialised in selling newly published Chinese books.  I saw this bookshop as the best way in Tokyo to keep up with the latest trends in Chinese domestic politics, society and literature.  It was there in early 1937 that I saw the first and second volumes of the ‘Work and Study’ collection edited by Hu Feng and published by Shanghai’s Life Publishing company (now ‘Sanlian Press’ or ‘SDX Joint Publishing’).  The first volume was entitled ‘Two or Three Things’ and the second ‘Open Country’.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover from its editorial style and roster of writers that this was a serious literary collection determined to carry forward Lu Xun’s fighting literary tradition.  I therefore decided to submit a novel I had written entitled ‘A Person’s Grief’, based on my experience of life as a prisoner in Beiping, for publication as one of the books in the series.  I had no idea at the time who the editor was, so I did not write a letter to accompany the draft of my novel.  Less than two months later, however, I received the fourth volume in the series (entitled ‘Daybreak’) containing my novel, along with a royalty fee of more than 30 Japanese yen and a very cordial letter from the editor Hu Feng.  

It was only then that I found out the editor of this series of books was Hu Feng.  I had been reading his work since the early 1930s when he started to write and translate using the pen name Gu Fei.  In 1932 I bought his translation of ‘Foreign Devils’ for one yuan at the Kunlun Bookstore near the entrance to the Dongan market in Beiping.  At that time Gu Fei’s poems were being published in left wing periodicals like ‘The Literature Daily Report’, ‘The Big Dipper’ and ‘Modern Culture’, even in the large format literary journal ‘Modern Times’.  I therefore already knew him through his writing and translation work; we had been friends in spirit for a long time without actually meeting.  I considered him to be an outstanding Marxist literary critic and a poet and translator in his own right.  In Chinese literary circles he was a revolutionary writer of the League of Left-Wing Writers, as well as a loyal assistant to Lu Xun in his final years.  I had also gained some understanding of Hu Feng’s character and the way he conducted himself, as well as his literary style, from my reading of the major essay Lu Xun published shortly before his death: ‘My Reply to Xu Maoyong’s Questions about the Anti-Japanese United Front’.  Lu Xun thought it was unfair that Hu Feng had been framed politically by the lies of Mu Mutian who credulously supported the ‘Si Tiao Hanzi‘ [the ‘Four Fellows’: Yang Hansheng, Tian Han, Xia Yan and Zhou Yang].  

Lu Xun described Hu Feng in this essay as a “very frank and honest man who is prone to incurring dislike”.  This remark was deeply imprinted in my mind.  I thought of it when Hu Feng was criticised by left-wing comrades in Hong Kong in 1948 for writing about subjectivism, and again in 1954 when he became the subject of even larger-scale criticism.  (I must point out that these observations and views of mine are rather superficial and can by no means sum up the true nature of the two political disasters that Hu Feng suffered.  The fault does not lie with him, however.  We can see all this very clearly now, but it was not so clear then.) 

From that same essay by Lu Xun, I also got a rough understanding of the disputes and contradictions in left-wing writers’ circles between Hu Feng and those in charge of the Party group in the League of Left-Wing Writers such as Zhou Yang.  Present day researchers all say that these disputes in the mid-1930s were the root cause of the unjust case against Hu Feng in 1955.  I got to know Hu Feng by submitting manuscripts to him for publication during the 1930s and we subsequently became close friends.  It was also in the 1930s that the seeds were sown that led to the anti-Hu Feng case in which I was also implicated.

In the autumn of 1937, I returned to China where the anti-Japanese national war was underway and threw myself into public life.  In the social and political circumstances of that chaotic war-time period, I did not seek the relatively quiet and stable life of an academic sitting in his study looking for interesting quotations and worrying about his diction.  In fact, I disdained to pursue such a life when the flames of war were raging throughout my native land.  I also did not try to make my fortune as a wartime trader, despite the fact I came from a business background.  Nor did I look out for a quiet job in which I could eke out a living.  Rather I saw myself as a Chinese intellectual with a historic responsibility to do his utmost to save his country and people from their historical suffering and help them move towards a new life.  To do that, I had to take advantage of the opportunities that were within my grasp.  In such a tumultuous period of history, my pursuit of such a purpose in life, together with my non-conformist attitude, led me to live a life that was full of frustrations and in which I received many blows and setbacks.  

After I gave up my studies in Japan and returned home, my first job was doing Japanese translation and information work for the regular [Kuomintang] army forces who were fighting in the Zhongtiao Mountains area of Shanxi Province.  Less than a year later, in 1939, China’s war of resistance against Japan experienced the first reverse in the underlying political situation and I had no choice but to leave my regular army unit.  I finally found my way to Chongqing in November 1939.  I was fixed up with a job in a newspaper office there by a close friend whose political views were similar to mine.  I then again sent something I had written to Hu Feng to see if he could publish it.  It was a piece of reportage entitled ‘Jia Jichen and his Periphery’ and was based on an interview I did with an Eighth Route Army unit commander in the Shanxi combat zone.  

I also included a short note telling Hu Feng that I had arrived in Chongqing and was working in a newspaper office.  It was a very simple letter, even though I had submitted work to Hu Feng previously in 1938 when he was editing ‘July’ in Wuhan, and he had invited me to make regular contributions.  After I relocated to the Shanxi combat zone, I had continued to send him manuscripts and news reports, and he engaged me as a special correspondent for that area.  

When I sent Hu Feng this new manuscript in Chongqing, I did not include the name of the newspaper office where I was working.  The reasons for this were straightforward.  For one thing I had a rather proud and aloof nature and did not want to appear as if I were trying to curry favour with a famous person.  More importantly, though, I thought then that as a young writer it would be best for me to treat my writing as a spare time activity.   People in literary circles tend to get involved in disputes with each other, so I thought it best to steer clear and not get mixed up in that type of thing.  Not to mention that I was a mere 20-year-old youth just starting out with my writing.  My understanding of life and society was still rudimentary and I had limited experience of the real world.  I needed to engage with actual events and people for a while to deepen my experience of life and society, get a proper understanding of the issues that China was grappling with, and acquire more background material for my writing.  For all those reasons, just as in the summer of 1938 when I was in Wuhan, even though Hu Feng and I were both living in the same city, I limited myself to sending him manuscripts and written correspondence and did not set out to visit him in person.  Our relationship at that time was limited to literature and the exchanges of ideas, what is often referred to as ‘a literary friendship’ or ‘making friends through literature’.  

But Hu Feng was a very warm-hearted person.  Less than three days after he received my letter, he came to look for me himself.  He said it had been difficult to find me because I had not given him the name of my newspaper office. He had made the rounds of virtually all of Chongqing’s newspapers, both large and small, but had finally caught up with me.  

I had just got settled in Chongqing then and was sharing two rooms in a building rented by the newspaper with some co-workers who had also studied in Japan and were single men like me.  There were only four beds, so I was sleeping on the floor.  I also worked nights, so when Hu Feng arrived I was still asleep.  I had managed to get through almost a year in a fighting army unit and had developed a level of alertness that made me a light sleeper.  So when I heard a person with a thick Hubei accent loudly calling out “Excuse me, is there a Jia Zhifang here?”, I immediately got up and looked with sleepy eyes in the direction of the door from which the calls were coming.  I saw a middle-aged man with a sturdy build wearing an old style felt hat, a faded blue cheongsam, Chinese style black trousers and dust covered home-made cloth shoes.  He was carrying a walking stick and had a black briefcase tucked under his arm.  He had a perfectly round face with strikingly clear and bright eyes that shone with the radiance of a wise, gentle and very sincere person and were a perfect match for his simple and unadorned Chinese style of dress.  His proper Chinese scholarly appearance made you feel he was a close and respected friend you had already known for a long time.  

At that moment a number of my colleagues who were already up and heard the shouting rushed to the door yelling “Hu Xiansheng, you’re here, please come in!”  One of them pointed to me on the floor and said “That’s Jia Zhifang.” Hu Feng had by then come into the room and while exchanging pleasantries with my colleagues came to a stop and had a close look at me.  I was rather flustered as I was preoccupied putting on my clapped-out grey uniform and self-conscious about my swarthy and emaciated appearance.  My down and out look must have been a surprise to him (or maybe not).  In any case that must be why he stood there speechless with a look of disappointment on his face.  His eyes were moist, to the point that he seemed to be paying no attention to all the people smiling genially around him.  He at once pulled a pile of bills out of the pocket of his cheongsam and handed them to me as I sat on the floor, saying in a gentle tone of voice “This is 20 yuan.  There are some royalties outstanding for the manuscripts you sent for publication in ‘July’ from the front.  I did not want to send cash to the combat zone, so I’ve held on to it and brought it to you now.”  

It was only then that he paid attention to everyone calling for him to sit down, removed his felt cap and took a seat.  These old classmates and now colleagues of mine had been working as journalists in Chongqing for some time and all knew Hu Feng and respected him as an important figure.  They accordingly hosted lunch for us at the small restaurant where we took our meals.  They all forked out cash to pay for extra dishes.  I had just started working in Chongqing and hadn’t a penny to my name.  I was completely dependent on these colleagues to keep body and soul together, and they helped me because we shared the same ideals and interests.  

I was very moved by this visit of Hu Feng, as I was able to experience at first hand his enthusiasm and his sincere character and manner.  He was the epitome of an unaffected and down to earth intellectual.  I can also say that was the true start of our friendship with each other.  For many years after that he and I were frequently in touch with each other as friends, but on no occasion did I detect any egotistical, false, evasive, philistine or mercenary qualities in his character.  He was not pushy and arrogant, nor did he see himself as a cut above everyone else, like so many other bureaucratic cultural figures with their vile behaviour.  He was an intellectual who was very concerned about truth and justice and who took people’s feelings seriously.  Exactly as Mao Zedong once said about Lu Xun: “There is not the least bit of servility or obsequiousness in his character.”  Hu Feng was a revolutionary writer with a fearless devotion to the cultural aspects of the people’s revolution, a true friend whom you could trust and rely on. 

However, as it turned out I was in Chongqing for less than three months before a friend who worked at my newspaper and was in the underground Party organisation arranged me to go and work in a Kuomintang news office in Shanxi Province.  I had no choice but to leave Chongqing then, but my contacts with Hu Feng during my stay there left me with very happy memories.

At that time Hu Feng was living with his family in Beibei on the outskirts of Chongqing.  He told me that after the big bombing raids on Chongqing, Mei Zhi and the children had moved out to the country.  He was travelling back and forth and dealing with all the ‘July’ editorial work on his own, reading manuscripts, corresponding with contributors, dealing with the printers, designing the title pages, checking final proofs and so on.  Every time he came into town he would write in advance to let me know and invite me to meet up to talk.  

We usually met in the small room he had rented in Chongqing.  It was very plain, with two worn cane chairs and a writing desk with its paint peeling off taking pride of place among the furnishings.  There was some kitchen equipment in a corner of the room.  Hu Feng told me that before Mei Zhi and the children moved to the country they had all lived here together.  When we got together for one of our long and wide-ranging talks, we would each sit on a cane chair.  We sometimes went to a teahouse in the Hualongqiao area; if it was a mealtime, we would look for a small restaurant for a dish of noodles or a bowl of soup with a few baked cakes.  He once took me to a Hubei style snack shop to try some local specialities from his home area – dried bean curd and dumplings in soup.  

When we met, we would talk about everything under the sun – literature, the literary world, our own lives and experiences, as well as the war situation.  Once when Hu Feng was talking about politics and his own circumstances, he said “It’s as if I’ve been stuffed into a sack with a cord.  If the situation changes, all they need to do is give the cord a pull and I cannot get away.”  I could tell from his vehement tone that his assessment of the domestic political situation and his political attitude were crystal clear: he totally loathed the Kuomintang regime’s persistent hostility to and persecution of progressive intellectuals.  It also reflected his determination and audacity in pursuing his work in such a perilous political and cultural environment.  

When we got together for informal discussions in that small room of his, Hu Feng would also give me some of the manuscripts piled up on his writing desk to look through.  They had all been submitted for publication in ‘July’ and I remember one that had been written with a writing brush on hemp paper by a writer who signed his name ‘Huangji”.  This was a play script entitled ‘Sesame Oil’.  Hu Feng said this writer had previously submitted a piece of reportage about life in the army, and that both pieces of work reflected the writer’s sincerity and true feelings for life.  The writer was a doctor working in the liberated zone and had sent it from Yanan. 

I had my own experience of the close attention Hu Feng gave to manuscripts submitted by young writers whom he identified in the lower levels of society.  It is true to say he carried on the editorial tradition of Lu Xun in his own editorial style. His standard for selecting manuscripts for publication in his journals was not based on the reputation of the writer but was entirely dependent on his assessment of the conceptual and artistic quality of the work.  He was in essence a literary theorist and critic.  The great majority of the writers who belonged to what is known in China’s modern literary history as the ‘July School’, the school that came into being during Hu Feng’s long publishing career, were people he got to know because they submitted manuscripts to him and whom he then developed as writers and poets.  However, his uncompromising and conscientious editorial stance also unwittingly offended several individuals who had already achieved fame as writers.  The fact he was later tagged with the label of heading up a ‘faction’ or a ‘clique’ very likely resulted from this.

1941 was the year of the New Fourth Army Incident, which had repercussions throughout China and the world.  I had already left the job an underground Party comrade introduced me to, and I now received yet another blow from fate as a result of that Incident.  I was stranded in Xian living with some small tradespeople and engaging in petty trade to eke out a living.  At times I had to rely on my family to help me out.  The main thing I did then was read books.  I did some writing, but I was the only reader of the things I wrote.  I did not want to send my work off for publication in nondescript newspapers and periodicals I was not familiar with.  

I regarded creative writing as a serious undertaking, not simply a means of putting food on the table.  Nor did I see it as a stepping stone to achieving a high social position and wealth.  By this time, I had lost contact with Hu Feng and my friends in other parts of the country, and I was completely cut off from people in cultural and intellectual circles. 

One day by chance I read a report in a wall newspaper that Hu Feng had left Chongqing and moved to Hong Kong after the New Fourth Army Incident.  The report also said he had ‘died for his country’ after the Japanese army had stormed Hong Kong.  Reading this was like being struck by a bolt of lightning.  In a fit of grief and indignation I could not help but think of Hu Feng’s analysis of the war situation and the domestic political scene while we were in Chongqing.  

Not long after that I read a report in a locally published government controlled literary periodical called ‘Yellow River’ that said “After Hong Kong was occupied by Japanese troops, the left-wing writer Hu Feng followed his comrade Yuan Shu [b.1911-d.1987, Yuan was considered to be ‘the Richard Sorge of the Far East’] to Nanjing where he became the Assistant Minister of Propaganda in the Propaganda Ministry of the Wang Jingwei Puppet Government”.  ‘Yellow River’ was edited by the well-known female writer Xie Bingying [b.1906-d.2000b].  She had previously been involved in work for the Great Revolution Army and had studied at the Kuomintang Military School.  She had also once been a member of the League of Left-Wing Writers, but by this time was little more than a hack writer for the Kuomintang.  When she went to Japan for the second time in the 1930s and studied at Waseda University, she and Hu Feng were both members of the League of Left-Wing Writers branch that was established in Tokyo in 1931.  The political stance of the periodical she now edited was crystal clear: from start to finish it published many articles attacking the forces of the Left.  So I was absolutely furious when I read this report about Hu Feng.  

At around the same time I saw a report with similar content in a small paper posted in the streets called ‘The Chinese’.  I thought this was yet another case of Kuomintang literary hacks spreading malicious rumours to discredit Hu Feng.  Given the internal political situation at the time, I also thought it was not just meant to discredit him.  As I totally trusted Hu Feng’s political and moral views and he was now a close friend, I regarded the actions of this small paper that deigned to call itself ‘The Chinese’ but still published these foul lies, as an example of what Lu Xun once described as “despicable behaviour violating the current moral standards of the Chinese people”.  When Lu Xun said that Hu Feng was “honest and frank, and easily aroused hostility”, he may have had in mind circumstances like these where rumour mongers try to discredit people on their own side.  ‘The Chinese’ was just like ‘Social News’ in the 1930s, they were both fundamentally anti-Party papers.  As the saying goes, ‘You learn from experience’.  

I drew these angry conclusions from my experience of life at the time.  It was therefore with pleasure and satisfaction that I later read an article Hu Feng wrote for a Guilin literary journal in which he gave a sharp retort to these rumour mongers.  The title of the article was ‘A Dead Man Returns to Life’ and I believe it was published in ‘Literary and Artistic Creation’ or a similar journal.  The title was borrowed from Henrik Ibsen’s play ‘When We Dead Awaken’, and I thought Hu Feng was fully justified in publishing it.  Given the political situation at the time, his personal reputation was at stake.  Soon after that, I read a report in a newspaper that he had returned to Chongqing and was teaching at Fudan University there.  I was really pleased to read this news and sent him a letter with my regards, to which he quickly replied.  He said in his reply that after returning to Chongqing he had met a person at a meeting who had studied with me in Japan.  That person told him I was stranded in Xian and living in difficult circumstances.  He said he was extremely concerned about me. 

While I was living in Shaanxi Province I was cheated out of some borrowed money because I was such a poor businessman.  I therefore decided to go into the army for a second time and was engaged in translation work for a Kuomintang engineering regiment stationed on the bank of the Yellow River.  I was translating Japanese military engineering books for the regimental commander, who had a family connection with the engineering department of a Japanese army school.  These books had titles like ‘Military Engineering Training Methods’ and ‘The Use of Smoke Screens’.  I had also then started living together with my wife Ren Min whom I had met while at university in Xian.  

Two years later my army unit became suspicious about my background and thought I might be involved in illegal activities.  They had even worked out a way to deal with me: bury me alive on the spot.  By that time the Kuomintang regime had ordered its government and party army units stationed in the Northwest region to execute immediately any ‘other party elements’ and ‘leftist elements’ they came across.  A low-level staffer (a copy clerk) by the name of Wang in the regimental headquarters heard this news and warned me straightaway.  That enabled my wife and me to get away in time to avoid my execution.  

In 1945 I made up my mind to leave the Northwest.  I got together the novels, stories and articles I had written during my years there, picked out the ones I was reasonably happy with and sent them all off to Hu Feng at Fudan University in Chongqing.  I threw everything else I had written into a disused well.  I also let Hu Feng know we were about to leave the Northwest.  Hu Feng later published most of the stories I sent him in various issues of his new periodical ‘Hope’.  I later learned that a few of the things I sent him were lost by the printers, while he arranged for some stories to be published in the periodical ‘War of Resistance Literature and Art’.  After I arrived in Shanghai in 1946, he combined several of my stories that he had published in a book entitled ‘Rhapsody of Life’.  That was published in 1947 by Shanghai’s Storm Petrel Bookstore as one volume of the ‘July Literary Collection’ series that he edited.

Before I arrived in Shanghai in 1946, I landed up in Xuzhou after passing through several other towns.  During my stay there, around the end of May or the beginning of June 1945, I was arrested and imprisoned by spies acting for Wang Jingwei’s puppet Japanese government, on grounds of inciting defections from his regime.  I was held in custody until after the Japanese forces surrendered on 15th August that year.  

I then read a report in a Shanghai newspaper that Hu Feng had returned to Shanghai, so I was able to resume corresponding with him and submitting my work to him for publication.  My wife and I decided to move on to Shanghai ourselves, arriving in May or June of 1946. We were not able to find a place to live at first, so we stayed with Hu Feng and his family for around six months. 

China was then in the throes of radical change, and that was also the time when I became a full-time professional writer.  At the end of 1946 Hu Feng introduced me to the China Times newspaper, which employed me to edit a weekly arts and literature supplement.  This paper was part of Kong Xiangxi’s financial group (Kong’s family was one of the Kuomintang’s ‘Four Big Families’).  The paper’s general manager was Hu Egong, who came from the same area in Hubei Province as Hu Feng, and in fact was also an underground member of the Party.  I began editing the weekly arts and literature supplement ‘Qingguang’ (‘青光’) in January 1947.  But after just two months of publication and eight issues in total, we were forced to stop publishing because of the steadily worsening political situation, the collapse of the Political Consultative Conference, and the intensifying and broadening military clashes between the Kuomintang and the Party.  

The summer of 1947 saw the student demonstrations against ‘Civil War, Starvation and Persecution’.  I accepted an invitation from the underground student run paper ‘Student News’ to write a short article entitled ‘For The Fighters’ for a commemorative supplement called ‘5th May’.  Other well-known democratic personalities including Guo Moruo and Ma Xulun were also asked to submit articles.  Around the same time, I was also asked to submit a short article for publication in a small paper run by Fudan University students called ‘A Window on Literature’.  That article was published with the title ‘Long Life to the Rioters!’  I used the term ‘Rioters’ because the official newspapers were using it to describe the students demonstrating in the streets.  After someone informed against us, my wife and I were abruptly arrested in September 1947 for inciting student unrest by agents from the Kuomintang’s Bureau of Investigation and Statistics, along with several students who were living with us at the time and who also worked at ‘Student News’.  This was the third time during my short life of just over 30 years that I found myself thrown into jail over political issues.  As it was my writing that had led to this, the agents who arrested me, just like the officials who had arrested me in the past, busied themselves with investigating what they described as my ‘background’.  They appeared to have found nothing after six months of this, but I had no choice but to carry on languishing in jail and resign myself to my fate.  

In the spring of 1948, the higher-ups sent an immaculately dressed official to see me.  He looked the part of a ‘secret agent’ and was accompanied by an official from the organisation where I was being held (they really were a pair of top-quality goods).  He said he had been asked to ‘have a look at me’.  The smartly dressed fellow was smoking a high-grade Three Castles cigarette and said with an irritating drawl “You’ve been here a while.  We’re not fools.  You know perfectly well what kind of person you are, and we also know.”  They seemed to be leading up to something, but it was only later that they got to the point.  As it turned out, they were extremely concerned about my ‘prospects’ and suggested to me a ‘promising way out’.  “This will not be at all hard for you, just one small thing and it’s done.  You just need to take us to Hu Feng so that we can arrest him or, if you would feel uncomfortable doing that, just tell us his address and that will do instead.  Then we could be your friends, and everything would be just fine.  Otherwise, hahaha…”.  

The two officials looked at each other and laughed in such an endearing way.  But when I laughed loudly in response, they stopped and stared at me with astonishment.  After laughing a while longer, I finally stopped and said to them: “Gentlemen, you made a mistake in targeting me.  I’ve been drifting along in Shanghai, short of food, writing articles and submitting them wherever I could for publication to get some food on the table.  I don’t know any people in literary circles, including this Hu Feng person you have mentioned.  I am very sorry indeed to let you down, hahaha…”.  They seemed at first to be rather flustered about this but soon got themselves under control.  The well-dressed fellow laughed hollowly, coughed and said: “I want to say one more thing.  We are doing this out of kindness to you.  Whether you want to help us or not is up to you.  You now hold your fate in your own hands.  We will give you some time and allow you to think things over for a while.  You need to put a proper value on yourself.  You’re just over 30 are you not?  Such a pity!” 

I was then taken back to my cell and carried on waiting there for those demons to decide my fate.  They later changed tack and asked me to write an ‘Anti-Communist Manifesto’ for the Kuomintang controlled Central Daily News, as a condition of my release from custody.  I refused to do that too.  So I carried on in prison until late in 1948, when some friends intervened and I was at last released on bail.  

It was only after I was released that I heard from my wife, who had been released before me, that Hu Feng and his wife had been rushing about doing everything they could to get me out of jail, in addition to taking care of her.  The background to this was that Hu Feng had heard me say in one of our regular talks that when I was employed by the Kuomintang during the War of Resistance, I had met a Kuomintang officer called Chen Zhuo.  Hu Feng had therefore written to Ah Long in Nanjing, asking him to find Chen to get me out on bail.  Unfortunately, Ah Long did not know Chen Zhuo either and had no success in finding him. Seven years later, however, when the third batch of documents in relation to the ‘Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Clique’ were published in 1955, this letter from Hu Feng to Ah Long was included and treated as proof that Hu Feng and members of his ‘clique’ had close ties with Kuomintang spies.  It was only in 1980 when the Ministry of Public Security issued its report on its re-examination of the Hu Feng case that they clarified the true nature of this ‘proof of guilt’ based on the facts of what really happened. 

During the final days of the War of Resistance, I had been able to obtain copies of the books in the ‘New July Collection’ edited by Hu Feng and published by the Storm Petrel Bookstore.  After the War ended in victory in 1945, Storm Petrel published the books comprising the ‘July Literary Collection’, also edited by Hu Feng.  

In August 1947 the Kuomintang issued its ‘Riot Suppression Decree’ and launched an all-out attack on the People’s Liberation Army.  In order to escape persecution by the Kuomintang, Storm Petrel moved its office from Shanghai to Hong Kong.  While I was still being held in prison, Storm Petrel’s proprietor Yu Hongmo had returned to Shanghai on business.  Hu Feng told him I had been arrested and asked if he had any connections he could use to get me released on bail.  Yu Hongmo readily agreed to help.  He happened to know a person from his hometown in Fujian Province, Luo Meizhong, who was the deputy head of the Kuomintang’s Trust Bank.  There was also a business connection between Yu and Luo’s families.  I discovered later that Luo had studied in Japan during the 1930s like I did, but I did not meet him there.  After being approached by Yu, Luo wrote to the head of the Kuomintang’s Bureau of Investigation and Statistics and managed to get me released on bail based on the fact that we had both studied in Japan.  

Yu Hongmo had been a student in Japan during the 1930s at the same time as I was there.  He had studied at Chuo University in Tokyo and joined the arts and literature society called ‘East Flowing Waters’ that was set up by Chinese students in Japan.  He published a collection of stories called ‘Tempered with Fire’ during his stay in Tokyo.  When he returned to China after the War of Resistance broke out, he became involved in politically progressive publishing.  When the Hu Feng case occurred in 1955, Yu was also implicated and arrested.  He attempted suicide at that time but survived.  During the Cultural Revolution in 1968 he again attempted suicide and tragically died, but his reputation was later restored.  In 1983 Hu Feng wrote a commemorative article in memory of him entitled ‘The July Writers and the Storm Petrel Bookstore’.  I have also described in an article of reminiscences (entitled ‘In a Kuomintang Jail’ and published this year in ’The Bund’ magazine) how he was able to get me released from jail with the help of Luo Meizhong.   

While I was in prison for more than a year, I was cut off from news of the outside world.  After my release, I went to see Hu Feng and he showed me the critical article about him entitled ‘Petty Bourgeoisie Arts and Literature Thinking’ written by Shao Quanlin, Lin Mohan, Qiao Guanhua and others, that had been published in Hong Kong in successive issues of the ‘Popular Literature Collection’.  It appeared that this ‘Collection’ was in fact specially created to criticise Hu Feng.  

My personality is different from Hu Feng’s.  I have never been the absolute scholarly intellectual and cultural figure that he was.  During the War of Resistance, I was trapped more than once in whirlpools of political turmoil and acquired practical experience of what it means to be engaged in social and political battles.  I told Hu Feng after he showed me this article that the War of Liberation was on the verge of finally ending in victory, so he should keep calm and not be ruled by his emotions.  If he over-reacted, he could easily attract criticism and be labelled a troublemaker.  I said this because the criticism emanating from his Party friends in Hong Kong had a strong whiff of gunpowder about it and was certainly not the work of just one or two people.  

Notwithstanding my advice Hu Feng went on to write his long paper ‘The Path of Realism’ as a response to the criticism from Hong Kong and asked me to have a look at the draft.  I expressed no views on the content, but insofar as it concerned a few individuals I suggested he should be a bit more tactful, use more considered language when discussing matters of principle and try to deal with the issues solely on their merits.  He originally intended that the paper should be published in a single issue of the ‘Chinese Writers’ journal and it was sent off to the printers.  ‘China Writers’ was a journal of the Literature and Arts Association and was published by the Kaiming Press of which Ye Shengtao was editor-in-chief.  However, the journal’s editorial board opposed its publication, and it was not published.  In fact, the journal itself ceased publication at that time.  Hu Feng had no alternative but to buy the typeset moulds and publish the article himself through his ‘Hope Press’.  A short time later the Party arranged for him to move to Hong Kong and from there to the liberated area in the Northeast.  

From the autumn of 1950 I started my career as a university teacher.  Chinese modern literature was by then recognised as a specific field of study and was being taught in university classrooms.  I was responsible for supervising doctoral students and foreign post-graduate students in this specialist field.


In this memoir, I have mainly discussed my contacts and friendship with Hu Feng during the period before 1949.  It was our contacts and friendship during that historical period that led to my being implicated in the Hu Feng case in 1955.  I will now make a few summary points.  

As I have said in another memoir of Hu Feng: “Speaking of those of us who were involved in this case, each individual’s fate was invariably linked with the joys and sorrows of the times in which they lived”.  

I was arrested three days after the first batch of materials relating to the ‘Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Clique’ was published in the newspapers on 13th May 1955.  

At the end of March 1966, having already spent 11 years in jail, I was formally sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment on the charge of being a ‘core member of the Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Clique’.  A week later I was taken under guard to my former work unit at Fudan University to do ‘penal labour under surveillance’ in the university printing house, starting my work there in early April 1966.  

I went on to live through 10 years of the Cultural Revolution, during which I was the object of unending public criticism, insults, beatings and discrimination by members of the Rebel Faction and the ‘Revolutionary Masses’.  

Finally, at the end of 1980, the Central Committee of the Party issued an official document redressing the unjust case against the ‘Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Clique’.  The Shanghai court that originally found me guilty issued a declaration rescinding its original judgment and declaring that I was innocent, and my political reputation and work status were restored.  

I lived through almost 25 years of suffering and misery.  At the end of it all, however, the testing and hardship that Hu Feng and I suffered during these disastrous times further deepened the understanding and friendship between us.  

As I said in the afterword to the ‘Short Story Collection’ I published in 1982: “I will forever be grateful to Comrade Hu Feng for the warm-hearted support and selfless assistance he gave me during this very long period, in both my life and in my literary pursuits.  The story ‘A Person’s Sorrow’ that I have placed at the beginning of this collection has a profound meaning for me in terms of commemorating Hu Feng.”  

In an article entitled ‘Continuing to Talk About Myself’ that I wrote for the June 1989 issue of the Shanghai arts and literature journal ‘Harvest’, I also said: “Early last year, I said to a reporter who came to interview me for the China News Service: ‘Hu Feng was a sincere and decent man.  He had the Chinese intellectual’s understanding of the need to be prepared for the unexpected and a sense of having a historic mission to accomplish.  He well understood that unremitting persistence and effort are required to accomplish one’s goals.  His contribution to Chinese literary culture was very substantial.'”  

I have set out in this Memoir my appreciation for a friend I knew I could absolutely trust and depend on as a result of many years of life experience.

October 1990, Shanghai             

About Michael Ingle

Retired lawyer studying the Chinese language and history of the mid-20th century
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s