While I was walking alone along the river bank, I saw a comrade wearing a pair of old-style padded cotton shoes. I immediately fell to thinking of Comrade Li Fen, who also wore such shoes. Li Fen, my dearest and very first friend. As usual my heart missed a beat and my blood began to race. Comrade Li Fen was a student in 1926 on the preparatory course in literature at Peking University. In the same year she joined the Party. In the spring of 1928 she sacrificed her life in her home district of Pao-ch’ing in Hunan province. Her own uncle tied her up and sent her to the local garrison—a good illustration of the barbarity of the old China. Before going to her death, she put on all her three sets of underclothes and sewed them tightly together at the top and the bottom. This was because the troops in Pao-ch’ing often incited riff-raff to debauch the corpses of the young girl Communists they had shot—yet another example of the brutality, the evil, the filth and the darkness that characterized the old society. When I received the terrible news of her death, I was consumed with feelings of deep love and hatred. Whenever I think of her, I have a vision of her pure, sacred martyrdom, with her three layers of underclothes sewn tightly together, tied up and sent by her very own uncle to meet her death with dignity. (It seems rather out of place to talk of such things in tranquil Yenan, against the warbled background of a Yü-t’ang-chün and the swirling steps of the golden lotus dance, but there again the whole atmosphere in Yenan does not seem particularly appropriate to the actual conditions of the day—close your eyes and think for a moment of our dear comrades dying every minute of the day in a sea of carnage.)

In the interests of the nation, I have no intention of reckoning up old scores of class hatred. We are genuinely selfless. With all our might and main we are dragging the representatives of the old China along the road with us towards the light. But in the process the filth and dirt of old China is rubbing off on us, spreading its germs and diseases.

On scores of occasions I have drawn strength from the memory of Li Fen—vital and militant strength. Thinking back on her on this occasion, I was moved to write a tsa-wen under the general title of ‘Wild Lily’. This name has a two-fold significance. Firstly, the wild lily is the most beautiful of the wild flowers in the hills and countryside around Yenan, and is therefore a fitting dedication to her pure memory. Secondly, although its bulbs are similar to those of other lilies, they are said to be slightly bitter to the taste. They are also said to be of greater medicinal value, but I myself am not sure of this.

1. What is lacking in our lives?

Recently young people here in Yenan seem to have lost some of their enthusiasm, and to have become inwardly ill at ease.

Why is this? What is lacking in our lives? Some would answer that it is because we are badly nourished and short of vitamins. Others that it is because the ratio of men to women is 18:1 and many young men are unable to find girlfriends. Or because life in Yenan is very dreary and lacks amusements.

There is an element of truth in all these answers. It is absolutely true that there is a need for better food, for partners of the opposite sex and for more interest in life. That is only natural. But one must also recognize the fact that all the young people here in Yenan came with a spirit of sacrifice to make revolution, and certainly did not come to satisfy their desires for food, sex and an enjoyable life. I cannot readily agree with those who say that their lack of enthusiasm, their inward disquiet even, are a result of our inability to resolve these problems properly.