On April 26th, Yenching scholars met with soldiers from the “Lei Feng Squad”: the squad where Lei Feng, a well-known Chinese sergeant from the 1960s known for his selfless service and pay-it-forward attitude, served in. Led by Squad Leader Bi Wanchang, the group engaged in an in-depth discussion of this influential figure and his legacy.
Lei Feng is a cultural symbol in China who embodies the spirit of selfless dedication and sacrifice for others. He always went out of his way to help others. He demonstrated great interest in the wellbeing of others and often donated all of his savings to help a stranger in distress. As squad leader, he inspired his entire team to pay it forward and to show compassion to others in an era where material goods were scarce. Lei Feng died at the young age of 22 while on duty from a work-related accident. His spirit of kindness and optimism have influenced China ever since.
Du Liangfeng, deputy director of the Political Office of Lei Feng Regiment, gave a brief overview of the historical development of the Regiment, including its overseas exchange activities with American, French and Swiss Peacekeepers. During the Libyan Peacekeeping Mission, all 275 members of the Regiment were specially honored by the UN for their exceptional service. Moreover, this meeting is particularly meaningful since it is the first time that the Lei Feng Regiment met with a foreign audience.
In return, Yenching Scholar Tian Meng introduced the soldiers to Yenching Academy. The group underlined the importance of volunteering experience in understanding the Lei Feng spirit. Squad Leader Bi Wanchang talked about Lei Feng’s stories, and illustrated the importance of giving back. He quoted President Xi’s words: “To endure hardship is to gain” and encouraged young people to be compassionate and help others in need. Lei Feng embodies the spirits of enduring hardship, working hard and serving the people, some of the values that the Chinese cherish.
Yenching Scholar Chen Zhengxun added to the discussion by sharing his view of the Lei Feng spirit from domestic and international angles, which in his view included the spirits of devotion, grit and never giving up. Another Yenching Scholar Fu Duanling talked about her own volunteering experience and reflected upon the Lei Feng spirit. Yenching Scholar Yang Tian shared her teaching experience in Pakistan and voiced her opinions on how to encourage new vitality of Lei Feng spirit nowadays.
Every society has its own role-models and much can be learned about a culture by understanding these iconic figures. Lei Feng is one of these folk symbols in China and perhaps by understanding the values he embodies, we can learn a bit more about China as well.