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Handwritten letters from battlefields and deathbeds touch viewers nationwide

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-03 09:50

Best of letters

Chairman Mao's wife Yang Kaihui

Yang Kaihui married Mao Zedong in 1920 and joined the Communist Party in 1922. She was captured by a warlord loyal to the Kuomingtang in 1930 and beheaded as she refused to repudiate Mao and the Party, making her one of the earliest Communist martyrs. One year before her death, Yang predicted the danger and wrote a letter to her younger cousin Yang Kaiming, asking him to take care of her three sons. She hid the letter in a crack in a wall of her house, because of the turbulence at the time. The letter was discovered during a renovation in 1982.

"I may have already seen death. Well, its face is cruel and thrilling. Speaking of death, I am not scared and, in some sense, even looking forward to it. But I feel sorry for my mother and the boys. Such emotions have been frequently haunting me. I couldn't fall asleep last night. I decide to entrust my boys to you, their uncle. I believe you will not ignore them if you are still alive ... They need your love to grow up, like (flowers to blossom) in a warm spring, not to be destroyed by the wind and storm."

Naval officer Chen Jingying

Chen Jingying, a second officer on the Chinese Jingyuan of the Beiyang Fleet during the first Sino-Japanese War over 1894-95, wrote a farewell letter to his father before sailing to a battle at sea. He died in a bomb attack, sinking with more than 200 sailors after their vessel was besieged by four Japanese warships.

"We've just received a telegram from his excellency Li (Li Hongzhang, then supreme official of the navy), who has ordered the troops to sail to Korea at 1 pm tomorrow. We don't know what we will do, but I'm ready for death. I have benefited from the motherland as a youngster. Now it's my duty to fight for it. Besides, it will be a glorious moment if I die in the battlefield. I know you (his father) will be very sad if I die, which I can picture now. But if I choose to be loyal to the country, it means I cannot take the responsibility to be a dutiful son at the same time ... My son is still very young. But what comforts me is that my younger brothers will soon become adults and have their own families and take care of you and mother. Please don't mourn me all the time, otherwise, I will not stop worrying about you."

Imperial martyr Xia Wanchun

Xia followed his father to join an army that fought to reinstate the Ming rule overtaken by the Manchu forces in 1644. Xia was captured and executed in 1647, after the 16-year-old refused to surrender. It is said that the Qing court even offered to appoint him as an officer.

"I will soon die ... As I've decided to devote my life to my father and the country, I cannot serve you, mothers (his father's first wife and his biological mother) ... I married two years ago. My wife's piety and virtuousness is known in the family ... If she (at the time pregnant) delivers a boy, it will be a fortune for the family. But if not, please don't adopt a son for me ... Every man will die. If a man dies for what is right, he will become immortal. My father died as a man loyal to his country and I will die following him. I will smile to face it (execution). Let me just finish what I should do."

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