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Teaching Through Models: The Spirit of Model Soldier "Lei Feng" in Post-Socialism

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Andreas Steen - Foredragsholder

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Lei Feng (1940-1962) is not the only "model hero" in the history of the People's Republic of China, but surely the most well-known with an incredible record of survivability. Since Mao Zedong initiated the campaign "Learn from Comrade Lei Feng" in 1963, he and his "spirit" of obedience towards the state, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, learning, and support for the people around him, have turned Lei Feng into the symbol of what Immanuel C. Y. Hsü (1990) described as the „New Socialist Man".

After more than four decades, the "Spirit of Lei Feng" is known to everybody in China, celebrated every year on "Lei Feng Day", March 5. However, in China's globalizing field of model heroes and idols, Lei Feng finds himself in a highly competitive environment today. Thus, in addition to photographs, films, songs, and book publications, the hero was promoted to enter the modern mass media, e.g. internet games, 3d-animated computer films for children and - in 2009 - a TV series.

The paper starts with the biography of Lei Feng and recapitulates the history of the campaigns. It will then analyze four main perspectives on Lei Feng as discussed in the internet, illustrated by visual representations of his "spirit" that belong to different areas of cultural production. The paper argues that the basic principles of his "spirit" are still highly valued in China. The political effectiveness of initiatives to protect his "spirit" by law or to re-popularize his values by means of modern mass media remains to be seen. Yet official and financial support as well as public interest in the 2009 campaigns suggest that the "Lei Feng Spirit" will easily celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013.

Emneord: China, Education, Models, Lei Feng, Postsocialism
6 jun. 2009

Begivenhed (Konference)

TitelChina's Economy, Environment, and Education

ID: 18969038