Lin Zhao’s (1932–1968) Blood Letters

[ABOVE—Detail from cover of Blood Letters]

Lin Zhao was raised a Christian in China. She never renounced Christ but, horrified at the atrocities of the governing Nationlists, sided with the Communists, believing their promises of a rosy, peasant-friendly future. Well-educated, she used her knowledge of Chinese literature, especially poetry, to produce idealistic propaganda.

After Mao seized power, delusion began to set in. She found that freedom of speech rapidly eroded. Soon she was in trouble and sent for re-education. Party representatives at the local level used their petty authority to sexually harass her and to topple opponents with lying denunciations. She vacillated between hope and despair for the Communist party, eventually becoming a “reactionary” and resistor. She helped produce underground resistance papers and wrote for them.

Imprisoned, she followed the time-honored Chinese practice of writing protests and letters in her own blood. Some of her productions were elaborate and lengthy, others pithy and to the point. Somehow she managed to survive, despite defiant refusal to conform, and despite her tuberculosis. She found strength in her childhood faith as she experienced denunciations, torturous handcuffing, exposure, hunger, beatings by fellow inmates (sicced on her by prison authorities), and solitary confinement. More than once she tried to commit suicide “as an exclamation point in the epic of the struggle of free humanity.”

Nonetheless, she sang hymns in her cell, held solitary Sunday services, and stood up to defend God when Christians were maligned. She wrestled with Christian concepts of forgiveness in light of the monstrosities of Mao and his henchmen, seeing some sparks of humanity in them, callused though they had become. One of her last writings spoke of her struggle to set aside her self-will under Christ’s lordship.

On 29 April 1968, she was taken from a hospital bed in her hospital gown and shot. As was common in such cases, the government presented her family with a bill for the bullet. By law her writings had to be preserved by the prison authorities. Many pages were released eleven years later during Chairman Deng Xiaopeng’s reforms, which removed the stigma attached to many former “rightists.”

In a way, Lin Zhao’s blood letters spoke for millions who perished in China during the Red takeover and subsequent Cultural Revolution. The millions did not have her classical eloquence to record their resistance against the Maoist regime but, like Lin, they gave their blood.

The following excerpts are from Blood Letters, the Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao’s China, by Lian Xi. (New York: Basic Books, 2018.) The first two are from her “Letter to the editorial board of the People’s Daily,” 1965. The third is from her last blood letter to her mother.

As a Christian, my life belongs to my God…In order to stick to my path, or rather my line, the line of a servant of God, the political line of Christ, this young person paid a grievous price…. I have come to see more clearly and deeply the many terrifying and shocking evils committed by your demonic party. I grieved and wept for them! Yet even when I touched the darkest, the bloodiest, and the most savage center of your power–the core evil–I still glimpses, I did not completely overlook, the occasional sparks of humanity in you…. Then I cried in even greater anguish! I cried for your blood-smeared souls, which are unable to rid themselves of evil and are dragged by its terrifying weight ever deeper into the swamp of death…. Gentlemen, those who enslave others can never be free. What a merciless but certain truth in your case!

Grind me into powder if you wish. Every bit of my broken bone will be the seed of a resister.

Generally speaking, I tend to be overconfident in handling various problems! This is a serious problem especially for a Christian! There is too much of “me”; as a result there is too little, or almost nothing, of the Lord!….I affirm myself too much! And I forget my Lord! I forget that in my proper station, I am but a servant!….Alas, dear Mama, how hard it is for faith to come from the flesh!