Jay Nordinger (Managing Editor of National Review Online)
Another great scholar and activist is Youqin Wang, a lecturer in Chinese at the University of Chicago. Her main work — to which she devotes all her “spare” time — is the memorializing of the victims of the Cultural Revolution. Her website, a powerful, appalling, and necessary thing, is located at www.chinese-memorial.org.
I interviewed her recently, and one of the questions I asked was, “Do the Chinese want to remember, document, and memorialize the Cultural Revolution?” She gave me a brief and acceptable answer, and that was that.
But she e-mailed back the next day to say she wanted to give a different answer, which I now relate. In the introduction to her website (only the Chinese version, not the English), she tells a story she learned from a teacher who had been sent to a labor-reform camp. His job was to tend the cattle and chickens, and one day they killed a cow, which had gotten too old to work. They killed it near a willow tree, where abundant, green grass always grew. After the killing, the cattle wouldn’t go near the tree, even when there was luxuriant grass to be had. They also kind of moaned, bellowed, as if in protest.
When you slaughtered a chicken, in contrast, you threw its intestines on the ground, and all the other chickens would scratch at it, fighting over those intestines.
On her website, Youqin Wang asks, Which way shall we Chinese adopt — the way of the cattle or the way of the chicken?
She didn’t think much of it, but she was surprised to find that this story was the one thing her fellow Chinese most responded to, when they perused her website and wrote to her. They would write such things as, “I hope I have the courage to reject the way of the chicken — but I don’t know.”
Shiver-making stuff, presented in a profoundly simple way.