Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung

Concerning Mei Sheng’s “Chi Fa[1]

August 16, 1959

This article has been printed and circulated earlier, and is worthwhile to read. It is a descendant of the ancient sau style of writing poems, but also had some creative development. The sau style had its democratic color, belonged to the romantic school, and threw a dagger of criticism at the corrupt rulers. Among the poets of this school, Chu Yuan was by far the most prominent; Sung Yu, Ching Cha, Chia Yi and Mei Sheng were a little inferior but had their delightful points. Look at the atmosphere of “Chi Fa”, is there not plenty of the color of criticism? “The Prince of Chu Kingdom was ill, a visitor from Wu Kingdom went to enquire after his health.” From the start, he denounced the decadent upper ruling class: “Well, to travel in a sedan-chair or a carriage is to atrophy you limbs. To live in a magnificent and cool palace is the medium of cold and fever. To keep beautiful girls with white teeth and crescent eyebrows is to destroy your sexual health. To take rich foods is to get ulcers for your stomach.” These words are truths good for ten thousand years. At present, our country being under the leadership of the Communist Party, all the intellectuals and working personnel of the Party, the government and the army must do some labor, including walking, swimming, mountain climbing and calisthenic exercises, as Pavlov said, not to mention going to the countryside to participate in such still more concrete labor as farming. In short, we must exert our efforts and oppose right-deviation. Mei Sheng directly attacked Chu Prince: “Now Your Highness have a sallow complexion and weak limbs, stiff muscles and drained veins, and languid and thin hands and feet. You have girls from Yueh waiting on before you, and concubines from Chi following behind you, playing around and feasting all the time, and indulging in pleasures in hidden chambers. This is to take poisons deliberately and to play with the claws of ferocious beasts. Your illness has a ! very deep and long origin; and you have constantly indulged in this. Even if you get the best physician and the best surgeon in the world, what can they do for you?” What Mei Sheng said is somewhat like our method of shouting aloud to comrades who have committed mistakes: “You are extremely seriously ill. You’ll die if not cured.” Then, the patient will be unable to sleep for several days, or several weeks, or several months. He is worried. In this way, there will be some hope. For illness such as right or “left” opportunism has its historical and social sources. “Your illness has a very deep and long origin; and you have constantly indulged in this.” The method of cure is what we call “criticism”. The visitor said: “Your Highness need no medicine or any treatment, but can be cured by some important saying and wonderful truth. Do you not like to hear?” This saying and truth constitute the main theme of the article. The first paragraph of the article is a prologue. The following seven paragraphs deal with affairs which were not proper but attractive and new. They show the negative side of the author’s main theme. The writing is fine. The paragraph on “watching Great Waves at Kuang-ling” attains its climax of literary art. The ninth paragraph is its conclusion, coming back to the important saying and wonderful truth. Then, the Prince was elated, “began to perspire and suddenly recovered from his illness.” The method of persuasion was used, not the method of pressure. The method of putting forward facts and explaining the truth was immediately effective. It is somewhat like our “leninet treatment.” The first and last two paragraphs are the main theme, which must be read. If you have no interest, you may omit reading the other paragraphs. We should invite Engels, Kautsky, Plekhanov, Stalin, Li Ta-chao, Lu Hsun, Chu Chiu-pai and others to “explain the essential details of the world and truth! s of all things,” to explain the necessity of leaping forward and the reasons for the commune. They should also talk about the extreme importance of putting politics in command. Let Marx “make his survey” and Lenin “make his calculation.” There can never be any failure. I read this article in my boyhood, but have not touched it for more than 40 years. Recently, I suddenly had an inkling so I took it out for a look, and it seemed as if meeting an old friend. With my sincerity of a country-folk who offers basking as a tribute, I wish to offer this to my comrades. What Mei Sheng represented was the lower stratum of the landlord class, which had a line of striving upstream and exerting efforts. Of course, this was about the upper and lower strata of the feudalist class, and not about the two antagonistic classes of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the socialist society. Our line of striving upstream and exerting efforts represents the will of the revolutionary proletariat and the hundreds of millions of laboring peasants. Those whom Mei Sheng attacked were people of the despondent, pessimistic, degenerated and rightist upper ruling class. Now we also have this kind of people. Mei Sheng was a native of Huai-yin in Han Dynasty. He was a literary official in the service of Liu Pi, King of Wu, during the reign of Emperor Han Wen Ti. He wrote this article for the nobles of Kingdom Wu to read. Later, the literary style of “Chi” flourished, but none of the writings is good. The Literary Selections of Chao Ming includes Tsao Chih’s “Chi Chi” (“Seven Addresses”), and Chang Hsieh’s “Chi Ming” (“Seven Commands”) which contained words to summon hermits for the ruling class, and with the tune in opposition to those of Chu, Sung, Chia and Mei. They are all quite insipid.

Mao Tse-tung

August 16, (1959).



[1.] This is a very interesting article, which Mao Tse-tung wrote and circulated among the participants of the Lushan Meeting on the last day of the conference. This is evidently connected with his letter to Chang wen-tien on August 2, 1959 (35) in which he quoted from Mei Sheng’s “Chi Fa”, See pp 225-226 of this volume.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung