On August 10, 2019, Professor Wu Ningkun, a renowned Chinese-born translator and Emeritus Professor of English Literature, passed away at his home in the United States. The much-beloved Professor was 99 years old.
In 1993, Professor Wu published his memoirs called A Single Tear in the U.S. This autobiographical book about his life in communist China angered the top brass of his university, the University of International Relations, Beijing, and he was swiftly punished by having his and his wife’s pensions suspended.
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Their house was ransacked and their belongings were thrown out the front door and stolen. All their property was confiscated. They became homeless. At that time, they were in the U.S. visiting their daughter and were helpless to do anything to protect their home.
He had no choice but to stay with his children in the United States, where he lived for the rest of his life. He was now in exile. He could never return to his native China again owing to the publishing of his book.
As we shall see, Professor Wu was a very proud, loyal, and lifelong patriotic Chinese man. He loved his people and his native country. So what are Professor Wu’s memoirs all about? What does his biography reveal to the world that so enraged his university heads and the entire Chinese regime, the consequences of which made him and his wife homeless and forced them into exile for the rest of their lives?
A Single Tear is a first-hand recording, an eyewitness account, of the perverse and cruel people and events he and his nation experienced at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime. He believed that so many Chinese people were still very reluctant to acknowledge these harrowing events, and were still afraid to face them, challenge, or criticize them.
A Single Tear is really a cry from the heart at the ocean of tears shed by the Chinese people under the tyranny of the communist regime. His stand, his lone struggle, and his victory over the communist yoke are a call to action for the oppressed Chinese people to never be afraid and never give up. Even if you stand up alone you can win.
The Chinese Communist Party knew that the publishing of this one book was their doom
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) knew that the publishing of this one book, A Single Tear, was their doom. They realized that if only one Chinese man or woman was left on this earth and had just one teardrop left, the CCP was finished. They are terrified of a single lonely human teardrop. The CCP will drown in the tears shed by all the innocent Chinese people that have perished at their hands. The book highlights the tears, the cruel oppression, and the conscience of the Chinese nation.
Like many others, Professor Wu fell into Mao’s sinister trap: ‘Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom’
No one can deny that Professor Wu Ningkun was too naive about the CCP’s lies and propaganda. Like so many other decent people, he innocently fell into the debauched trap of dictator Mao’s “Let a hundred flowers blossom,” which was intended to “seek out,” destroy, and kill every last critic of the regime.
In October 1943, Wu Ningkun volunteered to be an interpreter for the first group of Chinese pilots who went to the United States for training. He arrived in the United States after sailing for 42 days at sea on a troop carrier without weapons or a warship escort, at the risk of being sunk by a German submarine. Before that, he served as an interpreter for the U.S. Flying Tigers, contributing to China’s victory in the war against Japan.
Professor Wu chose to return to China because he loved his home country
In 1951, he could have stayed in the U.S. to continue his education, like his roommate Li Zhengdao, but Wu Ningkun chose to return to China because he loved his home country. After helping him pack his bags, Li Zhengdao saw him off and on his way to bid his friend farewell, Wu asked Li Zhengdao: “Why don’t you come back with me?”
Years later, when Li Zhengdao returned to China as a Nobel Laureate, Wu Ningkun met his long-lost roommate again and found that he had grown up to be a top international scholar and that there was an insurmountable gap between them — they were simply living in two different worlds.
Looking back with nostalgia on his time in the U.S. with his old friend, Wu Ningkun shed “one single tear” of grief, which he summed up in a few words representing his wasted life back home in China: “I came back, I suffered, I survived.”
‘I came back, I suffered, I survived’
At the beginning of 1951, Wu Ningkun, who was studying in the United States, received a letter of appointment from Lu Zhiwei, the President of Yanjing University, asking him to be a professor of English.
Thinking about the offer for several days and consulting with various friends, he finally decided to accept the position and return to China. At that time, he naively thought: “Giving up a most affluent capitalist career and returning to serve the new socialist China, I will be warmly welcomed as a patriotic intellectual.”
He thought that from listening to Mao’s prosaic propaganda it was a great time to return home, it was a new horizon full of promise: “Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.”
Hearing the news he was going back to China, his sister in Shanghai was very happy, while his brother and sister in Taiwan expressed their concerns. However, Wu Ningkun was determined to go back to China.
Soon after his return, the Professor discovered that ‘1984’ had arrived
Soon after his return, Wu Ningkun sensed that the atmosphere there was not right. One day, while chatting at the home of Professor Chen Mengjia, a colleague from Yanjing University, the radio loudspeaker outside suddenly blasted out, ordering all the students and teachers to go to the playground to do certain kinds of exercises. Professor Chen was angry and said: “This is 1984 coming, so soon!”
Wu Ningkun read Orwell’s novel 1984 when he was in the United States, but he was not yet willing to believe that “1984” was going to become a reality and still held on to this hope. But one after another, events came tumbling like a flood, and finally broke down the castle built of fine sand in Wu Ningkun’s heart.
Translated by Yi Ming and edited by Helen