Blood Letters tells the riveting, inspiring, previously unknown story of Lin Zhao, a young Chinese poet and essayist who became a political prisoner in 1960 and was executed eight years later, at the height of the Cultural Revolution. Alone among the victims of Mao's dictatorship, Lin Zhao maintained a stubborn and open opposition to what she viewed as the tyranny of Chinese communism. Her dissent was rooted in her Christian faith. She subscribed to "the political line of Christ," as she put it, affirming human dignity and personal freedom in the face of the enforced conformity of Communism. She believed that, like the enslaved, "those who enslave others can never be free."
Lian Xi's absorbing biography is the first life of Lin Zhao to appear in any language. It chronicles her tortuous personal journey from her conversion to Christianity at a Methodist mission school and her fervent embrace of Mao's revolution to her bitter disillusionment following the regime's violent Anti-Rightist campaign of 1957. Returning to the Christian fold and taking up democratic activism, she quickly drew the ire of the regime, and was arrested and locked away in Shanghai's infamous Tilanqiao Prison, the largest prison in the world, known as the "Alcatraz of the Orient."
There she composed the prophetic letters, often running to hundreds of thousands of words, that would eventually lead to her becoming the most influential dissident of the Mao years. Lacking any writing instruments and often handcuffed, she would prick herself with bamboo shards and write with her own blood on scraps of paper and clothes. An erudite poet, she drafted verse alluding to Chinese history and both Confucian and Buddhist traditions. Yet her dual lodestars throughout her harrowing incarceration were Christianity and the United States. She wrote of mercy and forgiveness and nonviolence - and of her longing for the freedoms enjoyed by Americans. Refusing to recant or keep quiet, she was finally silenced by the brutal regime she had sought to defeat.
Miraculously, Lin Zhao's prison letters survived in the state's massive archives. They finally came to light in 2013 and began to circulate among a select group of Chinese democratic activists--including Lian Xi. Drawing on Lin Zhao's blood letters, her published and private writings from the decade before her arrest, and interviews with informants, friends, family, and classmates, Lian Xi paints an indelible portrait of courage and faith in the face of unrelenting, faceless evil.
In the words of Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, Lin Zhao is "the only voice of freedom left for contemporary China." In Blood Letters, she finally has been given her due as one of the 20th century's most courageous voices against totalitarianism.
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