Fiancee keeps memories of a martyr alive

Yang Yang
Zhu Taoran (1933-1958), a Songjiang martyr who died in the Jinmen Sea Battle, lived in the memory of his family members through letters from his unfaltering former fiancee.
Yang Yang

Zhu Taoran (1933-1958), a Songjiang native and martyr who died in the Jinmen Sea Battle, or the second Taiwan Strait crisis, in 1958, lived in the memory of his family members through letters mailed to them from his unfaltering former fiancee.

“There is a letter for you and you’re a martyr’s family,” a post officer knocked at the door of the Zhu family one day in 1976, with a letter from Hangzhou in east China’s Zhejiang Province in his hand. Huang Danhua, Zhu’s mother, heard the casually mentioned phrase “martyr’s family,” and knew all of a sudden that she had lost her younger son.

News of Zhu’s death at the age of 25 on August 24, 1958 had already reached his family earlier that year. Huang was seriously ill at the time. The rest of the family members, afraid that the news might be too much to bear, chose to hold it back from her, and for 17 years.

Huang always described her younger son as a smart, handsome and adorable lad.

When Zhu was studying in a senior high school in neighboring Suzhou, the Korean War broke out. Zhu joined the army and became a chemical defense soldier for the East China Sea Fleet.

In 1951 a trend began nationwide in China for people to write letters and show respect to soldiers. Wu Ling (a pseudonym), a senior high school student, and her classmates jointly wrote a letter to the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The letter reached a school affiliated to the East China Military Area Command in Nanjing and Zhu Chaoran, Zhu Taoran’s older brother and a teacher at the school, was responsible for replying to the letter.

Zhu Chaoran recommended his younger brother to Wu. The two became pen pals through writing on literature, films and life aspirations. The friendship lasted till the two met and they became lovers.

In August 1958, Zhu’s fleet received an order to fulfill a naval task along Gulangyu Islet in southeast China’s Fujian Province. At that time Zhu already had a chance to further his education at Harbin Institute of Technology. But he chose to fulfill the mission.

“The army has approved my marriage application. After the task is completed, we will get married,” Zhu wrote to Wu.

Wu replied to express her joyful agreement. But what awaited her was Wu’s belongings and the news of his death.

To allow Wu to start her new life, the Zhu family didn’t contact her when they returned to Songjiang with Zhu’s remains. Nevertheless, Wu searched for 17 years and got in touch with them. Wu, now 85, maintains the habit of writing a letter to the Zhu family on each Qingming Festival, or tomb-sweeping day.

“For our mother country, you are a soldier; for me, you are my entire world,” Wu wrote in one letter.

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