There is good news from China about love. According to a story in the latest edition of "China Reconstructs," which is published by something called the China Welfare Institute in Peking, there is a "return to a rational view of love and marriage after the dogmatic austerity of the gang of four on the subject."
The writer, staff reporter Yu Yuwen, notes that "An attempt was... made in socialist times to suppress true love and its expression during the time of Lin Piao and the gang of four... One way of dividing young people, crippling their mental growth and setting them against each other was to forbid any discussion of love and marriage, an inseparable part of their lives. All love was labeled sensual, vulgar, cheap and obscene... Apparently proletarian revolutionaries had to be ascetics."
The big breakthrough, Yu-wen reports, came last July when the "Peking Daily" published a true love story called "Two Minds With the Same Ideals," the tale of Chang Li-han and Wang Cheng-kuang, who meet as workers in a parts factory and fall in love as they work on a book about the "process of cold heading" together.
"Response from workers both in and out of Peking was immediate," Yu-wen writes.
For example, Wang Min of the Tangshan Weather Bureau writes: "A few years ago love seemed to me something vulgar, a petty-bourgeois sentiment. The proletariat did not harbor such ideas, I thought. And once when I did love someone, I didn't dare acknowledge it to myself. My eyes have been opened by the fact that love is an important part of the life of proletarian revolutionaries."
An "armyman" in southern Kanso province notes that the Peking Daily love story "tells us that love doesn't at all prevent young people from working well, but helps them mature properly. As Gorky once wrote, 'Without love, there will be no happiness.' True love elevates the spirit and inspires people to work and live better."
The story of Chan Li-han and Wang Cheng-kuang took place at the Peking Standard Parts Factory. Chang Li-han was 18, the daughter of "intellectuals," who met Wang Chengkuang when he led a group in the factory "formed to help a worker who had made a habit of petty thievery."
Their courtship developed through simple things; a bus ride, conversations as he walked her home from the factory, a visit to her home.
Inevitably, her mother did not approve. Wang was an orphan who'd pulled himself up by his bootstraps.
"Now look here," Chang's mother said. "Your older sister found herself a cadre with a university education. But this Cheng-kuang... you two just don't match! Now you listen to mother and don't have anything more to do with him." "No, I won't drop him!" Chang replied.
"Well then, don't expect us to have anything more to do with you!"
While torn between her mother and her love, Chang knew she had to "challenge the old customs and ideas." She helped copy pages and sketches for his book during long, hot midsummer evenings in his room. "We were working together for a common purpose that would serve our country and this drew us together in love."
As word spread through the factory that "we were going steady," Chang had to put up with remarks like Cheng-kuang always looks messy. He's an orphan and has to support his brother and sister...." But, she decided, Quasimodo in the "Hunchback of Notre Dame" was not beautiful, and he was the "most beautiful and admirable character... Cheng-kuang is at least more handsome than Quasimodo and his heart is just as beautiful."
Finally, she got her father to approve and to admire the hard work Cheng-kuang had done. But lo! Another obstacle -- Cheng-kuang came down with bleeding stomach ulcers and an X-ray showed he might have cancer...
"I told him I had made up my mind I was going to fight the disease with him, to the very end. Every time he went to the hospital I went with him.... Mother collected folk remedies which she brought to his doctor.... Disease could not shake his determination. 'As long as I keep ahead of the cancer spreading and finish the book ahead of time, I will have fulfilled my duty to the people,' he said.
"Finally, the diagnosis came -- not cancer!"
They were married in 1975, and finished the book last April.
Reporter Yu-wen writes that not only has the rehabilitation of lovesanctioned largely by the publication of this story -- been popular, it has encouraged attendance at Youth League study classes.
At the Peking Towel Plant, for example, "we never held a class for more than half an hour, but even then many members became sleepy and yawned," a youth leader says.
When they held a discussion on love and marriage, however, "the meeting lasted over an hour and everybody was still glued to their seats.... Within several days love and marriage became the most talked about topic among the young people in the factory."
Gorky would have loved it.