2009: Censored — Tang Xiyang’s A Green World Tour

Tang Xiyang

It can be so very hard to imagine what it could have been like to live in a totalitarian state. While I worked in the S&T section at U.S. Embassy Beijing in China, I knew the Chinese environmentalist Tang Xiyang.   Tang (pictured at left) had been condemned for his “rightist views” during the Great Leap Forward.  Later his wife Zheng Zhaonan ,  then a middle school teacher, was murdered by her own students because she refused to divorce her husband.  Tang wrote about the oppression many Chinese suffered in a section that was censored from one of his books.  

The material I am sharing here I posted previously on the website of the Environment, Science and Technology Section of U.S. Embassy Beijing while I was working there during 2007 – 2012. The old U.S. Embassy Beijing website is available on the Internet Archive. One archival capture from 2001 is available at https://web.archive.org/web/20010805141239/http://www.usembassy-china.org.cn/english/sandt/index.html

Some of the passages Chinese environmentalist Tang Xiyang wrote for “A Green World Tour” were censored. Tang would like his friends overseas to have them.

The censored passages are reflections on the relationship of democracy and environmentalism and on his own career as a journalist condemned as a rightist and the sufferings that brought him and his family Tang co-authored “A Green World Tour” with his late wife Marcia Marks. The book reports on their experiences visiting environmental parks in Europe and in the United States in the mid-1980s as well as the student “Green Camp” trips to the Golden Monkey habitat in Deqin Prefecture in Yunnan Province in 1996 and to the Tibetan Autonomous Region in 1997 to learn about the situation of the endangered forests of eastern Tibet. [See Tang Xiyang’s Letter About Green Camp Trip to Yunnan and Loss of His Wife on the Internet Archive link to http://www.usembassy-china.org.cn/english/sandt/tang2.htm ]

The book is not a particularly political one. Tang’s reflections are not only interesting in themselves but also as a indication of what the authorities (or at least editors scared of the authorities) think had best be left out of books these days. The sections below were censored and so left out of the 1993 Chinese language edition and the subsequent English language translation published in 1999.

[Context of censored section on p. 221 — in a chapter discussing a trip to German nature parks, Tang mentions his correspondence with an American friend named Kitty. Kitty had written to Tang, “It is hard for me to accept the explanation that much of China is worn out and damaged beyond repair because of thousand of years of overuse by a people who did not traditionally have reverence for nature, the land and living things. :” I do not believe that there is such a thing as an entire people whose cultural tradition sanctions destruction of the natural environment. There has to be another explanation.” Tang replied, “Kitty, my dear friend thank you for your letter. … A difference in living conditions, historical backgrounds and cultural levels has naturally given us different understandings of nature. Questions that mean nothing to you could be very serious to us.

“As you have noticed, a disregard for nature is widespread in China. Two types of people notice this: Chinese who go abroad and then return and foreigners who come to China. Why is there such disregard? Apart from pressures of a large population, there are many reasons which relate to political, economic and cultural factors. You raised a very important questions when you said : “I do not believe that there is such a thing as an entire people whose cultural tradition sanctions destruction of the natural environment.” You question left me sleepless for several nights. I continue to ponder the question. Is the Chinese cultural tradition entirely without any nature-loving element?

I have not enough learning to answer this question, so I am just expressing my feeling instead of my knowledge. Observing the present is helpful in better understanding history, and reviewing history is helpful in better understanding the present.

Begin censored section

The Tiananmen Square incident has left a very deep impression on me. All the newspapers, journals, radio and TV programs changed to uniform words and tone almost overnight, as if the happening involving a million people that had taken place the night before was unreal. A downright lie became 100 percent truth. In an instant intelligent men devoting themselves to the cause of democracy became criminals, while those engaged in repressing the masses were honored as “Defenders of the Republic” Beijing University, with its long history and international fame, was allowed to enroll only eight hundred new students this year, and all of them must leave Beijing to receive one year of military training. The bitter and suffocating yesterday that parted us not long ago has returned suddenly. Some people said, “This is because of the intimidation of guns.” I said, “It’s not entirely the power of guns but more the pernicious influence of thousands of years of traditional culture.” This can be seen from the articles published following the incident, for these took a 180 degree turn — but how plausible and emotional they sounded! If you think these writings were the outcome of political and military pressure, then why did a certain Professor Chen, living in the United States, also speak against his own conscience? (His essay was published by the overseas edition of Liaowang magazine.)

Let’s compare conditions in Eastern Europe. When the peoples of Poland, Hungary and East Germany awakened to the necessity for reform, reform became an irresistible tide. However, when the Chinese people awakened and began to act, they induced bloody suppression. That reminds me of various farmers’ rebellions in former eras. Even if some of the rebellions were successful, the result was simply a shift in rulers, the fruits of success never passed into the hands of the common people. I’m also reminded of the burning of books and burying alive of scholars by the Emperor Qinshihuang, the state examination system started in the Tang Dynasty, and the various political movements started by Mao Zedong aimed at punishing intellectuals, which I experienced myself.

[End Censored Section In such a cultural environment — [Censored “prolonged, closed, dictatorial, lacking in democracy, domestically and in interflow internationally ]

[Censor inserts “closed to the outside world” — it was very difficult to develop science and technology as well as a tradition of loving nature.

[After this section Tang names several nature loving writers and poets — Tao Yuanming, Li Bai/Li Po, and Xu Xiake, and then remarks, “However, their nature-loving spirit failed to penetrate traditional Chinese culture. Even though their writings were popular among intellectuals and their activities did evoke some response from intellectuals who were political escapists, it was impossible to transform their love of nature into a cultural philosophy for mass consumption under conditions prevailing at the time.”]

Here are some other censored sections from Tang’s A Green World Tour in which he reflects on the Great Leap Forward (1957) and the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) :

Begin censored section (p. 408):

What was the people’s greatest agony during the ‘cultural revolution’?

    “They had no freedom to commit suicide.”

     “ My listeners looked shocked, so I tried to explain, “Intellectuals have strong self-respect, so to avoid suffering, they felt the best thing to do was to take one’s own life.  Even some very famous people chose this way out: the editor-in-chief of People’s Daily, Deng Tuo, the writer Lao She,  the Peking Opera performer Ma Lianliang, the world champion Ping-Pong player Yong Guotan, the renowned Ping-Pong coach Fu Qifang and many others.   The authorities, however, decided such a great number of suicides were giving a bad impression, so they began to take measures to prevent suicide.  They started with what were called negative methods, taking away anything that might be used such as knives, scissors,  light cords.  

Where I was interned, nothing of metal remained.  They also took the latches off the toilet doors and always had someone accompany us to the toilet.  Still people found means. They hid razor blades and used them to slit their throats; they opened the vein in their wrist at night with their own fingers to let the blood out.; an animal expert who had a hypodermic syringe he had been using on his animals injected air into his bloodstream.  One night I heard Liu Qin, associate editor of Beijing Daily, in the room next to mine crying out as he was beaten.  The next day he asked the guard to give him some sneaker since he wanted to exercise; that night he used the shoestrings to hang himself.   Since these negative measures weren’t working, the authorities tried what were termed positive methods: If someone attempted suicide but failed – such as jumping off a high building, but not killing oneself – both he and his family would be maltreated.  For instance, if he were badly injured in the fall or paralyzed, he would not be given medical treatment. 

A high official,  Luo Ruiqiang, jumped from a high window, but didn’t die.  Since he was unable to move, he was stuffed into a shoulder-pole basket and taken to a meeting to be criticized.  Another suicide died, but he was stripped of his clothes and hung with a placard saying, ‘Counterrevolutionary death.’  His family was also labeled counterrevolutionary. It’s perhaps hard for foreigners to realize the severity of this. It was just as if the label had been printed on his face for all to see. In China, it was a very powerful method, like Hawthorne’s scarlet letter.  Since people were not willing to have their families suffer, they refrained from committing suicide.  However, a university professor who didn’t want his family to suffer, chose instead to burn down his house with all his family inside.  An Army officer used dynamite to blow up his entire family. “

   “These were all ‘cultural revolution’ matters.  My thoughts then turned to the earlier anti-Rightist campaign and I told me listeners about that too.  “In June 1957 the staff of the Beijing Daily was called to the fourth-floor auditorium to attend a general meeting criticizing Liu Binyan, then with China Youth News.   A colleague of his, Qi Xueyi, opposed the meeting, so to show his support for Liu, he jumped from the auditorium window into the hutong below and was killed.


    “Since I had already been labeled a Rightist, I was not allowed to attend this meeting, but my wife, Zheng Zhaonan (photo below), who also at that time worked for Beijing Daily, did attend.  Like everyone else, she looked out the window where Qi had jumped, and perhaps thinking of me and our situation, stayed there for a long moment.  This was noticed and reported to the newspaper’s leaders, who immediately called another meeting, at which Qi was first criticized.  His deed was called counterrevolutionary; he had substituted for a Rightist; it was a bad act to try to stop the meeting;  if he could kill himself, he could kill anyone, so he was the worst kind of class enemy.  Then Zheng was criticized for feeling sorry for him;  she was the same sort of ‘raccoon dog’, the epigram about the fox that was sorry after the rabbit died because now it had nothing to eat was used to describe her;  she was criticized for even thinking about her husband.

    “That night Zheng cried bitterly and said that she was afraid.  It would never have occurred to me that ten years later it would be she who was killed and not I.  She was only one of many.  The statistics were later printed in a book.:  In Beijing, between August 19 and September 30, 1966, over 1,700 people were killed; 33,600 houses were searched and the residents’ property was confiscated; 85,000 people belonging to  ‘bad’ categories were exiled to distant parts of the country.  My wife was killed during those forty days too. Human nature, human sympathy, human rights, human dignity, human value – the most essential human qualities – were all suppressed during the ‘cultural revolution’.  It was the twentieth century’s greatest world tragedy. I have tried to forget but I cannot.

   “Did you think of committing suicide, especially after your wife was killed?”

“ How could I?  I had two daughters, the elder one twelve years old, the younger one only six. How could they bear losing their father just after losing their mother?  Yes, if it hadn’t been for them, I would have committed suicide ten times over. “

“You were imprisoned, weren’t you?”

   “Yes, but in the beginning I was permitted to go home at night.  I had to write out my ‘confessions’ under ten at night and be out sweeping the streets by five in the morning, so it was about ten-thirty when I got home and only 4:30 when I left.  The children had already fallen asleep when I arrived and had not yet awakened when I left, so my eldest daughter and I had to write notes to each other in a diary. I told them to diligently study Chairman Mao’s quotations, to struggle against selfish motives, to criticize revisionism, and to save their small change and to keep on good terms with the neighbor’s children.  When my house was later searched  and all my possessions seized and broken, only the diary survived, which I now keep as a treasured document. “

End of one of the censored sections of A Green World Tour.

Here are some others:

After p. 240 at the conclusion of a chapter on the visit of Tang Xiyang and Marcia Marks to Switzerland, Tang wrote:

Begin censored passage

“In my society, the word “people” is both infinitely great and infinitely small.  It is great because it is an inseparable part of such weighty terms as “people’s republic,”  “people’s congress,”  “the dictatorship of the people,”  and “Long live the people!”.  It is small because people are so insignificant. One day a person may be a State Chairman; the next day a jail inmate; on day a famous general,  the next day a victim in a dunce cap being paraded through the streets;  one day a famous writer, the next day a body drowned in a lake; one day a world champion, the next day a figure hanging from a tree. There are well-known cases out of hundreds of thousands of frame-ups that caused loss of life, family separations, the denunciations of fathers by sons.  Most people have had their names cleared by so called rehabilitation, but what does that mean to people who are already dead? And what about those whose cases have been mishandled and not yet redressed, for whatever reason?  This is a human tragedy.  Yet the chief perpetrators of these political crimes feel no regret, utter no word of apology. Instead they expect their victims to be deeply grateful and hail them as heroes. Isn’t this the typical mentality of a despotic monarch?  Yet they call themselves communists. The victims in this power game as not just I or the other hundreds of thousands of wronged persons, but the destiny of our country, for which countless martyrs died, and the sincere, revolutionary aspirations of the early Mao Zedong.

    “If only history had taken a different road, one along which people enjoyed true democracy.  If only people had been allowed to speak their  minds, and the government had put itself under the people’s supervision.  All this could have been avoided.  At first I did not know what democracy meant.  Life and the fate of our nation taught me its importance, and I felt it was all the more important after I had been abroad.  Citizen should have the right to shout out that the emperor has no clothes on whether they are right or not.  Without democracy there can be no way to approach truth. History without clear conclusions will only repeat its blind and restless past. Only when people are the real masters of their own destiny can they speak, discuss, criticize and select able persons. All this must be practiced, not mere form. Only true democracy can create a stable society. I don’t think this contradicts the principles of socialism. Only anti-socialists are afraid of democracy.  Nowadays some communists are advancing the slogan of “democratic and humane socialism,” showing that they have had their fill of sham socialism and seek a genuine socialism.

   “I am still ignorant about politics and do not wish to digress too far, simple to discuss what has to do with my job and impresses me most strongly.  If my trips abroad can be compared to the Journey to the West of the Tang Dynasty priest Sanzang, whose mission was to bring back Buddhist sutras, then which I am after is the “green sutra”.  I found the chief guarantee of nature protection to be the practice of democracy. Without real democracy there can be no everlasting green hills and clear waters.  I am convinced that nature conservation is a cause for the whole nation.  It won’t do to depend upon a wise emperor or president.  Hundreds of millions of people must realize and show concern for this problem.  When they all dare speak and act, the emperor or president has to do somethings; otherwise he cannot continue in office.  After visiting many countries and observing others’ attitudes, I believe democracy is necessary to the protection of nature.”

End censored passage.

On pp. 304  – 314 of A Green World Tour, Tang Xiyang and his wife Marcia Marks visit an Oneida Community at Kenwood in upstate New York since one of Maria’s relatives’s on her father side had been involved in the religious utopian socialist society there.  Marcia had lived there several times.  The Oneida Community was formed by the charismatic leader John H. Noyes.  The community aimed at living in common and eliminating selfishness.

Tang wrote:

“Ever since Sir Thomas More wrote Utopia in 1516, an ideal society that renounced private property has become the aspiration of many people, especially in the 19th Century, when socialism and communism became fashionable. China’s Kang Youwei expressed similar views in his “Book of Great Harmony”, published in 1913…..

“One of the guides told me that that the community was founded chiefly upon two elements: First, all members deeply worshipped the leader, as though he were a second Jesus. She added, smiling, “Just the way you worshipped Mao Zedong.”  Second, they practiced mutual criticism and self-criticism.  No selfish motive was permitted..” Tang notes that particular attachments were not allowed and Noyes set up a system in which all people were married to one another but the pairings were strictly controlled by Noyes. The community lasted thirty years.

Begin censored passage from p. 308

Tang writes::

I am reminded of how powerful a spiritual force can be by the case of Mao Zdong and his “cultural revolution”. What an absurdity!   People all over China gathered in the morning and the evening to pledge their loyalty to the great leader.  Whenever a new directive was issued by Mao night or day, people poured out into the streets to cheer, beating drums and gongs.  Everyone from the premier on down kept a little red book at hand to quote from it for whatever they did.  Mao badges as big as saucers were pinned to naked flesh to show devotion.  Teenagers turned into mobs overnight to beat, loot, destroy and kill.  My first wife died at their hands, beaten by her students.  If Mao had issued a directive to strip and dance in the streets, people would have obeyed. I do not mean to belittle either Mao or Noyes by comparing them;  I merely want to show that just as humans cannot go against natural law, they also cannot go against social law. I also want to make it clear that my comments  on Noyes’s subjectivism don’t mean that the concept of private ownership is to be opposed.”

End censored passage.

Tang praised the tolerance of American society that allowed the Oneida experiment to take place.  Tang commented that in their several day’s stay at Mansion House they ate at a common table with other people, buffet style. Tang wrote, “It smacked of the communist “to each according to his needs”  although the Chinese have changed this to “be allocated according to need,” according to the Chinese reality and mentality.  One is at the mercy of the leadership, even under communism!” ….

Tang continued: “… thus I have experienced two socialistic experiments. One was Marcia’s old home,  which was so thorough as to socialize property and family.  This experiment witnessed no bloodshed, sacrifice of lives, interference from society at large or damage to the greater society.  It was free to pursue its own course. Although it failed, it left a rich heritage, spiritual and physical, which still benefits the descendants.  The other experiment was my home, which was a micro part of the macro experiment that once involved the Soviet Union, eastern European countries and China. It exacted a heavy price. It cause the economy to lag far behind other countries.

The lives of numerous Marxists were lost under the accusation of revisionism, including two-thirds of the Central Committee members of the Soviet Communist Party.  China has been saddled with problems of overpopulation, destruction of nature, economic chaos and moral degradation. I can’t say that it has been a failure, but it has not been a success. Fore 58 years, I have had to endure. I feel as if I had been a frog at the bottom of a well. Now I have leaped out and seen the world. The past seems like a bad dream. ….

On our return to New York City, we again stayed with Annette Rubinstein, a writer friend of Marcia’s. …A Marxist, she is no longer a member of the Communist Party, but she keeps the faith……As for me, I have lost all interest in politics after all these years of involvement.  Being an intellectual in China is a mixed blessing of experience and suffering.  I am certain of one thing now, however.  Nature has its natural law and society has its social law. If the nature law is destroyed, nature will seek revenge. The same is true of society.

Censored passage (p. 312):

… As a scientific study, it was a good thing for Marx to probe the nature of capitalism and where it would lead and to develop the theory of socialism and communism. For Lenin to try to realize this theory in poor and backward Russia was a subjectivistic move. For Stalin and Mao Zedong and their followers to to combine this with feudalism, autocracy and violence was bound to lead history onto a dangerous path.  My friends, relatives, people, country, world and I myself have paid heavily and may possibly still have to pay.  In the course of history this may not be a bad thing.  I have no regrets.  I don’t blame anyone and I don’t curse the past.  Whatever happened, good or bad, success or failure, is human experience, a spiritual wealth.  Although I have suffered, I still aspire to socialism.  Plato’s Republic, More’s Utopia, Fourierism, Noyes’ Oneida Community, especially Marxism and socialism in the fifties in China have all held great attraction for me.  I even now retain this ideal. But I want a true socialism that does not contradict social law, not the socialism of Stalin and Mao.  I wanted to discuss this issue of communism with Dr. Rubinstein, to find out if a non-Stalinist, non-Maoist democratic type of communism exists, but the language barrier prevented communication. …I cannot foretell how society will develop, but I can warn people  never to go against the law, whether social or natural.

End censored passage.

When Tang visited the Joshua Tree National Monument 140 miles east of Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert,  he was greatly impressed with the struggle of plants and animals  to survive in the desert. His thoughts turned to his own struggle to survive morally and physically after being branded a rightist during the Hundred Flowers  campaign of 1957.

Begin censored passage (p. 401):

    “Adversity can temper plants, animals and humans as well. What my past life impressed on me is that adversity is a  furnace, nutrient and catalyst.  I am in no way different from ordinary men.  Perhaps I am even a bit more mediocre than they.  If there is a difference between me and them, it is that I have experienced more frustrations  in life.   Frustration came on June 24, 1957, when I was a provisional Communist Party member,  a Marxist and a leftist through and through.  In the twinkling of an eye, I was declared guilty of being an anti-Party and anti-socialist Rightist. 

The reason  was that I had written a letter to the editorial committee of Beijing Daily when the Party called on me to air my views freely and fully.  The letter, if read now, is not treasonable, putting forth only a few genuine, frank and constructive suggestions,  and mentioning that the municipal Party committee’s leadership over the paper was ineffective.  Apparently someone asked Liu Ren, the second secretary of the municipal Party Committee, for instructions and his ambiguous, “Making suggestions to the Municipal Party Committee is a political problem” and settled my fate. 

I was then very young, crystal pure, with a boundless loyalty to the Communist Party and communism and unable to understand such a social phenomenon.  I felt terribly wronged, wept bitterly, but finally decided it was reasonable for the Party to thus brand me.  I examined my mistakes thoroughly, hoping the Party would forgive me, but not of some political need the Party did not forgive, but instead took severest disciplinary actions against me: pinned a Rightist label on me, dismissed me from all my posts, and reduced my salary by three grades.  Later Liu Shaoqi (state chairman before the “Cultural Revolution”) issued a theory that Communist Party members were useful tools.  

Only then did I realize that I was not a useful tool.  I tried hard to transform myself through labor and be meeting all kinds of tests.   The goal I set for myself was ‘one model and two stages’.  The “one model” was to make myself a model communist, and the ‘two stages’ were my return to the people’s ranks, followed by a return to the Party’s ranks.   But I have never returned to the Party’s ranks.  I underwent a thirty-year process of cognition and historical change.  The result is that the Party does not need me, nor am I willing to return to its ranks, although I still believe that public ownership throughout society is a beautiful future for mankind.  The process of cognition is long, tortuous and bloody, in which the mind and soul are refined.  It can’t be expressed clearly in a few words.

   “During this process, I paid a high price. I lost my personality, my human feelings, my job, my wife, and the most precious twenty and more years of my life, but I also gained a lot.  Most important is that I have learned how to suffer.  By bearing hardship I  learned about many things – people, society, nature and history.  ‘Only by enduring untold suffering can one become somebody.’   I still remember when I was assigned to the Lugu Production Brigade for reform through labor at a place on Beijing’s outskirts near Mount Babao.  The mountain’s name comes from its having eight (ba) kinds of economically valuable stone and earth (bao, ‘treasure’). 

I first labored with some young peasants, carrying stones on my shoulders.  We broke up rocks with hammers, drill rods, and black dynamite, then put the rocks in baskets. My task was simple:  to put a felt pad around my neck and squat down while two peasants lifted a basket and placed it on the felt pad. Then I carried one basket after another from the bottom of the pit to the earth’s surface. …..   Mencius, one of the main successors to Confucius, said, “Heaven intends first to temper your will and body in difficulties so that you can enhance your ability for the great mission with which it entrusts you. ‘

End censored passage.

Near the end of the book, Tang writes about a conversation at supper during his last night of his visit to the United States.

       “Mari first asked how how we (Tang and his wife Marcia Marks) had got acquainted with one another.  I told her about our meeting in Xishuangbanna in Yunnan Province, where Marcia had gone to see birds and I to observe elephants in the wild.  “Later on I wrote a book, she helped me to find a publisher and polished the English translation.  After that we visited a number of nature reserves in China and now we’re visiting reserves and parks in various countries, preparing  to write a book together.”

   “Mari’s second question was: “How is it you love nature?”

     “I repeated what I had said at Sally’s home, mentioning the anti-Rightist campaign and the “cultural revolution”, since it was those political struggles that had driven me out of society and forced me into nature.

      “Mari persisted: “Why did China have a ‘cultural revolution’?”

      “I replied, “It was indeed a rare phenomenon, something unique in the world., but that it happened was by no means fortuitous.  Its embryo was buried deep in China’s thousands of years of history as well as in its more modern history.  It’s unfair to blame Mao Zedong alone, but he must assume great responsibility. “

During the ten years I spent in China as a U.S. diplomat, I heard many, similar stories from other Chinese wronged by the Chinese regime during the Great Leap Forward. These people include Kong Lingping of Chongqing [author of a moving memoir Blood Chronicles excerpted in translation on this translation blog whom I met while I was assigned to the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu. Another was Yin Shuping who like Kong, lost twenty years of his life to unjust imprisonment as a “Rightist”. The Cultural Revolution and more recent persecution campaign added more.  

Attacks against teacher even by middle school students were common during the Cultural Revolution — see the article by University of Chicago Prof. Youqin Wang  “Student Attacks Against Teachers: The Revolution of 1966“. A scholar in Chengdu told me about an attack on his teacher during the Cultural Revolution.

Prof. Wang’s article mentions Tang Xiyang’s murdered wife:  “At Beijing Fifty-second Middle School, Zheng Zhaonan (鄭兆南), a Chinese teacher, was tortured and jailed in her school and died on September 8, 1966. “

Reference:  Open Magazine (Hong Kong) 〈反右五十年專題〉環保活動家唐錫陽妻子之死 ◎ 柳孚三

I’ll append here the note I sent around in 2009 when I was helping Tang Xiyang publicize the English-language edition of A Green World Tour

“A Green World Tour” is Published in English

Chinese Environmentalist TANG Xiyang in Beijing. Tang edited Great Nature magazine during the 1980s and led college students and environmentalists on Green Camp trips to Yunnan in 1996 and then to Tibetan virgin forests (1997) and wetlands (1998). Tang is in good health and living in Beijing.

Tang said in December 1999 that he is planning another Green Camp trip, this time to Xinjiang to study desertification. All of the Green Camp trips study environemental and wildlife conservation problems in the context of social issues such as poverty and culture.

Tang just published two books in English. The first is an English translation of “A Green World Tour” which Tang wrote with his wife Marcia Marks. Some new materials describing the Green Camp trips to Yunnan and Tibet are also included in this book. The second half of “A Green World Tour” describes the trip Tang and Marks took through parks in the Soviet Union, Germany, France, England and the United States. I took the liberty of copying out the preface to “A Green World Tour” which expresses very well the dedication out of which this book emerged.

Tang’s open letter to Marcia Marks’ family after her death in 1999 is available at http://www.usembassy-china.org.cn/english/sandt/tang2.htm along with a 1996 U.S. Embassy Beijing report on the Yunnan trip at http://www.usembassy-china.org.cn/english/sandt/webmonk.htm

Tang has an email address. It is tangxiyang@china.com He would enjoy hearing from his friends around the world.

On Monday my wife and I visited TANG Xiyang in Beijing. Tang edited Great Nature magazine during the 1980s and led college students and environmentalists on Green Camp trips to Yunnan in 1996 and then to Tibetan virgin forests (1997) and wetlands (1998). Tang is in good health and living in Beijing.

Tang told me that he is planning another Green Camp trip, this time to Xinjiang to study desertification. All of the Green Camp trips study environemental and wildlife conservation problems in the context of social issues such as poverty and culture.

Tang just published two books in English. The first is an English translation of “A Green World Tour” which Tang wrote with his wife Marcia Marks. Some new materials describing the Green Camp trips to Yunnan and Tibet are also included in this book. The second half of “A Green World Tour” describes the trip Tang and Marks took through parks in the Soviet Union, Germany, France, England and the United States. I took the liberty of copying out the preface to “A Green World Tour” which expresses very well the dedication out of which this book emerged.

Tang’s open letter to Marcia Marks’ family after her death in 1999 is available at http://www.usembassy-china.org.cn/english/sandt/tang2.htm along with a 1996 U.S. Embassy Beijing report on the Yunnan trip at http://www.usembassy-china.org.cn/english/sandt/webmonk.htm

Tang has an email address tangxiyang@china.com He would enjoy hearing from his friends around the world.

Tang would like to present copies of the book to friends who helped Marcia Marks and himself on their world tour. He is also selling extra copies to raise more money for environmental work. He left me an open letter to his friends, which I will copy below:

Kewei Sushe 245, Huayuan Road 3, Beijing 100083,China. E-mail:tangxiyang@china.com

December 20, 1999

Dear friend: Best wishes for Christmas, New Year and New Century. Thank you for all your help.

If your friends or your organization would like to buy additional copies of “A Green World Tour”, I am selling them for US$ 30 (includng postage to anywhere in the world). Payment by personal check is fine. The publishing company is doing very little to market the book, so I am doing it myself! I have 1000 copies to sell.

Income from the sale of the book will be used in the cause of natural protection in China.

I edited another book about the 1997 and 1998 Green Camps in Tibet. The book which has many color photos, published in 1999 by New Asia Publishing House of Hong Kong, is entitled “Tibet -The Roof of the World to the Three River Plains”;. The book has commentary in both Chinese and English. I can sell this book for US$30 including postage.

Thank you,

Tang Xiyang

——— Preface

You may wonder how this book came about. I would say that I “walked it” instead of writing it. I have walked a total of 18 years starting from 1980, the year I was exonerated after years of political persecution. The same year I was asked to establish the “Great Nature” [Da Ziran] journal. In 1988, when I to Tibet as leader of Green Camp for college students. Perhaps because I was a journalist before becoming a popular science writer, I investigate and study my topic and where possible gain first hand information or rely on personal experience. In Xishuangbanna I insisted on seeing the wild elephants before I left. On Fanjing Mountain I would not leave without seeing the snub-nosed golden monkeys, a species that is native to Guizhou Province. At Tangjiahe, I refused to go home before I could take a look at the gnu. At Shennongjia I asked a man who collected medicinal herbs to take me to a sheer cliff where I could pick the stem of the noble dendrobium (Dendrobium nobile). Through my encounters with these exotic animals and plants were brief and, on occasions, fleeting, achieving my purpose was a meaningful, dynamic and beautiful process which entailed hardship and such dangers as beasts of prey, poisonous snakes, mountain floods, and injuries from accidental falls.

I continued living this way when I traveled to foreign countries at the age of sixty. In a Byelorussian swamp, I climbed a 20-meter high tree to shoot pictures of black storks. In France, I put on a rubber suit and dived into the Mediterranean to meet the fish. Only by doing these things myself can I convey to readers what it is actually like and allow the details to strike a chord in their hearts.

In the beginning I walked all alone. In 1981, during my excursion to Xishuangbanna I met Marcia, an American who worked in China. The two of us, an ordinary Chinese man and an ordinary American woman, kept each other company as we traveled together. Despite the differences in our cultural backgrounds, experiences, personalities and languages, nature brought us together. One thing led to another, and we finally became husband and wife. In 1986, with Marcia’s help I was able to publish my book, “Living Treasures”, in New York. We also had the opportunity of visiting natural parks and nature reserves in Europe, North America and Asia. I devoted myself to writing for three years after these trips and came up with “A Green World Tour”. It was published at an opportune time, as it reflected China’s awakening to the greenness of our living environment and made many people aware that it needed protection.

In 1996, Marcia and I launched Green Camp for college students, thus beginning our journey afresh in the company of young people. Unfortunately, her life ended and she died the day Green Camp embarked on its journey. She died suddenly but her influence lasts. The fact that she “chose” the day, neither too early or too late, rendered a sad yet legendary touch to the journey that we had shared in life. It was remarkable that she lived to see off our Green Camp; we both regarded it as the pioneer Green Movement in China. In some sense she has always been with us on our long and arduous journeys.

It’s been three years since Marcia died and I still have a feeling that she is with me. It is not sadness or nostalgia that makes me think of her. Rather I am always imitating her outlook on life and way of thinking. In a philosophical and natural sense she has had a lasting influence on me. I wrote a pamphlet in her memory and said, “In my earlier life I experienced much trauma yet I did not die. I expect that I was affected mentally, but I was still alive and able to get up and to do something for China’s Green Movement. For this I feel much indebted to Marcia and nature. They did not tell me what to do, what not to do, or how to do something. What I gained from them goes far beyond this.” I wanted to make a good job of this book and to double my efforts in environmental protection, because they represent my yearnings for Marcia and my gratitude to nature. According to Chinese customs, a man should retire when he reaches seventy, but I still camp in the wilderness. On the Tanggula Mountains, more than 5000 meters above sea level, I found myself in tears while talking to the local people about the need for environmental protection. As a matter of fact, I talk about environmental protection with friends from all walks of life. I feel lucky and proud whenever I compare my present life and career with my traumatic past and this makes me miss Marcia and love nature all the more.

Many readers have told me that they cried when they read the chapter, “Marcia Travels with Us”. That is why I say this book “walked” through a life of ups and downs. I “walked” this book not with my legs, but with my heart, my emotions and my life.

The fact that this book has been reprinted many times shows that it has made an impact on people’s lives. It could be said that it has become an integral part of the environmental movement in China. That is, because it merged with the “Green Wave” of China, it became a force that awakened many people to the need for environmental protection.

Many readers wrote, called, or phoned to say that they loved it. They praised it as a classic and a harbinger of a Chinese green spring. After reading it, Chang Zhongming, a member of the staff of the Jianguo Hotel, spent his savings to rent a piece of wasteland in Changping County and started his own nature preserve. Things like this may not appear extraordinary to a Westerner, but in China they are as incredible as tales from the “Arabian Nights”. Uding this book as a guide, Zhang Peihua, a young teacher from the Guilin Polytechnic Institute, arranged for his Xie Xiake Club to organize young people from China and abroad to tour the wilderness in northwest China. A number of well-known experts went as far as to suggest that copies of my book be donated to each of the 1000 nature preserves in China.

It was the information from one of my readers that prompted Marcia and me to launch and organize the Green Camp for college students. In 1996, the camp journeyed to northwest Yunnan to protect snub-nosed monkeys. We went to southeast Tibet in 1997 for the protection of primitive forests. In 1998 we went to the Sanjiang Plain to protect the wetlands. Practice over the past three years has shown that the Green Camp is a way of life that instills new values, looks to the future and promotes dedication to a great cause. For this reason the camp is a special school, a crucible for forging new talents to serve the Green Movement, and sow the seeds of greenness. Today, Beijing is not the only center with a Green Camp. Shanghai and Nanning have also established them and more camps are being set up in other cities. With mutual encouragement and support, we are creating a green culture.

New World Press decided to publish the English edition of “A Green World Tour”. After reading my manuscripts, Mr. Chen Yousheng, my editor, wrote to me and said, “Recently there has been much talk in the United States about the Cold War and the clashes in the 21st century between Western Christian culture and the cultures of the East such as Islam and Confucianism. One only needs to read your book to see that there is more common ground than conflict between Eastern and Western cultures, and that even Western ideas have persuaded people in China. In environmental protection, in particular, the entire global village is pursuing a common goal.” These lines made me see clearly why New World Press wanted to publish an English edition of my book. It is my hope that this book will not only be popular in China in the next century but that is will also find its way to the outside world. The song “The Internationale” says “Internationale will be realized”. I hope this book will become part of what I call the “Green Internationale”. This is because China needs to know the world, and the world needs to know China. The aim of this book is to view the world from China’s perspective and to give the world a view of China.

Marcia and I would not have finished his book without the participation, help, support, and encouragement of many friends. It is only reasonable to say that the book crystallizes the wisdom of a collective that loves and protects nature.

Marcia once said, “All those who love nature are good people.” We have met countless good people on our tours of China and other countries and many good people have helped in translating and getting this book published. In the process of organizing Green Camp, we came to know hundreds of people who wrote to us to show their warm support. During the eight months of our visits abroad, we met so many nature lovers that we felt that we were living in an “ocean or greenness and friendship”. They treated us so well because they knew we loved nature and wanted to do something to protect it. That was why after my return to China I want to do so many things to do something to protect it. I wanted to establish a popular organization to protect nature, sponsor an international exhibition on environmental protection, establish a publishing house, specializing in books on environmental protection and found a nature reserve that is typically Chinese yet containing many foreign elements. And I wanted to mobilize the masses by delivering speeches on the protection of nature everywhere. I wanted to do so much, but given the actual conditions in China, I could accomplish so little. So I took the realistic course of writing this book and was determined to make it succeed. By doing this I was responding to nature, my own conscience and the support and good wishes of my friends and colleagues at home and abroad.

When the English edition of this book is published, I hope that all the relatives and friends of Marcia, as well as those who have helped us one way or another, or , who have been mentioned in it, will be able to read it. Because Marcia is no longer alive, and because I know little English, I have lost contact with most of my foreign friends. It is my hope that all those who knew Marcia and me will pass this message on and help us get in touch with each other. As a token of gratitude to those friends who had helped us, I want to present a copy of this book to each of you. My address is, Kewei Sushe 245, Huayuan Road 3, Beijing 100083, China.

Tang Xiyang

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated, with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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2 Responses to 2009: Censored — Tang Xiyang’s A Green World Tour

  1. Pingback: Cultural Revolution Jokebook | 高大伟 David Cowhig's Translation Blog

  2. Pingback: Father Murdered in Cultural Revolution, Liu He Now PRC Vice Premier | 高大伟 David Cowhig's Translation Blog

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