Fallen foreign heroes not forgotten

Author still a big hit on campus

Ask any student on Peking University's campus in Beijing where to find the tomb of Edgar Snow (1905-1972) and nine out of 10 will not only point you in the right direction, but also probably give you a brief history lesson on the life and works of the prominent American journalist.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, the scribe and former teacher at the university is best remembered for his book Red Star Over China, which introduced the Chinese Communist movement in early 1920s to late 1930s to domestic and overseas readers. He was also the first Western journalist to interview China's former leader Mao Zedong.

"I know every year there will be a few essays about him written by our students," said Sun Hua, director of the university's Chinese center for Edgar Snow studies. "Some seniors also made a documentary film about him."

Following his death in Geneva, Switzerland, half of Snow's ashes were flown to China. The original plan was to bury them in Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing, which is reserved for national heroes. "However, his family thought it was better to have his tomb on campus because he loved to hang out with young Chinese people," said Sun.

The site of his tomb, which is on a slope south of the university's Weiming Lake, is close to the recently renovated Tan Siu Lin center for international studies, where Snow taught journalism in the early 1930s. His tombstone reads "Edgar Snow, American friend of the Chinese people" in English and Chinese.

"He is a reporter with a conscience. He deserves a Pulitzer prize," said Li Yuming, 29, a Beijing legal professional who visited the writer's tomb after reading his works. "When I went to his tomb, no one was there, just a bunch of dried flowers. It's a desolate scene but I think people like Snow are still remembered."

She is right. Apart from the Chinese center for Edgar Snow studies, the author continues to be an inspiration to students and scholars nationwide.

"For the post-1980s generation, the history in his book does not exist in our memory," Yan Lu, a 26-year-old journalist with the Liuyang Daily in Hunan province, wrote on her blog after finishing Red Star Over China for an assignment. "If (Chinese) students can read news stories like these, instead of struggling to memorize the textbooks without emotion or even meaning, they would have more passion and respect for earlier generations."

"Snow knew nothing before he met Chairman Mao and the Red Army, just like we know nothing about the past. But we learn."

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