A Painting for Public Welfare Promotion

"Fugitives" by Ding Cong.


Soong Ching Ling was the pioneer of public welfare in China. Attaching great importance to China' publicities, Soong exerted significant impact on the public through her penetrating insight and unique way of publicity work. During the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, she personally selected a painting for public welfare promotion, which remains a good example even today.


From Fugitives to Refugees


Japanese troops invaded the northeast China on September 18th, 1931 and this was the notorious "September 18th Incident," which threw China into a moment when the nation's existence was at stake. Soong Ching Ling was very anxious about the situation and held talks with friends to discuss how to resist the Japanese aggression. On Jan. 28, 1932, Japanese troops invaded Shanghai and the 19th Route Army bravely resisted the aggressors. Soong Ching Ling, in spite of Japanese bullets and bombs, toured the battlefield at Wusong, expressing her care and concern for the Chinese officers and soldiers. She also organized to donate cashes for workers on strike, set up the National Hospital for wounded soldiers, and made public speeches to inspire the Chinese people against Japanese aggression. "Lugouqiao (Marco Polo Bridge) Incident" broke out in July 1937, and then Japanese troops invaded the North China. On August 13, Japanese troops attacked Shanghai and thus Songhu Battle of Resistance against Japanese Aggression broke out. In the same month, Soong Ching Ling published her article China Is Unconquerable, in which she pointed out, facing the awakened Chinese people, "Japanese atrocity is nothing but a paper tiger." She devoted her time to appealing to the international community and the whole nation to rise up against the Japanese aggression. In fact, Soong Ching Ling was then a national banner in the campaign against Japanese aggression. On Nov. 12, Shanghai fell to Japanese troops, but Soong Ching Ling persisted in her work on the "isolated island"--the International Settlement. Urged by her friends for times, she secretly left Shanghai for Hong Kong by ship on Dec. 23, escorted by her New Zealand friend, Rewi Alley.

In June 1938, Soong Ching Ling founded the China Defense League (CDL) in Hong Kong, appealing to all peace-loving people and democracy supporters to help China in her fight against the Japanese aggression. In August of the same year, "The Chinese Industrial Cooperatives" supported by Soong Ching Ling was founded in Wuhan for the sake of coastal economic resurgence and the workers' employment. In Jan. 1939, "The International Committee of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives" was founded in Hong Kong, with Soong Ching Ling as Honorary President. After these organizations were founded, it was urgent to do effective publicity work in order to increase donations as soon as possible.

In April 1939, upon learning that a painting exhibition was being held in the Central Theatre of Hong Kong Central District by "China Cartoon Anti-Japanese Aggression Association Hong Kong Branch," Soong Ching Ling went to the exhibition in person.

In front of a painting named Fugitives, Soong Ching Ling stopped and gazed at the painting. It was about a peasant family who had become homeless and destitute because of the war. In the painting, there were four people in the wilderness: an old woman carrying something heavy in her hand, a young woman with a baby in her arms, and the master leading a donkey. Each of the four was looking in a different direction, puzzled and perplexed. Nothing was shown in the painting but these four people and the donkey. There was nobody else, no tree, and no house. In the war started by Japanese aggressors, the innocent Chinese were helpless and lost, not knowing where to flee.

Full of sympathy and compassion, Soong Ching Ling stood in front of this painting for some time, with a serious expression on her face. After a while, she said, "This painting can be used as a poster and China Defense League is in the very need of such a painting. I wonder whether we can buy it." Then China Defense League bought it and printed it into posters, which were distributed throughout the world.

After being printed by CDL, Fugitives was renamed into Refugees, as was suggested by Soong Ching Ling to better meet the need to promote relief and donation.

There was a special article Please Subscribe to Our Posters on No. 7 Newsletter of China Defense League published on Aug. 1, 1939. It said, "The Central Committee of China Defense League has decided to issue a series of colour lithographic posters so that the overseas organizations can better launch their activities to support China's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and donate for those victims of the war. These paintings have been drawn by the best Chinese artists. Two paintings have been printed by far, namely, The Final Victory and Refugees (Part of the latter is published on the first page of the present newsletter). " The caption for Refugees was as follows: "Japanese Aggressors make the family homeless while China Defense League is helping them with refuge."

On No. 10 Newsletter of China Defense League published on Nov. 15, 1939, another article was published, with the title Please Subscribe to the Following Publications by China Defense League. It was worthy of attention that Refugees was listed at No. 1 on the top.

Soong Ching Ling was deeply touched by this painting. Among her collections of the cherished photos, there was one in which she was standing in front of the framed painting--Refugees. This was the only painting that Soong Ching Ling liked most.

The images in Refugees had such a deep impression on Soong Ching Ling that this piece of work was not only a painting poster used by CDL but also a reason for Soong Ching Ling's promoting the industrial cooperative movement to help Chinese refugees. In an article entitled Human Disaster published on No. 21 Newsletter of CDL issued on Oct. 1, 1940, she pointed out, "Nothing is more shocked than the stories of the refugees though we keep hearing these kind of stories nowadays time and time again… In any war, refugees suffer even more than those who died. They are forced to leave their homes and lands passed on by generations, wondered and were simply thrown into a stranger land and even into another war. Therefore, the only way to comfort them is to stop the war and let them return homes, reconstruct and rebuild the neighbourhoodship, so that they would have their courage to live on with their goal. In comparison with other countries, China has more refugees, for the war in China has lasted for nearly 4 years. Like what happened in the Chinese history, many people have become homeless and destitute. …If there were any means to help the millions of homeless and starving Chinese refugees out of their difficulties, it is nothing but cooperatives. In fact, Chinese people had already taken initial steps in this regard of industrial cooperatives, therefore would you like to help Chinese people realize their self-reliance?" In between the lines, we can clearly see that Soong Ching Ling worried and sympathized for her people in those days.


Ding Cong, a Painter of Fugitives


Fugitives was painted by Ding Cong, a young artist who was then only 22 year old.

On Aug. 13, 1937, Japanese troops invaded Shanghai and the Chinese army and civilians resisted Japanese invasion bravely, but Shanghai still fell into an increasingly serious situation. Ding Song, a cartoonist living on Huangpo Nanlu of Shanghai at that time, had to agree to his eldest son Ding Cong's leaving of the city. Ding Cong, an art editor with The Young Companion Pictorial at that time, left for Hong Kong by a French ship with his neighbours and fellow artists Zhang Guangyu and Zhang Zhengyu, who were brothers. 

Ye Qianyu, also Ding Cong's neighbour and fellow artist, was then in Wuhan. Under the leadership of Guo Moruo, director of the Third Division of the National Military Committee's Political Department, Ye organized a cartoon promotion team to call on resistance against Japanese aggression. Chinese soldiers got many photos from Japanese captives, which recorded Japanese aggressors' raping Chinese women, burning properties, killing and bombing in China. Therefore, the Third Division decided to compile and print into a book entitled: The True Records of Japanese Aggressors' Atrocities. Since there was good printing technique then in Hong Kong, Ye Qianyu brought these pictures with him from Wuhan to Hong Kong. After his arrival, he stayed with Ding Cong, who helped him with the printing model drawing and editing until the book was ready. Ding Cong said that this was a "wonderful" book to expose Japanese aggressors' atrocities.

The finished products of The True Records of Japanese Aggressors' Atrocities were taken back to Chinese Mainland with Ye Qianyu's escort. But unfortunately, most of the books were burnt in the ridiculous "Changsha Fire" on Nov. 12, 1938. In spite of the frustration, Ye Qianyu further realized the importance of promotion. He went to Hong Kong for the second time to organize the promotion of resisting Japanese aggression.

The Central Theatre of Hong Kong Central District looked small from the outside, but it had a large lounge on the first floor as well as a cinema and offices on the spacious second floor. Due to Japanese troops' occupation of Shanghai, The Young Companion Pictorial was forced to stop its publication. At the end of 1938, those who used to work for this pictorial, including Ma Guoliang, Li Qing and Ding Cong, published another pictorial The Earth in Hong Kong, with its editorial office on the second floor of the Central Theatre.

After his second arrival in Hong Kong, Ye Qianyu, according to the arrangement by the National Government, prepared and published a pictorial book, entitled: China Today, introducing China to other countries in English, Russian, French and Chinese. Since it was hard for Ye Qianyu to find a place for office, The Earth decided to share their office with him. Thus Ding Cong joined the editing of China Today. Ye Qianyu also organized the painters to paint posters to promote resistance against Japanese aggression. They bought a lot of white cloth to cut it into pieces with over one meter each and distributed them to the local painters in Hong Kong and those from the Mainland. Ding Cong did editing for the pictorials in the daytime and was busy with his painting and contacting the painters at night.

In April 1939, when all the paintings were collected, Ye Qianyu, Ding Cong and some others organized the above-mentioned anti-Japanese painting exhibition.

At that time, those organizations against Japanese aggression were short of fund. All the offices and exhibition halls were provided by the Central Theatre free of charge, thanks to the introduction by some people from Guangdong Province. The painting exhibition was held in the lounge on the first floor. Paintings in the same size were pinned on the wall in two rows and the exhibition was open to the public free of charge.

During the pre-exhibition, American journalists Edgar Snow and Israel Epstein, together with Chinese journalist Jin Zhonghua came to visit it. A few days later, Soong Ching Ling, Mme. Sun Yat-sen, came to the exhibition as well. Obviously, she decided to do so after hearing the comments from Snow, Epstein and Jin Zhonghua. What attracted her was the painting Fugitives, one of the exhibited paintings by Ding Cong. He painted it based on a photograph recording the conditions of refugees.

Soong Ching Ling lived in Shanghai before 1937. For a long time Ding Cong had cherished admiration and respect for this "Mother of the Nation", but had never got a chance to meet her. During her visit to the exhibition, Soong Ching Ling invited this young artist to have a talk, and had a photo taken in front of the painting Fugitives with him and Chen Yanqiao, a woodblock printer. As far as Ding Cong could recall, the photo was taken by Zhang Zhengyu with a PENTAX camera belonging to Shen Bao Newspaper of Shanghai. This was the first time when Ding Cong met Soong Ching Ling, so the photo certainly became precious with historic value.

Fugitives was bought by CDL for 10 silver coins, but Ding Cong said he directly donated the money to the League for the resistance against Japanese aggression, even without touching any of them.

Soong Chinf Ling Posing with Ding Cong and Chen Yanjiao in April 1939


Complicated experience of the precious photo over the past 70 years


The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on Dec. 8, 1941 broke out the Pacific War. On the same day, Hong Kong was bombed by the Japanese war planes and the situation became seriously intensified. On Dec. 10, Soong Ching Ling left for Chongqing on the last flight from Hong Kong, six hours before Kai Tak Airport fell to Japanese troops.

Ding Cong and many other progressive cultural colleagues were stranded in Hong Kong and lost contact with their Party organization. One day he met musician Sheng Jialun, who said to him, "Both Mme. Sun Yat-sen and Liu Yazi had left Hong Kong. We have now got in touch with Dongjiang Column and will also be leaving Hong Kong." Then Ding Cong and his colleagues hurriedly packed up their daily necessities and each of them just carried a bag while throwing away a lot of other things such as books, letters, diaries and photos in case they might come across with Japanese troops on their way. With the arrangement of underground Party organization, they walked to Baoan guerrilla area in spite of difficulties, hardships and risks of life. They were stranded for another 100 days in Baoan before they finally arrived in Chongqing via the city of Guilin.

After arrival in Chongqing, Ding Cong, Ye Qianyu, and together with some other painters, immediately paid a visit to Soong Ching Ling at her Lianglukou residence. She was very pleased to see them all. Though Ye Qianyu was already wearing a beard, Soong Ching Ling still affectionately called them "boys". They did not feel constrained at all; instead, they cooked what they had brought to Soong Ching Ling's residence. Ding Cong still remember that they cooked curried chicken, but not well done, and taste no delicious. Soong Ching Ling asked them about how they left Hong Kong. She showed special interest to Ding Cong, "Have you brought all your belongings from Hong Kong, Ding?" Ding Cong sadly replied, "No. I almost have thrown them all." Soong Ching Ling sympathetically said to Ding, "I have something for you." Then, she went upstairs and back with her hands behind, asking Ding Cong to make a well guess what she was going to give him as if she were speaking to a child. Before Ding's guess, she showed it to him. It was the photo they had taken in front of his painting--Fugitives. She asked him whether he still kept his. Ding Cong said, "No. I had burned it when we left Hong Kong." Soong Ching Ling said to him, "Since you burned yours and now I give mine to you." Ding Cong was so excited and took it from Mme. Soong and carefully kept it.

Since then, despite all moves and disasters, Ding Cong always had kept the photo with him. During the "Anti-Right Deviationist Movement" in 1957, Ding Cong was sent to Beidahuang (a farmland in northeast China), but the photo was kept well. However, during the "Cultural Revolution", everything was taken away from him, including a photo album, in which there were many group photos with leaders, an autograph album with autographs by leaders, and many photos Ding Cong took for Mao Tse-tung and Zhou Enlai. All these were confiscated for no reason, but such "Cow-devil and Snake-spirits" (niugui sheshe, which was the "term" used to refer to intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution) had no qualification to have photos taken with leaders. In fact, when the People's Republic of China was founded, Ding Cong, then a representative of young artists and a member of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, had often contacts and meetings with Zhou Enlai, Liao Chengzhi and other State leaders. They were comrades and good friends.

After the ten-year "Cultural Revolution", the confiscated materials began to be returned to owners. But among the materials returned to Ding Cong, all the photos, autographs were lost, including the photo taken with Mao Zedong and Mao's autograph. Ding Cong was very angry to see the empty photo album and the empty autograph album, but could do nothing. Above all, he was the most regretful to lose the photo taken with Soong Ching Ling.

"Thanks to the God!" Ding Cong received a letter from Ye Qianyue, which said,

Dear Ding Cong,

Among the materials returned by the Organization Department of CPC Central Committee, there is a photo of yours. I now send it to you."

Enclosed with the letter was just the photo with Soong Ching Ling taken in 1938. It really became more precious when it was regained. And then Ding Cong had it enlarged and hung it on the wall in his house.

Although in his nineties, Ding Cong, a master of Chinese cartoons, has never stopped painting. He is still quick-witted and optimistic. As an Honorary Council Member of China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, he is making great efforts to realize Soong Ching Ling's dream—"Great Harmony of the World".

(Source: China Soong Ching Ling Foundation)