The Tomb of Hai Rui in Haikou on Hainan Island was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution by gangs of angry kids (later, the red guards) against the symbols of the past.
In this case the fault of Hai Rui, an upright official of the Ming court, symbol of morality and honesty, was to be the protagonist of an article written in 1959 by Wu Han, an official of the Communist Party.
The article was later translated in a Peking opera piece played by Yao Wenyuan, a member of the notorious Gang of Four, as an allegory of Peng Dehuai, disgraced by Mao for having openly criticized the disaster of the Great Leap Forward.
According to the interpretation, the corrupt figure of the Emperor was to be read as a metaphor of Chairman Mao.
In an article in the November 10, 1965 appeared in a Shanghai newspaper, titled “Critique of the historical drama ‘Hai Rui dismissed from his office‘ ‘, written by Yao himself, the figure of the famous imperial official was deeply criticized.
The following article has been read as the fuse that detonated the Cultural Revolution, which wiped out the ancient Chinese culture.
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Hai Rui, was an official of Arab origin, who began his career in the bureaucracy in old age as an employee of education in Fujian, at 39 years, after having failed the imperial examinations a few years earlier.
However, he managed to build a reputation based on morality, on a scrupulous honesty and justice. This attitude soon won him many enemies among the corrupt bureaucrats. In 1565 he sent a memorial to the Emperor that cost him the death penalty in the following year. Fortunately, after the Emperor’s death, he was pardoned in 1567.
Under the Longqing reign he was partially rehabilitated until 1570 when it was forced to give up his post again.
After 15 years spent in retirement in Haikou, he was completely rehabilitated under Emperor Wanli in 1585.
Hai Rui died two years later.
CHINA-UNDERGROUND. Matteo Damiani is an Italian sinologist, photographer, author and motion designer. Matteo lived and worked for ten years in China. Founder of CinaOggi.it and China-underground.com.