Wife of the first Chinese Premier, Chou En-lai, and political activist in the Communist Party of China (1904-1992). ALS in Chinese, six pages, 7.25 x 10.25, July 24, 1962. Letter to Comrade Xuefen. In part (translated): "[From] the reply I received from Comrade…in the beginning of April, [I] was aware that even if you were at the early stage of your illness, based on the nature of the disease it will continue to develop if you don't pay attention to it and contain it in various ways. I simply can't stop being concerned about this.
I have received the letters you asked…Comrade Weishi to bring me. I just learned about your recent condition from Comrade Chengnu…and I like your arrangements, as it's focused on making improvements. However [it's] hard to stabilize [the condition] mainly [because] the body has been damaged much and it takes time [to heal]. Thus there is often emotional disturbance and lack of peace of mind. For this I need to work on helping her and to take responsibilities for her. My health has improved greatly which has been the first time in a long time. I have been relieved from both Western and Chinese medicine and treatment for almost a year now and have been able to take care of myself. Now I'm no longer a patient.
I went to the Northeast region a while back and visited many places and saw many things. Some [of the things I did were] to avoid the damages caused by abortion in the past, which may also improve my health. Thus the key is that you must recuperate during pregnancy and after giving birth. Hope you will be extremely careful, not only trying to be a good mother, but also a good communist party member.
Comrade Yan Xia and I talked about you not long ago. We learned the arrangements you had made and hope you can come to Beijing and take some time to relax. Of course this depends on the doctor's advice.
Comrade Chengnu…came here for treatment and rest, [showing] new things I've never seen. I'm so glad that my body also experienced an intense and heavy trial which seemed nice. This is a piece of good news I can share with you.
Hope you are doing well after playing the part of Mrs. Xianglin! I saw your stills but regret for not being able to view your performance. I anticipate of having the opportunity to do so. I saw you play this role while I was in Shanghai shortly after the liberation and I was quite impressed with your performance. I can still see it in my mind." Each page is numerically stamped in the upper left corner and affixed to a separate 10.25 x 15 cardstock sheet. A tear to the bottom of the first page affecting a few words and light soiling, otherwise fine condition.
The recipient of this letter, Yuan Xuefen, was a noted performer in the Chinese Yue opera who was best known for her performance in the 1946 production of Sister Xianglin, as Deng Yingchao mentions in this letter. She had to be replaced after falling ill in 1947, as discussed at length. "Comrade Weishi" is almost assuredly the adopted daughter of Deng Yingchao and Chou En-lai, Sun Weishi, who was also active in Chinese theater. Another important reference is "Comrade Yan Xia," probably the politically active playwright Xia Yan who later served as the deputy minister of culture from 1954 to 1965. Deng Yingchao touches upon her own medical difficulties—as a young woman she had an abortion without telling Chou, fearing that pregnancy would detract from her ability to carry out important political work; later, in 1927, she suffered a miscarriage. As both Deng Yingchao and Chou En-lai were particularly dedicated to the advancement of the arts, this is not only an extremely rare but an especially interesting association piece.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.