Born Niè Yuánzǐ on Tuesday, April 5, 1921, in Henan Province, China, he was inspired by the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 to join the Chinese Communist Party in 1938 at the age of 17. After graduating from the National Normal School in Taiyuan, he received military training from the Anti-Japanese Salvation Organization, the Sacrifice and Salvation League. 1939 found him in Yan’an, the headquarters of the CCP, but he went on to Peking University, where he graduated with a degree in philosophy and became a lecturer there.
On May 16, 1966, when the Cultural Revolution became public knowledge through the “Five Eleventh Sixth Notice” at the enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party, he and six other faculty members of the Philosophy Department posted a wall newspaper criticizing the leadership of Peking University on May 25. On August 18, he was received by Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Square at a Red Guards rally, and the following year he was appointed deputy mayor of Beijing and deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Revolutionary Committee. When the People’s Liberation Army moved into Peking University in August and disarmed the Red Guards, Nie Yuanzhi was removed from his leadership position and sent to Jiangxi Province the following year.
In April 1978, after the end of the Cultural Revolution, he was arrested on charges of inciting counterrevolutionary propaganda and false accusations and sentenced to 17 years in prison. Her memoirs were published by a Hong Kong publisher in 2005. 2019: Died at age 98.
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