Despite being virtually unknown in his homeland Canada, Norman Bethune is among the most famous foreigners in China. Having struggled to treat the poor in Montreal as a younger physician, Bethune became a committed communist member in 1935, following a visit to the Soviet Union where he saw the country's system of public health care. Putting his ideals into practice, Bethune traveled to Spain to join the struggle against Franco in 1936, before leaving for China to support the Chinese Communist Party in its War of Resistance against Japan.
Written by none other than Mao Zedong, the obituary that follows was intended as a political call to action and self-sacrifice for members of the Chinese Communist Party. It later became a compulsory part of the Chinese education system - the major reason almost every mainlander you encounter is likely to have read it.
Although no longer required reading, this obituary is still widely read. And Bethune remains a public icon in China, resurfacing most recently during the campaign against SARS in 2003. His example of putting the welfare of others above his own also remains inspiring 70 years after Bethune's untimely death.