Liang Jun: Iconic Chinese female tractor driver dies at 90

In 1948, Ms Liang Jun became the only woman in China to take up the job, when she enrolled in a class which trained tractor drivers.
In 1948, Ms Liang Jun became the only woman in China to take up the job, when she enrolled in a class which trained tractor drivers.PHOTOS: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

HARBIN (XINHUA) - Ms Liang Jun, who became China's first female tractor driver, and eventually a national icon, died on Tuesday (Jan 14) in north-east China. She was 90 years old.

Ms Liang died of illness at around 1pm in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province.

In 1948, Ms Liang became the only woman in China to take up the job, when she enrolled in a class which trained tractor drivers.

More than a decade later in 1962, an image of a smiling Liang steering a tractor was featured on the one-yuan note of the third set of the Chinese currency.

"The tractor driver on the one-yuan note was created based on my image," she said. "It's a symbol of the women of New China."

Liang was born into a poor family in Heilongjiang's Mingshui county in 1930.

At age 17, she was admitted to a teachers' college.

After she completed the course for tractor drivers, she joined a national campaign to develop the "great northern wilderness", where she worked with perseverance and dedication.

Ms Liang joined the Chinese Communist Party in October 1949, the month when Chairman Mao Zedong announced the founding of the People's Republic of China.

In June 1950, the authorities set up the country's first female tractor team named in honour of her.

Ms Liang's entire life was dedicated to the agriculture and machinery sectors.

Textbooks included her stories, and filmmakers made movies about her.

She was among the first group of China's national model workers and has been hailed as one of the most influential model workers in China since 1949.

She was elected a national lawmaker four times.

In 1990, she retired from the position of chief engineer of the Harbin municipal bureau of agricultural machines.