Sunday, March 31, 2013

Broken Fact: The Brutal Killing of Teachers

The Original Story:
On Page 44 of Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping told this unusually gruesome story:
On one afternoon, the Red Guards gathered us to watch a teacher be thrown head first into a deep well, and another quartered by four horsemen on the soccer field. Later they beat to death an older boy for a prank he had pulled involving a cat because the Chinese word for cat, mao, has the same pinyin spelling as Chairman Mao's name, differing only by a subtle tone change. Crime and punishment were meted out haphazardly, so no one among us black elements ever felt safe.
She recited the same story to Dick Gordon on the American Public Media's The Story show on March 9, 2010:
When we first got together in the dormitory, they gathered us all to a soccer field. It's a big soccer field in the middle of the living quarter of the student dormitory. They killed two teachers right in front of us to scare us. So, they basically said that, if you dare to say anything wrong or do anything wrong, this is what gonna happen to you. One teacher was tied up on 4 horses on the field and, when the 4 horses going 4 different directions and she just got split. We were forced to watch it. That was in the first 10 days I was there.

The Changed Story:
After Fang Zhouzi openly questioned her tall tale involving four horses, Fu Ping made the following clarification on March 6, 2013:
To this day, in my mind, I think I saw it. That is my emotional memory of it. After reading Fang's post, I think in this particular case that his analysis is more rational and accurate than my memory. Those first weeks after having been separated from both my birth parents and my adoptive parents were so traumatic, and I was only eight years old. There is a famous phrase in China for this killing; I had many nightmares about it. 

The Debunking:
To Fu Ping's credit, this is the only occasion so far that she has publicly recanted a portion of her story, although she chose to hide behind the phrase "emotional memory." As Fang Zhouzi had already decisively pointed out -- and Fu Ping concurred -- the four-horse-style execution is only a legend and impossible to carry out in real life.

Fu Ping's candid admission showed that she may have trouble separating her imagination (nightmares) from reality, which actually could explain a lot of discrepancies we are debunking in her story.

She also chose not to respond on questions of the other two killings. Some readers have investigated NUAA campus and concluded that there was never a deep well near the soccer field. During the Cultural Revolution, many people had suffered unexpected, and some lost their lives, due to unfortunate word associations, but that between "cat" and Chairman Mao had not shown up in all the existing literature.

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