Sunday, March 31, 2013

Broken Fact: Fu Ping's Bicycle and Fu Hong's Soccer

The Original Story:
Bend, Not Break described Fu Ping and Fu Hong's lives in the early years of Cultural Revolution as extreme poverty, while constantly suffering in the hands of their Red Guards overlords. But once a while, we got a glimpse of happy moments.

On Page 83, the 11-year-old Fu Ping met her first best friend Li and started to enjoy life:
On free days, we could take long bicycle rides across the old city of Nanjing, visiting green areas and sometimes wandering as far as Sun Yet-sen Park.
Fu Hong also had some good times on her own, as on Page 112:
Once, she broke her arm while sliding down an airplane wing at the abandoned NUAA airfield. Many days, she would come home from an impromptu soccer match covered in cuts and bruises, whining about how much her injuries hurt.

The Debunking:
Fu Ping had a bicycle! At 11 years old!! Seriously!!!

Why is this a big deal? Although western people tend to think China as the country full of bicycles, they were actually a very luxurious item during Cultural Revolution. In fact, as late as in the early 1980s, bicycles were still considered one of the 4 most prominent luxury items one had to get in order to be able to impress a girl for marriage (along with a wristwatch, a sewing machine, and a radio). It was not a simple matter of money either, as bicycles were severely rationed. Even if you had saved enough money, you would still have to wait for your chance of getting a coupon.

Yet Fu Ping, who was supposedly living a miserable life as a child of "bad elements," enjoyed bicycle rides at 11 years old!

OK, maybe she somehow managed to find an old bike or borrowed one. But did she learn how to ride by herself? Remember all her parents were sent away when she was only 8 and she had been living on her own without any adult supervision or friends?

It obviously did not add up.

As for Fu Hong enjoying soccer games "many days," that was also a lovely picture of a common, happy childhood. Hardly one who was living in a ghetto and told not to talk to anyone other than her sister.


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