Sunday, March 24, 2013

Questionable Fact: Fu Ping's Favorite Airfield Playground

The Original Story:
In Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping mentioned several times of an abandoned airfield near his home in Nanjing which she played often.

On Pages 12-13, when she was flying to America for the first time:
I had never flown in an airplane, though I had spent most of my childhood sliding down aircraft wings at an abandoned airfield and dreaming of becoming an astronaut.
On Page 45, when she was in her "first few months" back in Nanjing:
The boys led me across campus to a warehouse filled with abandoned Chinese-manufactured airplanes. As we slid down the emergency chutes and onto the silver wings, it felt like the greatest playground ever built.
On Page 112, her sister Hong played at the same place:
Once, she broke her arm while sliding down an airplane wing at the abandoned NUAA airfield.
It was such a fond memory that she repeated it again at the end of book on Page 271:
As a little girl, I wanted to take flight and join the fairy-tale woman who lived on the moon. Later sliding down airplane at NUAA, where my father had once taught aeronautical engineering, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut.
The Debunking:
Previously, xgz at his The Daily Kos blog had investigated the airfields and concluded that there was indeed one abandoned airfield near NUAA in Nanjing but no such thing near Shanghai. So, even the first quote above is referring to the same NUAA airfield, which is actually consistent.

The question here is what she meant by spending "most of my childhood" on this airfield? According to her story, she was forced back to Nanjing when she was already 8 years old. Even during the incredible duress the Red Guards were supposedly imposing on her at the time, she apparently could still go on playing there occasionally, as shown in the second quote.

We don't know till what age Fu Ping would still be enjoying sliding down an airport wing. It couldn't be many years after she had arrived in Nanjing. It's also hard to imagine she would be spending most of her time playing there as a "black element" constantly punished by the Red Guards.

So, again, did Fu Ping actually spend her early childhood in Nanjing instead of Shanghai?

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