Sunday, March 31, 2013

Questionable Fact: Fu Ping's Parents Away Time

The Original Story:
In Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping wrote about how her parents were sent away in a dramatic fashion one day in late Summer, 1966. She and her sister Hong, ages 8 and 4 at the time, respectively, were left alone to fend for themselves. The book contained many stories on how she managed to survive and take care of her little sister.

On Page 118, she informed us on the return of her mother:
Then, in 1971, when I was thirteen, my birth mother came back to live with us.
She went on to explain that the reunion was very difficult. She didn't get along with her mother and ended up continuing as the head of the household despite of her age.

The Earlier Story:
In its lengthy profile of Fu Ping, Inc. magazine had previously written:
In 1968, when Ping was 10, her mother was permitted to return to Nanjing. (Her father was retained in the camp.) The homecoming, however, was far from the tender reunion that Ping had fantasized. Rather than comfort her daughter, the woman, half-crazed by her own exile and suffering, persecuted her.
Even earlier, however, in her first autobiography Drifting Bottle, she described a happy childhood with her parents in Nanjing. In that book, when she was complaining about the hardship of her earlier years in America, she recalled longingly of her life in China:
"So free that I have no one to depend on," I sighed, feeling only loneliness, very lonely. I thought of the home of my parents, how warm and how safe a place that was...

The Debunking:
There are many discrepancies in timeline between the Inc. story and that in Bend, Not Break. This is one of the more glaring ones.

We have previously noted that it is impossible for her parents to be sent away, together, in 1966, and that Fu Ping's earlier autobiography did not mention any such separation. If her parents were sent away at all, that should have happened in 1968 instead of 1966.

If the Inc. story was correct, then her mother would be away for a few months at best. This is very reasonable as her mother was an accountant, not exactly a high-profiled "bad element" like her father, a professor. It was also very typical in that time that government employees in cities were sent to countryside for "reeducation" in short periods of time.

With the timeline in Bend, Not Break, her mother would have been away for about 5 years. In reality, it might have been 3 years. This is unlikely but still plausible.

The question is, did Fu Ping and her sister actually live alone when both her parents were away, however long the time was? Fu Ping had consistently claimed so, that she had been "managing her household" ever since she was 8. We do not have solid evidence to debunk that. But typically, children of such families were placed under the care of relatives, neighbors, or some other kinds of adult supervision. It is very difficult to imagine that they would be left completely alone in a ghetto-ish dorm.

On Page 112 of Bend, Not Break, while describing Fu Hong's lively and mischievous characters in that particular period, she wrote:
Unfortunately, these traits were frown upon in China at the time, considered emblematic of someone lacking in virtue. People, even family members, made fun of her, calling her "the girl who loves to eat and play too much."
"Family members"? What family members are the author referring to here? Meanwhile, the Inc. story also hinted the existence of relatives:
Ping's family, instead of sympathizing with the abused child, scorned her for confronting her mother. Despite 50 years of Communist rule, a Confucian morality still held sway in the nation. Filial piety was the paramount rule. How could a daughter bring such grief to her mother? 

1 comment:

  1. According to Inc. magazine, she did suffer during that period and the suffering she got was from her own mother. Is that why she fantasized to have a loving family in Shanghai?