Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Questionable Fact: Dinner as Mao Died

The Original Story:
On Pages 226-227 in Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping describes how she learned Mao Zedong's death in 1976:
On my second day in Shanghai, Jie Jie took me to celebrate our reunion by going to eat at the only Western-style restaurant in town, Red House...We walked over half an hour through the bustling streets of Shanghai to the elegant restaurant, which spotted a bold red roof, and found a dozen patrons seated at tables inside...Jie Jie and I were so enraptured by our conversation and the tantalizing food that we paid no attention to our surroundings. Suddenly, about an hour into our meal, she gave me a puzzled look....Then the announcer's voice came on: "Our great leader Chairman Mao passed away today."
The Debunking:
Mao Zedong's death was such a shocking event at the time that everybody remembered where they were and what they were doing when the news broke out. So, it's not surprising that Fu Ping could recall the details of that moment.

What is questionable, however, is the timing in her memory. The news was broadcast at 4pm nationwide that day, which means Fu Ping and her sister would have started their meal around 3 in the afternoon. That was right between lunch and dinner time. Most, if not all, restaurants did not open during those hours. Apparently at this Red House, it was not only open but had a dozen patrons enjoying their mid-afternoon meal.

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