On the Amazon page of The Private Life of Chairman Mao, it says, “From 1954 until Mao Zedong’s death 22 years later. Dr. Li Zhisui was the Chinese ruler’s personal physician. For most of these years, Mao was in excellent health; thus he and the doctor had time to discuss political and personal matters. Dr. Li recorded many of these conversations in his diaries, as well as in his memory.”
The previous paragraph as you will discover if you finish reading this five-part series is not correct.
But first, let’s examine how accurate a memory is. According to Elizabeth Loftus, “Memory is imperfect. This is because we often do not see things accurately in the first place. But even if we take in a reasonably accurate picture of some experience, it does not necessarily stay perfectly intact in memory.”
Loftus is an American cognitive psychologist and expert on human memory. She has conducted extensive research on the malleability of human memory. Loftus is best known for her ground-breaking work on the misinformation effect and eyewitness memory, and the creation and nature of false memories, including recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse.
Loftus says, “Another force is at work. The memory traces can actually undergo distortion. With the passage of time, with proper motivation, with the introduction of special kinds of interfering facts, the memory traces seem sometimes to change or become transformed.
“These distortions can be quite frightening, for they can cause us to have memories of things that never happened. Even in the most intelligent among us is memory thus malleable.”
For an example of what professor Loftus is talking about, we learn about faulty memories from Amy Chua when she discussed the writing of her memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
The Stamford Advocate reports, “The book was in many ways a family project. Rubenfeld, Chua’s husband, and their daughters read every draft and tried to reconcile their different memories. The final version reflects “four different sets of memories,” Chua said. “It was like family therapy.”
After reading about Dr. Li on his Amazon book’s page, it may come as a surprise to those that read Dr. Li’s memoir of Mao that Li was only one of Mao’s doctors. In addition, he wasn’t with Mao every day he was in power.
In fact, Dr. Li did not become Mao’s doctor until June 3, 1957, and Mao became the leader of China in 1949.
Then in 1965, according to Around the Bend With Mao Zedong, eight years later, at the start of the Cultural Revolution, Dr Li was recruited into what was called the Socialist Education Program, and he was sent to a destitute village in Zhejiang Province.
In addition, in “Mao’s Last Revolution” by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, we discover that Dr Li was also living in rural Jiangxi Province, so maybe he spent time in both provinces during the ten year long Cultural Revolution that didn’t end until Mao died in 1976.
Continued on September 20, 2017 in Part 2
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.
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