On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 3/4

December 17, 2011

In 1994, a year before his death, Dr. Li Zhisui published his memoir of Mao, The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The Memoirs of Mao’s Personal Physician.

Li based the book’s contents upon his own memories of Mao several decades after the actual events, as he had burned all of his personal diaries during the Cultural Revolution in case something he wrote about Mao might get him in trouble with the teenage Red Guard.

In 1988, Dr. Li left China for good with Lillian (his wife), who was suffering from kidney trouble, and joined their sons, Chong and Erchong, and daughter-in-law Mei, near Chicago.

His decision to set down his account of Mao’s private life was not easy since he had destroyed the 40 notebooks of his private diary during the Cultural Revolution—almost thirty years earlier.

It wouldn’t be until after Dr. Li’s wife died of kidney failure in 1989, that he would start writing the memoir. “In her last days in the hospital, before she slipped into a coma,” says Li, “she urged me to write this book…”

One of Li’s collaborators involved in editing and revisions of the memoir, the western historian Anne F. Thurston, noted that because of this, Dr. Li’s claims were “fallible” and might “be wrong”.

One of the many critics of Li’s memoir was Qi Benyu, a former member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China that was connected with the left wing of the Cultural Revolution Group and the red-guard power seizures of 1967.

Qi had no reason to love Mao since he was arrested and imprisoned at Mao’s order in 1968 and stayed in prison until 1986—a decade before Li wrote and published his memoir. Before prison, Qi spent several years near Mao and says he never heard any rumors of Mao having extra-marital affairs despite the fact that other senior Party members were known to have done this. Qi also said that most of the Cultural Revolution part of Li’s memoir consisted of information gleaned from newspapers, journals and other people’s writings.

Continued on December 17, 2011 in  On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 1/4

December 15, 2011

“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.

“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.” — Source: Elizabeth Loftus

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 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.” Source: Stamford Advocate

During the debate with Troy Parfitt, the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas, Parfitt mentioned Dr. Li Zhisui’s memoir of Mao to support his opinions of Mao and China.

Parfitt wrote, “Mao’s personal physician, Dr. Li Zhishui (1919 – 1995), a man who knew Mao intimately and saw him nearly every day he was in power, wrote a 736-page biography about the ruler called The Private Life of Chairman Mao. In it, Li describes Mao’s thought-process as “prescientific,” adding that Mao himself was “incapable of love and devoid of human feeling.”

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 as Parfitt claimed.

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, eight years later, at the start of the Cultural Revolution, Dr Li was recruited into what was called the Socialist Education Program. He and those Sent Down with him were assigned to a destitute village in Zhejiang Province. Source: Around the Bend With Mao Zedong

Another source, Mao’s Last Revolution” by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, puts Dr Li in rural Jiangxi Province, so maybe he spent time in both provinces during the Cultural Revolution.

Continued on December 15, 2011 in On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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