One day in early 1971, officials of Beijing University (Beida) arrived at the 301st Brigade Military Hospital. They entered and approached the bedside of a former Beida graduate student, a young man who had lost the ability to walk two years earlier. The officials told the young man they wished to transfer him elsewhere to convalesce. Still the dutiful student, he consented, and in the afternoon he was packed into a jeep and moved to the Qing He Shelter (Qing He Jiuji Yuan) 45 kilometers northwest of Tiananmen Square.
Originally a nursing home for women, Qing He had become a place of last refuge for a variety of people following the Korean War. Wounded veterans without family were brought there and gradually all sorts of what Chinese then often called fei ren (social outcasts, lit., "garbage people") ended up at Qing He. These outcasts included orphans, the mentally impaired, the deaf and mute, the chronically ill, and persons with other forms of bodily difference that were viewed locally as highly delegitimizing. According to published reports, conditions at the shelter were dire at the time when the former Beida student arrived.
What I have described thus far is an episode from the authorized biography of Deng Pufang, the eldest son of Deng Xiaoping, one of China's top government leaders in the late 20th century(1). This episode of Deng Pufang's Qing He shelter experience and other episodes of his life—his imprisonment by Red Guards, his crippling, and his partial rehabilitation—are widely known across large parts of China today, primarily because the state-controlled media has promoted these accounts as the foundational story in the formation of a government disability organization, the China Disabled Persons' Federation (Zhonguo Canji Ren Lianhehui) (99; 100).
Kohrman, M. "Authorizing a Disability Agency in Post-Mao China: Deng Pufang's Story as Biomythography." Cultural Anthropology 18.1(1993): 99–131.
Cultural Anthropology has published a number of essays on the politics of the body. See S. Lochlann Jain’s “Cancer Butch” (2007), Diane M. Nelson’s “Stumped Identities: Body Image, Bodies Politic, and the Mujer Maya as Prosthetic” (2001), Judith Farquhar’s “Technologies of Everyday Life: The Economy of Impotence in Reform China” (1999), and Christine J. Walley’s “Searching for "Voices": Feminism, Anthropology, and the Global Debate over Female Genital Operations” (1997).
Cultural Anthropology has also published essays on narrative and history. See for example, Joseph Masco’s “"Survival is Your Business": Engineering Ruins and Affect in Nuclear America” (2008), Laura A. Lewis’ “Of Ships and Saints: History, Memory, and Place in the Making of Moreno Mexican Identity” (2001), Donald Pollock’s “Training Tales: U. S. Medical Autobiography” (1996), Jonathan Friedman’s “Myth, History, and Political Identity” (1992).
About the Author
Matthew Kohrman is assistant professor of anthropology at Stanford University.
From the article
"China Disabled Persons' Federation Official website
Deng Pufang - Awarded United Nations Human Rights Prize, Press release by the Foreign Ministry of the PRC (12/2003)
The People's Republic of China Official web portal of the Central People's Government of the PRC
Chinese Communist Party Overview and links from China Today
Peking University (Beida) Official website
Deng Xiaoping - Reformer with an iron fist CNN In-Depth Special - Visions of China: Profile of Deng Xiaoping
World Health Organization - Disabilities Health topics webpage
Rehabilitation International Global organization partnered with the UN
The May Fourth Movement, 1919 Primary sources and discussion questions from the Columbia University, East Asian Curriculum Project
"The Red Guards: Today, China; Tomorrow, the World" (1966) Time Magazine article published September 23, 1966
Virtual Museum of the "Cultural Revolution" Multimedia website created by China News Digest International
Interview with Deng Pufang (2003) People's Daily, staff reporter Yuan Jianda
Morning Sun Film and multimedia website about the cultural revolution
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Mao Tse-tung (Zedong) Internet Library English translations of the Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
Asia for Educators - Columbia University Large multimedia website providing a variety of educational resources that focus on China and Jap
China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe Official website
Disabled Peoples' International Asia-Pacific Region Official website
World Institute on Disability Official website
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Anagnosi. Ann. National Past-Times: Narrative. Representation, and Power in Modern China. Durham. NC: Duke University Press, 1997.
Brownell, Susan. Training the Body for China: Sports in the Moral Order of the People's Republic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
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"My Dream" Trailer - China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe
APA Interview with Tai Lihua from "My Dream"