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China’s Punitive Past Colors Writer & Work

Alumni Feature

The Unlucky Brother

Qiu Xiaolong’s dedication for his Chief Inspector Chen novel Red Mandarin Dress reads: “To my elder brother, Xiaowei — but for luck, what happened to him during the Cultural Revolution could have happened to me.”

Thanks to being born later and to seeming myopia by the Communist Party, Xiaolong, despite coming from a “black” family, somehow was able to pursue his interests in poetry and literature (“How did I manage? I don’t know.”) — at least until the Tiananmen crackdown. Qiu Xiaowei was not so lucky.

“He suffered infantile paralysis while a kid. For years afterward, he studied hard and believed that he too could have a future even though he was handicapped,” Xiaolong says. “But the Cultural Revolution shattered him — not only handicapped but ‘blacked’ because of the family background. He was subject to prejudice and discrimination. He had hardly finished middle school when all the schools were closed for years during the Cultural Revolution.”

Unable to study or to work, Xiaowei broke down and never recovered. He is still hospitalized, says Xiaolong, who makes regular trips to Shanghai to visit his brother.

“Once, when I was sitting with him in a hospital while he was in a coma, he shouted, ‘The Cultural Revolution has ruined me!’”


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China’s Punitive Past Colors Writer & Work Qiu Xiaolong, PhD ’95, is author of a series of internationally acclaimed mystery novels exposing the historic brutality and ongoing corruption of the Chinese Communist Party.
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The Unlucky Brother


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