Nelson Fu

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Nelson Fu
Fu Lianzhang.jpg
Traditional Chinese 傅連暲
Simplified Chinese 傅连暲
Fu Lianzhang museum in Changting, Fujian

Nelson Fu or Fu Lianzhang (1894–1968), was an important figure in the Chinese Civil War and Revolution. He was one of the few if only western-trained doctor to have made the Long March and later, in Beijing, a Vice-Minister of Public Health, to be responsible for the health of the party elite.[1]

In the 1920s and 1930s, Fu lived and worked in the then-prefectural seat of Changting (now Tingzhou town) in western Fujian Province. He was a senior doctor at its British Christian missionary Hospital of the Gospel.

During the Cultural Revolution, Fu was severely persecuted and tortured by people associated with Marshall Lin Biao. He died in prison on March 29, 1968, at the age of 74.[2]

Fujian liberated[edit]

In March, 1929, a column of the Red Army under the irregular command of Mao Zedong crossed over from the adjacent province of Jiangxi and seized Tingzhou. Wealth was confiscated, the statelier houses were requisitioned. Tingzhou was soon declared the capital of Red Fujian --the liberated portion of that province—replete with governmental apparatus; the Fujian Communists were eventually centralised there also.

Although Zhu De was shortly restored by vote as political commissar of the column (June 22), before the year was out Mao had secured the backing of Chinese Communist Party leadership in Shanghai and taken effective control of the column back from Zhu. Mao cemented his position at the Gutian Congress, and in February (1930) could leave Tingzhou and Red Fujian under his subordinates, and move on his party rivals in Jiangxi (hereafter JX). His political manoeuvring there resulted in a long and terrible purge of anti-Bolshevik elements—a meaningless, catch-all charge (named for an anti-insurgency section of the Guomindang's national government in Nanjing). This was to mean the deaths of five members of the Fu family, including one of Nelson's daughters and her husband.

On November 7, 1931, in Ruijin county, JX, amidst a great amount of internecine killing, the Chinese Soviet Republic (CSR) was declared, a sovereign state never recognised diplomatically, even by its patron the Soviet Union. Mao was both Head of State (Central Executive Committee Chair) and Head of Government (People's Committee Chair); Zhou Enlai, however, reigned supreme as Party Chair. From now to 1935 (when the last Red forces here were eliminated) the Fujian-Jiangxi border area would suffer the greatest population decrease in the whole of China—about 20%, coincidentally the lowest estimate of population loss in Cambodia during its four years under the (Maoist) Khmer Rouge.

The first full year under the CSR (1932) did see heightened economic activity in Tingzhou as the nascent state resumed the mining of tungsten, exporting the valuable mineral down the Tingjiang to the mercantile warlords of eastern Guangdong. In April Mao passed through the Red provincial capital with another commandeered column - to seize the Fujianese port of Zhangzhou. Western gunboats in nearby Xiamen (then Amoy to their sailors) made Zhangzhou an impractical conduit for Soviet arms shipments, alas, and by the end of May Mao's column, loaded with loot, passed though Tingzhou in the opposite direction.

Move to the Jiangxi Soviet capital[edit]

Dr. Fu's long personal association with Mao began in October (1932), when the Head of State retreated to Tingzhou after losing an important leadership struggle: at the Ningdu Conference, a tempestuous Party meeting at Ningdu, Jiangxi, the Party Chair Zhou Enlai had been voted top political commissar for the Red Army, foiling Mao's control over any of its columns. Now officially convalescing, Mao entered the Tingzhou Gospel Hospital as a patient for the first time, becoming in a Chinese manner of reckoning Dr.Fu's honoured guest. Mao though spent most days with his pregnant wife and another married couple in a nearby two-storey villa, formerly the property of a wealthy Christian.

More contact came in November when the Mao baby was born: the attending physician was Fu - or, some sources say, Chen Binghui, another of Fu's son-in-laws. He Zizhen was Mao's second wife (discounting his detested 1908 arranged marriage); her baby was Mao's fourth son, but the first that Mao's bodyguards had seen, and was soon known to them—and to the Jiangxi Soviet leadership—as Xiao Mao (Little Mao).

In January 1933 the Russian-trained Bo Gu arrived in Ruijin and assumed the position of Party Chair, leaving Zhou to concentrate on directing the CSR's military, the First Red Army. This he did with increasing success (the Nanjing government's Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek would be forced to call off his Fourth Encirclement Campaign in March). Bo came to the conclusion, held by many, that Zhou had been far too lenient with the CSR's recalcitrant Head of State, and now commenced cutting the separate lines of command leading out of Tingzhou. Compelled to return to Ruijin, Mao had the Hospital of the Gospel dismantled and carted along to be reassembled for the exclusive benefit of the leadership. Having found himself made the Head of State's personal physician, Fu (with the remaining members of his family), was also relocated to the red capital.

Mao's hardly triumphal return in February caused Chairman Bo to quip that Mao would be "just a Kalinin now", comparing him to the USSR's Head of State 1919-1946, a figure not much now remembered. But Mao soon displayed his mettle, devising and driving a savage campaign to root kulaks out of the two provinces under his purview. Nelson Fu was protected from the worst of this campaign but at some low point in his eventual 20 months at Ruijin he contracted tuberculosis.

Generalissimo Jiang was meanwhile getting sound military advice in the person of Hans von Seeckt. Their Fifth Encirclement Campaign began that autumn and would destroy the Jiangxi base within the space of a year. Attempting to counter the strategy of the right-wing German were a German military advisor of the opposite persuasion, Otto Braun (Li De), stationed by the Comintern inside the CSR territory, and -underground in Shanghai- Manfred Stern, a Jewish Austro-Hungarian soon to achieve fame in the Spanish Civil War as General Kléber of the International Brigade.

By the spring of 1934 Bo, Zhou and Braun had made the decision to retreat the First Red Army out of the Jiangxi-Fujian border area. Head of State Mao, like the rearguard forces and the civilian population, was to go down with the ship. In August though Mao changed his residence to Yudu County, Jiangxi, athwart the route of retreat. Here he was visited by Lin Biao, who helped to secure him places in the caravan. Mao called his wife over from Ruijin, telling her to leave Xiao Mao with the boy's uncle, Mao Zetan (毛泽覃), a leader of the rearguard. Mao was now infected by one or more of the millions of mosquitoes besetting Yudu with a malarial parasite, and on the very eve of the retreat in October he was feverish and in severe pain. Nelson Fu was summoned from Ruijin and managed to get the Head of State looking fit enough to travel. The doctor was thus also booked into the great retreat, a horse found to carry him, and chickens to sustain him. Through the long months of what has since become the national-mythological Long March, He Zizhen would see the doctor many times, and always think of the son whom he'd delivered, and whose second birthday she'd had to miss.


  1. ^ Li Zhisui, Anne F. Thurston, Hongchao Dai, The private life of Chairman Mao: the memoirs of Mao's personal physician, ISBN 0-679-40035-4, 1994.
  2. ^ Yan Jiaqi; Gao Gao (January 1996). Turbulent Decade: A History of the Cultural Revolution. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 229–231. ISBN 978-0-8248-1695-7.