Then, in 1966, Mao unleashed the Cultural Revolution, a decades-long period of chaos that turned Chinese society on its head. Militant Red Guard accused Mr. Fu, a prolific translator of writers like Balzac and Voltaire, of having, among other things, “capitalist” artistic taste. They humiliated and tortured the scholar and his wife for days until the couple, like many other Chinese people, were driven to suicide. Mr Fou, still in London, did not find out about his parents’ death until a few months later.
In 1981, after China’s post-Mao government posthumously restored the reputation of Mr. Fou’s parents, a volume of letters, mainly written by his father to Mr. Fou, was published in China. Full of advice, encouragement, life lessons and strict fatherly love, the book “Fu Lei’s Family Letters” immediately became a bestseller in China.
For many, the long exposure to music, art and life was a welcome contrast to the years of the Cultural Revolution, when sons turned against fathers, students against teachers, and neighbors against neighbors – all in the name of politics.
“If you imagine the environment we grew up in, it was very rigid,” said Xibai Xu, a political analyst who first read the letters in Beijing Middle School. He added, “When you read ‘Fu Lei’s Family Letters,’ you realized what a decent human life can be – a life that is very delicate and artistic, with real human emotions, not just ideology.”
In addition to influencing a generation of Chinese, Mr. Fu’s words resonated with the person for whom they were originally intended long after his death.
“My father had the adage:” First you have to be a person, then an artist and then a musician, and only then can you be a pianist, “recalled Mr. Fou once in an interview.” I already believe in this order – that it should be like that and that I am like that. “