Fu Manchu's Parentage


Sax Rohmer, the creator of Fu Manchu, was quite vague about the circumstances surrounding the birth of Fu Manchu. Only a mere hint was suggested by Rohmer. On this particular subject, Rohmer provided a bit of myth, legend, and lore but precious little fact.
"... There is a superstition in some parts of China according to which, under certain peculiar conditions (one of which is proximity to a deserted burial-ground) an evil spirit of incredible age may enter unto the body of a new-born infant. All my efforts thus far have not availed me to trace the genealogy of the man called Dr. Fu-Manchu. Even Karamaneh cannot help me in this. But I have sometimes thought that he was a member of a certain very old Kiangsu family - and that the peculiar conditions I have mentioned prevailed at his birth!" -- James Weymouth, brother of Inspector Weymouth, speaking to Smith, Petrie, and Kâramanéh.
[ The Insidious Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer. ]

In fact, Rohmer was deliberately and intentionally vague concerning much of Fu Manchu's past. This only makes sense. After all, Fu Manchu was designed to be a mysterious character. His past is supposed to be shrouded in mystery. While it makes for an interesting character and compelling reading, it certainly doesn't assist our quest for answers.

As I've argued in "Triad of Secret Societies", frequently, Rohmer possessed only a vague intuition or incomplete idea of where he intended to take the plot. At times, it seems as though he simply sat down and started writing. Some element would strike his fancy and he'd toss it into the mix without any forethought, purpose, or plan for future development. Considering many of Rohmer's stories were serialized before they were compiled and published as novels, these observations may not be far from fact.

Far too often, Rohmer presents misinformation to the reader. This is evidenced by many of Smith's incorrect explanations, assumptions, and half-baked answers to questions. This lack of clarity is bound to create some confusion.

These issues create some interesting obstacles concerning serious interpretation and analysis. These issues certainly complicate any attempt to determine author intent. Inevitably, this gives rise to differences concerning interpretation and analysis.

As far as James Weymouth's statements are concerned, I'm inclined to dismiss such conjecture as silly superstitious nonsense, disinformation, and utter propaganda from an insignificant third-tier character. It seems this is a perfect example of some element striking Rohmer's fancy. He tossed it into the mix without any forethought or plan for future development.

With that out of the way, we'll explore the remaining information. Unfortunately, a search for answers reveals multiple claims about the circumstances surrounding the birth of Fu Manchu. Furthermore, each account offers conflicting details.

In "Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life" and in later editions of "Tarzan Alive", Philip José Farmer draws on theories that Fu Manchu was based on Hanoi Shan, a villain featured in the works of Harry Ashton-Wolfe. However, research by Matthew Baugh and Rick Lai conclusively debunk any theory that Fu Manchu was Hanoi Shan or that crimes attributed to Hanoi Shan were committed by Fu Manchu. This gives pause to examine the subject a bit more carefully and thoroughly. In so doing, it would be most prudent to disregard references to Hanoi and Annam.

Bear in mind, the information provided by Farmer is not entirely accurate. No disrespect intended to Mr. Farmer or his work. It's imperative to understand, by comparison, he had fewer sources and limited access to information at the time he composed the works in question. Today, we have many more sources and much greater access to information. With that said, on with our investigation and as Farmer himself suggested "let the reader decide".

Philip José Farmer claims:
  • While in Southeast Asia during the Opium War (1839-1842), Sir William Clayton went to Hanoi.
  • At this time, this part of the Southeast was called Annam and was an empire covering the present states of North and South Vietnam. Its ruler was killing off all the native Christians he could unearth.
  • Sir William Clayton had been sent to investigate the disappearance of a wealthy half-Chinese merchant who was a British citizen.
  • Sir William succeeded in his mission, rescuing the merchant and his family including the beautiful green-eyed daughter Ling Ju Hai.
  • Ling Ju Hai was descended from Manchurian mandarins on her mother's side.
  • Ling Ju Hai's father was part-Scotch.
  • Sir William's memoirs detail the thrilling escape and his brief-but-passionate affair with Ling Ju Hai.
  • When Ling Ju Hai's father discovered that she was pregnant, he spirited her away to China and sent assassins after Sir William.
  • Sir William Clayton killed them all in a battle on a junk which could have been a scene from the Douglas Fairbanks movie The Black Pirate.
  • Sir William tried to track Ling Ju Hai but gave up when he heard that she had died while giving birth. As it turned out, this was a lie originated by the father.
  • Sir William married the daughter of a Dutch merchant on the rebound and then was ordered to South Africa.
  • Later, Ling Ju and her son returned with her father to Hanoi.
  • It cannot be proven that Fu Manchu was indeed Sir William Clayton's son.
  • Sir William had dark-gray eyes and Ling Ju Hai had brilliant green eyes.
  • Some of Sir William's ancestors had green eyes (notably his mother). And two of Sir William's sons by other women -- Professor Moriarty and John (Colonel) Clay,
[ Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life by Philip José Farmer. ]

The Wold Newton Resource Wiki claims:
  • Fu Manchu as the illegitimate son of General Sir William Clayton, younger son of the 3rd Duke of Greystoke who had been a witness at the Wold Newton Meteorite strike.
  • William Clayton had been in Hanoi during the Opium Wars,
  • William Clayton was sent to locate a wealthy part-Scottish part-Chinese merchant who had gone missing.
  • William Clayton located and rescued the merchant and his beautiful daughter, Ling Ju Hai.
  • When Ling Ju Hai's father discovered that William Clayton had embarked on an affair with her, he sent her away to China.
  • Ling Ju Hai gave birth to a son, later known as Fu Manchu.

Rick Lai claims:
  • Fu Manchu's mother was Ling Ju Hai.
  • Ling Ju Hai was the daughter of a prominent Chinese merchant and a Manchurian woman.
  • During the Opium War, Ling Ju Hai and her father were faced with execution by the ruler of Annam.
  • They were rescued by an intrepid British adventurer, Sir William Clayton.
  • Ling Ju Hai and William Clayton had an affair which resulted in the birth of the man known as Fu Manchu.
  • When Ling Ju Hai's father learned that she was pregnant, he arranged for her to be spirited away from William Clayton.
  • The outraged merchant then dispatched assassins to murder William Clayton. All of these pursuers were defeated by William Clayton in a spectacular battle on a Chinese junk.
  • For several years, William Clayton searched vainly for Ling Ju Hai.
  • In 1845, William Clayton gave up his search and married Maida van Kortrijn, the daughter of a Dutch merchant.

Rick Lai also claims:
  • Fu Manchu was the illegitimate son of Sir William Clayton and Ling Ju Hai.
  • Ling Ju Hai was the green-eyed daughter of a half-Chinese merchant and a Manchurian princess.
  • William Clayton met Ling Ju Hai when he was sent to rescue her father from persecution by the ruler of Annam.
  • In his rescue mission, William Clayton enlisted the assistance of Dirk Struan.
  • Ling Ju Hai slept with both William Clayton and Dirk Struan, but the father of her son was the latter.
  • From Dirk Struan, Fu Manchu not only inherited green eyes, but also a strong belief in maintaining one's word and a vindictive disposition.
  • Ling Ju Hai lied about the identity of her son's father in order to protect Dirk Struan from her father's retribution.
  • Since the father of Ling Ju Hai sent assassins after him, William Clayton mistakenly believed that he had impregnated her.
  • Since Struan also fathered a half-Chinese son, Gordon Chen, in Tai-Pan, the real Dr. Fo-Lan must also have been another of the merchant's illegitimate children.
  • Fu Manchu, Gordon Chen, and Fo-Lan shared the same father, but had different mothers.

Dennis E. Power claims:
  • Ling Ju Hai was the daughter of Dirk Struan.
  • Ling Ju Hai was abducted.
  • Dirk Struan enlisted the assistance of William Clayton.
  • William Clayton and Dirk Struan rescued Ling Ju Hai.
  • William Clayton and Ling Ju Hai had an affair.
  • Tyler Brock dispatched assassins to murder William Clayton in a scheme to blame Dirk Struan for William Clayton's death.
  • Ling Ju Hai was sent away to Hainan by her father, Dirk Struan.
  • Ling Ju Hai married a man named Shan.
  • Ling Ju Hai gave birth to twins, Shan Ming Fu (Fu Manchu) and Shan Lan Fo (Fo-Lan).

Very well then, let's see if we can resolve the discrepancies between these numerous claims.

Undisputed claims:
  • Ling Ju Hai's family name was obviously Ling.
  • Ling Ju Hai's mother descended from Manchurian mandarins.
Mandarin:
  1. a member of any of the nine ranks of public officials, each distinguished by a particular kind of button worn on the cap.
  2. an influential or powerful government official or bureaucrat.
  3. a member of an elite or powerful group or class, as in intellectual or cultural milieus.
Manchurian:
  1. of or relating to Manchuria or its inhabitants.
  2. a native or inhabitant of Manchuria.
Therefore:
  • At least one of Ling Ju Hai's parents was ethnically Han Chinese.
  • Ling Ju Hai's mother descended from Manchurian mandarins.
I suggest:
  • Ling Ju Hai's mother's name was Ling.
  • Ling Ju Hai's mother was ethnically Han Chinese.
  • Ling Ju Hai's ancestors served as mandarins in Manchuria.
Undisputed claims:
  • Ling Ju Hai's father was part-Scotch.
  • Dirk Struan was ethnically scottish and was born in Scotland.
  • Ling Ju Hai's father was a British citizen.
  • Dirk Struan was a British citizen.
  • Ling Ju Hai's father was a wealthy merchant.
  • Dirk Struan was a wealthy merchant.
I suggest:
  • Ling Ju Hai's father was Dirk Struan.
Farmer's claim that Ling Ju Hai's father was half-Chinese is easily explained.

Chinese:
  1. a native or inhabitant of China.
  2. a person of ethnically Han Chinese ancestry.
  3. of, relating to, or characteristic of China, its people, customs, culture, or their languages.
Dirk Struan was not ethnically Han Chinese. Nor was he a native. However, he was an inhabitant of Canton, Macau, and Hong Kong.

Furthermore, Dirk Struan embraced cultural integration of East and West. While Dirk Struan discarded much of what he disliked of both Chinese and European society, he fused all that he does admire into a new way of life. Much of his thinking, speech, mannerisms, behaviors, and customs were influenced by Chinese culture. Culturally speaking, Dirk Struan was half-Chinese. In fact, Jin Qua claims as much in "Tai-Pan".

Undisputed claims:
  • William Clayton was in Southeast Asia during the Opium Wars.
  • Ling Ju Hai required rescuing by William Clayton.
  • Someone conducted an affair with Ling Ju Hai.
  • Someone dispatched assassins to murder William Clayton.
I suggest:
  • Ling Ju Hai required rescuing.
  • William Clayton rescued her.
  • William Clayton and Ling Ju Hai had an affair.
  • Although someone sent assassins to murder William Clayton, the cause may or may not be related to this particular adventure.
Now, one might question why Ling Ju Hai or Dirk Struan's adventure with her and William Clayton are not mentioned in Clavell's novels.

Consider the possibility that, perhaps, Clavell was not aware of these events. After all, Clavell researched information for "Tai-Pan" in Hong Kong for only one year. Also consider, the events detailed in "Tai-Pan" primarily occurred between January 26, 1841 and July 21, 1841. Only select details of Dirk Struan's backstory are scattered throughout the narrative.

Neither Ling Ju Hai or Dirk Struan's adventure with her and William Clayton have any direct bearing on or significance to the events of this time frame. The same holds true for Clavell's subsequent novels "Gai-Jin" and "Noble House". Therefore, it's logical that Ling Ju Hai or her rescue by Dirk Struan and William Clayton not be mentioned.

The Pharaoh Seti I Connection
Theories that Fu Manchu was actually an ancient Egyptian pharaoh are complete nonsense. Fu Manchu was, is, and always shall be the "Yellow Peril Incarnate"! Therefore, Fu Manchu must be ethnically Han Chinese.

Modern Egyptians are of African and Middle Eastern ethnic descent. The original inhabitants of Egypt were most likely predominantly of African ethnicity. They enslaved persons from the Hebrew tribes. Subsequently, these two groups interbred.

As I've argued in "Triad of Secret Societies", Rohmer frequently reveals a lack of concern for differences and distinctions between ethnic groups, their nations, histories, cultures, customs, and religions. Some element would strike his fancy and he'd toss it into the mix without any forethought, purpose, or plan for future development. Far too often, Rohmer presents misinformation to the reader.

This is a perfect example. The pharaoh connection is an ex post facto fabrication. The over-imaginative Rohmer was so struck by the coincidental facial resemblance between Seti I and "his" mental image of Fu Manchu that he concocted this inappropriate fusion of identities. Once again, Rohmer has provided misinformation, creating unnecessary confusion and controversy.

With that said, it could be argued that Seti I was an ancestor of Fu Manchu.

Ethnicity, Geography, & Politics
Since I've breached the subject, let's address this issue. Ethnicity is not the same as nationality. Ethnicity is a matter of genetics. Nationality is a matter of geographical or political affiliation. Chinese is not a proper or accurate ethnic designation. Manchuria is an improper and imprecise geographical designation. Manchurian is a geographical or political designation, not a proper or accurate ethnic designation. Manchu is an ethnic designation used by English speakers, but it is not a proper or accurate ethnic designation.
  • Manchu (Chinese: 满洲, Pinyin: Mǎnzhōu) is a modern name given to a large geographic territory in Northeast Asia. 
  • Historically, neither the "Manchu" nor Chinese languages had a term in their own language equivalent to "Manchuria" as a geographic territorial name. 
  • The "Manchu" and Chinese languages had no such word as "Manchuria". 
  • During the Ming Dynasty, the area was referred to as Nurgan (Chinese: 奴兒干, Pinyin: Nú'érgān). 
  • During the Qing Dynasty, the area of Manchuria was known as the "three eastern provinces" (Chinese: 東三省, Pinyin: Dōngsānshěng). 
  • This region is the traditional homeland of the Xianbei, Khitan, and Jurchen peoples. 
  • The Jurchen, later called "Manchu", are those after whom Manchuria is named.
  • These "Manchu" were considered to be foreigners by Ming Loyalists and ethnically Han Chinese.
  • These foreign "Manchu" established the Qing Dynasty.
With some understanding of these intricacies, I suggest:
  • Ling Ju Hai's mother was ethnically Han Chinese and descended from the Imperial Ming Royal Family.
  • These ancestors served as mandarins in the geographical territory of Manchuria during the Ming Dynasty.
  • After the "Manchus" established the Qing Dynasty, some of these ancestors continued to serve as mandarins in the geographical territory of Manchuria, even though they were covertly Ming Loyalists.
Rationale:
  • This would provide significant meaning to Fu Manchu's real name, Shan Ming Fu.
  • This would provide significant meaning to Shan Ming Fu's nom de guerre, Fu Manchu.
  • This would partially explain why Shan Ming Fu's selected the nom de guerre Fu Manchu.
  • This would reinforce Fu Manchu's desire to expel foreigners and their influence from China.
  • This would partially explain Fu Manchu's desire to restore China to its former glory of the Ming Dynasty.
  • This would partially explain Fu Manchu's actions against the Qing Dynasty.
Perhaps most importantly, this provides a solid foundation and a central theme to unite the threads of a rich and profound, yet historically accurate, biographical narrative.

Conclusion
These suggested scenarios assimilate the research and elements of each account. Additionally, these suggested scenarios provide some plausible explanations for the discrepancies between each account. Furthermore, these suggested scenarios are fairly clean and simple. Lastly, these suggested scenarios connect to future events.

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