This video entitled Mao's Miraculous Mangoes! is a bit satirical, but the one claim that somebody got executed during the cultural revolution for saying a mango looked like a sweet potato, is just ludicrous enough that I wonder if it really happened.


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    @Avery: Google provides different results to different people, so referring someone to a Google (or lmgtfy) link may not show them the link you have in mind. For me, that link gives a number of articles, only a few of which have any reference to the alleged "sweet potato" incident, and generally without giving any supporting evidence. Jun 20 '20 at 14:34
  • This story on mentalfloss says the story appears in the writings of Alfreda Murck. But she appears to be an art historian, and the only published work of hers I found is on the art of the Song dynasty. I wasn't able to check the text of this book; perhaps its account can be traced to primary sources, but it seems an unlikely place to start. Jun 20 '20 at 14:37
  • Oh, I see: the reference is to a 2013 exhibition catalog edited by Murck: Mao's Golden Mangos and the Cultural Revolution. There might be more info there, if someone was able to obtain a copy. Jun 20 '20 at 14:51
  • Sweet potato can also be a reference to the island of Taiwan due to its shape. That might make the people angrier. Aug 17 '20 at 13:09

The story seems plausible, except that this was a mob lynching, not anything ordered by Mao.

The story originates from Alfreda Murck, "Golden Mangoes—The Life Cycle of a Cultural Revolution Symbol" Archives of Asian Art (2007) 57 (1): 1–21.

Getting a glimpse, the boy thought the fruit looked like a somewhat shriveled sweet potato. He went home crestfallen. The next morning he was awakened by pounding on the door; an uncle excitedly told his grandfather that Dr. Han had been arrested. Dr. Han was the much respected dentist in the community who had fitted the grandfather’s false teeth. Apparently, upon seeing the mango, Dr. Han remarked that is was nothing special and looked just like a sweet potato. His frankness was called blasphemy; he was arrested as a counterrevolutionary. He was soon tried and, to the dismay of the village, found guilty, paraded through the streets on the back of a truck as an example to the masses, taken to the edge of town, and executed with one shot to the head. His three sons were sent down to the countryside and his wife, reeling from the tragedy and bereft of family, soon died.

The citation for this story goes to:

Wang Youqin, "Yayi Han Guangdi zhi si (The death of Dentist Han Guangdi)," web posting, 15 September 2005

However, this Wang Youqin is not a nobody. She is an expert in the history of the Cultural Revolution who teaches at the University of Chicago. Here is the actual title of the blog post in hanzi:


I could not find where the original 2005 article was posted, but I did find that it was included in a 2004 publication in Hong Kong. This was also translated into Japanese.

The victim has an article on the Mainland Chinese encyclopedia Baidu Baike which confirms that the CCP has no concern with this story, but it is unsourced. Additionally, this Mainland Chinese article about the death appears in China Times, a national CCP news publication, and this one appears in 同舟共进, the Guangdong branch publication of the CCP.

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