Han Han (L) and Fang Zhouzi
He began by denying, criticizing and challenging a widely-circulated online statement which claimed that his works were ghostwritten.
He followed up by promising a reward of 20 million yuan (US$3.17 million) to anyone offering conclusive proof of the ghostwriting claims and also filed a lawsuit for which he gathered a thousand of his manuscript pages to demonstrate that he was the sole author of his books and essays.
Yet, after all this, iconic Chinese post-80s writer Han Han, enamored by millions of young fans in the country, has said that he will no longer engage in the "meaningless" argument, which was initiated by the IT blogger "Maitian" and carried forward by critic Fang Zhouzi, renowned as China's "Science Cop" due to his role in exposing the fake credentials and claims of some of the country’s leading academics and businesspeople.
"Thinking in retrospect, as a public figure, my initial reaction was not sufficiently guarded," Han wrote in his blog last Friday (February 3).
He continued: "I will comment no further on the dispute. There are more things to care about, and an argument like this has no real meaning."
Interestingly, In addition to his retreat, the writer, known for his rebellious streak, also appeared to comment on his own fallibility. "The altars for saints will eventually turn into the altars for the dead," he wrote. "I'm only an ordinary person who lives in the media spotlight."
In light of Han's retreat, Fang, one of China's fiercest academic critics, demonstrated that his critical spirit remains undaunted. He said: "Han's trying to escape. He retreated once [from the dispute], but eventually returned. I don't know whether he will be back again." He continued: "He is quite illogical. He writes awkwardly and is unreliable. He forgets his commitments, which he doesn't take seriously at all." Han is the latest in a long line of Fang’s high profile targets. The critic has previously slammed Tang Jun, Microsoft's life-long emeritus Chief Executive Officer, for claiming fake credentials, and Kai-fu Lee, the former head of Google China, for including inaccurate information in his autobiography.
During the recent dispute, Han stated more than once that he would not respond to the questions and accusations. However, he continued to engage in the war of words up until last Friday. Some of the points made by Han’s detractors merely served to illustrate how such disputes can blemish even the most established reputation as well as provide moments of light relief.
Referring to one of Han's poems in his first novel, Triple Door, publishing veteran Zhang Fang queried how a person could command such mastery of classical Chinese and still fail the Chinese section of the university entrance exam.
In support of his argument, he pointed to the line which quoted an ancient classical reference to "spring green", which is written in "Triple Door" as, "lying under plums while smelling the flowers again…" However, he failed to realize that it was actually a homophone for, "I'm illiterate, I only know about farming. Want to know who I am? I’m a big dumb ass." The joke reference is well known in post-80s circles.