Fu Manchu

By Deane Barker

Fu Manchu was the villain in a series of Sax Rohmer novels in the first half of the 20th century and continuing into films.

In popular culture, he is considered an archetype of a “supervillain.” Generally depicted as Asian, with a mustache that extends downwards from the corners of his mouth.

(The type of mustache itself has come to be called a “Fu Manchu.”)

The Manchu people are the natives of Manchuria, which provides some basis for his depiction as Asian.

Why I Looked It Up

Annie and I were playing cards and listening to country music. Tim McGraw’s song Live Like You Were Dying has this lyric:

I went two point seven seconds on a bull named ‘Fu Manchu’

Annie remarked that she thought the name was funny.

I had always had a vague idea of the source, but for some reason I was thinking it was the villain from Flash Gordon (that’s Ming the Merciless), or Sherlock Holmes (that’s Dr. Moriarty).

I suddenly realized that I had no idea what fictional canon Fu Manchu belonged to.


Added on

In September 2023, I read The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu, which is the first appearance of the character.

Interestingly, above I note that the character is “generally depicted as Asian.” I understated this – the character is explicitly Asian in the novel, specifically Chinese. At this point, I’m not sure of a depiction that exists which is not Asian.

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