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Dr. Fu Manchu was a criminal mastermind based in China who operated during much of the 19th and 20th centuries. He rose to the leadership of the secret society known as the Si-Fan and was often opposed by Denis Nayland Smith. His efforts were mostly chronicled by Sax Rohmer.

In his work Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life author Philip José Farmer identified 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. Farmer, having access to Clayton's lost memoir Never Say Die, reports that he had been in Hanoi during the Opium Wars, sent to locate a wealthy part-Scottish part-Chinese merchant who had gone missing. Clayton located and rescued the merchant and his beautiful daughter, Ling Ju Hai, but when her father discovered that he had embarked on an affair with her, he sent her away to China where she died. However, Farmer's research indicates that this was a lie put about by her father, and that in fact she gave birth to a son, later known as Fu Manchu.

It should be noted that this parentage makes Fu Manchu the half-brother of Professor Moriarty and a cousin of Tarzan. However, Farmer's identification of General Sir William Clayton as Fu Manchu's father - and as father of Moriarty, for that matter - is not universally accepted. Some scholars prefer to follow the hints in Rohmer's books that Fu Manchu is actually an ancient Egyptian pharoah. Rick Lai, in his article Fu Manchu versus Cthulhu, proposes that Fu Manchu's father was Dirk Struan).

In Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (and in later editions of Tarzan Alive), Farmer draws on theories that Fu Manchu was based on Hanoi Shan, a villain featured in Warped in the Making: Crimes of Love and Hate and The Thrill of Evil, a pair of sensationalist/biographical works by H. Ashton-Wolfe. However, Mr. Lai has recently analysed Ashton-Wolfe's books and concluded that he made most of it up.

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