The story of how Ping Fu fled China under precarious circumstances, made a new life in the United States, and build a vibrant company should be required reading.

Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality and author of Peak and Emotional Equations.

Bend, Not Break


Author’s Note ix
{ ONE }
Three Friends of Winter 1
{ TWO }
Behind Every Closed Door Is an Open Space 35
I Am Precious 73
{ FOUR }
Blood Is Thicker Than Water 107
{ FIVE }
Everybody Is Somebody 137
{ SIX }
Who Can Say What Is Good or Bad? 169
The Number One Strategy Is Retreat 199
Life Is a Mountain Range 235
The World Isn’t Flat; It’s 3D 263
Acknowledgments 275


When I first set out to write Bend, Not Break, I thought it would be a business book based on my experience creating and running Geomagic, a 3D software company. I had a unique path in the technology world, and I believed I had some valuable lessons and universal business principles to share, especially for women in leadership positions.

But during the writing process, I found a different kind of book emerging. The words were unfolding with a more personal voice. I found myself confronting questions about why I had made certain decisions, my emotional response to devastating situations, and how I became who I am today. Encouraged by my friends and coauthor MeiMei to include details of my personal journey, I chose to tell my life story. I realized that to explain the woman I am today, I needed to write about the girl I had been during the Cultural Revolution. Initially, my mother and sister disagreed. “You shouldn’t air the shameful past. Just forget it. You are already successful,” they advised. But I dared myself to face my deepest fears in the hope that I could finally confront the shame and heal. In the end, I chose to write a human story about love, suffering, and resilience. The book in front of you is the true story of one woman’s search for meaning in a life lived two worlds apart.

Many people expressed their support and shared how the book had touched their lives. One reader said, “In my opinion, Bend Not Break is the antithesis of normal business books, offering guidance on a new type of leadership, which earns its great strength through compassion and understanding.” A Chinese-American reader wrote, “It must have been very hard for you to tell such a personal story to the whole world. But as you correctly said in the Epilogue, it is a very generous thing for you to do. Your story will inspire many people for a long time.” Even my family came to understand and respect my decision to share the difficult details of my life. My sister Hong told a reporter, “I didn’t want her to write this book, but after reading it, I changed my mind. It is so real and very inspirational.”

I want you to know that although it has been almost fifty years, I can still feel the trauma as my memories flutter like butterflies at the edges of my consciousness. Occasionally, an unexpected trigger will bring the trauma from the periphery to the center so that I actually relive it.

A few weeks after Bend, Not Break was released, a cyber-bullying attack began against the book and me as a person. An unknown number of people using over seven hundred different identities posted more than fifteen thousand derogatory comments on Amazon within a few months. Anyone who gave the book a positive review or posted supportive comments was attacked and voted down. The most intimate details of my life story became fodder for mockery. The public shaming temporarily retraumatized me. My greatest fear, to be shamed again, seemed to be coming true.

I understand that although many Chinese people lived through the Cultural Revolution as I did, everyone has an individual experience of what happened during that decade.

China is a vast country. No one really knows what went on, and facts varied. My memory and experiences of the Cultural Revolution may or may not reflect what happened elsewhere. Every experience is valid. I have come to realize that both the abused and the abusers were victims of a tragic time.

This is not a history book about the Cultural Revolution. However, the outcry of critics, as well as the supporting voices around my depiction of that difficult period in Chinese history is a sign that people still bear scars from it. I believe truly great people have the courage to acknowledge their own past, and a truly great nation must have the courage to record its own history. My hope is to spark an open and civilized dialogue about the truth of our struggles and our reconciliations.

In this paperback edition of Bend, Not Break, I did my best to correct typos and to clarify some passages based on further discussions with friends and family and suggestions from readers who provided historical data. The revisions are minor, and my story remains the same.
This is my life. I carry the scars. I tell my story authentically in this book. It is my sincere wish that in reading it, you appreciate both the power you have in your own life to overcome struggles and the wondrous places to which even the most difficult life circumstances can lead you. The power of resilience is in all of us, in body and soul.

Bend, Not Break is a memoir, and my childhood is written as I remember it. Some names have been changed to protect private individuals, and some events have been compressed or omitted in the interest of literary expediency. I wanted to tell a bigger story. This recollection of my life was written on the backdrop of major historical events, starting with my childhood during the Cultural Revolution, through the advent of the one-child policy and economic growth in China, to the dotcom boom and emergence of 3D printing in the United States.

My journey has been a circle connected by resilience, compassion, and safe places along the way. I was once a broken child. Now I have a voice. Today, I am the chief strategy officer of a public company, 3D Systems, I serve on the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and above all, I am a proud mother of a wonderful daughter.

I wrote my story in the voice of a mother talking to her daughter. Not just any daughter, of course, but my own lovely daughter. And I wrote for all the other sons and daughters, too. I dream that in years to come, long after we are all gone, a young girl will pull Bend, Not Break down from the shelf of a library or download it onto her e-reader and immerse herself in the words.

And she will say to herself, “I can do this thing—this thing we call life that is sometimes so hard. I can push back the painful memories and experiences. I can dream. I can go on.
“And I will not break. . . .”