Crate Ripper Case

By C.S. Hagen

TIANJIN, CHINA – Twisted love triangle stories from time immemorial outnumber the flakes of a winter’s snow, but there is one instance, especially appalling, that occurred in Tianjin.  This true story, called the “Crate Ripper Case,” takes place in the old English Concession area in October 1947, and is listed in historical records as one of the “Eight Strange Cases of the Republic.”

Gather closely. Add a log to the hearth.  Light and good jasmine tea will scare the demons away.  Listen in; you don’t want to miss a single word.

Fifteen months before Mao Zedong’s communist troops stormed into Tianjin via the Qingnian Road, the Li family lived in four identical houses at the golden corner of Hong Kong and Glasgow roads, known today as Munan and Guilin roads.  Father Li, an industrious entrepreneur, the brainchild behind the Tianjin Zhongtian Electric Factory, passed his legacy to his children, but failed to endow his fortitude to his youngest son, Li Baowu.

Baowu was a loafing playboy, most likely inbred traits inherited from Tianjin’s Dark Drifters.  He kept er nais, or concubines, in Tudor houses from the northern-most Austrian Concession all the way to the south, where the Germans and Belgians lived.   His wife of twenty years, Dong Yuzhen, daughter of the Kuomintang mayor of Tianjin at the time, Dong Zhengguo, he kept at the corner house on Munan Road with his four surviving children.

Lucky, lackadaisical Baowu, being an educated chap, a Tianjin College of Business graduate (now the Foreign Language Institute on Racecourse Road), was naturally a curious fellow, for his sexual escapades and frivolous parties were the talk of the town.

Baowu could not be tamed.  Under his stretched belt he had three wives, a host of concubines and saltwater girls who lived in boats along the Hai River.

Saltwater girls came from sampans like these, throughout history they were denied the chance to live on land and became brothels on the water

Saltwater girls came from sampans like these, throughout history they were denied the chance to live on land and their homes became brothels on the water – photo by C.S. Hagen

Not until 1945, days after the Japanese left in defeat from Tianjin, did Baowu find his perfect match and fourth wife.  A half German, half Chinese beauty named Shi Meili,  English name Marion Sze, winner of the Miss Beidaihe Beauty Pageant.  Before she met Baowu she was a secretary with round, wet eyes, a pointed chin, and eyebrows arched like silkworms, the Tianjin Republic Daily reported in 1947.

Love fell on Baowu.  Meili agreed to become his fourth wife and he bought her a house at Number 53 Dali Road, or perhaps it was the other way around: Baowu bought the house and Meili agreed to marry.  Either way, the love struck couple married in secret and Baowu spent most his nights with her in carnal comfort on Dali Road, leaving his quieter, rounder first wife alone with his children at 74 Munan Road.

Life was grand for Baowu, a notorious do nothing and mouse-hearted villain of this true story.  He spent thirteen thousand US dollars on a coat, ordered catering service from the renowned Kiesslings for lunch.  He bought Meili a Buick, hired her a chauffer, and insisted his first wife, mother of four surviving children, take rickshaws to the market.  When he was feeling especially energetic he beat his first wife, sometimes bashing her head against a coffee table or kicking in her pregnant stomach, killing his fifth and sixth unborn children.

On October 25, 1947, Yuzhen, the first wife, traveled by rickshaw to Dali Road, insisting that her husband accompany her to buy a new coat.  When he refused, they argued.

(Bad picture, only one taken from internet) Number 53 Dali Road, where the heinous murder was committed

(Bad picture, only one taken from internet) Number 53 Dali Road, where the heinous murder was committed – online sources

“You give me money so I can buy myself another day,” neighbors reportedly heard Yuzhen say.

Not wanting to disturb the neighbors more than necessary, Yuzhen accepted an invitation from the fourth wife to come upstairs and enjoy lunch and some wine.  The argument continued.  A bottle was thrown.  Baowu naturally protected himself with a hammer, striking Yuzhen across the head.  When Yuzhen fell, Meili pounced.  She held the first wife by the legs until Baowu exhausted himself by smashing her head in with the hammer.

For four hours after the heinous murder, Baowu and Meili sat and watched Yuzhen’s body, perhaps hoping she would wake, or somehow magically disappear.  When the first wife neither awoke nor vanished, they rolled her up in the bloody carpet and placed her in the bathtub.

According to the Tianjin Republic Daily later that afternoon Meili faked a loud, fond farewell out her bedroom window.  “Zou hao, zou hao, Wu Nainai,” farewell, farewell, fifth grandmother.  She called out Yuzhen’s pet name.  The loyal couple then proceeded to clean the house, taking care not to leave a trace of their bloody deeds.  Baowu made one trip outside to buy a whicker crate, which cost him ninety thousand francs.

Long after the city slept, with only the harvest moon as a silent witness, Baowu and Meili took a butcher’s knife to the first wife’s corpse.

They hacked.  Thwack, thwack!  They sawed.   Gzzz, gzzz!  Chopped her into three pieces and then burned her face so she could not be recognized.   Carpet and Yuzhen fit perfectly – a bug in a rug – into the crate.  When they finished they rested from their labors, and saw that it was good.

Now, Meili was not just a porcelain vase.  She had a head of fine brown hair and a brain to go with her pale beauty.  She contacted a Latvian friend, Naylor and Maleina, who were involved in the shipping business.  Thinking if there was no corpse there would be no crime, she asked to store the whicker crate in the Latvian’s warehouse, and equip it with an address to be shipped to Germany.

“Dearest Maleina,” Meili wrote in a note on October 26.  “I need to place with you this carpet and possessions because my husband’s number one wife is bothering me.  I am afraid and cannot live here on Dali Road any longer.  I also don’t want my husband to know about this and I will explain at another time.”

A second note quickly followed, hand carried by a servant girl.

“Beloved Maleina, sorry for the disturbance.  I will prepare the crate immediately and make sure it is wrapped securely.  I’ve already told my husband, who will come by soon to take measurements.”

When they arrived with the crate three days later on the afternoon of October 28th to Suite 16 Tai’an Road, inside the Jingming Apartment Building, the four of them carried the crate to the warehouse.  Naylor mentioned the crate was unusually heavy and had a strange, fishy smell coming from inside.

“It’s because my lazy cat peed on the rug.”  Meili tossed her auburn hair and threw a laugh into the sky, replying casually and with the lightning-fast thinking processes of a fox demon.

Read more about fox demons here:

Later that day Baowu purchased a wooden box large enough to insert the crate into and had it nailed up tight as a fish’s arse.

“Oh, by the way,” Baowu said to Naylor and Maleina.  “My first wife is missing.  Have you seen her?”

If only our villainous hero had said nothing.  If only he had one less drink the night before, one less romp in the bed to clear his head.  But he didn’t keep his mouth shut, and he couldn’t stop at one drink too many.  Villains rarely can.

The Latvian couple of course had not seen Baowu’s first wife, and according to police reports found Baowu’s remark course and extremely strange.  Not only did the Latvian couple begin to wonder why Baowu cared more for a crate than his missing wife, but their cat, a snow-white creature with a black diamond on its forehead, found the crate intriguing as well.

Usually, Maleina spent her afternoons playing with her cat, Snowball, which her husband had bought for her because he spent much of his time away from home. Snowball, however, had more important business and spent the next two days circling Yuzhen’s secret coffin.

Snowball’s wails from the warehouse drew Maleina’s attention.

Meeoow!  Yaaawww!  Meeeeooow! 

Upon close inspection a foul and sticky substance was oozing from a crack.  Maleina called the police.

After Yuzhen’s younger sister identified her sister’s legs, the investigation that followed first targeted rickshaw drivers and the local bandits.  Baowu told Tianjin Chief Superintendent Xiao that bandits had probably overheard the argument he had with his first wife and that she was robbed for money, all the while sliding a thick wad of bills into the officer’s lap.  Baowu spent hundreds of thousands bribing police, so much that it was learned later that nearly every Tianjin police officer benefited from his unreserved charity at some time during his incarceration.

On October 31st, police could no longer deny the facts and public outrage on behalf of Yuzhen and her family was threatening a riot in the streets.  Baowu and Meili were arrested while they slept.  The Crate Ripper Case rocked Tianjin with its barbarity, and became known as the “Republic’s final case.”  Baowu was sentenced to death, but spent the next two years in luxury at the Xiaoxiguan Prison in Xiqing District.  Meili was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The couple lacked for nothing while in prison and before the communist forces overwhelmed the Republic.   Baowu wore his own clothes, slept on a soft Western bed.  He even hired his personal chef to cook his meals.

Not until May 4, 1951, was Baowu tried and sentenced a second time by a new communist court.  He was executed by firing squad twenty days later.

Meili was released in 1954 and was rumored to have opened a hotel in Hong Kong.  Local legend says she returned once to her Dali Road home in the 1960s, but no one has seen her since.

As every egg cracks when struck, so can it be said true love will never crack when struck.  Love is not selfish.  Love does not kill, or hack up a spouse to please a lover.

Love does not covet and is never jealous, for if it does it turns into more insipid things: lust and hate, to name a few.  Love is earned and given freely, and has its best results when one learns first to love his or herself.  Only then does one own the right in a romantic relationship to say those three little words “I love you” and only then can love manifest all its wondrous, sticky, tender strings.

Perhaps guided by a fox demon’s lust we all can love, but at most for a day, more likely only a minute.  For a beautiful fox demon like Shi Meili will eat your heart faster than it takes to write this sentence.

 

The Fox Poem

Author Anonymous, translated by C.S. Hagen

The fox of an old grave when in its day, into a woman of lovely features it decays.  Female coiffure, exquisite suffer, where no man dwells she abides and slowly, between rustic hamlets she strides. 

Eight or nine of ten who behold her are beguiled.  Taken in by her beauty they’re defiled.  Eater of souls, scavenger of hearts, within her arms sanity departs.

When at sunset, no human sounds are heard, she sings, she dances, wails the absurd.  Without raising her eyebrows velvety as a kingfisher, but bowing her face, she bursts into laughter, a thousand, a myriad of joys for her prey to taste. 

The vulpine enchantress brings absolute ruin.  Understand her ways and potions brewin’!  For a man’s mind she makes boil without rest.  Beware of her wiles, or forever lie trapped in her breast!

Eight or nine of ten who behold her are beguiled.  Taken in by her beauty they’re defiled.  Eater of souls, scavenger of hearts, within her arms sanity departs.

A Chinese charm for exorcising fox demons

A Chinese charm for exorcising fox demons

4 Comments

  1. admin

    December 3, 2013 at 5:59 am

    Once when I was doing the night shift in this same building, circa 1998, alone, all the customers had gone and I was sleeping on the floor by the fireplace, a cup of water sang to me. It could have been a dream. I was half asleep, but the noise startled me. To this day I swear I heard a whooshing noise fly up the chimney after the cup stopped singing.

  2. admin

    December 3, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Here is another example, for those who live closer to the USA:
    http://www.kansascity.com/2012/09/20/3825790/loves-secrets-finally-revealed.html

    Preacher has 10+ year long affair with best friend’s wife, murders him and then preaches at his funeral for 40 minutes. Makes me sick.

  3. Angela Cox Elliott

    January 29, 2014 at 7:45 am

    I lived in Tientsin till 1956 – often meeting Marian (meili) Tze/s parents at Victoria park
    she definitely wasn’t released till years
    later. Heard she was the housekeeper at the Ambassador Htl Hongkong in 1974 but upon checking found she wasn’t there. Felt
    badly for her parents – they were so nice.

    • Oh wow. Do you remember this story well then from your years in Tianjin? If so I would love to talk with you, if you are willing.

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