An article on a popular weblog has shed new light on the death of one of the Communist Party's most famous propaganda heroes.
Liu Hulan, whose heroic feats to protect underground party members during the civil war have been written into history textbooks and read by millions of mainland students for decades, was not executed by rival Kuomingtang troops, according to a report in the Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News.
The heroine, only 15 at her death, was instead killed by fellow villagers intimidated into action by the Kuomingtang army invading the village.
The alternative version was first revealed on a blog written by a professor from Peking University.
In mainland textbooks, Liu is described as 'walking up to the decapitation knife unruffled, bidding farewell to tearful villagers and then being brutally killed by the Kuomingtang butchers'.
Liu was made a communist role model after her death. Chairman Mao Zedong penned the slogan 'A great life, a glorious death' in her memory and the central government built a monument in her hometown in Wenshui county, Shanxi, to commemorate her sacrifice in 1957.
The professor, also the producer of a China Central Television programme, wrote in his blog that a field trip to Liu's home village to shoot an episode for his TV show proved that what the textbooks said about her death was not true.
Quoting elderly villagers who witnessed the killing in 1947, he wrote: 'Some villagers, at the gunpoint of KMT troops and out of sheer fear, were trembling as they chopped the little girl with a machete. Some of them went insane afterwards.'
The Xinmin Evening News followed up with an interview with the village's current party chief that confirmed the professor's version of events.
Liu, born in 1932, became a party member in 1946.