A woman wrote fake Russian history on Chinese Wikipedia for 10 years

For over ten years, a Chinese woman known as “Zhemao” or user 折毛 created a spectacular amount of imaginative, and made-up alternate history of late Medieval Russia on Chinese Wikipedia.

Zhemao wrote millions of words on Wikipedia about entirely made-up political figures, fake silver mines, and dates and stats on wars and battles that never actually took place. Zhemao even went so far as to fabricate completely made-up details about money and common house items of the bygone era.

Zhemao apologised, via her English Wikipedia account, explaining that she was a housewife with a high school degree and that she had created one of the largest hoaxes in the history of Wikipedia, earning her the online nickname, “Chinese Borges.”

fake wikipedia china
Credit: Lithub Twitter

She went on to write “As the saying goes, in order to tell a lie, you must tell more lies. I was reluctant to delete the hundreds of thousands of words I wrote, but as a result, I wound up losing millions of words, and a circle of academic friends collapsed. The trouble I’ve caused is hard to make up for, so maybe a permanent ban is the only option. My current knowledge is not enough to make a living, so in the future, I will learn a craft, work honestly, and not do nebulous things like this anymore.”

Zhemao’s drama centred around an enormous silver mine known as Kashen (Kashen never actually existed), a flash point for political tensions between the “Princes of Tver” and the “Dukes of Moscow”. 

Incredibly, fantasy novelist Yi Fan (a fantasy novelist) noticed something was off, and upon further researching she wrote on an open platform Chinese site similar to Quora: Chinese Wikipedia entries that are more detailed than English Wikipedia and even Russian Wikipedia are all over the place. Characters that don’t exist in the English-Russian Wiki appear in the Chinese Wiki, and these characters are mixed together with real historical figures so that there’s no telling the real from the fake.”

Zhemao’s hundreds of fake entries have now been deleted from Wikipedia, but not before some of her wikis were translated into English, Arabic, Russian, and Romanian.