Culture

01.05.18

Reflections on ‘Youth’ and Freedom—A Conversation with Feng Xiaogang and Yan Geling

The movie “Youth” is the first collaboration between Feng Xiaogang, the celebrated Chinese director, and prolific novelist Yan Geling. It is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story about the time both spent in the People’s Liberation Army during...

The True Story of Lu Xun

Geremie R. Barmé from New York Review of Books
1.Addressing an audience at the Hong Kong YMCA in February 1927, the writer Lu Xun (the pen name of Zhou Shuren, 1881–1936) warned that despite ten years of literary revolution and the promotion of a written vernacular language, Chinese people had...

Sexual Life in Modern China

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, Chinese writers grappled with the traumas of the Mao period, seeking to make sense of their suffering. As in the imperial era, most had been servants of the state, loyalists who might criticize but never seek to...

Novels from China’s Moral Abyss

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Modern China was built on the nearly thirty ruthless years of Mao’s rule. The country’s elite—the “literati” of educated small landowners who held the empire together at the local level—was brutally eliminated. Almost everyone’s personal life was...

Liberating China’s Past

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
With the closing of this month’s National People’s Congress, China’s political season is upon us. It will culminate in the autumn with Xi Jinping’s almost certain reappointment to another five-year term. With Xi rapidly becoming the most important...

Conversation

03.22.17

China Writers Remember Robert Silvers

Ian Johnson, Orville Schell & more
Robert Silvers died on Monday, March 20, after serving as The New York Review of Books Editor since 1963. Over almost six decades, Silvers cultivated one of the most interesting, reflective, and lustrous stables of China writers in the world, some...

Inside and Outside the System: Chinese Writer Hu Fayun

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Over the summer, I traveled to Wuhan to continue my series of talks with people about the challenges facing China. Coming here was part of an effort to break out of the black hole of Beijing politics and explore the view from China’s vast hinterland...

Books

10.07.16

The Age of Irreverence

Christopher Rea
The Age of Irreverence tells the story of why China’s entry into the modern age was not just traumatic, but uproarious. As the Qing dynasty slumped toward extinction, prominent writers compiled jokes into collections they called “histories of laughter.” In the first years of the Republic, novelists, essayists, and illustrators alike used humorous allegories to make veiled critiques of the new government. But, again and again, political and cultural discussion erupted into invective, as critics gleefully jeered and derided rivals in public. Farceurs drew followings in the popular press, promoting a culture of practical joking and buffoonery. Eventually, these various expressions of hilarity proved so offensive to high-brow writers that they launched a concerted campaign to transform the tone of public discourse, hoping to displace the old forms of mirth with a new one they called youmo (humor).Christopher Rea argues that this period—from the 1890s to the 1930s—transformed how Chinese people thought and talked about what is funny. Focusing on five cultural expressions of laughter—jokes, play, mockery, farce, and humor—he reveals the textures of comedy that were a part of everyday life during modern China’s first “age of irreverence.” This new history of laughter not only offers an unprecedented and up-close look at a neglected facet of Chinese cultural modernity, but also reveals its lasting legacy in the Chinese language of the comic today and its implications for our understanding of humor as a part of human culture. —University of California Press{chop}

Sinica Podcast

12.22.15

While We’re Here: China Stories from a Writers’ Colony

Kaiser Kuo, David Moser & more from Sinica Podcast
When Ernest Hemingway somewhat presciently referred to Paris as a movable feast (“wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you”) he captured the concerns of the long-term expat rather concisely. So why does everyone like to compare...

Media

12.22.15

‘New Yorker’ Writers Reflect on ‘Extreme’ Reporting About China

Eric Fish from Asia Blog
While international reporting on China has improved by leaps and bounds since foreign journalists first started trickling into the country in the 1970s, major challenges remain in giving readers back home a balanced image. That was the message from...

China: Novelists Against the State

Perry Link from New York Review of Books
Can writers help an injured society to heal? Did Ōe Kenzaburō, who traveled to Hiroshima in 1963 to interview survivors of the dropping of the atomic bomb on that city eighteen years earlier, and then published a moving book called Hiroshima Notes,...

Viewpoint

06.11.15

Why I Publish in China

Peter Hessler
A couple of weeks ago, I received a request from a New York Times reporter to talk about publishing in China. The topic has been in the news lately, with the BookExpo in New York, where Chinese publishers were the guests of honor. In May, the PEN...

Media

06.09.15

Chinese Censorship of Western Books Is Now Normal. Where’s the Outrage?

Alexa Olesen
In September 2014, I was commissioned by the New York-based free speech advocacy group PEN American Center to investigate how Western authors were navigating the multibillion-dollar Chinese publishing world and its massive, but opaque, censorship...

Sinica Podcast

06.08.15

Writers: Heroes in China?

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
If you happen to live in the anglophone world and aren’t closely tied to China by blood or professional ties, chances are that what you believe to be true about this country is heavily influenced by the opinions of perhaps one hundred other people,...

Media

06.02.15

Top Chinese Authors Show Up at Book Expo, but Where Are the Readers?

Zhang Xiaoran
Last week, 20,000 publishers convened in New York’s Javits Center for BookExpo America (BEA), the publishing industry’s annual trade show. Among their ranks was a delegation from China 500 strong, attending the convention in the capacity of “guest...

Culture

06.01.15

Chinese Writers and Chinese Reality

Ouyang Bin
My first encounter with Liu Zhenyun was in 2003. At the time, cell phones had just become available in China and they were complicating people’s relationships. I witnessed a couple break up because of the secrets stored on a phone. I watched people...

Reports

05.20.15

Censorship and Conscience

Alexa Olesen
Alexa Olesen
PEN International
In this report, PEN American Center (PEN) examines how foreign authors in particular are navigating the heavily censored Chinese book industry. China is one of the largest book publishing markets in the world, with total revenue projected to exceed...

An American Hero in China

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
One night in September, three hundred people crowded into the basement auditorium of an office tower in Beijing to hear a discussion between two of China’s most popular writers. One was Liu Yu, a thirty-eight-year-old political scientist and blogger...

China Detains Writer Tie Liu for ‘Provoking Trouble’

BBC
Chinese writer Huang Zerong, also known as Tie Liu, has been detained by police allegedly for writing articles critical of a senior official.

Publisher of Book Critical of China’s Leader Is Arrested

Chris Buckley
New York Times
Yiu Mantin, a retired engineer from Hong Kong, had plans to distribute a withering denunciation of Xi Jinping. 

Media

05.22.13

On “Strange Stones,” a Discussion with Peter Hessler

Peter Hessler, Michael Meyer & more
On May 21st at the Asia Society in New York City, Peter Hessler, author of the recently published Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West, discussed his book and a decade of writing about China and elsewhere with author, Michael Meyer and...

‘I’m Not Interested in Them; I Wish They Weren’t Interested in Me’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Amid the recent crackdown on dissidents by the Chinese government, the case of Liao Yiwu, the well-known poet and chronicler of contemporary China, is particularly interesting. For years, Liao’s work, which draws on extensive interviews with...

Writers in a Cold Wind

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
Early in 1979 the Chinese officials in charge of culture declared that the Maoist ban on nineteen traditional classics and sixteen foreign works, including Anna Karenina, was lifted. On the day the books became available at a Beijing bookshop, a...