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Culture

08.11.14

The Bard in Beijing

SHEILA MELVIN

At the end of a rollicking production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream—directed by Tim Robbins and staged in China in June by the Los Angeles-based Actors’ Gang—the director and actors returned to the stage for a dialogue with the Beijing audience.The questions ran the normal gamut from accents to costumes to staging, and then one woman asked which Shakespeare the Gang planned to perform next. The affable Robbins turned the question around, asking what she would like to see.“Macbeth,” came the answer.{...

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Culture

07.01.14

Inside the Mind of a Chinese Hacker

EMILY PARKER

In May, the U.S. announced the indictment of five Chinese hackers for breaking into the computers of U.S. companies. The men went by code names like UglyGorilla and KandyGoo. A recent report revealed that the hackers, who worked for Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army, were on the job from 8 am to 6 pm and had two hours scheduled for lunch.Other than these small details, we know very little about Chinese hackers or what motivates them. What brings people to the front lines of cyber war between the United States and China? Are...

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Culture

03.06.13

Lei Lei: A Sketch of the Animator As a Young Man

SUN YUNFAN

Lei Lei, a.k.a. Ray Lei, 27, is one of the best-known animators in China. Unlike many other smart kids of his generation who graduated from China’s top universities, he went off the beaten path early in his career and never turned back. In a country where many artists chase the...

Culture

01.29.13

Director Zhang Yuan, Still Kicking

SUN YUNFAN

Zhang Yuan, a veteran rebel among Chinese filmmakers, recently came to New York for the premiere of his film Beijing Flickers at the Global Lens 2013 series at the Museum of Modern Art. Ever since Mama, his 1990 debut about a mother and her mentally challenged son—widely...

Culture

01.17.13

Culture

11.22.13

A Homecoming

SUN YUNFAN & SHEN WEI

Shot in big cities and small towns across China in recent years, Shen Wei’s photographic project “Chinese Sentiment” is a personal journey to recapture bygone Chinese life in both private and public space. Born and raised in Shanghai, Shen Wei worked as a waiter in a hotel...

Culture

12.19.13

Chinese Literature Online

MICHEL HOCKX

In July of last year, Brixton, U.K.-based novelist Zelda Rhiando won the inaugural Kidwell-e Ebook Award. The award was billed as “the world’s first international e-book award.” It may have been the first time that e-writers in English from all over the world had been...

Culture

11.22.13

Shen Wei’s ‘Chinese Sentiment’

PETER HESSLER

When Shen Wei was growing up in Shanghai during the nineteen-eighties and nineties, his mother worked as a fashion designer who specialized in calendars. If a company wanted to publish one, they hired Shen Wei’s mother, and she designed clothes for a model to wear during the...

Culture

11.11.13

All He Needs is a Miracle

DEBRA BRUNO

Courtesy of the USF Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History A portrait of Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci by You Wenhui; painted at the time of Ricci’s death in Beijing, 1610. It now hangs at the Jesuit residence in Rome. It is the only known depiction of Ricci...

Culture

11.01.13

The Sound of China’s Future

JONATHAN CAMPBELL

It’s high noon in March and the cluttered patio of Maria’s Taco Xpress, the Austin, Texas institution, is gloriously sunny. First time visitor Gan Baishui is moments away from his band’s American debut, but the composer and musician from a fourth-tier city in southwest...

Culture

06.18.13

The Local Folk

SUN YUNFAN

In the liner notes of their 2009 début album, A Tale of Haifeng, Guangzhou-based indie folk band Wu Tiao Ren tinkered with the Communist party slogan “Lizu xiancheng, fangyan quanqiu,” which translates roughly: “See the world from our county’s perspective.” The phrase...

Culture

01.16.13

Hong Kong’s Bard of the Everyday

ILARIA MARIA SALA

 I have your words, that you put down on paperbut nothing at hand to return, so I write downpapaya. I cut one open: so many dark points, so many undefined things On Sunday, January 6, when Leung Ping-kwan, author of these lines, passed away, Hong Kong lost one of its...

Culture

01.11.13

Top Floor Circus

SUN YUNFAN

At nine o’clock on a recent Monday morning, Lu Chen, the slender and polite lead singer of Top Floor Circus, the first rock band to sing in Shanghainese—and a man whose transformative stage persona sees him swearing, stripping nearly naked, and engaging in exaggerated...

Culture

11.27.12

Remember to Tell the Truth

MAYA E. RUDOLPH

The recording of memory brings history to life and creates a legacy of its own. In 2010, documentary filmmaker Wu Wenguang launched the Memory Project to try to shine a light on the long-shrouded memories of one of modern China’s most traumatic episodes—the famine of 1958-...

Culture

09.24.12

Wrapped Up: An Interview with Lin Tianmiao

SUN YUNFAN

Lin Tianmiao was born in Taiyuan, Shanxi in 1961 to an artistic family. Her father was a traditional painter and her mother a dancer. In the 1980s, she married video artist Wang Gongxin, moved to New York, and became a textile designer. It wasn’t until the couple moved back to Beijing in the mid-90s that Lin began her career as an artist. Her installation works are known for using images of herself and a laborious thread winding technique to direct attention to feminist issues of the body and women's domestic labor. The subtle...

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Culture

11.21.12

A New Tower of Babel

SHEILA MELVIN

Xu Bing, the renowned Chinese artist whose many laurels include a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award and an appointment as vice president of China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, has long demonstrated a fascination with the written word.His groundbreaking work, Book from...

Culture

08.21.12

As Beautiful As Little Cats

AGNÈS VARDA & LEAP

Leap Editor's Note: In 1957, the filmmaker Agnès Varda assumed the role of photographer during a two-month journey around both urban and rural China with a delegation of French dignitaries. In 2012, her photographs from that trip appeared in “The Beaches of Agnès Varda in...

Culture

06.05.12

The Thinker

PEREGRINE

The SunHe could still recall his feelings the first time he saw the Siyun Mountain Observatory thirty-four years ago, when the ambulance crossed the mountain ridge and the main peak appeared in the distance, its domed telescope roofs reflecting the golden light of the setting sun...

Culture

04.09.12

What Gu Dexin Left

PHILIP TINARI

Last Saturday the museum I direct in Beijing opened a show by China’s most important contemporary artist you’ve never heard of, Gu Dexin. The opening however had one major difference from the star-studded affairs that have become commonplace in the Beijing art scene over the...

Culture

06.04.12

But Some of Us Are Looking at the Stars

PEREGRINE

The wild nature of a realist The moment that someone decides to write, if it’s truly miraculous, is often likened to a “flash of inspiration.” Haruki Murakami’s description of such a moment is a classic example, and whether true or not, it has a certain moving patina. He said: I was watching a baseball game when I decided to start writing; the team I support hit a home run and the ball flew fast and high across the sky. I stared at it and thought: I want to be a writer!When I told this story to Liu Cixin he immediately replied...

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Culture

07.02.12

Novelist Chan Koonchung on China’s ‘Lack of Trust...

ILARIA MARIA SALA

“I started to think about this book in 2008, the year of the Beijing Olympics,” says Chan Koonchung of his dystopian novel Shengshi: Zhongguo 2013 (The Fat Years). “2008 was the beginning of a new chapter for China, which is when I realized I had a story: the quake in...

Culture

03.21.12

A Rhythm of His Own

SUN YUNFAN

Huang Bo, founder and lead singer of the funk band The Verse, is a Chinese artist who looks to the West for musical and spiritual inspiration. Huang grew up in Changsha and moved to Guangzhou in the 1990s to study oil painting at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. It was there...

Culture

03.27.12

Wu Fei: An Authentic Voice

SUN YUNFAN

Wu Fei is a Beijing-born composer, vocalist, and guzheng (Chinese zither) player. Her music career tracks a journey from East to West and back again. Born into a musical family, she started playing guzheng as a child. After graduating from the China Conservatory of Music, Wu...

Culture

04.06.12

Three Poems by Han Dong

PEREGRINE

Foggy It’s foggy, or smoky Perhaps it’s smog No one’s surprised by that You can look straight into the sun, floating Like the moon in ashen clouds No one’s surprised by that This morning is no different from other mornings Yesterday and tomorrow are pretty much the same No one’s surprised by that Even on a clear day I can't see roadside trees and flowers clearly Even if I see them I don’t remember them Even if I remember them I can’t write about them If I’m not surprised by that, then No one else’ll be surprised...

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Culture

02.29.12

Wuhan: Left Behind?

EINAR ENGSTRÖM & LEAP

Many believe that Wuhan, a historic inland port city midway up the Yangtze River, is on the upswing. Yet a week of firsthand observation reveals a youth culture struggling to cope with the city's second-tier identity, leaving questions as to how the creative potential of similar...

Culture

05.01.12

China Through An Independent Lens

LA FRANCES HUI

Chinese documentaries have gained global attention in the past decade or so, thanks partly to the creative originality of young filmmakers and partly to a rapidly changing China that fascinates viewers from around the world. Wang Bing’s nine-hour epic West of the Tracks (2003...

Culture

02.29.12

Under the Gingko Tree

LEAP

Chongqing is western China’s only centrally administered city. A mountain town where two rivers meet, Chongqing is one of modern Chinese history’s most strategically important strongholds, and also one of the most important sources of contemporary Chinese art. It is a city...

Culture

10.01.11

Bishan Harvestival

LEAP

One can almost imagine Bishan in its heyday. On the evening of August 26, 2011 the village’s daytime enthusiasm gushes towards the Yi County Cinema. It’s the kind of movie theater almost every small town has had, but Bishan’s has somehow managed to hang on to a 1980s or 90s feel. Above both the exits, in extremely serious-looking script, are the words “Emergency Exit.” Both the entrances are framed in brown wood, the left entrance for odd-numbered tickets, the right for even. On the white wall in between the entrances is a...

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Culture

04.21.12

A Pension Plan, a Story by Ha Jin

PEREGRINE

It was said that Mr. Sheng suffered from a kind of senile dementia caused by some infarction in his brain. I was sure it was neither Parkinson’s nor Alzheimer’s, because I had learned quite a bit about both during my training to be a health aide. He wasn’t completely...

Culture

02.22.12

Our Time With Mu Xin

LEAP

At three o'clock in the morning on December 21, 2011, the poet, writer, and painter Mu Xin passed away at the age of eighty-four in his hometown of Wuzhen. In this essay, two filmmakers from New York attempt to reconstruct the six days they spent interviewing the artist, as well...

Culture

04.21.12

A Gift from Bill Gates

PEREGRINE

My name is Thousands (“Yiqianji”) and I’ve worked in all sorts of jobs. Most recently, I’ve been spending my time at home writing, and in my spare time, help my mother out picking vegetables. (With the recession, a good job’s hard to find.) Every time I introduce myself...

Culture

12.21.11

Hong Kong's Own Art Fair

PHILIP TINARI

Late spring is art fair season, and last week's dramatic news that Art Basel, the best art fair in the world, will take ownership of Asia's new star Art HK has caught much of the art world by surprise. Under new ownership, the fair, already recognized as the premier contemporary...

Culture

02.28.12

The Educators

SUN DONGDONG & LEAP

The question of art education in China, like just about every question in China, is a complicated one, tied to the myriad issues facing a society in the throes of a massive transition. There is no easy solution, and acknowledging the obstacles is a prerequisite to solving the...

Culture

02.28.12

Philosophies of Independence: The Li Xianting Film...

LEAP

Riding the 938 bus out of Beijing’s Guomao station, the Central Business District gradually dissolves on the hour-long journey east to Songzhuang, giving way to a landscape not unlike that found in hundreds of county-level towns across China. An artist community on the city’s...