Culture

11.04.16

A New Comedy Looks Back at a Bygone Beijing

Jonathan Landreth
The forthcoming Mandarin-language comedy King of Peking takes the viewer back to Beijing in 1998. The sooty rooms, the boxy automobiles of just a few makes, models, and colors, and the alleyways crammed with shops hawking cheap home cooking and...

Culture

09.27.16

The Perils of Translating a Classic Novel from the Chinese Page to the American Stage

Nick Frisch
Welcome to my dream,” says a Chinese monk pacing along the stage of the San Francisco Opera. So begins Dream of the Red Chamber, a new opera based on the classic Chinese novel of the same name. Its central story is a love triangle framed as Buddhist...

Culture

06.29.16

Using Free Sex to Expose Sexual Abuse in China

Jonathan Landreth
Nanfu Wang hoped that a woman called Ye Haiyan (“Hooligan Sparrow”), who had offered free sex on the Internet to draw attention to the plight of poor women selling their bodies to support their children, would lead her to the prostitutes she wanted...

Culture

04.19.16

A Newly Translated Book Revisits Japan and China’s Wartime History

Karen Ma
Award-winning screenwriter and author Geling Yan has written more than 20 novels and short story collections about China, many adapted to film or TV, including Coming Home and The Flowers of War, both of which became feature films directed by Zhang...

Culture

01.05.16

In ‘Mr. Six,’ China’s Changing and Staying the Same

Jonathan Landreth from China Film Insider
Playing an aging gangster railing against the “little punks” who kidnapped his son in Beijing, Feng Xiaogang gives a solid performance as the title character of Mr. Six: a gravel-throated vigilante shaken when his go-it-alone rescue effort puts him...

Culture

11.04.15

Zhang Yimou: ‘Even Though Our Market Is Growing Fast, We’re Still Not Satisfied’

Jonathan Landreth
Hollywood has Steven Spielberg and China has Zhang Yimou, the senior statesman of moviemaking in the People’s Republic. From Red Sorghum, his 1987 debut right out of the Beijing Film Academy, through Hero, which grossed more in America in 2002 than...

Culture

10.26.15

Xi Jinping on What’s Wrong with Contemporary Chinese Culture

from China Film Insider
At the Beijing Forum on Literature and Art last October, President Xi Jinping spoke to a high-level audience of arts professionals about the role of arts and culture in China. The event, along with excerpts of the October 15, 2014 speech, given in...

Culture

10.07.15

Jia Zhangke on Finding Freedom in China on Film

Jonathan Landreth
Jia Zhangke is among the most celebrated filmmakers China has ever produced—outside of China. His 2013 film, A Touch of Sin, a weaving-together of four tales of violence ripped from modern-day newspaper headlines, won the Best Screenplay award at...

Culture

10.02.15

In Zhang Yimou’s ‘Coming Home’ History is Muted But Not Silent

Eva Shan Chou
Coming Home, directed by the celebrated Zhang Yimou and released in the U.S. last week, begins as a man escapes a labor camp in China’s northwest and tries to return home. But he is captured when he and his wife attempt to meet, after their daughter...

Culture

09.11.15

French Director’s Chinese Movie Balances Freedom With Compromise

Jonathan Landreth
In 2012, French movie director Jean-Jacques Annaud got a warm welcome in China after more than a dozen years as persona non grata there for having offended official Chinese Communist Party history with his 1997 film Seven Years in Tibet—the story of...

Culture

09.09.15

The Met Goes to China

Jeffrey Wasserstrom
In July, while in New York, I toured The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s much buzzed about “China: Through the Looking Glass,” a visually stunning multimedia exhibit that showcases the varied ways that Western fashion designers have been inspired by...

Culture

08.20.15

Banned in China, Independent Chinese Films Come to New York

Jonathan Landreth
Three years ago this week I watched the 9th Beijing Independent Film Festival crumble under the weight of official fear—fear that the gritty low-budget, experimental dramas and documentaries screening in a remote Beijing suburb reflected a touch...

Culture

08.18.15

Has Chinese Film Finally Produced a Real Hero?

Ying Zhu
“This Is an Era That Calls for Heroes”—the boldface Chinese characters scream from a publicity poster for the Chinese animation film, Monkey King: Hero is Back, which made headline news in July for breaking the animation box-office record in China...

Culture

08.11.15

Japan’s Soft Power Leader in China is a Fat Blue Cartoon Cat

David Volodzko
On July 28, costumed in vibrant colors, throngs of fans flocked toward the early morning light of Victoria Harbor, queueing outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center for the last day of the 17th Ani-Com & Games Hong Kong. The...

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...

Culture

04.10.15

A New Opera and Hong Kong’s Utopian Legacy

Denise Y. Ho
This year, the 43rd annual Hong Kong Arts Festival commissioned a chamber opera in three acts called Datong: The Chinese Utopia. Depicting the life and times of Kang Youwei (1858-1927), a philosopher and reformer of China’s last Qing dynasty, it...

Culture

03.23.15

Wordplay

Nicholas Griffin
Way back when, let’s say in 2012, the city of Miami and the country of China rarely mixed in sentences. Since then, connections between the Far East and the northernmost part of Latin America have become more and more frequent. Three years ago, a...

Culture

02.20.15

‘Still Not Married?’ A Graphic Guide to Surviving Chinese New Year

Roseann Lake
Maya Hong is a Beijing transplant from a small town outside of Harbin, the icy city not far from China’s border with Siberia. Though proud of her glacial origins and skilled at combating subzero temperatures, over the years Hong, 30, has had to add...

Culture

02.18.15

Cai Guo-Qiang’s Love Affair With Fireworks

Orville Schell
New York City-based artist Cai Guo-Qiang, one of the most celebrated contemporary artists born in China, has become the Godfather of a spectacular new kind of fireworks displays which he calls “explosion events.” Having done large-scale events...

Culture

02.04.15

‘This is not that China Story’

James Carter & Michael Meyer
James Carter spent much of the 1990s researching the modern history of Harbin, China’s northernmost major city, in the region that is today known as dongbei, the northeast. That region is the subject of Michael Meyer’s forthcoming book, In Manchuria...

Culture

12.19.14

‘One Day the People Will Speak Out for Me’

Sheila Melvin
The ongoing exhibition “@Large: Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz” is both revelatory and heart-wrenching, a stunning and sobering work by an artist who understands firsthand the fragility and pricelessness of freedom.Detained without warning or charge for 81...

Culture

11.07.14

‘The Training Wheels Are Coming Off,’ But That’s Not Necessarily A Good Thing

Jonathan Landreth
Making a movie is a wild ride no matter where you are in the world, a process fraught with ego and pride; wobblier, riskier, yet potentially more lucrative, the bigger and faster it gets.With U.S. gross sales of movie tickets basically flat, up just...

Culture

09.23.14

Contact Lenses

Vera Tollmann
Will we all become “Chinese?” International New York Times correspondent Didi Kirsten Tatlow ironically asked recently. The question plays both on our fears over China’s economic power and on reflections on the NSA files released by Edward Snowden...

Culture

09.04.14

‘Transformers 4’ May Pander to China, But America Still Wins

Ying Zhu
Hollywood made news this summer with the China triumph of Transformers: Age of Extinction, which broke all previous Chinese box office records. The Chinese box office even outsold the North American box office. But jubilation over the film’s...

Culture

08.27.14

Standing Up for Indie Film in China

Jonathan Landreth
In July, Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth in the action-packed series of Hollywood films about trucks turning into giant robots to save the world, became the first film to sell more than $300 million in tickets at China’s box office...

Culture

08.26.14

Healthy Words

Alec Ash
In 1902, Lu Xun translated Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon into Chinese from the Japanese edition. Science fiction, he wrote in the preface, was “as rare as unicorn horns, which shows in a way the intellectual poverty of our time.” Not any...

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...

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...

Culture

06.03.14

A Visit to Hong Kong’s June 4th Museum

Amy Chung
Every Saturday in Hong Kong, volunteer curator and translator C.S. Liu helps guide visitors through the first permanent museum dedicated to the history of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 4, 1989 in Beijing.At the entrance to the June 4th...

Culture

02.21.14

Stranger Than Fiction

Zhang Xiaoran
In the short twenty years since Yu Hua, a fifty-three-year-old former dentist, has been writing, China has undergone change enough for many lifetimes. His country’s transformations and what they leave in their wake have become the central theme of...

Culture

02.10.14

Will Xi Jinping Stop the Music?

Sheila Melvin
In late November of 2013, I sat chatting in a California concert hall with one of the PRC’s most famous first-generation pianists. Normally at this time of year, the pianist told me, he would be heading off to China to perform multiple New Year’s...

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...

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...

Culture

11.19.13

Why You Should Read Pearl Buck’s ‘New’ Novel

Sheila Melvin
When I first heard that The Eternal Wonder, a new novel by Pearl Buck, was scheduled for publication by Open Road Media on October 22 of this year, I assumed the announcement was either a mistake or a joke.Buck, of course, is the author of The Good...

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...

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-...

Culture

06.18.13

“Walk A Pig on My Bike (2012)”

Sun Yunfan
“Walk A Pig on My Bike (2012),” from their double-disc second album Some Other Scenery (2012), is a new rendition of an earlier song by the Guangzhou-based folk band Wu Tiao Ren. The twenty-one songs from this album (nineteen, including this one,...

Culture

06.18.13

“Water Runs East for Ten Years, Water Runs West for Ten Years”

Sun Yunfan
“Water Runs East for Ten Years, Water Runs West for Ten Years” is a song by the Guangzhou-based folk band Wu Tiao Ren from their first album, A Tale of Haifeng (2009). The songs on this album celebrate the sentiments and everyday lives of small-town...

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...

Culture

05.09.13

“I Just Want to Write”

Whether or not I deserved the Nobel Prize, I already received it, and now it’s time to get back to my writing desk and produce a good work. I hear that the 2013 list of Nobel Prize nominees has been finalized. I hope that once the new laureate is...

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...

Culture

02.28.13

Classical Music with Chinese Characteristics

Sheila Melvin
On a frigid Friday morning at the end of 2012, a stream of expectant concertgoers poured through the cavernous lobby of the China National Center for the Performing Arts. They had come to the stunning, egg-shaped arts complex at this unusually early...

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...

Culture

01.17.13

An Alternative Top Ten

Shelly Kraicer
Most accounts of the last year in Chinese cinema are dominated by films that were made for the ever-expanding domestic box office, and the local film industry’s struggle for screen time in competition with Hollywood imports. On the one hand, we...

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,...

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...

Culture

01.10.13

Punks Are All Sissies - Lyrics

Sun Yunfan
“Punks Are All Sissies” is a song by the Shanghai rock band Top Floor Circus, off of their third album Timmy Revisits Lingling Road 93 (2005). The album generally is seen as a parody of punk music, making references to Bob Dylan, GG Allin, a Beijing...

Culture

01.10.13

Be a Nice Guy - Lyrics

Sun Yunfan
“Be a Nice Guy” is a song by the Shanghai rock band Top Floor Circus off of their fourth album 13 Classic Hits of Shanghai Pop Rock (2010). The album celebrates the everyday life of the Shanghainese. Lu Chen, the lead singer of the group, sings the...

Culture

12.11.12

Sheng Keyi on Mo Yan: “Literature Supersedes Politics and Everything Else”

In a recent conversation at the Asia Society, novelist Sheng Keyi said she felt the critism of Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize was unjustified. The controversy, she said, arises from Mo Yan’s politics rather than his literature, “and I think to critique him on...

Culture

12.11.12

Yu Jie: Awarding Mo Yan the Nobel Prize Was a “Huge Mistake”

Ouyang Bin
Mo Yan accepted his Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm on December 10.The 57-year-old novelist often writes stories based on memories of his village childhood, and his work and his political views have triggered wide debate. In...

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...

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...

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...

Culture

08.21.12

As Beautiful As Little Cats

Agnès Varda from 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 “...

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...

Culture

06.05.12

The Thinker

from Chutzpah!
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...

Culture

06.04.12

But Some of Us Are Looking at the Stars

from Chutzpah!
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...