Culture

02.28.12

The Educators

Sun Dongdong from 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...

Culture

02.28.12

Philosophies of Independence: The Li Xianting Film School

from 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...

Culture

02.22.12

Our Time With Mu Xin

from 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...

Caixin Media

01.20.12

Melodies of My Youth

When I was a child, my family had an old-fashioned phonograph that had been passed down from my grandfather. It required hand-winding and used a bamboo needle, and it came with special silver tweezers for cutting the bamboo needles.On the side of...

Banned in China

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
In late December, a foreign correspondent in Beijing emailed me to say that a four-page article on China I’d written for a special New Year’s edition of Newsweek had been carefully torn from each of the 731 copies of the magazine on sale in China...

My First Trip

01.03.12

The Alternative Route

Karen Smith
Twenty-one years after the fact, my efforts to reconstruct my first trip to China produce a confusion of impressions in which multiple images are fused together and refuse to be unraveled or separated. Having lived in China for nineteen of those...

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,...

Media

12.15.11

Anxiety’s Remote Control

Hu Yong
The Chinese government agency that English speakers know as SARFT has several monikers. Its full name is the State Administration for Radio, Film, and Television. Literally translated, its Chinese name, guangdian zongju, is more...

Sinica Podcast

12.09.11

Chinese Literature

Jeremy Goldkorn & Alice Xin Liu from Sinica Podcast
Our podcast this week is all about books and money in modern China. If you, like us, are tired of Lu Xun and Lao She, listen to Sinica this week as we look into the state of contemporary Chinese literature, asking what writers are hot, what writers...

From Tenderness to Savagery in Seconds

Ian Buruma from New York Review of Books
Much nonsense has been written about the Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking. We know this much: in December 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army, after taking the Chinese Nationalist capital of Nanjing, went on a six-week rampage,...

Culture

10.01.11

Bishan Harvestival

from 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...

Books

09.28.11

Columbia Anthology of Chinese Folk and Popular Literature

Victor H. Mair
In The Columbia Anthology of Chinese Folk and Popular Literature, two of the world’s leading sinologists, Victor H. Mair and Mark Bender, capture the breadth of China’s oral-based literary heritage. This collection presents works drawn from the large body of oral literature of many of China’s recognized ethnic groups—including the Han, Yi, Miao, Tu, Daur, Tibetan, Uyghur, and Kazak—and the selections include a variety of genres. Chapters cover folk stories, songs, rituals, and drama, as well as epic traditions and professional storytelling, and feature both familiar and little-known texts, from the story of the woman warrior Hua Mulan to the love stories of urban storytellers in the Yangtze delta, the shaman rituals of the Manchu, and a trickster tale of the Daur people from the forests of the northeast. The Cannibal Grandmother of the Yi and other strange creatures and characters unsettle accepted notions of Chinese fable and literary form. Readers are introduced to antiphonal songs of the Zhuang and the Dong, who live among the fantastic limestone hills of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; work and matchmaking songs of the mountain-dwelling She of Fujian province; and saltwater songs of the Cantonese-speaking boat people of Hong Kong. The editors feature the Mongolian epic poems of Geser Khan and Jangar; the sad tale of the Qeo family girl, from the Tu people of Gansu and Qinghai provinces; and local plays known as “rice sprouts” from Hebei province. These fascinating juxtapositions invite comparisons among cultures, styles, and genres, and expert translations preserve the individual character of each thrillingly imaginative work.  —Columbia University Press

Sinica Podcast

08.27.11

Zhao Liang and the South-North Water Diversion Project

Kaiser Kuo, Edward Wong & more from Sinica Podcast
This week on Sinica: China makes an about-face on Libya, we discuss a recent controversy in Beijing’s arts community over independent filmmaker Zhao Liang, and get an on-the-ground update on the state of China’s South-North Water Diversion Project,...

‘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...

Sinica Podcast

08.06.11

The China Rock Podcast

Jeremy Goldkorn & Kaiser Kuo from Sinica Podcast
“Beijing has one of the best music scenes in the world,” one of our guests intoned, triggering a brawl that quickly split along Beijing-Shanghai lines. And while we’ll admit a case can be made for Shanghai too, there is no question that China has...

Recharging Chinese Art

Jonathan D. Spence from New York Review of Books
Retirement was not usually a concept of pressing concern to Chinese emperors. Succession and survival were normally quite enough to keep them occupied, and death—when it came—was often unexpected and frequently brutal. But Emperor Qianlong, who...

Books

12.28.10

A Subversive Voice in China

Shelley Wing Chan
Mo Yan, the most prolific writer in present-day China as well as one of its most prominent avant-gardists, is an author whose literary works have enjoyed an enormous readership and have caught much critical attention not only in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan but also in many other countries around the world. This book provides the most comprehensive exposition of Mo Yan’s fiction in any language. Author Shelley Chan delves into Mo Yan’s entire collection of literary works, considering novels as well as short stories and novellas. In this analysis, Mo Yan’s works are dealt with in a diachronic fashion––Chan discusses the development of Mo Yan’s style throughout his career by considering themes that he has addressed in a variety of narratives over time. This provides the reader with valuable insight into understanding how individual narratives fit into the entire collection of Mo Yan’s body of literary work. Scholars will also welcome the book’s extensive reference to secondary scholarship and theory, which not only skillfully deals with the Chinese scholarship on Mo Yan but also thoroughly covers the English-language sources. This book on one of the most important figures in contemporary Chinese literary history will be a landmark resource for scholars in Asian studies, cultural studies, and literary criticism, as well as an enticing read for people interested in Chinese literature and historical fiction.  —Cambria Press

Xanadu in New York

Eliot Weinberger from New York Review of Books
1.The Mongols inhabited a vast, featureless grass plain where the soil was too thin for crops. They raised horses, cattle, yaks, sheep, and goats, and subsisted almost entirely on meat and milk and milk products. The women milked the cows and the...

Books

12.10.10

Remapping the Past

Howard Y. F. Choy
The most prominent literary phenomenon in the 1980s and 1990s in China, historical fiction, has never been systematically surveyed in Anglophone scholarship. This is the first investigation into how, by rewriting the past, writers of Deng Xiaoping’s reform era undermined the grand narrative of official history. It showcases fictions of history by eleven native Chinese, Muslim and Tibetan authors. The four chapters are organized in terms of spatial schemes of fictional historiography, namely, regional histories and family romances, discourses on diaspora and myths of minorities, nostalgia for the hometown in the country and the city, as well as the bodily text and the textual body, thus broadly covering the eternal themes of memory, language, food, sex, and violence in historical writing.  —Brill

Books

12.01.10

Asian Literary Voices

Philip Williams
The essays in this collection give voice to a wide range of artists and writers from China, Japan, Korea, and India who to this day remain largely unknown or poorly understood in literary circles around the world. Contributors from Asia, Europe, and the United States cover a wide range of topics from a vast expanse of time, from Sanskrit poetry dating back over a thousand years to Chinese fiction of the twenty-first century.  —University of Chicago Press

A Very Superior ‘Chinaman’

Richard Bernstein from New York Review of Books
Charlie Chan, the fictitious Chinese-American detective from Hawaii, makes his first appearance in the movie Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935) looking out the window of an airplane while flying over the Pyramids and the Sphinx. We next see him, looking...

Sinica Podcast

06.18.10

Review of Chinese Books

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
Looking for a little summer reading? This week, Sinica sorts the wheat from the chaff with a massive review of books on China. Our discussion touches on a everything from Chinese fiction to non-fiction academic works on Chinese politics, economics,...

Sinica Podcast

06.11.10

Science Fiction in China

Kaiser Kuo & Gady Epstein from Sinica Podcast
Science fiction serves as a kind of mirror for how a society sees itself in the future. So what future do Chinese sci-fi writers envision in the far-off yet-to-come? And what role does China play in that future? Do contemporary Chinese writers see a...

Books

03.15.10

Art, Politics and Commerce in Chinese Cinema

Stanley Rosen
Art, politics, and commerce are intertwined everywhere, but in China the interplay is explicit, intimate, and elemental, and nowhere more so than in the film industry. Understanding this interplay in the era of market reform and globalization is essential to understanding mainland Chinese cinema. This interdisciplinary book provides a comprehensive reappraisal of Chinese cinema, surveying the evolution of film production and consumption in mainland China as a product of shifting relations between art, politics, and commerce. Within these arenas, each of the twelve chapters treats a particular history, development, genre, filmmaker or generation of filmmakers, adding up to a distinctively comprehensive rendering of Chinese cinema. The book illuminates China’s changing state-society relations, the trajectory of marketization and globalization, the effects of China’s stark historical shifts, Hollywood’s role, the role of nationalism, and related themes of interest to scholars of Asian studies, cinema and media studies, political science, sociology, comparative literature and Chinese language. Contributors include Ying Zhu, Stanley Rosen, Seio Nakajima, Zhiwei Xiao, Shujen Wang, Paul Clark, Stephen Teo, John Lent, Ying Xu, Yingjin Zhang, Bruce Robinson, Liyan Qin, and Shuqin Cui.  —Hong Kong University Press

Specters of a Chinese Master

Jonathan D. Spence from New York Review of Books
1.Luo Ping, who lived from 1733 to 1799, was perfectly placed by time and circumstance to view the shifts in fortune that were so prominent in China at that period. He grew up in Yangzhou, a prosperous city on the Grand Canal, just north of the...

An Asian Star Is Born

Christian Caryl from New York Review of Books
Ian Buruma’s life would itself make a nice subject for a novel. His father was Dutch; his mother was British, from a family that emigrated from Germany in the nineteenth century; as an undergraduate in the Netherlands he focused on Chinese...

Chinese Shadows

Perry Link from New York Review of Books
In 1920 a young Chinese poet named Guo Moruo published a poem called “The Sky Dog,” which begins:Ya, I am a sky dog!I have swallowed the moon,I have swallowed the sun.I have swallowed all the planets,I have swallowed the entire universe.I am I!After...

Chinese Shadows

Ian Buruma from New York Review of Books
There are many reasons for getting tattooed. But a sense of belonging—to a group, a faith, or a person—is key. As a mark of identification a tattoo is more lasting than a passport. This is not always voluntary. In Japan, criminals used to have the...

East Is West

Ian Buruma from New York Review of Books
Chang-rae Lee has an extraordinary talent for describing violence. Here is his account of the gang rape and murder of a Korean sex slave (“comfort woman”) in a Japanese army camp during World War II:I ran up the north path by the latrines, toward...

One More Art

Simon Leys from New York Review of Books
1.The discovery of a new major art should have more momentous implications for mankind than the exploration of an unknown continent or the sighting of a new planet.1Since the dawn of its civilization, China has cultivated a particular branch of the...

Media

01.21.96

Jackie Chan, American Action Hero?

Jaime Wolf
Whenever Jackie Chan leaves Hong Kong to make a public appearance in Shanghai, Taipei or Tokyo, or in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Seoul, hundreds—sometimes thousands—of his fans gather in a frenzy of adoration. Last June, Chan, the martial artist,...

Unjust Desserts

Jonathan D. Spence from New York Review of Books
Can there be any justice in today’s China? It is the deepest question that the film director Zhang Yimou has asked so far. His best-known earlier films, sexually supercharged, suffused with violence or the threat of it, always found some politically...

Blazing Passions

Geoffrey O’Brien from New York Review of Books
In a coincidence of programming in New York City a selection of the commercially most successful Hong Kong movies of the 1980s ran at the same time as a retrospective of work (some of it only marginally released in its country of origin) by the...

Stories from the Ice Age

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
Since the Tiananmen Square killings it has become fashionable within the Chinese leadership to refer to dissident intellectuals as “scum.” That was Mao’s view, too. In 1942, the chairman, his armies besieged by both Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese...

Forever Jade

Jonathan D. Spence from New York Review of Books
A central crisis in modern Chinese letters has been caused by the need to take account of Western forms. Some writers adjusted eagerly to Western literature out of a sincere admiration for Western culture; some grudgingly, out of a total rejection...

Mao and the Writers

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
By the 1930s the intolerable quality of life and the inefficiency, corruption, and conservatism of the Kuomintang had driven nearly every serious creative writer in China to the Left. Most turned toward some form of Marxism, which not only offered...