Sinica Podcast

08.09.13

Alison Friedman on China and the Arts

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
The last ten years have seen a genuine transformation in China’s arts world, as a large sector that used to be dependent almost exclusively on government funding has been downsized into the maelstrom of the market, leaving survivors to navigate not...

China Box-Office Standoff: Cabinet to Discuss Tax Issue

Clifford Coonan
Hollywood Reporter
China’s State Council, or cabinet, will discuss ways to resolve a tax standoff that has delayed box-office payments to Hollywood for months and jangled the nerves of overseas producers keen to access the world’s second-biggest film territory.&...

Ai Weiwei Talks Edward Snowden, Nationalism, and Fighting Boredom

Wang Yiquan
Blouin Artinfo
“Nationalism is a very old concept, and it has become weaker during globalisation,” Ai told ARTINFO. “But from the Snowden incident, we can see that even if nationalism is weak, its power structures still exist.” 

Chinese Directors Express Doubt Over Censorship Reforms

Clarence Tsui and Patrick Brzeski
Hollywood Reporter
Filmmakers such as Cannes best screenplay-winner Jia Zhangke have been quick to question the ambiguities of the Chinese government's new screenplay approval process. ...

China Relaxes Some Film Censorship Requirements

Hollywood Reporter
The media regulator will now only require film summaries to be submitted for censorship approval before production, rather than full scripts, for select film categories.     

Scandal in China Over the Museum with Over 40,000 Fake Artifacts

Jonathan Jones
Guardian
The recent revelation that museum in Hebei may be housing as many as 40,000 forgeries has caused the museum to close and many on the Chinese internet are commenting on the scandal.

From Beijing Alleyways to American Byways

Pallavi Aiyar
Los Angeles Review of Books
By zooming in close to specific moments at particular times in his characters’ histories Hessler reveals more about the broader context in which they live than conventional news reporting on subjects such as the Three Gorges Dam. 

Independent Thinking “Not Encouraged” in China’s Film Schools

Radio Netherlands Worldwide
The Chinese authorities have put an abrupt end to a training programme for aspiring independent filmmakers. And there’s still no official explanation why the 9th Edition of the Li Xianting Film School in Beijing was closed down. 

Media

07.15.13

A Rite of Passage to Nowhere

Ying Zhu & Frances Hisgen
Tiny Times, a Chinese feature film set in contemporary Shanghai, made headline news on its opening day in late June by knocking the Hollywood blockbuster Man of Steel from its perch atop the domestic box-office and breaking the opening-day record...

Literary Guide to China

Rana Mitter
Telegraph
Rana Mitter chooses a collection of stories, novels and pieces by writers who either grew up in China or were China implants intended to give the curious a more textured understanding of China’s history and culture.

China Box Office Up 36% to $1.79 Billion in First Half of 2013

Patrick Brzeski and Clarence Tsui
Hollywood Reporter
Buoyed by a surge in ticket sales for homegrown domestic films, China’s box office continued its rapid expansion in the first half of 2013, according to figures released by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television...

Hollywood, the Nazis, and the Chi-Coms

John Fund
National Review
A forthcoming book presents a strong case that pre–World War II Hollywood was in bed with Nazi Germany, in catering to its censorship demands. Is it happening again today, regarding show-business relations with the...

Media

06.27.13

Jackie Chan—The Young Master Comes of Age

Jaime Wolf
Once in a while, if you’re lucky, and paying the right kind of attention, events align to give you a clear view of the future. In 1995, I was in Los Angeles staying with a friend who produced independent films and had the trade magazines Variety and...

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...

Sinica Podcast

06.14.13

China in Images and Words

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
This week on Sinica, Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn are delighted to host Matthew Niederhauser. A photographer focusing on urban development in China, Matthew has been published in various journals including The New Yorker, National Geographic, The...

China’s Venetian Quandary: Chinese Artists

Kevin Holden Platt
New York Times
The Chinese exhibition at the 55th Venice Biennale, which opened June 1 and runs through Nov. 24, has been organized by Wang Chunchen, head of curatorial research at the Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum in Beijing. Its theme, “...

Media

06.12.13

In Box Office Hit, American Dream Is Still Alive—In a Maturing China

Over the last two weeks, the movie American Dreams in China (中国合伙人) has been the number one box office hit in China, selling over 400 million tickets to date. The movie is a gritty and at times tongue-in-cheek comedy that tells the true story of...

‘Escape From North Korea’ (Video)

Ann Shin
New York Times
In this Op-Doc video, Ann Shin profiles a smuggler named Dragon, who charges North Korean defectors for guiding them through China and Southeast Asia into eventual asylum and safety in South Korea. 

International Revenue for Chinese Films Fell by Half in 2012

Clarence Tsui
Hollywood Reporter
Titled “Silver Paper: Report on International Spread of Chinese Movies 2012,” the survey found that only 75 domestic productions were sold overseas last year, generating rights fees and ticket sales of $172.8 million (1.06 billion yuan). ...

Media

06.07.13

Can Animation Cure What Ails the Chinese Movie Industry?

“Gold rush.” “1920s Hollywood.” “Faster than a speeding bullet.” These are a few ways that film professionals have described China’s booming movie industry. China’s film market, the second-largest in the world, grossed roughly U.S.$2.7 billion in...

‘Monsters University’ to Open Shanghai Festival

Clarence Tsui
Hollywood Reporter
Monsters University will make its bow in China as the opening film of the Shanghai International Film Festival. The premiere adds to Pixar’s major publicity blitz in pushing Monsters University in China.&nbsp...

Faking It in China

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
One of the most striking features about daily life in China is how much of what one encounters has been appropriated from elsewhere. It’s not just the fake iPhones or luxury watches—pirated consumer goods are common in many developing countries. In...

Belay for Hollywood

Wei Xi
Global Times
In summer 2012,  when foreign productions were moved out of China’s multiplexes, a widely observed phenomenon unofficially called “domestic movie protection month” was implemented. It seems this measure is going to be repeated this...

Mapping Chinese Food Scandals on New Art from Ai Weiwei

Gwynn Guilford, Ritchie King and Herman...
Quartz
The staff at Quartz magazine have mapped the locations of various prominent food scandals that have hit China in the last few years, projected on top of Ai Weiwei’s “Baby Formula 2013” art installation.

Brief Thoughts on Ai Weiwei’s Music Video “Dumbass”

Siweiluozi
Siweiluozi’s Blog
Those who like Ai’s brand of (increasingly) political performance art will probably like it, while those who tend to see his facility with the foreign media as his primary talent are unlikely to change their views upon listening to this latest...

So Young Enters China’s All-Time Top 10 Films

Stephen Cremin
Film Business Asia
After three weeks in cinemas, So Young is now the tenth highest theatrical release of all time in China, having taken RMB655.5 million (US$107 million) by May 16, 2013. 

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...

Why Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. Is On Weibo But Not Twitter

Gwynn Guilford
Quartz
Notable is the recent aggressive outreach to Chinese audiences by Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. Not only did he visit China for the first time in his life to talk up the film, but Downey also set up a personal account on Sina Weibo. 

Myanmar Emerges: The People Vs. The Power

Global Post
Under half a century of dictatorship, dissidents used the arts to express outrage that would otherwise bring them long prison sentences. Now, they're speaking out in solidarity with villagers whose anti-mine protests are captivating the nation...

DreamWorks Experience To Debut In Macau, China

Sophie Shillaci
Hollywood Reporter
As part of a new partnership between DreamWorks Animation and Sands China, the studio will debut its DreamWorks Experience at the Resort in Macao beginning July 1. 2013.

Books

05.09.13

Lao She in London

Anne Witchard
Lao She remains revered as one of China’s great modern writers. His life and work have been the subject of volumes of critique, analysis and study. However, the four years the young aspiring writer spent in London between 1924 and 1929 have largely been overlooked. Dr. Anne Witchard, a specialist in the modernist milieu of London between the wars, reveals Lao She’s encounter with British high modernism and literature from Dickens to Conrad to Joyce. Lao She arrived from his native Peking to the whirl of London’s West End scene—Bloomsburyites, Vorticists, avant-gardists of every stripe, Ezra Pound and the cabaret at the Cave of The Golden Calf. Immersed in the West End 1920s world of risqué flappers, the tabloid sensation of England’s “most infamous Chinaman Brilliant Chang” and Anna May Wong’s scandalous film Piccadilly, simultaneously Lao She spent time in the notorious and much sensationalised East End Chinatown of Limehouse. Out of his experiences came his great novel of London Chinese life and tribulations—Mr. Ma and Son: Two Chinese in London. However, as Witchard reveals, Lao She’s London years affected his writing and ultimately the course of Chinese modernism in far more profound ways. —Hong Kong University Press

Django Could Soon Be Unchained (Again) In China

Laurie Burkitt and Lilian Lin
Wall Street Journal
After being unexpectedly pulled from theaters moments after its Chinese release earlier this April, Quentin Tarantino’s controversial “Django Unchained” could return to theaters as early as May 7.

Media

05.09.13

Truth in Chinese Cinema?

Jonathan Landreth
In 1997, as James Cameron’s Titanic sank box office records around the world—including in China—Sally Berger, assistant film curator at the Museum of Modern Art, worked to bring New York moviegoers a raft of Chinese movies they’d never heard of.The...

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...

Reports

05.03.13

The PEN Report: Creativity and Constraint in Today’s China

Sarah Hoffman and Larry Siems
Sara Segal-Williams
PEN International
The report which follows measures the conditions for freedom of expression through literature, linguistic rights, Internet freedom and legal obligations. This is an approach anchored both in the breadth of history and in today’s realities, one that...

The China Clusterf--k: Is Hollywood Fed Up?

Kim Masters
Hollywood Reporter
Even if studios expect only the chance to play a movie in Chinese theaters and believe all hurdles have been cleared, sudden obstacles can arise. Such was Sony's experience with Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained,...

Hollywood’s Box Office Heroes Proving Mortal In China

Michael Cieply
New York Times
If the preferences of Chinese moviegoers continue to shift to domestic releases — ticket sales for American movies in China fell 65 percent, to about $200 million in Q1 2013 — China will maintain control...

Katzenberg Unveils China Film Project

Andrew Browne, James T. Areddy and...
Wall Street Journal
The Hollywood power broker has lately turned his marketing skills on China, which is expected to surpass the U.S. box office by the end of the decade, driven by a boom in cinemas across the country. Tibet will be the topic of one of the first...

Conversation

04.25.13

Hollywood in China—What’s the Price of Admission?

Jonathan Landreth, Ying Zhu & more
Last week, DreamWorks Animation (DWA), the Hollywood studio behind the worldwide blockbuster Kung Fu Panda films, announced that it will cooperate with the China Film Group (CFG) on an animated feature called Tibet Code, an adventure story based on...

‘Unmade In China’ - When China Tries Calling A Filmmaker’s Shots

Ian Buckwalter
NPR
Unmade in China is nominally about filmmaking, but what Kofman and Barklow do well is to use their unusual position within the Chinese state machine - sponsored and controlled by the government - to make a thinly veiled movie about politics...

China Censors The Word ‘Censorship’

Al Jazeera
‘China’s Spielberg’, film director Feng Xiaogang, gave an emotional acceptance speech for ‘director of year’ in which he referred to censorship as a “torment” for Chinese filmmakers. The video - in which the word ‘censorship’ was censored - has...

China’s Sufis: The Shrines Behind the Dunes

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Lisa Ross’s luminous photographs are not our usual images of Xinjiang. One of China’s most turbulent areas, the huge autonomous region in the country’s northwest was brought under permanent Chinese control only in the mid-twentieth century...

Pinewood Shepperton, China’s Seven Stars Ink Joint Venture Deal

Clarence Tsui
Hollywood Reporter
The venture comes amid a slew of recent collaborations between Hollywood studios and Chinese partners as foreign entertainment companies look to break into China, and as China seeks to increase its capacity for soft power. 

Hollywood Descends On China For Beijing International Film Festival

Clarence Tsui
Hollywood Reporter
At this year’s festival Keanu Reeves debuts his upcoming movie, LucasArts’ Kathleen Kennedy delivers a keynote speech on modern storytelling, and many other Hollywood bigwigs come to town for business, screenings, signings, and more.

In China, The World’s Biggest Movie Lot Gets Even Bigger

Ian Johnson
New Yorker
Some of China’s most iconic buildings have been erected on Hengdian’s sprawling lot, giving the place the ersatz-historical feel of Colonial Williamsburg.  

Zao Wou-Ki, Seen As Modern Art Master, Dies At 92

Joyce Lau
New York Times
Zao Wou-ki, one of the few Chinese-born painters to be considered a master of 20th-century modern art in the West, died at his home in Switzerland on April 9, 2013. He was 92. 

Poet’s Nightmare In Chinese Prison

Elaine Sciolino
New York Times
 Chinese author and poet Liao Yiwu on his reluctant dissent, his years in a Chinese prison, his relatively new celebrity status, and living with the torutrous memories of his violent experiences. 

The Dangerous World Of Independent Film In China

Isabelle Regnier
Le Monde
An interview with Zhang Xianmin, founder of one of the many independent cultural events that were banned last year by the Chinese government. 

China’s Dalian Wanda In Talks To Buy European Theater Chain

Reuters
Dalian Wanda has shown interest in purchasing UK-based chains, Odeon & UCI Cinemas Holdings and Vue Entertainment, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation.  

Playing Margaret Thatcher In China

Melissa Rayworth
Salon
Melissa Rayworth on her  chance to show a small cross-section of China that Margaret Thatcher was not a cartoon. She was a real, three-dimensional person.  

Books

04.12.13

Lin Shu, Inc.

Michael Gibbs Hill
How could a writer who knew no foreign languages call himself a translator? How, too, did he become a major commercial success, churning out nearly 200 translations over twenty years? Lin Shu, Inc. crosses the fields of literary studies, intellectual history, and print culture, offering new ways to understand the stakes of translation in China and beyond. With rich detail and lively prose, Michael Gibbs Hill shows how Lin Shu (1852-1924) rose from obscurity to become China’s leading translator of Western fiction at the beginning of the twentieth century. Well before Ezra Pound’s and Bertolt Brecht’s “inventions” of China revolutionized poetry and theater, Lin Shu and his assistants—who did, in fact, know languages like English and French—had already given many Chinese readers their first taste of fiction from the United States, France, and England. After passing through Lin Shu’s “factory of writing,” classic novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Oliver Twist spoke with new meaning for audiences concerned with the tumultuous social and political change facing China. Leveraging his success as a translator of foreign books, Lin Shu quickly became an authority on traditional Chinese culture who upheld the classical language as a cornerstone of Chinese national identity. Eventually, younger intellectuals—who had grown up reading his translations—turned on Lin Shu and tarred him as a symbol of backward conservatism. Ultimately, Lin’s defeat and downfall became just as significant as his rise to fame in defining the work of the intellectual in modern China. —Oxford University Press

The Silk Road Of Pop

Sameer Farooq
Smoke Signal Projects
The film follows the trails left by a young Uyghur female named Ay and her interest in music, documenting her influences and portraying her musical idols in northwestern China. 

Earthbound China

04.11.13

Moving House: Preserving Huizhou’s Vernacular Architecture

Leah Thompson & Sun Yunfan
In 1996, art historian Nancy Berliner, working with the Peabody Essex Museum, purchased a vacant Qing dynasty merchant’s house from the Huizhou region of China and, piece by piece, moved it to the United States to be meticulously reconstructed at...

Earthbound China

04.11.13

There Goes the Neighborhood

Sun Yunfan & Leah Thompson
When, in 1996, art historian Nancy Berliner purchased a late Qing dynasty merchants’ house from Huangcun, a village in Anhui province, it was just one ordinary house among thousands like it in the picturesque Huizhou region of China. It took...

China’s Goodfellas

Howard W. French
Wall Street Journal
“A Death in the Lucky Holiday Hotel” is the most revealing work on the Bo Xilai episode to date. What emerges is an immensely complicated tale of behind-the-scenes power struggles as full of scandal, ambition and betrayal as anything that ancient...

Media

04.02.13

China Concerto

Jonathan Landreth
Before February 2012, when his name exploded onto the front pages of newspapers around the globe, most people outside of China had never heard of Bo Xilai, the now-fallen Communist Party Secretary of the megacity of Chongqing. But in the years...

China’s First Lady Strikes Glamorous Note

Jane Perlez and Bree Feng
New York Times
At a time when China’s Foreign Ministry is struggling to improve China’s international image, Peng Liyuan, 50, who has dazzled audiences at home and abroad with her bravura soprano voice, comes as a welcome gift. 

Chinese Create Tax-Free Zone For Art

Jason Chow
Wall Street Journal
A Chinese state-owned company is aiming to stoke the country's cultural sector with a tried-and-tested industrial model that has worked in the past for China's manufacturing industries. ...