Writing the South Seas review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Alison Groppe’s review of Writing the South Seas: Imagining the Nanyang in Chinese and Southeast Asian Postcolonial Literature (University of Washington Press, 2015), by Brian Bernards. The review appears below, but is best read online at:


My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Happy new year.

Kirk Denton, editor

Writing the South Seas: Imagining the Nanyang in
Chinese and Southeast Asian Postcolonial Literature

By Brian Bernards

Reviewed by Alison M. Groppe
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2017)

Brian C. Bernards. Writing the South Seas: Imagining the Nanyang in Chinese and Southeast Asian Postcolonial Literature . Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015. 288 pp. ISBN: 9780295995014 (Hardcover: $50.00).

Brian C. Bernards. Writing the South Seas: Imagining the Nanyang in Chinese and Southeast Asian Postcolonial Literature . Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015. 288 pp. ISBN: 9780295995014 (Hardcover: $50.00).

As Bernards makes clear from the start—and as many readers will already know—the Chinese term Nanyang literally means the “South Seas” and conventionally refers to the region of Southeast Asia, comprised of what are now Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines. It is the book’s identification and highlighting of para-geographical features of Nanyang, as literary device and imaginary, however, that comprises one of its primary contributions. First and foremost, Bernards introduces Nanyang literary texts from multiple time periods, geographical sites, and languages, the majority of which have received scant, if any, attention in English-language scholarship. Continue reading

Xi’s anti-corruption campaign to weed out rivals

Source: SCMP (1/2/16)
Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign ‘to weed out rivals’, says Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter
Criticism made by outspoken sister of Singapore’s prime minister in a rare salvo against Beijing by Southeast Asian leaders or their families
By Shi Jiangtao

The daughter of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew appears to have weighed in on the debate over President Xi Jinping’s much touted anti-corruption campaign in China, describing it as “a game” designed to tighten his grip on power. Continue reading

Chinese taming of Australian media, academia

Some excellent, alarming podcasts are coming out from the Asia Institute, Melbourne, on Chinese interventions there to control Australian media and academia. In the first one, not least John Fitzgerald is astute as an observer and he’s actually not just talking about Chinese-language media but also Chinese interventions in English-language media:  

Control and Capture: Taming Overseas Chinese Media
The Little Red Podcast, Asia Institute, Melbourne, Australia, Dec. 2016.


“China’s not trying to influence, it’s trying to change Australia.” Continue reading

Brian Bernards on Writing the South Seas

Source: SingaporePoetry.com (11/21/16)
Writing the South Seas

by Philip Holden

Research work on Singapore Literature is increasingly exploring connections across languages and national borders, rather than within a single English-language literary tradition. A new generation of scholars such as E.K. Tan, Weihsin Gui, Joanne Leow, Cheryl Naruse, Angelia Poon, and Nazry Bahrawi has made a series of important interventions in the last years, introducing new topics of critical cosmopolitanism and border-crossing. Literature from Singapore, Malaysia, and the surrounding region has often been seen as peripheral to larger literary and indeed civilizational concerns. Singapore writing in English, for instance, has traditionally been viewed as a minor Anglophone postcolonial literature, while writing from Singapore and Malaysia in Chinese has either been absorbed into the literature of greater China, or pictured as part of an exotic periphery. Much contemporary scholarship work on world literatures, however, has emphasized how questions of translation and border-crossing are central to the very notion of what literature is, or might be: viewed through this lens, the literatures of Singapore and the region surrounding gain new prominence. Continue reading

Forgotten life of H. T. Tsiang

Source: The New Yorker (7/14/16)
By Hua Hsu


H. T. Tsiang on the set of “Kraft Mystery Theatre.” COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL STUDIOS LICENSING LLC

In the nineteen-thirties, “The Good Earth,” by Pearl S. Buck, was inescapable. The tale of a noble Chinese farmer and his struggles against famine, political upheaval, and personal temptation, the book was an immediate success upon publication, in 1931. Buck was born in West Virginia, but she was raised in rural China, the daughter of American missionaries, and she resisted the sense of Christian superiority many within her circle felt toward the “heathen” Chinese. “When I was in the Chinese world I was Chinese, I spoke Chinese and behaved as a Chinese and ate as the Chinese did, and I shared their thoughts and feelings,” she later recalled. Her sympathetic backstory gave “The Good Earth” a rare kind of authority: it was billed as an authentic tale of a distant, windswept China, but its author was a white American, and it told the kind of story that Americans grappling with the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl wanted to hear—of hard work, perseverance, and triumph in the face of natural disaster and corruption. Continue reading

Teng Biao book raises self-censorship questions

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (4/27/16)
Book Debate Raises Questions of Self-Censorship by Foreign Groups in China
By Edward Wong
点击查看本文中文版 Read in Chinese


Teng Biao in 2013. Credit Gillian Wong/Associated Press

BEIJING — The American Bar Association has rejected a potentially incendiary book that is being written by the Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao, but others are exploring the possibility of publishing it.

“Now, some publishers in the United States are contacting me and saying they are interested in publishing my book,” Mr. Teng said in a telephone interview. “I have not signed a deal yet.”

With the working title “Darkness Before Dawn,” the book is at the center of a public brawl between Mr. Teng and the American Bar Association, which is primarily a professional organization for lawyers in the United States but also has an office in Beijing that aims to help build up the legal system in China. Continue reading

Coyote Traces

CT small 2016-02-04 at 11.04.35 AM_0Coyote Traces: Aku Wuwu’s Poetic Sojourn in America published by Ethnic Publishing House and National East Asian Languages Resource Center, Ohio State University.

The bilingual (Chinese and English) volume was published in late 2015, and is available through this link:  https://flpubs.osu.edu/events/aku-wuwus-latest-poetic-sojourn-yi-native-american

Aku Wuwu is a dynamic  and visionary poet of the Yi ethnic group in Sichuan province who writes in both the Nuosu Yi language and Chinese.  In 2006,  Tiger Traces: Selected Nuosu and Chinese Poetry of Aku Wuwu, edited by Aku Wuwu and Mark Bender, with accompanying audio CD was published in Columbus, OH: Foreign Language Publications, The Ohio State University.  Coyote Traces is a series of  80 poems on diverse cultural experiences, inspired by several trips across the US.  The volume, translated by Wen Peihong and Mark Bender, also includes two interviews with Aku about his poetic vision.

CUNY Grad Center talks

For the list members who live in or pass through New York, the following talks on April 5 and May 3 might be of some interest.–Ying Zhu

Chinese American Traitor: The Search for Shanghai Broadcaster Herbert Moy 
Speaker: Dr. Charlotte Brooks (The City University of New York)

During World War II, Chinese American citizen Herbert Moy took a lucrative job broadcasting for XGRS, the German government’s radio station in Shanghai. Moy soon became known as the most skilled Axis propagandist in East Asia. This talk examines complicated motives and mysterious death, as well as the way US law enforcement agencies investigated and understood him.

TIME & Location: April 5, 2016, 6-8 PM
CUNY Graduate Center Room 5318 (Advanced Research Collaborative seminar room)
365 Fifth Avenue (btw 34 & 35 St.), Manhattan
RSVP by March 29 to shinae21@gmail.com

The Sino-Hollywood Courtship: Film as Soft Power and Hard Currency
Speaker: Ying Zhu (College of Staten Island, CUNY)

Location: CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue (btw 34 & 35 St.) Room 5318
Time: May 3, 7-9 PM

Mao museum to open near Moscow

For more on this story from Voice of America (in Chinese), see:


Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines (2/19/16)
Mao Zedong museum to open near Moscow

Mao Zedong museum to open in Moscow

Mao Zedong museum to open in Moscow. Source: Reuters

A Mao Zedong museum will be opened in July in the outskirts of the Russian capital, the official website of the Moscow Mayor’s Office said.The museum, which is part of an upcoming Chinese cultural center, will be located in the Musin-Pushkin estate in the Troitsky district.Restoration of the two-story manor began in 2015. The building will host an exhibition dedicated to the Sixth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which took place in the estate in 1928. This was the only party congress that was organized outside China.Although Mao was not present during the congress, the museum will be built in his honor. Continue reading

Petition to start SE Asian and Diasporic Forum at MLC

Attention list-members who are also members of the MLA:

Building upon successful efforts to foster a stronger presence in East Asian literatures and cultures at the Modern Language Association’s Annual Convention through the creation of new permanent forums (largely thanks to Prof. Christopher Lupke), there is now a movement to establish an MLA Forum for Southeast Asian and Southeast Asian Diasporic Literature and Culture (the only Asia not represented by a permanent MLA forum). In recent years, there have been several collaborative panels and roundtables initiated by those working in both Sinophone and Anglophone literatures from SE Asia, and we are now trying to broaden the spectrum through greater collaboration across the language divisions of the many literary and cultural traditions of SE Asia.

If you are an MLA member, please sign the petition supporting the creation of this forum HERE. Also, please consider joining the group if you are interested in participating in or putting together any SE Asia-related special sessions/roundtables for future MLA conventions. Thank you for your support, and Happy Year of the Monkey!

Brian Bernards <bernards@usc.edu>
University of Southern California

Maya Lin finding her roots

List members may be interested in watching the recent episode of PBS’s Finding Your Roots, which features Maya Lin. The episode includes a genealogy of Lin’s mother, Julia C. Lin (林明暉, nee 張明暉), who will be familiar to many MCLC list members.

While the episode mentions Maya Lin’s maternal grandfather, Dr. Foh-Sing Tsang 張福星, it doesn’t discuss him at any length. Julia several times told me that he was the personal physician to Madame Sun Yat-sen for many years.

Maya’s father (& Julia’s husband), Henry Lin, an accomplished ceramic artist, is mentioned in the show as well; among the interesting facts of his life not touched upon in the episode are that he was tutored by Shen Ts’ung-wen as a child, and his half sister was Lin Huiyin.

Discover how the ancestors of business mogul Richard Branson and architects Maya Lin and Frank Gehry took audacious risks to create opportunities, and how their luck, ingenuity and chutzpah was passed on to these three visionaries.


Nicholas A. Kaldis <nkaldis@gmail.com>

Sinophone Malaysian Literature review

I’m reposting this review because, for some reason I can’t explain, the first paragraph of the review was cut off. So, here it is again, with my apologies.

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Tzu-hui Celina Hung’s review of Sinophone Malaysian Literature: Not Made in China (Cambria, 2013), by Alison M. Groppe. The review appears below, but is best read online at:


My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.


Kirk A. Denton, Editor

Sinophone Malaysian Literature:
Not Made in China

By Alison M. Groppe

Reviewed by Tzu-hui Celina Hung
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2016)

Alison M. Groppe, Sinophone Malaysian Literature: Not Made in China. Amherst, N.Y.: Cambria Press, 2013. x + 325p. ISBN: 9781604978551. $114.99 (cloth); $8.99 to $39.99 (e-book).

Alison M. Groppe, Sinophone Malaysian Literature: Not Made in China. Amherst, N.Y.: Cambria Press, 2013. x + 325p. ISBN: 9781604978551. $114.99 (cloth); $8.99 to $39.99 (e-book).

Nearly a decade has passed since the publication of Shu-mei Shih’s trailblazing Visuality and Identity: Sinophone Articulations across the Pacific (2007). In both English- and Chinese-language scholarship, the ensuing waves of interest in and debate over the use of Sinophone studies as a critique of the nation- and lineage-based narratives of modern Chinese studies have, so far, yielded a welcome multidisciplinary network outside Mainland China.[1] For literature emerging from global huayu (華語)-speaking circles, this development also occasioned a long overdue breakthrough. Although Chinese-language writings rooted in multiethnic Southeast Asian history have witnessed a steady flourish since the 1990s—primarily through the plowing and tilling of writers and scholars based in Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore—they had not been systematically analyzed in English. This recently changed, when literary imaginations of the South Seas entered several article- and book-length publications on both sides of the Pacific.[2] From this chorus of intellectual responses appears Alison Groppe’s Sinophone Malaysian Literature: Not Made in China. This is the first English-language monograph devoted exclusively to Chinese-language writings hailing from Malaysia, the literary stronghold of huayu-speaking Southeast Asia. It is a timely and lucid reference work on the vibrant Sinophone Malaysian literary world, its intellectual history, aesthetic practices, and intersecting literary genealogies. Continue reading

Student visa scheme

From: Timothy J.T. Pi <timothy.pi@gmail.com>
Source: ABC News (5/28/15)

15 Chinese Nationals Accused in US of Student Visa Scheme
By JOE MANDAK Associated Press

Fifteen Chinese citizens conspired to take college entrance exams on behalf of others or paid to have that done for them so they could obtain student visas, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The newly unsealed indictment in Pittsburgh contends the alleged conspirators scammed tests run by Educational Testing Service and the College Board — such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT.

The alleged scheme involves test-takers and students who benefited from tests administered in Pittsburgh and its suburbs since 2011. Investigators weren’t saying which, or how many, schools the students may have entered fraudulently. Continue reading

Being Chinese in Singapore (1)

“Being Chinese in Singapore” made me think of an article by a Singapore blogger in Paris, written last month. Her reaction to the terror attacks was different from the reactions of people from China, she wrote. See




Martin Winter <dujuan99@gmail.com>

Being Chinese in Singapore

Source: NYT (2/12/15)
Being Chinese in Singapore

SINGAPORE — Festooned with red lanterns and banners bearing auspicious messages, the ornate façade of the 19th-century Thian Hock Keng temple in downtown Singapore seems even more flamboyant than usual. The temple is readying itself for its busiest time of the year: Over the next few weeks thousands of worshipers will make offerings and pray for a favorable Chinese New Year. It’s a time when even the least conscientious of temple-goers, like me, make an effort to maintain the customs that link them to their heritage.

Continue reading