Interview with Poet Ye Lijun

Source: Kenyon Review (12/3/19)
Living and Writing in Lishui: Interview with Contemporary Chinese Poet Ye Lijun
Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Cover of My Mountain CountryBorn in 1972 in Lishui, Zhejiang Province to an impoverished family, Ye Lijun [叶丽隽] worked as a junior high art teacher and arts administrator for intangible cultural heritage. The author of three poetry titles, she has received several literary honors in China. Currently, she resides in her native city Lishui where she works as an editor. Her first bilingual volume of poetry My Mountain Country, in Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s translation, is published by World Poetry Books.

Fiona Sze-Lorrain: My Mountain Country is a collection that believes in nature first and foremost. Do you consider yourself a nature poet, if not a contemporary Chinese pastoral poet?

Ye Lijun: I feel and think of myself as a nature poet, not a contemporary Chinese pastoral poet.

Sze-Lorrain: In several instances, your poems hint at our failure to honor nature, or give ourselves up (and in) to it, as we ought to. In “Chronicle of Mount White Cloud,” for example,

Two young clouds leaning close
stir a puddle with naked toes. A mountain breeze
Pine needles feel too soft under my feet
My heart throbs
I don’t know how to walk
to place myself safely in this mountain

Do you think poetry can function as an effective vehicle that raises awareness of our climate changes and problems? Continue reading

How to survive as a woman at a Chinese banquet

Source: NYT (11/30/19)
How to Survive as a Woman at a Chinese Banquet
Important: Always know when you’re “the girl.”
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Yan Ge

[Ms. Yan is the author of 13 books, including, most recently, “The Chilli Bean Paste Clan.”]

Credit…Lisk Feng

A Chinese banquet can be many things, but it is never a gastronomic occasion.

It is more like a sport, one in which the primary goal is to drink a toast with each individual sitting around the table, in a rigid successive order, starting with the most prominent and proceeding clockwise. If that sounds straightforward, it isn’t: Bear in mind that everyone at the table is playing the same game simultaneously, which means just as you’ve homed in on your target and are ready to make your move, he could be raising a toast to another guest, who could very well be looking to drink with someone else.

Other rules: Make sure to turn the shot of baijiu bottoms up with every encounter; say flattering words in your toast, but nothing too flowery; appear cordial and personable; smile, but avoid inappropriate body contact. Finally, while you’re busy circling the table, don’t forget to eat. Continue reading

Literary reference backfires

Source: China Media Project (12/5/19)
by  | Dec 5, 2019

A Literary Reference Backfires

Xianglin Sao in the 1956 film adaptation of Lu Xun’s story.

On December 3, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hu Chunying (华春莹) held a press conference at which a journalist asked about a recent op-ed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo published through the US news site POLITICO, in which he said that in light of security concerns over 5G technology “it’s critical that European countries not give control of their critical infrastructure to Chinese tech giants like Huawei, or ZTE.”

Pompeo’s remarks included a range of accusations against Huawei in particular, noting its links to the Chinese military, charges that it engaged in espionage in the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Poland, and allegations that it stole intellectual property from countries such as Germany and Israel. Pompeo also pointed to Chinese state subsidies for Huawei as evidence of unfair practices that “undercut prices offered by market-based rivals.” Continue reading

Ken Liu on Chinese sci-fi

Source: NYT (12/3/19)
Why Is Chinese Sci-Fi Everywhere Now? Ken Liu Knows
The Massachusetts-based translator has done more than anyone to bridge the gap between Chinese science fiction and American readers.
By Alexandra Alter

Ken Liu outside his home in Stoughton, Mass. Credit… Amani Willett for The New York Times

In the fall of 2012, Ken Liu received an intriguing offer from a Chinese company with a blandly bureaucratic name: China Educational Publications Import and Export Corporation, Ltd. It was seeking an English-language translator for a trippy science-fiction novel titled “The Three-Body Problem.” Liu — an American computer programmer turned corporate lawyer turned science-fiction writer — was a natural choice: fluent in Mandarin, familiar with Chinese sci-fi tropes and culture and a rising star in the genre. Liu had only translated short fiction at the time, though, and capturing the novel in all its complexity seemed daunting.

“The Three-Body Problem” was unlike anything Liu had ever read. A mind-bending epic set in Beijing, Inner Mongolia and on a distant planet, the novel was full of heady technical passages about quantum theory, nanotechnology, orbital mechanics and astrophysics, intertwined with profound moral questions about the nature of good and evil and humanity’s place in the universe. Continue reading

Chinese Poetry and Translation

We are pleased to announce publication of Chinese Poetry and Translation: Rights and Wrongs (Amsterdam University Press, 2019). Open access download here. Order print copies here.

edited by Maghiel van Crevel and Lucas Klein

Table of contents:

Introduction: The Weird Third Thing
Maghiel van Crevel and Lucas Klein

Part One: The Translator’s Take

(1) Sitting with Discomfort: A Queer-Feminist Approach to Translating Yu Xiuhua
Jenn Marie Nunes

(2) Working with Words: Poetry, Translation, and Labor
Eleanor Goodman Continue reading

Chinese Poetic Modernisms review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Joanna Krenz’s review of Chinese Poetic Modernisms (Brill, 2019, edited by Paul Manfredi and Christopher Lupke. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Chinese Poetic Modernisms

Edited by Paul Manfredi and Christopher Lupke

Reviewed by Joanna Krenz

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2019)

Chinese Poetic Modernisms. Edited by Paul Manfredi and Christopher Lupke. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2019. xl + 403 pgs. ISBN: 9789004402881.

Among academic publications, the title Chinese Poetic Modernisms does not stand out as particularly controversial or experimental; at first glance, it may even strike one as being somewhat mundane. Yet, one need only read a few paragraphs of the Introduction, by editors Paul Manfredi and Christopher Lupke, to see that the formula of “Chinese poetic modernisms” is anything but conventional. Each of its three main conceptual components—Chineseness, poeticness, and modernism(s)—alone can provoke endless discussion and debate, not to mention the plethora of contested terms associated with these concepts and their multiple configurations and contextualizations. The fourteen scholars whose contributions are included in the book confront the idea of Chinese poetic modernisms from various, sometimes radically different angles, which add up to a dynamic, multidimensional picture of modernist practice in Chinese poetry. Continue reading

Chinese translation in Spain

Dear colleagues,

TXICC research group (Translation from Chinese into Spanish/Catalan) is glad to announce the publication of two open-access databases which are the result of years of research by some of its researchers.

On the one hand, “El cine chino traducido en España” (Chinese cinema translated in Spain) contains all the films originally produced in Chinese-speaking areas that have arrived in Spain through different channels, such as cinemas, festivals or online platforms. This database seeks to offer a real image of the type of Chinese cinema that arrives in Spain, as well as to provide data to analyse cinema from the perspective of audiovisual translation.

On the other hand, “La literatura china traducida en España” (Chinese literature translated in Spain) is a twin database compiling all the Chinese literature published in Spain and translated into any of its official languages. Its main aim is to provide empirical data to analyse different aspects of Chinese literature through a literary translation lens, e.g. translators’ (in)visibility or the impact of certain literary works through their different editions and translations. Continue reading

A century of China’s new poetry

Source: China Channel, LARB (11/4/19)
A Century of China’s New Poetry
By Kerry Shawn Keys and Ming Di

Six poems by Mo Yan and others, spanning generations – edited by Ming Di
Selected from New Poetry From China: 1917-2017

China’s New Poetry Movement was started in Beijing in 1917 by Hu Shi (1891–1962) and reinforced by the May 4th Movement in 1919. But what was its aesthetic goal, what influence does it still exert on cultural life in China, and what has been challenged? New Poetry From China: 1917-2017, a new anthology, tries to address the many dimensions of the movement, covering works from most of the important poets still relevant today. 120 poets were selected, from Hu Shi to contemporary voices, including dissident poets. Mo Yan and Liu Xiaobo are back to back on the pages, and many other poets are translated into English for the first time. Two major traditions within the New Poetry Movement have been pushing each other forward: Spoken Language Poetry and Neoclassical Poetry, both are experimental in language and form but with different approaches. We hope you enjoy this small sample of six poems below, representing the span of different generations of poets, from Zheng Min, born in 1920, to Su Xiaoyan born in 1992. – Ming Di

Golden Rice Sheaves
Zheng Min 郑敏

Golden rice stands in sheaves
in the newly cut autumn field.
I think of droves of exhausted mothers,
I see rugged faces along the road at dusk.
On the day of harvest, a full moon hangs
atop the towering trees,
and in the twilight, distant mountains
approach my heart.
Nothing is more quiet than this, a statue
shouldering so much weariness—
you lower your head in thought
in the unending autumn field.
Silence. Silence. History is nothing
but a small stream flowing under your feet.
You stand where the rice is, your thought
becoming a thought of the human race.

Translated from Chinese by Ming Di and Kerry Shawn Keys Continue reading

Going Home

Source: China Channel, LARB (11/8/19)
Going Home
By  and 

Taiwanese fiction by Loa Ho, translated by Darryl Sterk
Editor’s note: Loa Ho (賴和), also known as Lazy Cloud, was a Taiwanese poet, born in 1894. A doctor by profession, it was his contribution to the literary republic – overlooked today – that led him to be hailed as the “father of modern Taiwanese literature.” This 1932 story, translated and republished in the new collection Scales of Injustice, was first published in the founding issue of Voice of the South (南音), a literary journal where Taiwanese cultural elites hoped to communicate with the wider public.

If a product is not up to standard in the factory you still have the chance to fix it, but if it makes it all the way to the market and customers don’t like it, it’s useless and will get thrown away. That’s how I felt when I arrived home after graduating from university, like a reject. It was an unpleasant homecoming.

Several days after I got home I lost the courage to go out, because every time I did I met relatives or friends who would say, “Congratulations, you graduated!” Which I found terrifying, because it would remind me that I had left the factory and was en route to the market. In the first few days, of course, I was happy to be reunited with my family after a long absence. I didn’t yet feel lonely. But soon I was used to being home again and realized all the adults in the family were busy, and that most of my younger brothers and sisters were still in school. Playing with the youngest, who were not yet old enough for school, made me happy, but it was embarrassing when I tried to discipline them, because they would always start crying. I really didn’t know how to comfort them. Even playing with them, I often made them cry, which opened me to complaints from the one who was actually responsible for taking care of the kids. So I just sat around at home and felt bored and useless. Continue reading

Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Michael Ka-chi Cheuk’s review of Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics (Cambria, 2018), edited by Mabel Lee and Liu Jianmei. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics

Edited by Mabel Lee and Liu Jianmei

Reviewed by Michael Ka-chi Cheuk

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2019)

Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics Edited by Mabel Lee and Liu Jianmei. Amherst: Cambria Press, 2018. x + 349 pp. ISBN: 9781604979466.

Since Gao Xingjian became the first Chinese-language writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (2000), the field of Gao Xingjian studies has grown into a formidable industry. Yet, Liu Zaifu, arguably the most prolific and respected scholar in the field, remarks that critics have only scratched the surface of Gao’s artistic career: “Though there are certainly numerous critiques of his works, strictly speaking the academic study of Gao Xingjian has not yet begun” (Liu/Poon 2016: 132; translation my own). One should not take Liu’s words as discrediting the value of insightful studies like Tam Kwok-kan’s edited collection Soul of Chaos (2001), Quah Sy Ren’s Gao Xingjian and Chinese Transcultural Theatre (2004), or even Liu Zaifu’s own Chinese-language study On Gao Xingjian (Liu 2004). While these studies have laid the foundation for understanding Gao’s artistic vision and his works, Liu Zaifu calls for more attention to what makes Gao Xingjian an original artist. For Liu, Gao Xingjian’s contributions are groundbreaking and wide-ranging, including novels, plays, paintings, and films. As such, he asks: “What are their a priori sources?”; “How are they realized?”; “What has Gao Xingjian inherited and rejected from Chinese and Western literary traditions?” (2016: 132; translation my own). Continue reading

Sanmao, wandering writer

Source: NYT (10/23/19)
Overlooked No More: Sanmao, ‘Wandering Writer’ Who Found Her Voice in the Desert
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Her book, “Stories of the Sahara,” has endured for generations of young Taiwanese and Chinese women yearning for independence from conservative social norms.
By Mike Ives and Katherine Li

The writer Sanmao in an undated photo. Her self-assured prose filled books of essays about her intrepid travels across three continents. Credit…Huang Chen Tien Hsin, Chen Sheng and Chen Chieh through Crown Publishing Company Ltd.

This article is part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

In the early 1970s, the Taiwanese writer Sanmao saw an article about the Sahara Desert in National Geographic magazine and told her friends that she wanted to travel there and cross it.

They assumed she was joking, but she would eventually go on that journey and write that the vast Sahara was her “dream lover.”

“I looked around at the boundless sand across which the wind wailed, the sky high above, the landscape majestic and calm,” she wrote in a seminal 1976 essay collection, “Stories of the Sahara,” of arriving for the first time at a windswept airport in the Western Saharan city of El Aaiún.

“It was dusk,” she continued. “The setting sun stained the desert the red of fresh blood, a sorrowful beauty. The temperature felt like early winter. I’d expected a scorching sun, but instead found a swathe of poetic desolation.” Continue reading

Notes on the Pekingese

List members may be interested in my translation of a novella by Takbum Gyel, a writer from Qinghai who is well established in the Tibetan literary world. “Notes on the Pekingese” is a surrealist story about ethnic politics and social climbing set in a local government office in Tibet. You can find it here, published as an ebook by Ploughshares Solos:

Christopher Peacock <>


Silk Road Tales

Source: Paper Republic (10/8/19)
Silk Road Tales: A Look at a Mongolian-Chinese Storybook
By Bruce Humes

cover image

The new emperor’s Belt & Road Initiative has already resulted in scores of contracts for highways, railways and port construction in Central Asia, Southeast Asia and even East Africa. Perhaps less well known is China’s solidly financed soft power campaign that aims to create or translate, publish and disseminate texts in the languages of the “Silk Road” peoples — land- and sea-based — that relate to the history of the ancient trade routes. This post features the tale of Zhang Qian, diplomat and explorer of the “Western Realm” during the reign of Emperor Wu of Han (141-87 BCE). It is one of a bilingual picture-book series aimed at children aged 5-6 who live in Inner Mongolia.To facilitate comparison, the blogger has provided the text in three languages, five scripts: the original Chinese and Inner Mongolian script (vertical); Hanyu Pinyin; Cyrillic Mongolian (used in the Republic of Mongolia); and a translation of the text into English.Students of Chinese and Central Asian history may note that one related “episode” has been left out of this rendition. As noted in the storybook, after years of imprisonment at the hands of the Xiongnu, Zhang Qian escaped and was welcomed by the ruler of Da Yuan. We learn that “With the help of the king of Da Yuan, Zhang Qian visited many countries and gained a great deal of knowledge of the culture and geography of the countries of the Western region.” Continue reading

The Transcultural Streams of Chinese Canadian Idenitities

New Publication

Jessica Tsui-yan Li, editor The Transcultural Streams of Chinese Canadian Identities. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019.–the-products-9780773556850.php

Investigating the conditions that shape Chinese Canadian identities from various historical, social, and literary perspectives. Highlighting the geopolitical and economic circumstances that have prompted migration from Hong Kong and mainland China to Canada, The Transcultural Streams of Chinese Canadian Identities examines the Chinese Canadian community as a simultaneously transcultural, transnational, and domestic social and cultural formation. Continue reading