Elegy of a River Shaman review

Source: Writing China (1/26/18)
The Last Human Tiger: Review of Fang Qi’s Elegy of a River Shaman
By Astrid Møller-Olsen


In a fantastic blend of folk song, ecocriticism and historical fiction, the novel Elegy of a River Shaman chronicles four generations of the Tribe of the Tiger and their Tima (shaman) in the Three Gorges (san xia 三峡) region along the Yangzi River. It opens with the clan patriarch Li Diezhu’s decision to build a pioneer settlement in the fertile Lihaku ridge and moves on to relate how macro-historical events, such as the Japanese invasion of 1937 and the civil war between communists and nationalists, affected the lives and traditions of this local community.

After trailing the fates and misfortunes of the dwindling tribe, the novel ends on a hopeful note, with Diezhu’s ageing widow assuring their great-grandson of the continued survival of his people and their totem animal: “when a tiger turns five hundred years old, its fur turn white. They can live a thousand years” (467). Continue reading

Jia Pingwa on ‘The Plight of Writing’

Source: LA Review of Books, China Channel (1/24/18)
The Plight of Writing
By Jia Pingwa

Illustration from a painting by Jia Pingwa, titled “The Cowpen.”

An undelivered speech Jia Pingwa

Considered one of the most original and influential novelists in contemporary China, Jia Pingwa has nonetheless been under-translated for a long time. A recent surge in translations of his novels has given us the hope that we might be finally seeing this important author’s “arrival”in the international world of literature. In light of this, the Modern and Contemporary Chinese Forum of the Modern Language Association organized two events: an interview with Jia, to be co-hosted by myself and the literary translator-scholar Michael Berry; and a roundtable on “The ‘Arrival’ of Jia Pingwa in World Literature: Translation and Interpretation” for this year’s annual conference, held in New York City Jan 4 -7. In placing the word ‘arrival’ in quotation marks, I was alluding to Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi film, which features a linguist whose correct interpretation of a mysterious alien message eventually saves the world from war and destruction. Jia’s literary arrival would not cause an apocalyptic encounter of course. But I knew it could not be easy. Still, never did I expect that Jia’s physical arrival at the MLA conference would prove to be so difficult and, in the end, impossible. Continue reading

Homesickness review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Lei Qin’s review of Homesickness: Culture, Contagion, and National Transformation in Modern China (Harvard UP, 2015), by Carlos Rojas. The review appears below and can also be read online here: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/leiqin/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Homesickness: Culture, Contagion, and 
National Transformation in Modern China

By Carlos Rojas 

Reviewed by Lei Qin
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2018)

Carlos Rojas, Homesickness: Culture, Contagion, and National Transformation in Modern China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015. 352 pp. ISBN: 9780674743946 Hardcover: US$45.00

Carlos Rojas’s book Homesickness: Culture, Contagion, and National Transformation in Modern China (hereafter, also abbreviated as Homesickness), which came out in 2015 with Harvard University Press, can be seen as a paradigm for a truly interdisciplinary project. In his exploration of a vast range of literary and cinematic texts, as well as historical discourses and ideas from China’s late nineteenth century to contemporary times, Rojas bridges the fields of medicine and science with Chinese literature, cinema, and history.

Homesickness can first be seen as expanding the cross-disciplinary subject of “medical humanities,” which, according to Howard Y. F. Choy, became popular in China following in the launch of the journal Chinese Medical Humanities Review (中国医学人文评论) by Peking University Medical Press in 2007 and the subsequent establishment of the Peking University Institute for Medical Humanities (北京大学医学人文研究院) a year later.[1] While medical humanities may be a nascent field of study rising in prominence, research into the understanding of disease as historically situated, socially meaningful, and culturally manifested has a long history both in Western and Chinese scholarship. A brief survey of this scholarship will help us to better situate Rojas’s contribution. Continue reading

JMLC ‘Chinese Poetry and Translation’

JMLC releases its 14.2–15.1 special issue “Chinese Poetry and Translation: Moving the Goalposts”

Guest-edited by Maghiel van Crevel, this special issue of the Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese (JMLC) comes out of a June 2017 workshop at Lingnan University. Rather than from real and imagined problems of (Chinese)-poetry-and-translation, the authors of this issue work from its potential: for rocking the boat rather than providing safe passage, for moving the goalposts and getting away with it, for empowering the translator to choose, time and again, which rule s/he wants to break, and unleashing whatever it is that happens next. While translation—interlingual and otherwise—is a central feature of the study of Chinese literature as practiced in an international community, it nevertheless doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, and we are happy to help address this. The papes conjoin theoretical contributions with in-depth reflection generated from inside processes and results of translation and its infrastructure. The abstracts can be viewed at http://commons.ln.edu.hk/jmlc/.

Table of Contents: Continue reading

Good harvest for fiction in 2017

Source: China Daily (1/5/18)
Fine harvest for farmers of fiction
By Mei Jia | China Daily

Director Feng Xiaogang and writer Yan Geling discuss Feng’s hit movie, Youth, an adaptation of Yan’s novel, You Touched Me. [Photo provided to China Daily]

An unprecedented year for burgeoning literary talent has yielded a profitable harvest for publishers. Mei Jia reports.

In terms of the creation of literature, both critics and publishers can agree that 2017 was a busy year, and one also filled with achievements, judging by the number and quality of literary works published in journals and as individual titles.

“Realism continues to be a trend, and writers are concerned mostly about issues regarding social reality and people’s livelihoods,” one industry insider says. Continue reading

Chinese Literature Today 6.2

Dear MCLC List members,

I am pleased to announce that Chinese Literature Today 6.2 (2017) is now available on the Routledge website (http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/uclt20/6/2?nav=tocList). Below is the TOC of CLT 6.2 (2017).

Ping Zhu <zpdarr@gmail.com>


6 Introduction, by Dai Jinhua
8 Writing as a Way of Life: Nomination of Wang Anyi for the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, by Dai Jinhua
10 “Coming to Oklahoma”: In Acceptance of the 2017 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, by Wang Anyi
12 Wang Anyi: The Storyteller as Thinker, by Wang Ban
14 Seven Short Conversations with Wang Anyi, Dai Jinhua, and Wang Ban, by Ping Zhu
22 The Emergence of a Writer, the Evolution of a Literary Scene: In Conversation with Wang Anyi, by Michael Berry
29 The White Horse in the Longtang, by Wang Anyi
35 Mothers and Daughters: Orphanage as Method, by Carlos Rojas
43 From Nostalgia to Reflection: An Exploration of The Song of Everlasting Sorrow by Wang Anyi, by Elena Martin-Enebral
52 Wang Anyi, Taiwan, and the World: The 1983 International Writing Program and Biblical Allusions in Utopian Verses, by Po-hsi Chen Continue reading

Best books in Chinese 2017

Dave Haysom has just compiled this brilliant list on Paper Republic.

2017: Best Books in Chinese

Which works of sci fi were worth reading this year? Whose fiction has forged a new way of representing dialect in literature? Why are Chinese authors reading the critic James Wood? And what was life like for Communist guerrillas in the jungles of 1980s Malaysia? Find out in our list of the best books published in Chinese in 2017, as chosen by Paper Republic and friends! https://paper-republic.org/davehaysom/2017-best-books-in-chinese/

Nicky Harman

Changpian 16

With Tabitha Speelman’s permission, MCLC will begin posting her newsletter, Chanpian, on non-fiction writing in China. Here is no. 16. Our thanks to Tabitha–Kirk

Changpian // Longform

Welcome to the 16th edition of Changpian, a selection of feature and opinion writing in Chinese. With other resources devoted to the many interesting sound bites from Chinese social media, this newsletter focuses instead on some of the wealth of longer writing that is produced in Chinese, both in traditional news media and on platforms like WeChat.

Changpian includes any nonfiction writing, from stories and investigations to interviews and blog posts, that I found worth my time – and that you might like as well. It aims to be relevant to an understanding of Chinese society today, covering topics in and outside the news cycle.

The selection is put together by me, Tabitha Speelman, a Dutch journalist and researcher currently based in Leiden, The Netherlands. As always, feedback is very welcome (tabitha.speelman@gmail.com or @tabithaspeelman). Back issues can be found here. Thanks for the support and all the best in the new year.

干货// Ganhuo // Dry Goods

In this section, I highlight any (loose) themes that stood out in my recent reading.

To Be in Beijing

Much Chinese coverage of the massive eviction of migrant workers and others from their Beijing homes this winter and the responses it triggered has been censored, with many of the links I was hoping to share now dead. Still, thanks to (re-)postings by China Digital Times and other 墙外 outlets, some stories can still be accessed. See for instance a Caixin blog on one family’s last days in Beijing (“我们走了,再也不回来了”) and a piece titled “嘿,他们不是低端劳动力,他们是人by social enterprise C计划, one of the first stories to be widely shared after early evictions following the Nov. 18 fire in Daxing. Continue reading

Stage tribute to Lao She

Source: China Daily (12/28/17)
Stage tribute to literary master
By Chen Nan | China Daily

The theater plays Five Acts of Life is adapted from five short stories by Chinese author Lao She, including Assuming Office and Death Dealing Spear. [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

A play comprising five short stories by Lao She returns to Beijing after its recent two-month nationwide tour. Chen Nan reports.

Theater director Lin Zhaohua met Shu Yi, the son of novelist and playwright Lao She (1899-1966), after Lin premiered his play Hamlet, adapted from William Shakespeare’s work, in October 2008.

While congratulating Lin on his take on the classic, Shu talked about commemorating his father’s 110th birth anniversary. Continue reading

Meng Lang’s poetry in Italian

Dear MCLCers,

On behalf of Meng Lang, I would like to announce that his collection of poetry about Tiananmen is now available in Italian.

SULL’EDUCAZIONE, Un diario poetico su Tian’anmen 1989 is translated by Claudia Pozzana of the University of Bologna and Alessandro Russo. This follows the publication of the bilingual edition, Views on Education: Twenty-five Poems (教育詩篇 二十五首), which was translated by Denis Mair. More information on Sull’educazione is available from the publisher, Damocle Edizioni:

The book is available on Amazon:

Anne Henochowicz
Commission Editor, China Channel

Walk on the Wild Side: Snapshots of the Chinese Poetry Scene

MCLC Resource Center is most pleased to announce publication of “Walk on the Wild Side: Snapshots of the Chinese Poetry Scene,” by Maghiel van Crevel. With its 143 mini-chapters and lavish illustrations, this is the longest and most ambitious piece we’ve published to date in our online publication series. Though written in a non-academic style that makes it accessible to a general readership, it is filled with details of interest to academic specialists in contemporary Chinese poetry. The essay can be read online at:


It is also available as a pdf download. Go to the link above, and click “DOWNLOAD IN PDF FORMAT” near the top of the page.

I want to thank Professor van Crevel for sharing with us his deep insights into the contemporary Chinese poetry scene.

Happy holidays,

Kirk A. Denton
Editor, MCLC

Liu Xia ‘going mad’ under detention

Source: The Guardian (12/17/17)
‘I live like a plant’: Nobel winner’s wife ‘going mad’ under Chinese detention
Liu Xia, poet and widow of democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo, suffering deep depression after living under house arrest without charges since 2010
Agence France-Presse

Liu Xia with a picture of her husband, Liu Xiaobo, who died in Chinese custody in July 2017.

Liu Xia with a picture of her husband, Liu Xiaobo, who died in Chinese custody in July 2017. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images.

Friends of the late Chinese democracy advocate and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo have voiced concern about his widow’s health after she sent a letter showing signs of deep depression.

The poet Liu Xia, 56, has been under police watch without charges since her husband was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2010, a recognition that deeply angered the Communist regime.

In a letter written in the form of a poem to the 2009 Nobel laureate for literature, Herta Mueller, Liu said she was “going mad”. Continue reading

Yu Guangzhong dies at age 90 (1)

Source: Taipei Times (12/15/17)
Poet Yu Kwang-chung, 90, dies in Kaohsiung
FAREWELL: Born in China in 1928, Yu Kwang-chung began writing in 1949. He migrated to Taiwan in 1950 and in the same year published poems, critical essays and translations
By Huang Hsu-lei and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporters, with CNA

Poet Yu Kwang-chung, left, kisses his wife, Fan Wo-tsun, at an event to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in Kaohsiung last year. Photo courtesy of National Sun Yat-sen University

Noted poet and essayist Yu Kwang-chung (余光中) yesterday died from complications from pneumonia at age 90, Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-ho Memorial Hospital said.

Yu was hospitalized last week after a suspected mini-stroke, before being transferred to the intensive care unit because of pneumonia, the hospital said, adding that detailed information has been withheld out of respect for Yu’s family.

Yu had been in poor health since last year, when he was twice hospitalized, first for an intestinal complaint and then a fall. Continue reading