Imperfect Understanding review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Li Guo’s review of Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities (Cambria 2018), by Wen Yuan-ning, edited by Christopher Rea. 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

Imperfect Understanding:
Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities

By Wen Yuan-ning and others
Edited by Christopher Rea

Reviewed by Li Guo
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2019)

Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities by Wen Yuan-ning and others Edited by Christopher Rea. Amherst: Cambria Press, 2018. 315 pp. ISBN: 978-1-60497-943-5.

Part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, edited by Victor H. Mair, Christopher Rea’s edited collection Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities by Wen Yuan-ning and others presents in their entirety the essays in the column “Unedited Biographies,” which ran from 1934 to 1935 in the prominent Republican English-language journal The China Critic 中國評論週報. As Rea points out, “The China Critic, for which Wen [Yuan-ning] served as a contributing editor, is emblematic of the robustness of foreign-language publishing in 1930s China” (4). Having appeared weekly for a dozen years before the war, the journal was one of the many general or specialist foreign-language periodicals that published in English, French, Japanese, German, Russian, and other languages in Republican China. From January through December of 1934, the journal published a series of fifty-one succinct “Unedited Biographies” of contemporary celebrities in China. Midway through the year, the column was retitled “Intimate Portraits.” In 1935, seventeen of these popular essays, all authored by Wen Yuan-ning 溫源寧 (1900-1984), were republished as the book Imperfect Understanding. As Rea insightfully states, the essays “testify to the vitality of Anglophone literary cosmopolitan culture in 1930s China, with flashes of wit, erudition, and panache” (2). For today’s readers, these biographical essays on key cultural figures draw scholarly attention to the scene of Republican multilingual print media and their representation of socio-political topics and discussions of culture and entertainment. Continue reading

Xinjiang schools used to separate children from families

Source: BBC News (7/4/19)
China Muslims: Xinjiang schools used to separate children from families
BBC News, Xinjiang

The BBC’s John Sudworth meets Uighur parents in Turkey who say their children are missing in China

China is deliberately separating Muslim children from their families, faith and language in its far western region of Xinjiang, according to new research.

At the same time as hundreds of thousands of adults are being detained in giant camps, a rapid, large-scale campaign to build boarding schools is under way.

Based on publicly available documents, and backed up by dozens of interviews with family members overseas, the BBC has gathered some of the most comprehensive evidence to date about what is happening to children in the region.

Records show that in one township alone more than 400 children have lost not just one but both parents to some form of internment, either in the camps or in prison. Continue reading

Tiananmen 30 Years On

Announcing the June/July issue of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, the “Tiananmen Thirty Years On” feature, edited by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho and Lucas Klein, along with a special feature of poems by and in mourning of Meng Lang 孟浪.

The following CONTRIBUTORS have generously allowed us to showcase their work:

Tammy Lai-Ming Ho, Gregory Lee, Ding Zilin (translated by Kevin Carrico), Andréa Worden, Shuyu Kong (with translations of poems by Colin Hawes), Ai Li Ke, Anna Wang, and Sara Tung

Bei Dao (translated by Eliot Weinberger), Duo Duo (translated by Lucas Klein), Liu Xiaobo (translated by Ming Di), Xi Chuan (translated by Lucas Klein), Yang Lian (translated by Brian Holton), Xi Xi (translated by Jennifer Feeley), Meng Lang (translated by Anne Henochowicz), Lin Zhao (translated by Chris Song), Liu Waitong (translated by Lucas Klein), Chan Lai Kuen (translated by Jennifer Feeley), Mei Kwan Ng (translated by the author), Yibing Huang (translated by the author), Ming Di (translated by the author), Anthony Tao, Aiden Heung, Kate Rogers, Ken Chau, Ilaria Maria Sala, Ian Heffernan, Reid Mitchell, Lorenzo Andolfatto, Joseph T. Salazar Continue reading

ANU positions

Applications are now open for the China in the World and CHL joint positions in Chinese Literature/Media and Chinese History and the Australian National University. Please see details below.

Job no:  529657
Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor or Professor (Chinese Literature/Media)
Job Closing date: 21/7/2019

ANU Jobs Page:

Job no: 529658
Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor or Professor (Chinese History)
Job Closing date: 21/7/2019

ANU Jobs Page: Continue reading

A City Called Macau

Source: SCMP (7/3/19)
A City Called Macau film review: Bai Baihe in tale of misplaced affection and gambling addiction
Film suffers from the fact that, while its three lead actors give credible performances, none of their characters is sympathetic enough to carry its story. The tale of a casino broker who funds wealthy gamblers but drops her guard when she falls for an artist turned gaming addict requires a suspension of disbelief
By Edmund Lee

Bai Baihe in a still from A City Called Macau (category IIA; Mandarin, Cantonese), directed by Li Shaohong. Wu Gangand Huang Jue co-star.

Bai Baihe in a still from A City Called Macau (category IIA; Mandarin, Cantonese), directed by Li Shaohong. Wu Gangand Huang Jue co-star.

A City Called Macau [媽閣是座城] is a glossy, episodic tale of misplaced affection and gambling addiction set in the Chinese casino city between the early 2000s and 2014, when China’s anti-corruption campaign put a halt to the ferocious growth in its gaming revenue.

The first film since 2007’s The Door by Li Shaohong, one of China’s Fifth Generation directors, who is best known for Bloody Morning, it is an adaptation of Yan Geling’s 2012 novel of the same name. Yan wrote the script with the help of two other writers, Lu Wei and Chan Man-keung. Continue reading

HK celebrities support protests with a cost

Source: NYT (7/5/19)
For Hong Kong Celebrities, Supporting Protests Comes With a Cost
By Daniel VictorAmy Qin and Tiffany May

The singer Denise Ho outside the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong last month. She has been blacklisted in China since throwing her celebrity behind Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement five years ago.CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — As Hong Kong’s protests evolve into a struggle against the grip of authoritarian China, one of the city’s biggest pop stars has emerged as an icon of defiance. She has spoken at rallies, handed out voter registration forms at marches and stood on the front lines with demonstrators, urging the riot police not to charge.

Denise Ho, a Cantopop singer, is just one of many high-profile figures in the decentralized protest movement, but among Hong Kong’s celebrities, she is a rare breed. Ms. Ho threw her stardom behind the city’s pro-democracy movement five years ago and has since been paying the price — being barred in the lucrative mainland Chinese market. Continue reading

HK protests show dangers of cashless society

Source: Reason (7/2/19)
Hong Kong Protests Show Dangers of a Cashless Society
Many digital payments can be tracked, potentially assisting an authoritarian crackdown.

It can be easy to take cash for granted, especially in a wealthy, developed economy. Those fortunate enough to live in a stable society usually suffer no lack of payment options. They are getting more advanced all the time, with financial technology (fintech) companies constantly developing new ways to quickly and cheaply make purchases and send money. It sometimes seems the days of old-fashioned cash, with its dormant physicality, are numbered.

Allowing cash to die would be a grave mistake. A cashless society is a surveillance society. The recent round of protests in Hong Kong highlights exactly what we have to lose. Continue reading

Waste Tide review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Cara Healey’s review of Waste Tide, by Chen Qiufan and translated by Ken Liu. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Michael Berry, our translations book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Waste Tide

By Chen Qiufan
Translated by Ken Liu

Reviewed by Cara Healey
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2019)

Chen Qiufan, The Waste Tide Tr. by Ken Liu. New York: Tor Books, 2019. 352 pp. ISBN-10: 0765389312; ISBN-13: 978-0765389312

Chen Qiufan’s 陈楸帆 novel Waste Tide (荒潮), expertly translated by Ken Liu, is a significant contribution to the growing genre of Chinese science fiction. The genre has earned acclaim both for its imaginative nature and as a lens into contemporary China; Waste Tide succeeds on both fronts. Many of Chinese science fiction’s recent milestones have centered around Liu Cixin 刘慈欣. Liu’s The Three-Body Problem (三体) (also translated by Ken Liu) won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015. Frant Gwo’s 郭帆 2019 film adaptation of Liu Cixin’s The Wandering Earth (流浪地球) earned $700 million at the box office, becoming the second-highest grossing Chinese film of all time, and was recently released on Netflix. Waste Tide follows in the footsteps of these achievements while also demonstrating that that there is more to Chinese science fiction than Liu Cixin. Continue reading

Surveillance app on tourists’ phones

Source: The Guardian (7/2/19)
Chinese border guards put secret surveillance app on tourists’ phones
Software extracts emails, texts and contacts and could be used to track movements
By Hilary Osborne and Sam Cutler

Irkeshtam border

The Irkeshtam border is China’s most westerly border and is used by traders and tourists, some following the historic Silk Road. Photograph: Luo Yang/Xinhua/Barcroft Media

Chinese border police are secretly installing surveillance apps on the phones of visitors and downloading personal information as part of the government’s intensive scrutiny of the remote Xinjiang region, the Guardian can reveal.

The Chinese government has curbed freedoms in the province for the local Muslim population, installing facial recognition cameras on streets and in mosques and reportedly forcing residents to download software that searches their phones.

An investigation by the Guardian and international partners has found that travellers are being targeted when they attempt to enter the region from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. Continue reading

Why many in China oppose HK protests

Source: NYT (7/1/19)
Why Many in China Oppose Hong Kong’s Protests
By Li Yuan

A democracy rally in Hong Kong last week.CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Cecilia Zhang is the sort of Chinese person who you might think would be sympathetic to the protesters in Hong Kong. She went to a prestigious American university, gets her news from foreign media and has no plan to move back to the mainland from Hong Kong, where she has worked in the financial industry for the past four years.

But she says she doesn’t understand why people in Hong Kong continue to take to the streets. In fact, she thinks they should go home.

After hours of protesting in Hong Kong, demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council chambers on Monday. They were later cleared out by riot police who charged the crowd and used tear gas. Continue reading

Protesters storm HK legislature

SCMP has produced a detailed timeline of events, with photos, of the July 1 round of protests in Hong Kong. It’s too long to post here in its entirety.–Kirk

Source: SCMP (7/1/19)
Protesters storm Hong Kong’s legislature after hours of mayhem

  • Demonstrators vandalise entrances to Hong Kong’s legislature causing unprecedented red alert
  • Separately, thousands gather in Victoria Park for July 1 march while city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pledges to reform government during ceremony to celebrate anniversary of return to Chinese sovereignty
Protesters storm in the legislature after hours of mayhem outside. Photo: Felix Wong

Protesters storm in the legislature after hours of mayhem outside. Photo: Felix Wong

Protesters have stormed into the Legislative Council, after hours of besieging the building, smashing glass doors and removing metal bars in a day of violence marking the 22nd anniversary of the city’s return to China.

Their actions were in stark contrast to peaceful rally of hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers dressed mostly in black who took part in the annual July 1 march, starting out from Victoria Park. The marchers ended their parade at a diverted venue at Chater Road in Central, as organisers agreed to avoid the scene of chaos near the government complex in Admiralty.

During muted indoor celebrations in the morning, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor promised to overhaul her administration’s governing style, starting with herself. . . . [continue]

Asian Women Filmmakers on Global Screens–cfp

ASIAN WOMEN FILMMAKERS ON GLOBAL SCREENS: Networks, Circuits, and Community Connections
International Conference
March 27 and 28, 2020
Center for the Study of Globalization and Cultures,
Faculty of Arts, University of Hong Kong

Women filmmakers are severely underrepresented in general film distribution (theatrical and auxiliary), film festivals and awards: a phenomenon that adversely affects the visibility of female filmmakers from Asia. However, there has been little concrete investigation into the mechanisms that underpin the status quo. Through engaging international specialists on women in film, this conference seeks to dissect the system, pinpoint the weak spots and identify a possible remedial course of action toward improving the situation of women filmmakers.  The goal of our conversation will not only be to increase knowledge on these matters but to make practical recommendations to the film industry, film festivals, and other institutions. Continue reading

Footbinding as Fashion review

Source: Taipei Times (6/27/19)
BOOK REVIEW: Bound for better things?
With Taiwan as the centerpiece, John Robert Shepherd builds an exhaustive argument about the endurance of foot-binding in China and Taiwan despite official attempts to curb the practice
By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Footbinding as Fashion: Ethnicity, Labor, and Status in Traditional China, By John Robert Shepherd (University of Washington Press, 2018)

While Footbinding As Fashion looks at the practice in “traditional China,” much of this book is about Taiwan. The nation’s Hoklo majority brought the custom with them when they emigrated en masse across the Taiwan Strait, keeping the majority of their women’s feet tiny and their gait hobbled for centuries until the Japanese colonizers arrived and stamped out the practice.

But most importantly, it was the Japanese who produced the “only systematic accounting of the practice of footbinding that was ever produced” through the 1905 and 1915 censuses of Taiwan, where the author could cross-reference rich data sets that included languages spoken, Chinese province of origin (or Aboriginal), livelihood and whether they were “ever-bound” (currently bound or once bound and released) or “never-bound.”

As a result, researchers can obtain details as specific as the percentage of Hoklo-speaking Taiwanese with ancestry from Fujian Province between the ages of 21 and 30 who at some point stopped binding their feet. The dates are also crucial because the Japanese intensified their efforts in eradicating footbinding in the 1910s until they outright banned it in 1915.

The Japanese made such detailed records not only to keep tabs on the population and prove themselves as “model” colonizers to the international world, but also because they sought to eradicate the “three degenerate practices” among local people: footbinding, queue wearing and opium smoking. The data reveals that footbinding was almost exclusively a Hoklo practice, accounting for 99.6 percent of “ever-bound” women in Taiwan. Continue reading

A language under attack (6)

Thanks. I don’t hate Germany, or the German language, nor China or the Chinese language. Or any language.

I understand your reaction, and would like you to hear me out on this. I made a comparison which I think is very much valid: If your country organizes mass oppression on the scale of what the Chinese regime is doing now, a Hitlerian scale, it will, unfortunately and unavoidably, make a deep stain on its reputation which it will take a very long time to remove.

The Nazis did this to Rilke’s German, and the current Chinese regime is doing this to Lu Xun’s Chinese. There are other examples, of course (don’t expect a Saami person to love Swedish literature), but the Nazi comparison is apt.

As you know, the Chinese regime is carrying out a massive genocidal campaign to destroy indigenous identities, including by prohibiting native languages, and imposing Chinese at the point of a gun. Continue reading