Mystery of the disappearing van Gogh

Source: NYT (5/29/23)
The Mystery of the Disappearing van Gogh
After a painting by the Dutch artist sold at auction, a movie producer claimed to be the owner. It later vanished from sight, with a trail leading to Caribbean tax havens and a jailed Chinese billionaire.
By Michael ForsytheIsabelle QianMuyi Xiao and Vivian Wang

Two men dressed in black stand with a colorful van Gogh painting, Chinese text written on the wall above them.

Kevin Ching, left, then the head of Sotheby’s in Asia, appeared at a Hong Kong ceremony in 2014 to present the van Gogh painting to Wang Zhongjun, the movie producer who claimed to have bought it. Credit…Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The bidding for Lot 17 started at $23 million.

In the packed room at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, the price quickly climbed: $32 million, $42 million, $48 million. Then a new prospective buyer, calling from China, made it a contest between just two people.

On the block that evening in November 2014 were works by Impressionist painters and Modernist sculptors that would make the auction the most successful yet in the firm’s history. But one painting drew particular attention: “Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies,” completed by Vincent van Gogh weeks before his death.

Pushing the price to almost $62 million, the Chinese caller prevailed. His offer was the highest ever for a van Gogh still life at auction.

In the discreet world of high-end art, buyers often remain anonymous. But the winning bidder, a prominent movie producer, would proclaim in interview after interview that he was the painting’s new owner. Continue reading

SEC-AAS 2024–cfp

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce that the fully in-person 63rd annual meeting of the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies, “Regional and Global Flows,” will be held on January 26–28, 2024, at Wake Forest University, North Carolina. Our local coordinators are arranging some very exciting events. All conference information will be posted online at as it becomes available.

The program committee welcomes proposals for individual or panel presentations and round tables. Please submit your proposals to the following sites:

We plan to have a “new book roundtable” for authors who have published their new books in 2023. Pease let us know if you are one of them and share your success together! Please submit your proposals no later than October 30, 2023. All proposals will be collectively reviewed by our 2024 program committee. Please direct questions about conference logistics to Professor Yaohua Shi Continue reading

Babel of Chinese SF: A Reading Group

Chinese SF in translation-May Session-“Starship: Library” by Jiang Bo and translated by Xuetitng Ni
Babel of Chinese SF: A Reading Group

We are a monthly online meet-up that reads, shares and discusses Chinese language sci-fi and speculative fiction in translation
Wechat: 科幻巴别塔

Upcoming: May Session

“Starship: Library” / 《宇宙尽头的书店》
by Jiang Bo 江波
Translated by Xueting Christine Ni 倪雪亭
Included in Sinopticon: A Celebration of Chinese Science Fiction
Video call with the author Jiang Bo and the translator Xueting Christine Ni

Beijing Time: 20:00, May 28th, 2023.
British Summer Time: 13:00, May 28th, 2023. Continue reading

Yue Minjun’s paintings censored on Weibo

Source: China Digital Times (5/24/23)
Yue Minjun’s Iconic Paintings of Grinning PLA Soldiers Being Censored on Weibo

If the lesson last week was “Don’t laugh about the PLA,” this week’s message seems to be, “Don’t even crack a smile.”

First, stand-up comedian Li Haoshi (stage name “House”) was accused of defaming the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) because of a joke he made that referenced a PLA slogan and seemed to liken stray dogs to soldiers. House was deplatformed, pressured to apologize, and placed under police investigation, while the Shanghai comedy studio that employs him was fined nearly $2 million dollars and had their performances suspended indefinitely. At least one of House’s online defenders was arrested.

Now it appears that one of China’s most renowned contemporary painters, Beijing-based Yue Minjun (岳敏君), has been targeted by online nationalists who accuse him of “insulting the military” and “defaming revolutionary heroes and martyrs.” Painting in a style has been dubbed “Cynical Realism,” Yue is well known for his colorful, off-kilter, and instantly recognizable paintings of wide-mouthed, toothily grinning or laughing men—all of whom bear a close resemblance to the artist himself. Many of his works are sold at auction, exhibited in museums, or held in private collections. At a 2007 auction at Sotheby’s London, his painting “Execution” sold for £2.9 million pounds ($5.9 million U.S. dollars), “making it the most expensive Chinese contemporary artwork sold on the secondary market at the time.” Continue reading

CCP smear campaign targets the Dalai Lama (2)

I expand this discussion of the Chinese propaganda against the Dalai Lama, and the stunning gullibility of the Western audiences that fell for it, in this new online interview with the new website Global Order, based out of New Delhi–Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Source: Global Order (5/24/23)
How the Chinese Communist Party ran a global propaganda campaign against the Dalai Lama

The Chinese Communist Party is running a global propaganda campaign to destroy the credibility of the Dalai Lama. The most recent example of this, says Magnus Fiskesjö, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies at Cornell University, was the crude and brutal ‘suck my tongue’ controversy where an innocuous Tibetan gesture was attacked by trolling mobs, and even celebrities, around the world as sexual exploitation – all led by propaganda teams of the Chinese Communist Party. Fiskesjö talks to Hindol Sengupta about propaganda, cultural differences and misunderstandings and the redemptive power of compassion.”

Wabash College visiting position

Wabash College invites applications for the position of Visiting Instructor of Chinese for the academic year beginning August 1, 2023 and ending May 15, 2024. The visiting instructor teaches one or two Chinese language courses per semester and assists with planning occasional Asian cultural events, depending upon an individual’s qualifications and availability.  Minimum requirements include an advanced degree in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, Chinese Language and Literature or a related field, or a certificate from a reputable program, as well as Chinese language teaching experience.

In the midst of a strategic transformation to advance the success of first-generation students, students of color, and students from low-income families, Wabash College is committed to attracting and effectively supporting faculty from all backgrounds, including academically and culturally diverse faculty. More than 25% of our students are federal Pell Grant recipients, one-third of our students are first-generation college students, and about 20% of our students identify as domestic students of color. Wabash has been home to the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies for more than fifty years, has an Asian studies minor and student groups such as the Asian Culture Club and International Student Association promote diverse activities.  Wabash is a member of the USC Race and Equity Center’s Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance, is a top-60 Liberal Arts College according to U.S. News, and is a member of Colleges That Change Lives. Continue reading

China ramps up scrutiny of culture

Source: NYT (5/24/23)
As China Ramps Up Scrutiny of Culture, the Show Does Not Go On
Performances across the country were canceled last week after Beijing began investigating a stand-up comedian.
By Vivian Wang, reporting from Beijing

A person walks in front of a building with bright yellow facade and a sign saying “You are part of the show.”

The Beijing venue of the stand-up comedy company Xiaoguo Culture Media Co., which was fined around $2 million after one of its performers was accused of insulting the Chinese military in a joke. Credit…Tingshu Wang/Reuters

The cancellations rippled across the country: A Japanese choral band touring China, stand-up comedy shows in several cities, jazz shows in Beijing. In the span of a few days, the performances were among more than a dozen that were abruptly called off — some just minutes before they were supposed to begin — with virtually no explanation.

Just before the performances were scrapped, the authorities in Beijing had fined a Chinese comedy studio around $2 million, after one of its stand-up performers was accused of insulting the Chinese military in a joke; the police in northern China also detained a woman who had defended the comedian online.

Those penalties, and the sudden spate of cancellations that followed, point to the growing scrutiny of China’s already heavily censored creative landscape. China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has made arts and culture a central arena for ideological crackdowns, demanding that artists align their creative ambitions with Chinese Communist Party goals and promote a nationalist vision of Chinese identity. Performers must submit scripts or set lists for vetting, and publications are closely monitored.

On Tuesday, Mr. Xi sent a letter to the National Art Museum of China for its 60th anniversary, reminding staff to “adhere to the correct political orientation.” Continue reading

Animation, the Obsolescence of the Image, and the Disappearance of HK architecture

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies (5/23/23)
Animation, the Obsolescence of the Image, and the Disappearance of Hong Kong Architecture
By Yomi Braester

In this essay I hope to provoke scholars of animation into considering the role of time, both cinematic time and historical time. Like other genres of the moving image, animation often has at its core the disappearance of the image — an anticipated, even planned obsolescence. I examine here works exhibited as lightshows on the Hong Kong’s International Commerce Centre (ICC) façade between 2014–2016; these animations point explicitly toward the moment when the medium degrades and even vanishes.

Film relies on the ephemerality of perception, as images succeed each other, 24 times per second or even faster. The transition from one frame to the next is what allows for animation — designing one frame at a time, and animating the image by showing the frames in sequence. In this sense, animation is bound to the scale of the frame. However, we may also think at other magnitudes. At the size of an entire work, what matters is the speed with which the film hurtles toward its inevitable end — and possibly toward an afterlife in remediated and redistributed forms. In blown-up displays, in which the single pixel is visible to the viewer, the image expires also at the resolution of the pixel, many times within each frame. More than we have acknowledged, animation works pay attention to the possibilities opened up by calibrating these proportions up and down. Continue reading

Chinese Humanities 2033–cfp

Chinese Humanities 2033: New Visions, New Directions
Call for Projects

This conference invites Ph.D. candidates (ABDs), postdocs, and early-stage scholars working on any period to in-person panel sessions at Harvard University on October 6-7, 2023, to discuss what changes are happening in the field of Chinese humanities and where they are leading us. Though we may not be fully aware of the ways in which epistemic paradigms, theoretical frameworks, disciplinary boundaries, and academic job descriptions limit our imagination of what Chinese studies in the humanities can be, they should not keep us from envisioning what we would like to see or change in this field over the next 10 years. As Alvin Toffler says, “change is the process by which the future invades our lives.” “Chinese Humanities 2033” summons the future of Chinese humanities to invade its present. It is a conference about new visions and directions.

This conference both calls for daring anticipation of important topics, approaches, and directions of research for the next ten years, and seeks to foster a hospitable environment for research and creative projects that might not enjoy academic currency today or are struggling on various margins and frontiers. Questions we hope to address include: What are the yet-discussed phenomena, yet-developed approaches, and yet-discovered fields of studies of Chinese humanities? What are their interventions and how do they change the premises of our research today? How do they connect with conventional thinking and conventional subjects of research in new and exciting ways? Can Chinese humanities attract an even broader diversity of scholars? How to make/keep Chinese humanities legible and welcoming to those outside the field? Where will Chinese studies in the humanities be in ten years? How will we get there? We invite you to contribute your expertise to think through these questions with us. This is a conference about change both within academic disciplines and the Chinese cultural sphere. Continue reading

Secondhand China review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Miaowei Weng’s review of Secondhand China: Spain, the East, and the Politics of Translation, by Carles Prado-Fonts. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Michael Gibbs Hill, our translations/translation studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Secondhand China:
Spain, the East, and the Politics of Translation

By Carles Prado-Fonts

Reviewed by Miaowei Weng

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright May, 2023)

Carles Prado-Fonts. Secondhand China: Spain, the East, and the Politics of Translation Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2022. 272 pp. ISBN: 9780810144767 (paperback); 9780810144774 (cloth).

Secondhand China offers an in-depth examination of the complex relationships between East and West, Spain and Europe, and Catalonia and other parts of Spain between the late nineteenth century and the 1930s. Carles Prado-Fonts analyzes Spanish and Catalan cultural texts about China produced during this period, providing a unique perspective on the cultural and political dynamics at play in these relationships as well as on the politics of translation.

Secondhand China should be read in the context of the distinction between the study of China (Sinology, or, more politically correct, China Studies) and the study of written China(s) (Sinography). While China studies scholars focus on China as a geopolitical location, exploring its culture, society, history, politics, and various other aspects, Sinographers like Eric Hayot, Haun Saussy, and Steven G. Yao take a different approach. In Sinographies: Writing China (2008), they propose in a provocative way that “China” is not simply something to be studied, but rather, something to be thought through, or a lens through which to examine or even redefine the crucial problems of contemporary thought. “China” is viewed as central to many of these problems, such as the problems of translation, subalternity, the value of texts, and so on. Obviously, Secondhand China participates in this ongoing project of Sinography that “thinks through ‘China.’”[1] Continue reading

Cultures of Labor in Contemporary China

I’m pleased to announce the publication of “Cultures of Labor in Contemporary China,” a special issue of positions: asia critique (May 2023).–Paola Iovene <>

“Cultures of Labor in Contemporary China” offers an interdisciplinary investigation of the cultural and media practices of Chinese migrant workers, ranging from poetry to music and from oral storytelling to the use of social media. Contributors argue that “culture” acquires new salience with precarity on the rise and political advocacy increasingly constrained. Bridging textual and ethnographic approaches, this special issue details the negotiations that precarious workers engage in to make their positions visible, their lives livable, and their voices heard.

Table of Contents

Guest Editor’s Introduction: Cultures of Labor and the Labor of Culture
By Paola Iovene

Musica Practica: The Sound of the Beijing New Worker Band
By Yurou Zhong Continue reading

Games, Gaming, and Interactive Aesthetics–cfp

CFP: Games, Gaming, and Interactive Aesthetics in Contemporary Chinese and Sinophone Cinema
A special issue of Journal of Chinese Film Studies (JCFS)
Guest editors: Li Guo, Hongmei Sun, Douglas Eyman

[Link to full CFP]

This special issue invites submissions of research essays on games, gaming, and interactive aesthetics in contemporary Chinese and Sinophone cinema and media. From Hong Kong’s first videogame adaptation in Future Cops (1993) to the recent film based on the mobile game Onmyoji The Yinyang Master (2021), from the videogame-adapted animation Dragon Nest: Warriors’ Dawn (2014) to director Cheng Er’s gamified narration in Hidden Blade (2023), contemporary Chinese and Sinophone cinematic productions provide diversified and remarkable works that call for an in-depth exploration of the subject of games and gameplay in film. Engaging Chinese and Sinophone film studies in dialogue with scholarships in game studies and media theory, this special issue inspects how games and gaming can transform or even reshape cinema through new experiences of interactive aesthetics through AI-generated algorithms, multiverse narratives, psychological mazes, game montages, and gamified gazes and points of view. Building on existent scholarship on game culture, media theory, and interactive cinema, we seek essays that examine the mutual adaptations of games and cinematic productions. Drawing from Lev Manovich’s media theory, we consider the effect of computerized gaming and computer-assisted gaming on traditional filmmaking, filmmakers’ diversified approaches to the introduction of computerized gaming to cinematic production, and the impact of new media and its own conventions on film industry and the process of filmmaking. As Manovich observes, it is difficult to “draw a strict line between interactive movies and many other games that may not use traditional film sequences yet follow many other conventions of film language in their structure” (Manovich 2002, 288). By exploring interactive movies and games structured around film-like sequences and simulating real-person interactions, we ask how cinematic apparatus contributes to the players’ experiences and is reconfigured through interactive video game play. Continue reading

China’s Hidden Century exhibit

China’s Hidden Century
Exhibition May 18 – October 8, 2023
The British Museum

In a global first, the resilience and innovation of 19th-century China is revealed in a major new exhibition.

Between 1796 and 1912 Qing China endured numerous civil uprisings and foreign wars, with revolution ultimately bringing an end to some 2,000 years of dynastic rule and giving way to a modern Chinese republic. This period of violence and turmoil was also one of extraordinary creativity, driven by political, cultural and technological change. In the shadow of these events lie stories of remarkable individuals – at court, in armies, in booming cosmopolitan cities and on the global stage.

The exhibition is underpinned by a four-year research project supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and led by the British Museum and London University, in collaboration with over 100 scholars from 14 countries. Continue reading

CCP smear campaign targets the Dalai Lama (1)

Thanks to Magnus Fiskesjö for providing a reading for the Dalai Lama’s interaction with the child in April. I wasn’t aware of the linguistic and cultural aspects of this meeting, reductively sexualized and sensationalized in Western anglophone media. When I saw the clip, memed with a sort of gleeful meanness, the first thing I thought of is the trope of Buddhist monks and nuns in Chinese culture as lascivious, a sort of a parallel to Catholic clergy in European gothic literature (Lewis’ The Monk is the most well-known version but of course, the Catholic Church has its own historical cross to bear in this regard). The opera “The Little Nun Goes Down the Mountain,” a story of desire for the secular life, is one version of this. A fish-plank beating Buddhist monk is murdered by Shi Xiu in Outlaws of the Marsh for seducing a brother’s wife. And a similar lascivious Buddhist monk trope gets repeated when grandpa murders his mother’s Buddhist monk lover in Mo Yan’s Red Sorghum centuries later.

Maybe we need a social analysis of cancelling, which operates like a secular form of shunning in contemporary media, minus the semblance of consistent moral rationale, and with a multiplicity of actors possessing varying degrees of clout.

Sean Macdonald <>

The Specter of Materialism review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Wenqing Kang’s review of The Specter of Materialism: Queer Theory and Marxism in the Age of the Beijing Consensus, by Petrus Liu. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

The Specter of Materialism: Queer Theory
and Marxism in the Age of the Beijing Consensus

By Petrus Liu

Reviewed by Wenqing Kang

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright May, 2023)

Petrus Liu. The Specter of Materialism: Queer Theory and Marxism in the Age of the Beijing Consensus Durham: Duke University Press, 2023, x + 239 pp. ISBN 978-1-4780-1942-8 (paper) / ISBN 978-1-4780-1679-3 (cloth).

Queer theory emerged in the early 1990s to challenge social norms and move beyond LGBT identity politics. In recent years in the US, however, it has become a tool for advocating gender and sexual diversity and equal representation. Petrus Liu’s The Specter of Materialism: Queer Theory and Marxism in the Age of the Beijing Consensus is an imaginative intervention that aims to transform the field into a Queer Marxist critique of capitalism on a global scale.

Since its inception with Michel Foucault and Eve Sedgwick, queer theory has tended to treat the non-western world such as China as “the other” and deny its coevality in order to establish modern western sexual identity as the historical vanguard. In an earlier work, “Why Does Queer Theory Need China?”, Liu pointed out this blind spot and provided a trenchant critique of this Orientalist and Western-centric mode of thought.[1] Although queer theory should not use China as the other, the field still needs China to expand its geopolitical scope and make queer theory a tool that can provide a critical understanding of gender and sexuality in contemporary global capitalism. In this new book, Liu makes a persuasive case that China’s recent rise in the capitalist system (i.e., the Beijing Consensus) “presents an opportunity for queer theory to develop a more analytically precise vocabulary (and politics) for deciphering the matrix of gendered life and political economy” (5). Continue reading