Rain in Plural

Rain in Plural by Fiona Sze-Lorrain (Princeton University Press, 2020)

The highly anticipated new collection from a poet whose previous book was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. To purchase, please click here (US) or here (Europe, UK, Asia, and elsewhere), or at the press website.

Rain in Plural is the much-anticipated fourth collection of poetry by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, who has been praised by The Rumpus as “a master of musicality and enlightening allusions.” In the wholly original world of these new poems, Sze-Lorrain addresses both private narratives and the overexposed discourse of the polis, using silence and montage, lyric and antilyric, to envision what she calls “creating between liberties.”

The poems travel from Shanghai, Singapore, Kyoto, Taipei and Sumatra to New York and the American West to Milan and back to Paris. With a moral precision embracing us without eschewing I, she rethinks questions of citizenship, the selections of sensory memory, and, by extension, the tether of word and image to the actual. She writes, “I accept the truth in newspapers / by holding the murder of my friends against my chest. // To each weather forecast I give thanks: / merci for every outdated // dusk/dawn.” Agrippina the Younger, Franz Kafka, Bob Dylan, a butoh performance, an unnamed Raku tea bowl—each has a place here. Made whole by time and its alteration in timelessness, synchrony, coincidences, and accidents, Rain in Plural beautifully reveals an elegiac yet ever-evolving inner life. Continue reading

Independent films about the 2020 pandemic

The 2nd Red Bird Student Film Festival
Time: October 1-November 1, 2020
Location: Online

When the 2020 pandemic suspended mainstream filmmaking activities around the world due to social distancing rules, about 15 students from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology were making independent films in different parts of the globe: Wuhan, Kunming, Shijiazhuang, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

Each student established a one-man’s studio and made a documentary film about the impact of the pandemic. As amateurs, they audaciously engaged in “extreme filmmaking,” that is, filmmaking under extreme conditions: pandemic, no funding, no professional equipment, no teammates. They started shooting in early February and kept tracking the pandemic week by week until June or September. They made 15 films in total, including documentaries, fictional documentaries, animated documentaries, and stop-motion animation. The lengths of their films vary: animated films are around 6-8 minutes and live-action films 10-20 minutes, with the exception of a feature-length documentary about Wuhan lockdown.

These films epitomize the Humanities’ take on the 2020 pandemic. To watch these films and cast your vote for the best three films (deadline: November 1, 2020), please click: http://daisyyanduprojects.ust.hk/students-films-2 Continue reading

The Condition of Music and Anglophone Influences in the Poetry of Shao Xunmei review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Nick Admussen’s review of The Condition of Music and Anglophone Influences in the Poetry of Shao Xunmei, by Tian Jin. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/poetry-of-shao-xunmei/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Condition of Music and Anglophone
Influences in the Poetry of Shao Xunmei

By Tian Jin

Reviewed by Nick Admussen

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2020)

Tian Jin, The Condition of Music and Anglophone Influences in the Poetry of Shao Xunmei Wilmington: Vernon Press, 2020. li + 123 pgs. ISBN: 978-1-64889-051-2.

Shao Xunmei (邵洵美, 1906-1968) is a fascinating figure. A poet, translator, critical essayist, and editor, his cosmopolitan, decadent, deeply Shanghainese voice both influenced and, in some ways, epitomized a certain strand of Republican-era literature. Shao also led a famously romantic life, some of which was captured by his literary collaborator, opium-partner, and lover, Emily Hahn, in a series of books and New Yorker articles. But Shao’s legacy has been much colored by leftist disdain for his upper-class background and rightist excoriation of his licentious tastes. Lu Xun said that “Money makes the world go round, maybe even the universe, but it won’t make you a good writer, and the poetry of the poet Shao Xunmei demonstrates this” (xvii). Dismissals like this meant that after 1949, even critical consideration of his writing became difficult, and the Cultural Revolution-era charge that he was engaged in international espionage (for writing a letter to Emily Hahn asking for money) was not vacated until 1985.

Tian Jin’s monograph, The Condition of Music and Anglophone Influences in the Poetry of Shao Xunmei, is therefore an early entry into the field of Shao studies, which is a decade behind the study of other writers from the same period. It is a short dissertation-style book with a healthy 42-page introduction that sets out Shao’s biography and reception history, especially useful since Shao has been left out of most literary histories. The book focuses on the way that tropes of music in Shao’s poetry and criticism are drawn from Anglophone writers, specifically Algernon Charles Swinburne, Edith Sitwell, and George Augustus Moore. As it does so, it uses feminist critique to demonstrate that Shao’s gender politics are affected by, and affect, his poetics. Continue reading

HKBU PhD fellowships


The Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Hong Kong Baptist University attaches great importance to diversity of experience in both teaching and research.

Our staff have received their qualifications and previously worked in various academic institutions in, among others, Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, USA, UK and Germany.

Their research expertise covers areas as diverse as poetics and literary theory, canonical studies and commentaries, Sino-Korean cross-cultural studies, pre-classical inscriptions, paleography, excavated manuscripts, as well as modern and contemporary Chinese literature and culture.

The department is associated with a number of noted institutions such as the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology (JAS), the Sino- Humanitas Institute (SHI), and the Centre for Chinese Cultural Heritage (CCH). Among the most recent academic exchange partners of our department are Waseda University, National University of Singapore, Yonsei University, Heidelberg University and others.

Dozens of MPhil and PhD students have benefited from the department’s vibrant and diverse academic environment and community. Having flourished in rigorous programs offered by the department and associated institutions, our graduates have gone on to various paths of their careers. 2 PhD candidates from Ukraine and Germany are currently studying in the department as recipients of the Hong Kong PhD Fellowships Scheme (HKPFS). And they are enjoying the scholarship HK$42,100 per year, HK$25,000 per year for procurement of research materials and books, HK$31,800 per year plus the University’s provision of HK$20,000 for conference and research-related travel allowance. Continue reading

Sex education controversy

Source: SupChina (9/22/20)
Sex education advocates push back after Chinese parent denounces reproductive anatomy lesson in primary school
Although the State Council, China’s Cabinet, urged all schools to make sexual and reproductive health education part of their compulsory curriculums in 2011, lessons covering sex-related topics are still limited and not offered at all in many Chinese schools.
By Jiayun Feng

sex education china

A Chinese mother of a nine-year-old girl recently shared her indignation over how her child was taught about human anatomy and reproduction at school, accusing her daughter’s teacher of providing sex education too early.

Her complaint, however, was swiftly dismissed as prudish and backward by an overwhelming number of people on social media, who leveraged the situation to call for more candid conversations about sex in Chinese classrooms.

According to a series of screenshots of WeChat messages shared by the parent, she decided to reach out to the teacher after her daughter came home from school one day, telling her what she learned about “pregnancy” and “anatomical differences between men and women.” Continue reading

China’s Rural Capitalism webinar

The Critical China Scholars present:

China’s Rural Capitalism: Land, Labor, and Environment

Crucial to understanding contemporary hostility between the Chinese and US states is China’s growing significance and positioning within global capitalism. While often viewed from abroad primarily in terms of an urban, export economy, China’s capitalism is uneven, varied, and full of tensions. Beginning a new series on “China’s Capitalism,” this webinar looks at the emergence, dynamics, and effects of capitalist agrarian change in China.


Alexander F. Day, Occidental College
Zhan Shaohua, Nanyang Technological University
Jia-Ching Chen, UC Santa Barbara
Julia Chuang, Boston College
Joshua Goldstein, University of Southern California

Date: Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Time: 7:00-9:00 PM EST
Register: Email CCS@lists.h-net.org; after registration, you will receive a link

History repeats for HK freedom swimmers

Source: The Guardian (9/27/20)
‘Back where we were’: history repeats for Hong Kong’s freedom swimmers
They risked their lives in search of liberty in the British colony – now the system they were desperate to escape is at the door
By  in Hong Kong

Four ‘freedom swimmers' from China are led away by Hong Kong police for questioning at Tai Po Kau on May 31, 1971.

Four ‘freedom swimmers’ from China are led away by Hong Kong police for questioning at Tai Po Kau on May 31, 1971. Photograph: SCMP

They came one by one, dragging themselves from the sea on to the shores of Hong Kong over oyster beds, their bodies bleeding. Some had swum for miles, braving choppy, treacherous seas, tied together by ropes. Others made the desperate journey in makeshift boats.

They were known as freedom swimmers – hundreds of thousands of young men and women who fled mainland China and risked their lives in search of freedom in the British colony amid the oppressive political movements in China between 1950 and 1980, which targeted “class enemies”.

Those who survived to tell their tales were the lucky ones. Many more never made it. Some were shot dead by border guards, or arrested and sent to labour camps. Others drowned or were attacked by sharks. Some were executed – the act of defection was considered treason. Continue reading

Our Time Machine

This documentary film, Our Time Machine (dirs.  Yang Sun and S. Leo Chiang), looks really interesting. It will be screening on PBS over the next couple of weeks in the POV series. Check your local listings, as they say. Not sure if it’s available online, for those of you outside the US.–Kirk

Eileen Chang at 100 event

Eileen Chang 張愛玲 at 100: Online premiere of film “Love Everlasting” 不了情 (1947)
Event information: https://ccr.ubc.ca/eileen-chang-at-100/

Please join us for an event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Eileen Chang!

September 30, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Eileen Chang (Zhang Ailing 張愛玲, 1920-1995), one of the most acclaimed writers of the twentieth century. In celebration, the Modern Chinese Cultural Studies YouTube channel is hosting a special premiere of Professor Christopher Rea’s new translation of Chang’s first produced film screenplay Love Everlasting 不了情 (1947). Starring Chen Yanyan and Liu Qiong, the film dramatizes a story of love, social pressure, and a young woman in an impossible situation.

During the 93-minute screening, join Christopher Rea (UBC Professor of Modern Chinese Literature) and Renren Yang (UBC Assistant Professor of Modern Chinese Popular Culture) for a live chat (in the YouTube Premiere comments sidebar) about the film and its relations to literary and cinematic culture, as well as to the life of Eileen Chang. Continue reading

Chinese govt continuing with Xinjiang genocide

Following on Buzzfeed’s August scoop on how the Chinese govt has been expanding its Xinjiang concentration camps, while insisting they were closed, with no more detainees, yesterday’s damning new ASPI report details 380 sites built or expanded since 2017, — including in 2019 and 2020, while the government already insisted the camps were done, and the “trainees” let go.

This is now “the most comprehensive dataset on Xinjiang’s carceral system in the world”:

Project Launch – ASPI ‘Xinjiang Data Project‘ new website mapping Xinjiang’s detention system,
Interactive map,
Explanatory Twitter thread:
Documenting Xinjiang’s detention system – Our key research findings. By Nathan Ruser, ASPI, September 24, 2020.

Various news media have been following up today, incl.: BBC News; The Guardian; NYT; Japan Times  Continue reading

Night images reveal new detention sites in Xinjiang

Source: NYT (9/24/20)
Night Images Reveal Many New Detention Sites in China’s Xinjiang Region
China said it was winding down its “re-education” camps for Uighurs and other minorities, but researchers found evidence that incarceration is on the rise.
By Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy


A video based on satellite images depicts construction between 2014 and 2020 at a high-security detention facility in Karakax, a county in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. Credit…By Australian Strategic Policy Institute

As China faced rising international censure last year over its mass internment of Muslim minorities, officials asserted that the indoctrination camps in the western region of Xinjiang had shrunk as former camp inmates rejoined society as reformed citizens.

Researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on Thursday challenged those claims with an investigation that found that the Xinjiang authorities had been expanding a variety of detention sites since last year.

Rather than being released, many detainees were likely being sent to prisons and perhaps other facilities, the investigation found, citing satellite images of new and expanded incarceration sites.

Nathan Ruser, a researcher who led the project at the institute, also called ASPI, said the findings undercut Chinese officials’ claims that inmates from the camps — which the government calls vocational training centers — had “graduated.” Continue reading


On Qing () and Jing () in Chinese Literature: A Discourse on Ecocriticism
Date: September, 2020

We are seeking contributions to an edited volume focusing on the concepts of qing (情) and jing (境) throughout Chinese literature, with a special emphasis on modern and contemporary Chinese literature, by examining the environmental and ecological dimensions of such notions. This volume sets out to explore the concepts of qing (情) and jing (境) in Chinese literature from an ecocritical perspective.

In The Ecocriticism Reader, Cheryll Glotfelty defines Ecocriticism as “the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment,” whereas Lawrence Buell defines ecocriticism as a “study of the relationship between literature and the environment conducted in a spirit of commitment to environmentalist praxis.”

The two concepts of qing and jing may be analyzed on different temporal and semantic coordinates. First, as duly pointed out by Cai and Wu (2019), qing 情 has been identified at the core of Chinese thinking about literature, such that “lyrical tradition” becomes an encompassing concept for many to distinguish Chinese literary tradition from its Western counterpart. The concepts of qing and jing may indeed be analyzed as two separate semantic identities or as part of a whole semantic unit: qingjing literature (情境文学, situated literature). Moreover, the two concepts may be analyzed in a diachronic perspective, by providing a reinterpretation of classical Chinese literary concepts, namely qing and jing, through a contemporary and ecocritic lens; they may also be analyzed in a synchronic perspective by focusing on modern and contemporary Chinese literature, in particular nature writing, ecofiction, and environmental literature. Continue reading