Zhang Xiaogang’s response to the pandemic

Source: China Channel (5/19/20)
Memory in the Year of Covid
By Jonathan Fineberg
Artist Zhang Xiaogang’s new painting in response to the pandemic – Jonathan Fineberg

All images are reproduced with permission, courtesy of the artist, Zhang Xiaogang and Pace Gallery.

Zhang Xiaogang, born in China in 1958, grew up during the Cultural Revolution and was among the first generation of artists to emerge from the newly reopened art schools after the death of Mao. He is today revered in China, and recognized internationally as one of China’s leading artists. He shows with Pace Gallery worldwide, but he lives and works in Beijing.

In late February, Zhang emailed me to say that he and his wife Jiajia “have been self-isolated at home for a month … during this special period. China is experiencing a double disaster – the challenge of disease and humanity.” Six weeks later (in April), he sent me a photo of a new self-portrait. In it, he sits on a brown sofa, eyes closed in contemplation, with a bell jar over his head. It is a poetic and poignant image that goes straight to my own sense of living in this moment of global infection. I don’t speak Chinese and Zhang doesn’t speak English. But this painting articulates a complicated set of feelings which we all understand. Continue reading

China-Africa relations face rupture

Source: SupChina (4/13/20)
China-Africa Relations Face An ‘Unprecedented Rupture’
By LUCAS NIEWENHUIS

africa 1

SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng, based on an image of evicted Africans sleeping on the streets of Guangzhou, one of many images and videos that have gone viral on African social media since April 9.

African migrants in Guangzhou have in recent weeks faced a “rising tide of discrimination driven by both coronavirus-fueled xenophobia and deep-rooted prejudice against black people in China,” SupChina’s Jiayun Feng reported last Wednesday.

Then, the evictions started. Eric Olander at the China Africa Project writes that the recent treatment of Africans in Guangzhou has led to an “unprecedented rupture” in China-Africa relations over the weekend. Continue reading

Taiwan says ‘play ball’

Source: NYT (5/5/20)
Taiwan Says ‘Play Ball!’ (With Cardboard Fans and Robot Drummers)
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Players must submit to temperature checks several times a day, but professional baseball games go on amid the coronavirus pandemic, even if the stadium is empty.
By Javier C. Hernández; Photographs by Ashley Pon

Dummies and cardboard cutouts replaced fans during a game between the Rakuten Monkeys and the CTBC Brothers at Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium in Taiwan on Saturday.

TAOYUAN, Taiwan — On a balmy Saturday evening inside one of Taiwan’s largest baseball stadiums, the floodlights flickered to life and the players took their positions.

Cheerleaders began their rah-rah routines. Organ music blared through the speakers.

But as the first batter stepped up to the plate and the pitcher took a deep breath, the only fans inside the 20,000-seat stadium in the northern city of Taoyuan were cardboard cutouts and plastic mannequins.

Some wore hot-pink wigs and surgical masks. Others held signs with this cheery message: “We will always be with you!” A five-member band of robots played drums from the stands — a substitute for the usual cacophony of live music. “Welcome to the one and only live sports game on the surface of the planet,” an announcer said. Continue reading

Cultural genocide is the new genocide

A series of articles under the heading: CHINA’S REPRESSION OF UYGHURS. My contribution published today: English version is below; Swedish version here.–Magnus Fiskesjö

Source: PEN OPP (5/5/20)
Cultural genocide is the new genocide
The Chinese government is undertaking a broad assault on the culture and heritage of the Uighurs, Kazakhs and other indigenous peoples in Xinjiang, China, including disappearing their poets, artists, scholars and others cultural icons. Most are gone without a trace, but we must assume they are locked away in the new concentration camps alongside the many hundreds of thousands of other innocent people detained there illegally. It’s a 21st century moral catastrophe, writes the China expert Magnus Fiskesjö.
By MAGNUS FISKESJÖ

Why are the Chinese authorities detaining hundreds of writers, poets, musicians, artists, famous sportsmen and other cultural figures, from the Uighurs, Kazakhs and other indigenous peoples of Xinjiang (East Turkestan), in western China?

Most have disappeared without any explanation even to their families. All of those “disappeared” have had long careers behind them, and did not previously have problems working under Chinese rule.

Among the “missing” is the poet Chimengul Awut, whose book A Road with No Return won a national award in China in 2008, and who worked at a state publishing house; the female novelist Halide Israyil, editor at the state paper Xinjiang Daily; the poet Adil Tuniyaz, reporter at the state-run People’s Radio, famous for the books Questions for an Apple, and Manifesto for Universal Poetry; and Perhat Tursun, born 1969, famous since his breakthrough in 1998, with the poetry collection One Hundred Love Poems. The poet, critic, and translator Abduqadir Jalaleddin, a professor at Xinjiang Teachers College, was taken away in a black hood, in January 2018. Another detained poet is Ablet Abdurishit Berqi, partly available in English. Continue reading

China ravages Xinjiang cultural heritage

Rian Thum, well-known scholar of Uyghur history, just published dreadful satellite imagery showing that a major sacred site in the famous Xinjiang city of Khotan has been bulldozed — and turned into a parking lot. See this Twitter thread starting April 28.

The Australia-based forensic analyst Nathan Ruser (who has previously analyzed satellite imagery from Xinjiang, including the notorious leaked video of a concentration camp detainee mass transport), adds new photos and discussion.

Meanwhile, another sacred site, the gravesite of the modern Uyghur national literary hero Lutpulla Mutellip, had already been turned into an ugly kitschy park. Continue reading

Leibniz, 300 year-old China hand

Source: China Channel (4/18/20)
Gottfried Leibniz, the 300 Year-Old China Hand
By Matthew Ehret-Kump

Title page of Novissima Sinica (public domain).

A scientist, sinophile and bridge between east and west – Matthew Ehret

Many people would be surprised to discover that Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), a German polymath and logician best known for his discovery of Calculus, was one of the most important sinophiles of the 17th century, whose writings were instrumental in bringing the idea of Chinese culture and civilization to Europe.

Leibniz recognized the value of Chinese culture after an extensive study of Confucian texts provided to him by Jesuit scientists in Beijing. Inspired by the moral and practical philosophy that kept this ancient civilization alive (while European societies suffered nearly constant warfare), he created a journal called Novissima Sinica (News from China) in 1697. The journal was followed by an organizing effort across Eurasia to bring about a vast dialogue of civilizations, driven by the pursuit of scientific discovery and economic development. Continue reading

Rahile Dawut petition

Source: network of concerned historians (nch)

Dear colleagues,

Rahile Dawut is a historical anthropologist. She studies the traditions of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, Northwest China. On 12 December 2017, she disappeared.

What can you do?

  • Sign a petition on her behalf: here.
  • Visit her website: here.
  • Consult a list of 325 Uyghur intellectuals imprisoned since 2016: here (pdf).
  • See for an incomplete list of imprisoned Uyghur historians: NCH Annual Report 2019 (pdf).

Please find below:

  • A NCH summary of Rahile Dawut’s case.
  • The text of the petition on her behalf.

Continue reading

Quiet burials

Source: NYT (4/3/20)
China Pushes for Quiet Burials as Coronavirus Death Toll Is Questioned
Officials are ​trying to curb expressions of grief and control the narrative​ amid doubts about the official number of deaths in China.
By Amy Qin and 

Workers in protective suits screened visitors to the Biandanshan Cemetery in Wuhan on Tuesday. Credit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Liu Pei’en held the small wooden box that contained his father’s remains. Only two months ago, he had helplessly clutched his father’s frail hand as the elderly man took his last breath, and the pain was still raw. He wept.

But there was little time, or space, for Mr. Liu to grieve. He said officials in the central Chinese city of Wuhan had insisted on accompanying him to the funeral home and were waiting anxiously nearby. Later, they followed him to the cemetery where they watched him bury his father, he said. Mr. Liu saw one of his minders taking photos of the funeral, which was over in 20 minutes.

“My father devoted his whole life to serving the country and the party,” Mr. Liu, 44, who works in finance, said by phone. “Only to be surveilled after his death.” Continue reading

sources on spring festival couplets?

My name is Lesya, 爱丽丝 in Chinese. I live in Bologna, Italy where I’m finishing my studies. I’m attending graduate school, specializing in Far East Studies, so I’m also studying Chinese language and culture. The subject of my final thesis is , Spring Festival Couplets. My purpose is to give a deep analysis of the couplets from a social and anthropological point of view. I want to focus on the evolution of the couplets in an urban area, such as Beijing or Shanghai, then offer a comparison with a more rural area, such as Hakka regions of Fujian province. Unfortunately, I have had problems finding a lot of information about this subject in English. So I wonder if list members could suggest scholarly articles, books, or websites about Chinese Spring Festival, Chinese New Year Couplets, and other important celebrations that would be helpful for my work. Please contact me off-list at the email below.

Lesya Uhrak <olesya.uhrak@gmail.com>

Uyghur singer sentence to prison term

This is another ghastly chapter in the Chinese regime’s continuing assault against Uyghur culture — the destruction of cultural icons, as part of the destruction of their people as a whole, a 21st century genocide and a crime against humanity, affecting 12+ millions of people or more.–Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Source: Radio Free Asia (3/24/20)
Uyghur Singer Rashida Dawut Sentenced to Prison Term by Xinjiang Authorities

Rashida Dawut in an undated photo.

Rashida Dawut in an undated photo.RFA

A Uyghur singer celebrated for her love ballads has been sentenced to a lengthy prison term for “separatism” following a secret trial in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), according to multiple sources.

Rashida Dawut, a long-time member of the Xinjiang Muqam Troupe in the XUAR capital Urumqi who produced popular solo albums in the 1990s, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for “separatism” by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court in late 2019, a source claiming to have close knowledge of the situation recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service. Continue reading

Disappearance of Perhat Tursun

Meanwhile, the massive racist atrocities in Xinjiang continue unabated — Fwd by Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Source: Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia (3/13/20)
Scenes from the Disappearance of Perhat Tursun, a Preeminent Modernist Uyghur Author
Written by Darren Byler

Perhat Tursun smoking his trademark Xuelian cigarettes in his home in Ürümchi in 2015. Image by Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian.

Perhat was disappeared at the height of his powers by the Chinese state, a victim of the government’s re-education campaign in Xinjiang.

Perhat Tursun is a slight man with a receding hairline. To look at him, you wouldn’t know that he is one of the most influential contemporary Uyghur authors in the world. When I met him for the first time at a reception for a Uyghur-language publishing house in February 2015, his importance was clear from the way other Uyghurs looked at him as he moved through the crowd. He cut a wide swath. After we chatted for a bit at the reception, he said he was really bored. He hated formal gatherings and performing for strangers. He left immediately after the ceremony was finished, glad-handing and mumbling under his breath as he shuffled through the banquet hall. Many people stopped to shake his hand as we walked together to his house.

His house was on the 26th floor of a new apartment building owned by the Uyghur grocery franchise Arman. Many Uyghur celebrities lived in the building. While we were waiting for the elevator, we nodded at Qeyum Muhemmet, the TV actor who was later sent to a reeducation camp along with more than 400 other public figures in 2017. Perhat’s house smelled more of  cigarette smoke than most Uyghur homes. He had some abstract paintings in yellow painted by the celebrated Uyghur artist Dilmurad Abdukadir, which seemed to reflect the complexity of Uyghur traditional urban architecture. Otherwise, his living room was filled with carpets and a coffee table covered with dried fruit. Continue reading

Holding Beijing accountable is not racist

This Johns Hopkins colleague nailed it! — fwd by Magnus Fiskesjö <magnus.fiskesjo@cornell.edu>

Source: The Journal of Political Risk 8, no. 3 (May 2020)
Holding Beijing Accountable For The Coronavirus Is Not Racist
By Ho-fung Hung, Johns Hopkins University

Digital generated image of macro view of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Getty Images/Andriy Onufriyenko

As the coronavirus global pandemic is unfolding and deteriorating, an age-old racial stereotype that associates contagious diseases with Asian/Chinese people reemerged. Reports about Asians being beaten up and accused of bringing the disease to the community are disheartening. The use of the phrase “sick man of Asia” in connection to the outbreak and calling the disease “Wuhan pneumonia” or “Chinese virus” invoked accusations of racism. We in higher education kept hearing episodes of Asian students harassed by comments from fellow students or faculty that associate them with the virus.

This racial association of contagious diseases often surfaces with epidemics in history. During the SARS epidemics of 2003, Western media was full of articles, images, and cartoons that explicitly characterized the diseases as an Asian one, as my research documented. In medieval Europe, the spread of epidemics like bubonic plagues often triggered harassment or even massacre of ethnic minorities such as Jewish people. Perennial as it is, this racial association is not only harmful but is also counterproductive to the effective containment of the disease. Epidemics know no ethnic boundary. They always spread beyond ethnic lines very quickly. The racial association of disease makes us overlook carriers who happen to be not among the stereotyped groups. We have to combat xenophobic racism at the time of an epidemic as hard as we can. Continue reading

Dongbei vaporwave

Source: China Channel LARB (2/28/20)
Time-Traveling with Your Uncle Gem
Wujun Ke introduces “Dongbei vaporwave”, the electronic music of China’s northeast
By Wujun Ke

When a friend introduced me to the Chinese viral hit “Ye Lang Disco” (“Wild Wolf Disco”) in September last year, I was not sure what the hype was about. Then, like thousands of internet commentators, I fell victim to the earworm. I was captivated by the song’s refreshingly folksy and unassuming sense of humor. Gem (董寶石), a rapper from Changchun, performed the song in the 2019 season of Rap of China, a popular televised rap competition. Soon after, Gem found breakout success on Tik Tok (known in China as “Douyin”) with this vaporwave-influenced track.

As a music genre, vaporwave arises in the context of post-industrial, heavily-networked societies and has been noted for its nostalgic sampling of Muzak (the background music played in many retail stores)  and early computer aesthetics. As a critique of capitalism, it is more playful than denunciatory. As musician and academic Laura Glitsos writes:

Vaporwave digs up those waste products of consumer culture, that which capitalism discards, and brings them to the fore: old VHS tapes, technologies that never reached the market, the grating tones of corporate instructional videos, advertisements from the 1980s. Continue reading

Faces of Tradition

Levi S. Gibbs, ed. 2020. Faces of Tradition in Chinese Performing Arts. Series: Encounters: Explorations in Folklore and Ethnomusicology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN: 978-0-253-04583-6
Available in Paperback and E-Book

Faces of Tradition in Chinese Performing Arts examines the key role of the individual in the development of traditional Chinese performing arts such as music and dance. These artists and their artistic works—the “faces of tradition”—come to represent and reconfigure broader fields of cultural production in China today. The contributors to this volume explore the ways in which performances and recordings, including singing competitions, textual anthologies, ethnographic videos, and CD albums, serve as discursive spaces where individuals engage with and redefine larger traditions and themselves. By focusing on the performance, scholarship, collection, and teaching of instrumental music, folksong, and classical dance from a variety of disciplines–these case studies highlight the importance of the individual in determining how traditions have been and are represented, maintained, and cultivated. Continue reading

Kazakh family caught in Xinjiang vortex

Source: Global Voices (1/22/20)
Kazakh family of writers and musicians caught in the Xinjiang vortex
Three siblings in camps and nobody to care for their elderly mother
By Mehmet Volkan and Chris Rickleton

The Oralbais — another family destroyed by China’s crackdown in Xinjiang. Photo used with permission

When they were children, Bagila and Baktygul Oralbai frequently went swimming. Their village was on the shores of the Ili river and their childhood memories were shaped by that great body of water that flows from the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in China’s Xinjiang region to Almaty province in neighboring Kazakhstan.

Their older brother, Dilshat, often joined them. In the warmer months, Dilshat would fish on the river, and in the winter, when it froze over, he would snowboard there. All six Oralbai children loved music, but it was Bagila and Baktygul that sang and danced whenever Dilshat played his dombra, a traditional Kazakh stringed instrument.

Their idyllic childhood, recalled by the trio’s sister Gulaisha Oralbai, finds echoes in the family histories of many other ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang. But this way of life, along with those of other Turkic and majority-Muslim groups living in the region (Uyghurs, Kyrgyz, Hui and Tatars) is fast vanishing under a crackdown directed by the Communist Party of China (CCP) that many argue amounts to cultural genocide. Continue reading