Reviving realism

Source: China Daily (2/13/18)
Reviving realism: Experts discuss 2017 Chinese literature
By Cheng Yuezhu |

Realism was a keyword of the 2017 Chinese literary scene. Carrying on the emphasis of “realistic themes” raised in the 19th CPC National Congress, literary experts discussed literary realism in the Dangdai Bimothly Magazine Novel Forum recently in Beijing.

Experts agreed 2017 is a year of prosperity for Chinese literature. According to Bai Ye, researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 2017 was a landmark, as the number of novels published last year exceeded ten thousand.

Yan Jingming, vice-president of the China Writers Association, said: “The trend of mutual development between online literature and print literature as well as online circulation and print circulation is obvious. Recalling the literary creations from 2017, the achievements in novels and realist themes have impressed us deeply.” Continue reading

Poets’ war of words

Source: Sixth Tone (2/8/18)
Two Poets’ War of Words Shows China’s Yawning Generation Gap
An ugly spat between two popular writers shows how Chinese literature is abandoning the collective spirit in favor of the individual.
By Xu Xiao [Xu Xiao is a poet. He is also a journalist currently working at The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication.]

Left: poet Guo Lusheng, or ‘Shizhi’ gives a speech in Beijing, July 10, 2010. VCG; right: poet Yu Xiuhua talks to audience in Beijing, March 26, 2016. Zhan Min/VCG)

When the then-20-year-old poet Guo Lusheng, better known by his nom de plume “Shizhi” or “Index Finger,” completed his “Ocean Trilogy” in 1968, the Cultural Revolution was still in its infancy. Comparing himself to a drop of water in the oceanlike collective, his works marked the start of a period in which he composed some of his most influential poems. Today, Guo is known as a visionary whose work particularly inspired the so-called Misty Poets, a group of writers who, in the late 1970s, challenged the restrictions of the time on artistic freedom. Continue reading

Mai Jia wows foreign audiences

Source: Global Times (1/29/18)
Spy thriller novelist Mai Jia wows foreign audiences

The Chinese edition of Decoded Photo: Courtesy of Thinkingdom Media Group Ltd

If hearty stories about the hardships of rural life form your primary impression of modern Chinese literature then Mai Jia’s spy thrillers might supply a much-needed last-minute antidote.

Decoded (2002), one of the prize-winning writer’s most acclaimed works, has been translated into 33 languages and was recently included by the Daily Telegraph along with 19 other spy bestsellers from the UK, US and Russia for its “best 20 spy novels of all time” list, making it the only Asian representative on the list.

Dubbing Decoded as “riddling, dreamlike and digressive, in the manner of classical Chinese fiction,” the list also includes world spy classics such as Ian Fleming’s From Russia, with Love (1957), John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) and Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity (1980) that were later adapted into hit movies. Continue reading

SAPPRFT issues “recommended” online lit

Source: Global Times (1/26/18)
Chinese online literature blossoms with more diverse themes

Chinese online literature is shifting from a focus on pure fantasy to a kaleidoscope of themes, as suggested by a recently released official recommendation list.

A total of 24 pieces of online literature, including “The Road To Rejuvenation,” “Fighter of Destiny,” “Stay-at-home Mothers Go Forward” and “Candy Marriage” were featured in the list of recommendations jointly released by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) and China Writers Association (CWA), which have released similar lists for three consecutive years.

“We saw a significant increase in realistic subjects reflecting people’ s everyday lives in online literature this year,” said Chen Qirong, director of the CWA’s online literature committee. Continue reading

Walk on the wild side (1)

too big, too perfect altogether, too much like a song, a poem, and one big translation effort to add anything. a colloquial poem. complete with footnotes, index. of course with characters. all about characters. characters and books. writing, performing.

poetry is a very good way to take part. in life in china. elsewhere. not knowing beforehand.

yi sha looms importantly. i have been taking part in his circles every day for five years. so of course i’m happy. every day means looking up today’s poem. yi sha has presented one poem per day since 2011. almost 900 people, 2500 poems. yi sha said in december my latest chinese poem was #2500. but that seems to have been a mistake. anyway, 8 poems of mine in there until now.

so of course i have to add this. at a reading, when yi sha places an order, it’s for the daily npc, new poetry canon, abbreviated from new century poetry canon, 新世纪诗典. books, yes. my stuff is in there, too. there is npc self-censorship. almost every poem from the daily series on Weibo and WeChat gets printed. but not everything that appears online and is a good poem can appear officially in npc. and it’s all subject to one person’s decisions. to yi sha’s mind, mood, memory. Continue reading

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: 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

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 ( Below is the TOC of CLT 6.2 (2017).

Ping Zhu <>


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!

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 ( 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