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

Lu Xun on mothers

Source: The China Project (5/14/23)
A tribute to mothers
How do we pay homage to mothers who have lost a child? Lu Xun did so by publicizing their sacrifices.
By Eileen J. Cheng

Illustration for The China Project by Alex Santafé

Lǔ Xùn 鲁迅, pen name of Zhōu Shùrén 周树人 (1881-1936), arguably the most famous writer of 20th-century China, was particularly taken with the work of the German artist Käethe Kollwitz (1867-1945). Her woodblock print “Das Opfer” (The Sacrifice/The Victim) spoke to and for Lu Xun when he was grief-stricken after the death of a close friend. In “Remembrance for the Sake of Forgetting” (为了忘却的纪念 wèile wàngquè de jìniàn, 1933), he wrote about the Nationalist government’s execution of the leftist writer Róu Shí 柔石 (1902-1931). On hearing the news, Lu Xun wanted but found himself unable to write an essay commemorating his death. Knowing Rou Shi was devoted to his blind mother, Lu Xun published Kollwitz’s woodblock print “Das Opfer” in a journal, meant as a private tribute to Rou and his mother. But it was also a tribute to Kollwitz herself.

That Lu Xun would be moved by Kollwitz’s art is not surprising. In the late 1920s, Lu Xun became an avid collector and promoter of woodcut art. Inspired by European woodcuts, he sponsored workshops to train young artists in the craft, revitalizing a native art form in the process. His affinity with Kollwitz went beyond an appreciation of her work. Both had leftist sympathies, devoted their art to exposing injustice, and depicted the suffering of the poor and marginalized — grieving mothers among them. Kollwitz’s own story no doubt moved Lu Xun. In 1914, her youngest son died in the battlefield in World War I. “Das Opfer” was Kollwitz’s tribute to those dead from the war and the mothers they left behind. Continue reading

New RCT website

Dear readers and colleagues,

We are delighted to announce that a new Research Center for Translation (RCT) website has been launched. You may now visit our new digital home at

We have simplified our navigation and created a more responsive interface. You can conveniently access different sections on our homepage, where information of upcoming translation studies—related events and the latest publications of RCT can be found. With all these modern features, useful resources for translation studies and Renditions publications are just a click away.

We have also launched our new e-bookstore: With better navigation and detailed product information, it’s now even easier to find past issues of the leading international journal Renditions, your favourite paperbacks and hardcovers of Chinese literature in English translation, as well as the outstanding scholarly works in translation studies.

While we have tried our best to improve the browsing experience of our website, we would love to hear your feedback; please feel free to contact us if you have any comment. We are grateful for your continued support to our Centre, and we hope the new website will become a platform where users find inspirations and new ideas.

Best regards,

Lawrence Wang-chi Wong
Director, Research Centre for Translation, CUHK

Young China review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Pu Wang’s review of Young China: National Rejuvenation and the Bildungsroman, 1900-1959, by Mingwei Song. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Young China: National Rejuvenation
and the Bildungsroman, 1900-1959

By Mingwei Song

Reviewed by Pu Wang

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright May, 2023)

Mingwei Song, Young China: National Rejuvenation and the Bildungsroman, 1900–1959 Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2015. xiv+379 pp. ISBN 978-0-674-08839-9 (cloth).

Mingwei Song’s Young China: National Rejuvenation and the Bildungsroman, 1900-1959 opens with a discussion of the beginning of the young protagonist’s journey in Ye Shengtao’s 葉聖陶 novel Ni Huanzhi 倪煥之, which Song identifies as “the first major Chinese novel to showcase the formative experience of a modern youth” (1-2). Song’s Prologue is accordingly titled “The Beginning of the Journey.” Concepts and emotions associated with a young person setting out on a journey are central to Song’s literary historical narrative. As the author notes, the beginning of the journey “is highly allegorical. Journey and dream, passion and promise, hope and future—these elements constitute the foundation of a master plot of China’s modern story about youth” (1); the point is reiterated throughout, as in this later observation: “In the Bildungsroman of the new youth generation, the protagonist’s journey stands as a central motif” (237). Terms associated with the young person’s journey and its affects reappear like touchstones throughout this engaging monograph.

Song’s book-length study of this “master plot,” this “motif” of the journey in the Chinese Bildungsroman of the first half of the twentieth century, can also be read as a critical journey, or more precisely, a genealogy of the various journeys and beginnings of the new youth depicted in modern Chinese discourse and fiction from the late Qing era through the socialist period. The book thus combines a critical study of the “Chinese vision of youth”—in its dynamic and complicated relationship to national rejuvenation as that relationship played out in intellectual discourses—with a brilliant exploration of “fictional representations of young people in modern Chinese novels that integrate the individual’s Bildung into the different visions of national rejuvenation” (8). Continue reading

PEN 2023 Manifesto on Literary Translation

PEN recently published a manifesto on translation that should be of use and interest to MCLC members:

Here’s an excerpt from the call to action:

“Translation plays a role in the globalization of everything from forms of artistic expression to laws, scientific knowledge, and politics, and it frames how readers in the U.S., including those who are multilingual, engage with other languages and cultures. As U.S.-based translators, we must recognize that we are positioned to resist or to perpetuate neoliberal globalization and its attendant forms of cultural imperialism, which have intensified asymmetrical relations among nations, peoples, cultures, and languages. Contending with the ethics of our translation work by acknowledging it as geopolitically charged presents an opportunity to intervene in U.S. cultural imperialism in particular. In the political and economic moment when this is being written—one in which the COVID-19 pandemic has further foregrounded our planetary interconnectedness as it has escalated the social inequities already deeply entrenched and heavily policed through hierarchies of race, gender, class, nation, citizenship, language, and culture—we are compelled to reassert a long-standing demand for a paradigm shift. Continue reading

Interview with Yan Jun

New interview with Beijing-based poet and musician Yan Jun, on Asymptote.
To Save My Own Life With Experimentation: A Conversation with Yan Jun
by Matt Turner

Yan Jun is a poet, experimental musician, impresario, critic—and, notably, a creative driving force in Beijing’s experimental music scene since the early 2000s. In his illustrious career, he has published not only his own poetry and music, but also the work of colleagues who might not easily be seen elsewhere. A local fixture with global presence, he’s been featured journals of both literary and sound culture, played in venues from Beijing to Berlin, and has collaborated with many international musicians. His work stands out for spanning genres and straddling media, and his perspective is important not only as an artist, but also as someone negotiating different traditions.

I first came to know of Yan Jun through his Sub Jam label, and subsequently through his Waterland Kwanyin experimental music night, which featured different musicians every week for improvised performances. Much later, I had the pleasure of co-translating (with Haiying Weng) his 2018 sequence of irreverent poetry, 100 Poems of 10,000 Elephants, and then his new book of prose, Berlin Reflections, a collection of reminiscences and reflections on aesthetics and the function of art. In this following interview, I spoke with him on his various writerly and musical projects, which span intimate experiences of ritualized sound-making to large-scale installations of ambient imagination. 

Matt Turner (MT): To begin, can you say a little bit about your poetry, as well as the relationship of your music to poetry?

Yan Jun (YJ): I started writing poetry when I was thirteen years old, when around half of my classmates were also writing it—it was a bit of a trend in school for a while. Back then, I thought I would be a poet, but I just spent many years pursuing the phantom of being a poet, complete with romantic cliches like being drunk on stage, having a chaotic personal life, that kind of thing.

When I began making music around 2003, the way I wrote changed, and I slowly adopted a rather quiet and reflective style. Of course, my music had already been already going that way; eventually, I no longer wanted to scream out in public as either a musician or poet. After some turns musically, I arrived on a new stage—where I no longer concerned myself with reputation, but instead allowed myself to make stupid, or even failed music. Continue reading

Dear Chrysanthemums

New Publication
Dear Chrysanthemums: A Novel in Stories (Scribner, 2023)
by Fiona Sze-Lorrain 

A startling and vivid debut novel in stories from acclaimed poet and translator Fiona Sze-Lorrain, featuring deeply compelling Asian women who reckon with the past, violence, and exile—set in Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Paris, and New York.

Composed of several interconnected stories, each taking place in a year ending with the number six, ironically a number that in Chinese divination signifies “a smooth life,” Dear Chrysanthemums is a novel about the scourge of inhumanity, survival, and past trauma that never leaves. The women in these stories are cooks, musicians, dancers, protestors, mothers and daughters, friends and enemies, all inexplicably connected in one way or another.

“Cooking for Madame Chiang,” 1946: Two cooks work for Madame Chiang Kai-shek and prepare a foreign dish craved by their mistress, which becomes a political weapon and leads to their tragic end.

“Death at the Wukang Mansion,” 1966: Punished for her extramarital affair, a dancer is transferred to Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution and assigned to an ominous apartment in a building whose other residents often depart in coffins.

“The White Piano,” 1966: A bidding pianist from New York City settles down in Paris and is assaulted when a mysterious piano arrives from Singapore.

“The Invisible Window,” 2016: After their exile following the Tiananmen Square massacre, three women gather in a French cathedral to renew their friendship and reunite in their grief and faith.

With devastating precision, a masterly ear for language, and a profound understanding of both human cruelty and compassion, Fiona Sze-Lorrain weaves Dear Chrysanthemums, an evocative and disturbing portrait of diasporic life, the shared story of uprooting, resilience, artistic expression, and enduring love.

Interview with Dai Jinhua

Source: Sixth Tone (4/2/23)
What’s Love to a Feminist?
The feminist cultural critic Dai Jinhua shares her thoughts on intersectionality, love, and the shrinking space for alternative lifestyles in contemporary China.
By Wu Haiyun

In late February, Quan Xixi, a popular vlogger, posted a video of herself and two other women interviewing the famous Japanese scholar and feminist Chizuko Ueno. The interview starts on a personal note. “Did you stay unmarried because you were hurt by a man?” Quan asks. “Or was it your family’s influence?”

The backlash to the video came swiftly and from all directions: Critics were stunned that, given the opportunity to interview one of the world’s leading feminist theorists, Quan and her friends would ask why she never married. Gender issues are a perennial hot topic on Chinese social media, but even discussions of the most chilling instances of gender-based violence — like the women found chained to walls in rural areas last year, or a young woman who died by suicide after an organized harassment campaign — seem to circle back to the same subjects: marriage, men, and whether either have anything to offer the modern middle-class woman.

This debate has become highly polarized. Quan and her friends, all of whom are married, seemed to see something radical in Ueno’s choice to stay single, perhaps equating her with China’s “No Kids, No Ring” influencers, self-proclaimed feminists who criticize anyone who chooses to get married. At the other end of the spectrum are advocates of “uterine morality,” who believe a woman’s highest calling is to reproduce with successful, attractive men. Even on issues like bride prices — traditional gifts of money to a bride’s family before marriage — Chinese feminists are split between those who see them as a feudal relic and those who believe women should extract what they can from the system while they have the chance.

To Dai Jinhua, a professor at Peking University and one of China’s foremost feminist cultural critics, this split is the natural outcome of abstracting class from discussions of gender. For a time, it seemed like capitalism might overturn feudal norms and liberate women. But 40 years after the start of marketization, that promise feels increasingly hollow. With social mobility on the decline, marriage stands out as a rare opportunity to move up the social ladder. Meanwhile, social media, which is dominated by educated, middle-class users, has crowded out discussions of broader inequalities affecting elderly women, the poor, and the disabled.

Dai has spent decades writing in the fields of film criticism, cultural studies, and feminism, often from an unabashedly, if also unorthodox, leftist perspective. Sometimes referred to as “China’s Susan Sontag,” she is widely recognized as one of contemporary China’s most charismatic scholars. Speaking with Sixth Tone from Beijing, Dai offered her perspective on social media polarization, the continued importance of class, and the necessity of balancing personal choice and structural change. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. . . [Keep reading on the Sixth Tone site]

Where Waters Meet review

Source: Asian Review of Books (4/23/23)
“Where Waters Meet” by Zhang Ling
By Susan Blumberg-Kason

Zhang Ling

Zhang Ling

Zhang Ling is so renowned a writer in China that one of her books was adapted to film as China’s first IMAX movie. She has written nine novels, as well as a number of collections of stories, all in Chinese. But Zhang Ling has not lived in China since the mid-1980s, when she immigrated to Canada. She started writing a decade later and has had at least one novel translated into English. But it’s only now that she has published a book in English. Where Waters Meet is a story centered around a family’s grief and takes place in Toronto and its surroundings, as well as various places in China, namely Wenzhou and Shanghai. The title of the book is taken from the large bodies of water that link these parts of the story together.

Where Waters Meet (Amazon Crossing, 2023)

The novel begins when Rain Yuan, or Yuan Chunyu as she was known in China, passes away at her nursing home in Canada. Rain’s daughter, Phoenix, and son-in-law, George, had been taking care of Rain until she started to exhibit signs of dementia. When that started to happen more often than not, George felt proud to find a suitable place for his mother-in-law to receive the best possible care.

“One of the best long-term care facilities in town, a strong Alzheimer’s team. Built with Hong Kong money, so the staff mostly speak Chinese. Chinese menu, Chinese recreational programs,” reported George, with a fluent command of the facts, “government subsidies available. Two blocks away from my hospital, visits are easy.”

But as the story progresses, one may wonder if Rain was really demented or if the trauma from her young adult years resurfaced as she grew older and had no way of dealing with it. She had been living in Canada for the better part of two decades with Phoenix; George became a part of their family of two after he married Phoenix. But Rain had never told her daughter about what happened to her during WWII and the Chinese civil war. The only person who knew the truth was Rain’s sister, Mei, in Shanghai. After Rain dies, Phoenix travels across the Pacific to get the truth from Mei. Continue reading

Japanese writer stokes China’s feminist underground

Source: The Guardian (4/25/23)
Chizuko Ueno: the Japanese writer stoking China’s feminist underground
Ueno’s books are hugely popular in China, where a crackdown on large-scale organising has stifled a nascent feminist movement
By ; @helenrsullivan

Prof Chizuko Ueno, the Japanese feminist and author. Talk to young Chinese academics, writers and podcasters about what women are reading and Ueno’s name comes up. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

To find evidence that China’s feminist movement is gaining momentum – despite strict government censorship and repression – check bookshelves, nightstands and digital libraries. There, you might find a copy of one of Chizuko Ueno’s books. The 74-year-old Japanese feminist and author of Feminism from Scratch and Patriarchy and Capitalism has sold more than a million books in China, according to Beijing Open Book, which tracks sales. Of these, 200,000 were sold in January and February alone.

Ueno, a professor of sociology at the University of Tokyo, was little known outside in China outside academia until she delivered a 2019 matriculation speech at the university in which she railed against its sexist admissions policies, sexual “abuse” by male students against their female peers, and the pressure women felt to downplay their academic achievements.

The speech went viral in Japan, then China.

“Feminist thought does not insist that women should behave like men or the weak should become the powerful,” she said. “Rather, feminism asks that the weak be treated with dignity as they are.”

In the past two years, 11 of her books have been translated into simplified Chinese and four more will be published this year. In December, two of her books were among the top 20 foreign nonfiction bestsellers in China. While activism and protests have been stifled by the government, the rapid rise in Ueno’s popularity shows that women are still looking for ways to learn more about feminist thought, albeit at a private, individual level. Continue reading

A History of Taiwan Literature review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Po-hsi Chen’s review of A History of Taiwan Literature, by Ye Shitao, translated and edited by Christopher Lupke. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Michael Hill, our translation/translation studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

A History of Taiwan Literature

Ye Shitao

Translated, Edited, and Introduced by Christopher Lupke

Reviewed by Po-hsi Chen

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April, 2023)

Ye Shitao, A History of Taiwan LiteratureTranslated, with introduction and epilogue, by Christopher Lupke. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2020. 404 pp. ISBN: 9781638570035 (paperback).

In 2022, Yeh Shih-tao, a Taiwan Man 台灣男子葉石濤 (dir. Hsu Hui-lin 許卉林) was released, marking a rare occasion where a documentary about a Taiwanese literary writer hit the big screen. The film’s subject, Ye Shitao (1925–2008), was a renowned novelist and literary historian. In the previous year, Christopher Lupke’s much-anticipated translation of Ye’s A History of Taiwan Literature 台灣文學史綱 was awarded the well-deserved MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Scholarly Study of Literature. Before its translation, this book was long considered a must-read for students interested in pursuing a degree in Taiwanese literature. Given the relatively marginalized status of Taiwanese literary history in English-language curricula, Lupke’s contribution is significant. Although a general history of Taiwan can be taught by using Wan-yao Chou’s A New Illustrated History of Taiwan,[1] a similar resource for literature was not available until this translation was published. Moreover, before Lupke’s translation, there was no comprehensive book in English that systematically covers the history of Taiwanese literature from the late imperial to the post-martial law period.[2] In the English translation, Ye’s original text is bookended by Lupke’s detailed introduction and an epilogue that chronicles the post-1987 development of Taiwanese literature. Continue reading

Telling Details review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Paola Iovene’s review of Telling Details: Chinese Fiction, World Literature, by Jiwei Xiao. 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 A. Denton, MCLC

Telling Details:
Chinese Fiction, World Literature

By Jiwei Xiao

Reviewed by Paola Iovene

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April, 2023)

Jiwei Xiao. Telling Details: Chinese Fiction, World Literature New York: Routledge, 2022, xiv + 212 pp. ISBN: 9781032197852 (cloth).

Telling Details reassesses the contours of Chinese literary modernity by excavating the “novel of details” 細節小說: not a genre, but a “literary phenomenon” (2) in which details “become the drivers of the novel, decentering the plot and forming the core interest of the text” (1). The novel of details, the book argues, emerged in late sixteenth-century China and constitutes one of the earliest manifestations of the modern novel worldwide. By mingling “high and low forms” (1), consistently engaging sensuous experience, and adopting an episodic form in which “waves of interlinked mini scenes advance the storytelling” (2), the novel of details offers, in Xiao’s view, China’s most remarkable contribution to world literature, continuing to shape Chinese fiction to this day. Telling Details reinvigorates the practice of literary criticism by offering imaginative “slow readings” informed by the author’s passion for cinema and guided by her literary sensibility. The book unsettles dichotomies of realism and modernism, lyrical and narrative, and sheds new light on a remarkable range of issues, authors, and texts. Continue reading

Indigenous Taiwan, Transpacific Connections talks

Indigenous Taiwan, Transpacific Connections
台灣原住民文化: 跨越太平洋的聯結

Bilingual videos of eight talks with four Taiwan writers and filmmakers about Indigeneity, art, and life in contemporary Taiwan:

Writer Badai 巴代

“Indigenous literary practices in postcolonial Taiwan” (43 mins):

“Indigenous culture in modern society” (41 mins):

Filmmaker Wei Te-sheng 魏德聖

“The making of the first blockbuster film about Taiwan’s Indigenous history” (43 mins):

“Representing Taiwan tribes in ‘Warriors of the Rainbow'” (37 mins):

Writer Ahronglong Sakinu 亞榮隆撒可奴

“Reviving Taiwan Indigenous practices for a new generation” (58 mins):

“Mountain boars and flying squirrels in ‘Hunter School'” (44 mins):
Continue reading

The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Virginia L. Conn’s review of The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories, edited by Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Michael Hill, our translation/translation studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories

Edited by Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang

Reviewed by Virginia L. Conn

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April, 2023)

Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang, eds. The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories New York: Tor, 2022. 400 pp. ISBN: 978-1-250-76891-9 (Hardback).

An anthology, like any material product, is a cultural object that moves through the world. It does not exist independently of context—on either the creative or receiving end—and thus means different things to different people. The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories is a collection with a deliberately ambiguous context: written, translated, and edited by what the cover labels a “visionary team of female and non-binary creators,” the stories contained within may mean very different things to Sinophone and/or Anglophone readers, not least of which is what role gender plays in the stories and how we are intended to receive them as a result.

A collection of seventeen pieces of science fiction and five nonfiction essays, The Way Spring Arrives (TWSA) is edited by the inimitable Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang and was released in early 2022 by Tor. The anthology as a whole treats gender as a mechanism for creating and transmitting cultural values and, as a result, gender itself as an act of speculative worldbuilding that often leaves the specifics of how it functions unexamined. In fact, rather than a collection of methods and practices for dismantling extant approaches to gender, TWSA is better understood as a collection at the nexus of three issues that are both co-constitutive and co-confounding: gender, translation, and speculation. What does it mean to write a text as/for/about the non-male other, and how do we recognize this otherness? What happens when non-maleness encompasses a range of experiences, embodiments, and perspectives that are not necessarily shared, nor are commensurable or recognizable across cultures? How do we speculate about the way such identities and the societies that produce them might change in the future when we’re not necessarily in agreement about what they stand for now? Continue reading

Sunny Side Kong Yiji

Source: China Digital Times (3/30/23)
Censors Delete Viral “Kong Yiji Literature” Anthem
Posted by 

Every movement needs its anthem. In the now-censored musical parody “Sunny Side Kong Yiji,” the emergent “Kong Yiji literature” wave seems to have found one of its own. “Kong Yiji literature” is a genre of self-deprecating online writing that compares unemployed college graduates to the eponymous protagonist of Lu Xun’s 1918 short story, an impoverished scholar who is the object of ridicule at the village pub. The original short story is a critique of state and society’s apathy towards the marginalized. The modern offshoot tilts its lance at the Chinese state’s hoary belief in the “bootstrap mentality,” whereby mere effort is supposedly a recipe for financial success.

The song was originally uploaded to video sharing site Bilibili by user @鬼山哥. It was a direct response to a rash of recent state-media reports admonishing youth to work hard and stop complaining. People’s Daily instructed youth: “Work Hard & Your Days Will Become Ever Sweeter.” CCTV posted a WeChat article, “Facing Up to the Anxiety Behind ‘Kong Yiji Literature,’” that misconstrued the “Kong Yiji” genre and pooh-poohed youth concerns about suffering a similar fate to Lu Xun’s famed protagonist. CCTV also aired footage of an impoverished “bang-bang” porter working as a Porsche drove past, while the cloying voice-over narration praised the supposed peace of mind earned through manual labor. These reports reveal official unease with youth dissatisfaction as expressed through the “lie flat” and “involution” memes, and now, the “Kong Yiji literature” trend. Continue reading