Doc on Florence Chia-ying Yeh

Source: China Daily (10/16/20)
Documentary chronicling 96-year-old literature master opens
By Xu Fan | |

A scene in the documentary Like the Dyer’s Hand. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Like the Dyer’s Hand, a 120-minute documentary about traditional Chinese literature scholar Florence Chia-ying Yeh, opens across more than 3,000 member cinemas of China National Arthouse Film Alliance today.

As the first biographical film authorized by Yeh, who turned 96 in July, the movie looks back at her legendary life through interweaving interviews of her and scholars and literature enthusiasts.

Producers said the crew traveled to 10 areas in China, the United States and Canada, and interviewed 43 people close to Yeh, mostly her students – such as writers Pai Hsien-yung, Hsi Muren and sinologist Stephen Owen. Continue reading

More Hun than Han

Source: AAS, Asia Now blog (9/17/20)
More Hun than Han: Reading the Tabghach “Ballad of Mulan” in 2020
By James Millward

“Lady (Mulan).” 18th century, British Museum. Public domain image via Wikimedia.

Mulan is not originally a story about a patriotic Chinese woman. It is not a story about self-sacrifice to defend one’s country. It is not a thrilling tale of martial valor. It is, rather, a commentary on the fruitlessness of war against people who are more like oneself than different, delivered in the voice of a woman who does her familial duty out of necessity and then chucks her medals and goes home—a war-weary expression of truth to power.

Perhaps because of the barriers to actually seeing the new Mulan remake (thanks to the pandemic and Disney’s steep charge of $30 plus a subscription fee to its streaming service), commentary about the new film has been trickling out over a few weeks. The most recent controversy, first on Twitter and then in the New York Times and other publications, is over the credits: Disney thanks security and political authorities in Turfan (Turpan), Xinjiang, for facilitating their filming in the Uyghur Autonomous Region. Disney filmed part of Mulan amidst Turfan’s desert scenery well after it was clear that just around the corner were multiple concentration camps inflicting “transformation through education” upon Uyghurs and other Xinjiang indigenous peoples. Hundreds of such camps have been built across the Uyghur region starting in 2017 and were well-reported by the time Disney started filming in 2018. Had Disney staff consulted Baidu Maps while scouting film sites, they might have seen grey tiles blacking out certain places from view: blank spaces that we now know mark the sites of camps. Having now just seen the film, I’ve been thinking about the Mulan tradition in light of Xi Jinping’s assimilationist policies and trends in China today: the atrocities in Xinjiang; CCP efforts to limit Mongolian language in schools in the Mongolian Autonomous Region, just as it has restricted Uyghur in the Uyghur Autonomous Region and Tibetan in the Tibetan Autonomous Region; pressure to reduce Cantonese use in Guangdong and denigrate it in Hong Kong; the further repression of Hong Kong democracy and near elimination of promised autonomy, accompanied by egregious police violence which the Disney Mulan actress Yifei Crystal Liu publicly supported on Weibo a year ago. Continue reading

Top online lit for 2019

Source: China Daily (9/30/20)
List names top Chinese online literature for 2019
By Yang Yang |

Library of Heavenly Path [Photo provided to China Daily]

The list of Top Chinese Online Literary Works in 2019 was released yesterday in Shenzhen. After three rounds of assessments and online voting by 1.79 million readers, 19 works and projects made the list, including nine novels from the China Literature Group under Tencent .

Since 2014, the China Writers Association has issued the Top Chinese Online Novels every year, which was upgraded this year to become the Top Chinese Online Literary Works, adding lists regarding the influence of online novels’ intellectual property and their international reach.

The Top 10 Chinese Online Novels include Zhaoyang Jingshi (Cases in Zhaoyang), I Am On MarsLibrary of Heavenly PathZai Zhi Tian Xia (Rule the Country) and Hao Dang (the broad world), covering genres including reality, fantasy, martial arts and science fiction. Continue reading

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

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: 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


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

Little Smarty introduction

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce Lena Henningsen’s introduction to the translation of Little Smarty Travels to the Future we published last week. The introduction appears below, but is best read at its online home: My thanks to Prof. Henningsen for sharing her work with the MCLC community.

Kirk Denton, editor

Little Smarty Travels to the Future:
Introduction to the Text and Notes on the Translation

By Lena Henningsen[1]

Translation of Little Smarty Travels to the Future

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2020)

Ye Yonglie with Little Smarty. Source: Weibo

Little Smarty Travels to the Future (小灵通漫游未来) is an early post-Mao science fiction (SF) story, adapted into a comic book (lianhuanhua 连环画). Originally composed in the early 1960s, Ye Yonglie 叶永烈 (1940–2020) was not able to publish the short novel until 1978. The comic book adaptation that is the basis for our translation followed two years later and enjoyed tremendous success with at least 3 million copies printed. Paola Iovene rightly describes the story as “as much a jump forward in imagination as it was a resumption of aspirations of the past” (Iovene 2014: 1). At the same time, the story is firmly grounded in the early post-Mao years and in Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernizations, which legitimated political and economic change and ushered in China’s dramatic economic growth. In this introduction, I position this text in this specific historical moment in the development of Chinese SF. I sketch the development and status of Chinese SF and of comic books within the Chinese literary field and point out to what extent Little Smarty Travels to the Future may be seen as an illustration or vision of the implementation of the Four Modernizations.

Science Fiction in China

Chinese SF used to be a marginalized genre, both in terms of scholarly research and in terms of its status within the literary field. Recent years, however, have seen an increase in attention to the genre both among academics and the general readership, not least thanks to the commitment of translator Ken Liu. He has been crucial for bringing Chinese SF to the attention of English readers and for introducing Chinese authors into the global SF award circuit, which culminated with Liu Cixin 刘慈欣 winning the prestigious Hugo award in 2015 (Chau 2018). Today, the global circulation of Chinese SF even impacts perceptions of China. Continue reading

Little Smarty Travels to the Future

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Little Smarty Travels to the Future (小灵通漫游未来), by Ye Yonglie 叶永烈 and translated by Lena Henningsen et al. Little Smarty is a 1980 comic book (连环画) based on a 1978 novel, also by Ye Yonglie. The translation includes all 150 panels from the comic book and English translations of each caption. Find below the first few panels of the translation. To read the whole text, go to: We will be publishing Lena Henningsen’s introduction to the text in the next few days. Enjoy.

Kirk Denton, editor

Little Smarty Travels to the Future

By Ye Yonglie 叶永烈, Pan Caiying 潘彩英 (adaptation),
Du Jianguo 杜建国 and Mao Yongkun 毛用坤 (illustrations)[1]

Tr. by Adrian Ewald, Lena Henningsen, Lars Konheiser, Elena Mannich,
Federica Monchiero, Franziska Roth, Joschua Seiler, and Sen Wei (Freiburg University)

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2020)

Introduction: This is a science fiction comic book (科学幻想连环画). Through a reporter’s–Little Smarty’s–travel to Future City, [this comic book] vividly unfolds before [our] eyes future high developments in science and technology and the splendid prospect of limitless magnificence in people’s lives. It also tells its young readers: Only if [we] painstakingly study and only if [we] are bold in climbing scientific heights during the advance of the Four Modernizations, can [we] build our motherland to become as thriving and prosperous as Future City. Continue reading

Interview with Li Er

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Riccardo Moratto’s interview with the writer Li Er, entitled “Water and Ear: An Interview with Li Er.” The interview appears below and at its online home:

Kirk Denton, editor

Water and Ear:
An Interview with Li Er

By Riccardo Moratto[1]

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2020)

Li Er. Source: Baidu.

Li Er 李洱 is a renowned contemporary Chinese writer. Graduated from East China Normal University in Shanghai, he used to teach at Zhengzhou Normal University. He is deputy editor-in-chief of Mangyuan (莽原) magazine and director of the Research Department of the National Museum of Modern Chinese Literature. He is also the Vice-President of the Henan Provincial Writers Association. His works have been translated into English, French, German, and Italian. He is best known for his novel Brother Yingwu (应物兄) which won the Tenth Mao Dun Literature Prize (2019), one of the most prestigious literature prizes in China. He is also known for the two novels Coloratura (花腔) (translated into English by Jeremy Tiang and published by the University of Oklahoma Press) and A Cherry on a Pomegranate Tree (石榴树上结樱桃). 

Moratto: Thank you for accepting this interview. The pandemic is still gathering pace in most of the world. How have you spent these months? How is the situation now in the province of Henan?

Li: I am originally from Henan Province, but usually I live in Beijing. I moved to the capital in 2011 to work in the Research Department of the National Museum of Modern Chinese LiteratureI don’t know if you’ve ever had a chance to visit this museum. Founded in 1985, it is the largest literary museum in the world and serves as a resource, research, and exchange center for modern and contemporary Chinese literature. However, I often return to my native province. My grandmother has crossed the threshold of ninety, one more reason to visit her. As a matter of fact, just a week ago I happened to be in Henan: I accompanied some poets up on Mount Wangwu (王屋山).[2] We visited the Yangtai Temple (阳台宫), a Chinese Taoist shrine. To date, the only calligraphic work that still exists by the great poet Li Bai 李白 is entitled “Up toward the Yangtai Temple” (上阳台), and it describes this great Taoist temple. With regard to the current pandemic, both in Beijing and Henan Province there are no longer any isolation measures with consequent restrictions on movement. Basically, normal order has been restored by now. Continue reading

Four poems by Mai Mang

Four of my poems (in Chinese and in English) were recently featured (under my penname Mai Mang) in “Corona Conversations: EAST & WEST,” a special online international edition of CUNY Forum (Asian American/Asian Research Institute, CUNY). See links below. I thought it might also be of interest to some members of the MCLC Community. (“Four Poems” by Mai Mang/Yibing Huang) (special issue introduction)

Yibing Huang
Associate Professor of Chinese
Curator of the Chu-Griffis Asian Art Collection
Connecticut College

Shuang Xuetao’s Fiction of Northeast China

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Qi Wang’s essay “Shadows and Voices: Shuang Xuetao’s Fiction of Northeast China,” a follow-up to her essay on Ban Yu published in MCLC’s online series last year. Below, find a teaser for the essay, which can be read in full at:

Enjoy, Kirk Denton, editor

Shadows and Voices:
Shuang Xuetao’s Fiction of Northeast China

By Qi Wang

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2020)

Shuang Xuetao

A recent significant phenomenon in contemporary Chinese literature is the “New Northeast Writers Group” (新东北作家群). The term is used by critics to identify young writers, such as Ban Yu (班宇), Shuang Xuetao (双雪涛), Zheng Zhi (郑执), and a few others, whose stories and styles converge in their depiction of northeast China, a region that in the Mao era experienced industrial privilege but that has seen economic decline, unemployment, and social despondency in the reform era.[1] Mostly born in Shenyang in the late 1970s or the 1980s, these young writers are the sons of the workers who were laid off from their factories in the 1990s and faced a bleak future, a process that is amply chronicled in the documentary film Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (铁西区, dir. Wang Bing 王兵, 2003). Often speaking in first person, the authors, as the natural and “legitimate” inheritors of that difficult experience, tend to present their stories in a matter-of-fact prose consisting of many short sentences and charged with vernacular speech from daily life in the region.[2]

In this essay, I take up the short stories collected in two volumes by Shuang Xuetao (b. 1983), Moses on the Plains (平原上的摩西) and The Aviator (飞行家), [3] and offer a close look at the writer’s literary depiction of northeast China as especially reflected in two structural tendencies. The first is the use of personal as well as multiple narration, which allows not only a central “I” to report observations of the figures around him but also lets each of the multiple characters speak for themselves, resulting in a resounding multivalent dialogic texture. The second is the peculiar resolution of stories and crises through some sort of fantastic escape. Whether the effect of that escape is one of transcendence or of descent remains open to interpretation at the current stage of this still new literary phenomenon. Together, such features address a collective desire to understand and be understood while also, as the critic Huang Ping observes with much insight, being confronted with the question of where to go next after the publication of these voluminous and hearty personal and regional tales.[4]  This question about direction and mission applies to the creative potential and historical gravity of these young writers, as well as to the fate and future of the northeastern working class in the globalizing world. . . [read the essay in full]

Chen Qiufan and Waste Tide podcast

Source: China Channel, LARB (8/25/20)
Chen Qiufan on his cli-fi novel Waste Tide

An episode of the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast

At the China Channel we’re delighted to be syndicating a short run from a new(ish) podcast we’ve been listened to, the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast. Hosted by Angus Stewart, the show covers a wide range of Chinese literature, from Sanmao’s Sahara to Wang Shuo’s “hooligan” literature. It first came to our attention with a series on Chinese sci-fi, so we’re kicking things off with the episode on Chen Qiufan’s cli-fi novel Waste Tide (荒潮 huāngcháo), translated by Ken Liu published in English last spring. Chen – whose short story Smog Society was published on this site – joins Angus to explain the context of his environmental dystopia, China’s e-waste crisis, and how he approaches writing science fiction based on an equally strange and distressing reality. (Plus for further listening, the podcast’s sci-fi series also includes an episode on a Fei Dao story translated by Alec Ash, also on the site, here.)

The Worst Chinese Poetry–cfp

The Worst Chinese Poetry: A Virtual Workshop
April 5–9, 2021
Organized by Thomas Mazanec, Xiaorong Li, and Hangping Xu (UC Santa Barbara)
Call for Papers

Good poems are all alike, but every bad poem is bad in its own way. Poems may fail according to aesthetic, formal, political, social, moral, and other criteria. There are failures of innovation and imitation, of quantity and quality, of ambition and cowardice. The purpose of this virtual workshop is to explore what was thought to be the very worst poetry written in Chinese and to understand why it was regarded so poorly. We want to know who considered it bad, and according to what criteria. By examining the “worst” poetry and the harshest judgments on it from antiquity to the present, we hope to offer a literary history as seen through failure.

The workshop will introduce and discuss primary texts that address the question of why a poem might be called “bad.” Participants are invited to submit up to 10 pages (inclusive of English translation) of “bad” Chinese poetry or critical writings on it from any historical period, accompanied by 5–10 pages (1250–2500 words) of critical introduction. Texts should highlight important moments in the history of bad poetry and how they relate to aesthetic, political, social, and conceptual norms. During the workshop, participants will meet on Zoom for several half-days to discuss the contributions. Continue reading

Pandemic and the (Fanta)scientific

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Chiara Cigarini’s “Pandemic and the (Fanta)scientific: A Prism of Voices from Today’s China.” The essay appears below and at its online home:

Kirk Denton, editor

Pandemic and the (Fanta)scientific:
A Prism of Voices from Today’s China

By Chiara Cigarini

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August 2020)

Cover of an issue of Science Fiction World.

Jing Tsu 石静远, professor at Yale University, wrote an article not long ago for the Financial Times dedicated to the topic of contemporary Chinese science fiction (SF), in which she argued that the uniqueness of its production could be attributed, among other things, to the genre’s ability to simultaneously address the government, scholars, and domestic readers, as well as to appeal to an increasingly broad international audience.[1] The composite and polyphonic nature of Chinese SF allows it to be appreciated by such a diverse audience. It gives voice to different points of view across Chinese public discourse: these may relate, for example, to the virtues and limitations of scientific progress, to liabilities in the management of the Covid-19 situation and pandemics in general, to freedom of thought and freedom of the press. By spreading scientific and SF-related ideas, these voices in some cases enhance (in spite of themselves) the state’s official narrative, whereas in other cases they produce a tune dissonant to state propaganda. Precisely for these reasons, such voices deserve to be listened to, now more than ever. Continue reading