A century of China’s new poetry

Source: China Channel, LARB (11/4/19)
A Century of China’s New Poetry
By Kerry Shawn Keys and Ming Di

Six poems by Mo Yan and others, spanning generations – edited by Ming Di
Selected from New Poetry From China: 1917-2017

China’s New Poetry Movement was started in Beijing in 1917 by Hu Shi (1891–1962) and reinforced by the May 4th Movement in 1919. But what was its aesthetic goal, what influence does it still exert on cultural life in China, and what has been challenged? New Poetry From China: 1917-2017, a new anthology, tries to address the many dimensions of the movement, covering works from most of the important poets still relevant today. 120 poets were selected, from Hu Shi to contemporary voices, including dissident poets. Mo Yan and Liu Xiaobo are back to back on the pages, and many other poets are translated into English for the first time. Two major traditions within the New Poetry Movement have been pushing each other forward: Spoken Language Poetry and Neoclassical Poetry, both are experimental in language and form but with different approaches. We hope you enjoy this small sample of six poems below, representing the span of different generations of poets, from Zheng Min, born in 1920, to Su Xiaoyan born in 1992. – Ming Di

Golden Rice Sheaves
Zheng Min 郑敏

Golden rice stands in sheaves
in the newly cut autumn field.
I think of droves of exhausted mothers,
I see rugged faces along the road at dusk.
On the day of harvest, a full moon hangs
atop the towering trees,
and in the twilight, distant mountains
approach my heart.
Nothing is more quiet than this, a statue
shouldering so much weariness—
you lower your head in thought
in the unending autumn field.
Silence. Silence. History is nothing
but a small stream flowing under your feet.
You stand where the rice is, your thought
becoming a thought of the human race.

Translated from Chinese by Ming Di and Kerry Shawn Keys Continue reading

Going Home

Source: China Channel, LARB (11/8/19)
Going Home
By  and 

Taiwanese fiction by Loa Ho, translated by Darryl Sterk
Editor’s note: Loa Ho (賴和), also known as Lazy Cloud, was a Taiwanese poet, born in 1894. A doctor by profession, it was his contribution to the literary republic – overlooked today – that led him to be hailed as the “father of modern Taiwanese literature.” This 1932 story, translated and republished in the new collection Scales of Injustice, was first published in the founding issue of Voice of the South (南音), a literary journal where Taiwanese cultural elites hoped to communicate with the wider public.

If a product is not up to standard in the factory you still have the chance to fix it, but if it makes it all the way to the market and customers don’t like it, it’s useless and will get thrown away. That’s how I felt when I arrived home after graduating from university, like a reject. It was an unpleasant homecoming.

Several days after I got home I lost the courage to go out, because every time I did I met relatives or friends who would say, “Congratulations, you graduated!” Which I found terrifying, because it would remind me that I had left the factory and was en route to the market. In the first few days, of course, I was happy to be reunited with my family after a long absence. I didn’t yet feel lonely. But soon I was used to being home again and realized all the adults in the family were busy, and that most of my younger brothers and sisters were still in school. Playing with the youngest, who were not yet old enough for school, made me happy, but it was embarrassing when I tried to discipline them, because they would always start crying. I really didn’t know how to comfort them. Even playing with them, I often made them cry, which opened me to complaints from the one who was actually responsible for taking care of the kids. So I just sat around at home and felt bored and useless. Continue reading

Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Michael Ka-chi Cheuk’s review of Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics (Cambria, 2018), edited by Mabel Lee and Liu Jianmei. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/cheuk/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics

Edited by Mabel Lee and Liu Jianmei

Reviewed by Michael Ka-chi Cheuk

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2019)

Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics Edited by Mabel Lee and Liu Jianmei. Amherst: Cambria Press, 2018. x + 349 pp. ISBN: 9781604979466.

Since Gao Xingjian became the first Chinese-language writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (2000), the field of Gao Xingjian studies has grown into a formidable industry. Yet, Liu Zaifu, arguably the most prolific and respected scholar in the field, remarks that critics have only scratched the surface of Gao’s artistic career: “Though there are certainly numerous critiques of his works, strictly speaking the academic study of Gao Xingjian has not yet begun” (Liu/Poon 2016: 132; translation my own). One should not take Liu’s words as discrediting the value of insightful studies like Tam Kwok-kan’s edited collection Soul of Chaos (2001), Quah Sy Ren’s Gao Xingjian and Chinese Transcultural Theatre (2004), or even Liu Zaifu’s own Chinese-language study On Gao Xingjian (Liu 2004). While these studies have laid the foundation for understanding Gao’s artistic vision and his works, Liu Zaifu calls for more attention to what makes Gao Xingjian an original artist. For Liu, Gao Xingjian’s contributions are groundbreaking and wide-ranging, including novels, plays, paintings, and films. As such, he asks: “What are their a priori sources?”; “How are they realized?”; “What has Gao Xingjian inherited and rejected from Chinese and Western literary traditions?” (2016: 132; translation my own). Continue reading

Sanmao, wandering writer

Source: NYT (10/23/19)
Overlooked No More: Sanmao, ‘Wandering Writer’ Who Found Her Voice in the Desert
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Her book, “Stories of the Sahara,” has endured for generations of young Taiwanese and Chinese women yearning for independence from conservative social norms.
By Mike Ives and Katherine Li

The writer Sanmao in an undated photo. Her self-assured prose filled books of essays about her intrepid travels across three continents. Credit…Huang Chen Tien Hsin, Chen Sheng and Chen Chieh through Crown Publishing Company Ltd.

This article is part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

In the early 1970s, the Taiwanese writer Sanmao saw an article about the Sahara Desert in National Geographic magazine and told her friends that she wanted to travel there and cross it.

They assumed she was joking, but she would eventually go on that journey and write that the vast Sahara was her “dream lover.”

“I looked around at the boundless sand across which the wind wailed, the sky high above, the landscape majestic and calm,” she wrote in a seminal 1976 essay collection, “Stories of the Sahara,” of arriving for the first time at a windswept airport in the Western Saharan city of El Aaiún.

“It was dusk,” she continued. “The setting sun stained the desert the red of fresh blood, a sorrowful beauty. The temperature felt like early winter. I’d expected a scorching sun, but instead found a swathe of poetic desolation.” Continue reading

Notes on the Pekingese

List members may be interested in my translation of a novella by Takbum Gyel, a writer from Qinghai who is well established in the Tibetan literary world. “Notes on the Pekingese” is a surrealist story about ethnic politics and social climbing set in a local government office in Tibet. You can find it here, published as an ebook by Ploughshares Solos: https://www.pshares.org/solos/notes-pekingese

Christopher Peacock <cp2657@columbia.edu>


Silk Road Tales

Source: Paper Republic (10/8/19)
Silk Road Tales: A Look at a Mongolian-Chinese Storybook
By Bruce Humes

cover image

The new emperor’s Belt & Road Initiative has already resulted in scores of contracts for highways, railways and port construction in Central Asia, Southeast Asia and even East Africa. Perhaps less well known is China’s solidly financed soft power campaign that aims to create or translate, publish and disseminate texts in the languages of the “Silk Road” peoples — land- and sea-based — that relate to the history of the ancient trade routes. This post features the tale of Zhang Qian, diplomat and explorer of the “Western Realm” during the reign of Emperor Wu of Han (141-87 BCE). It is one of a bilingual picture-book series aimed at children aged 5-6 who live in Inner Mongolia.To facilitate comparison, the blogger has provided the text in three languages, five scripts: the original Chinese and Inner Mongolian script (vertical); Hanyu Pinyin; Cyrillic Mongolian (used in the Republic of Mongolia); and a translation of the text into English.Students of Chinese and Central Asian history may note that one related “episode” has been left out of this rendition. As noted in the storybook, after years of imprisonment at the hands of the Xiongnu, Zhang Qian escaped and was welcomed by the ruler of Da Yuan. We learn that “With the help of the king of Da Yuan, Zhang Qian visited many countries and gained a great deal of knowledge of the culture and geography of the countries of the Western region.” Continue reading

The Transcultural Streams of Chinese Canadian Idenitities

New Publication

Jessica Tsui-yan Li, editor The Transcultural Streams of Chinese Canadian Identities. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019.


Investigating the conditions that shape Chinese Canadian identities from various historical, social, and literary perspectives. Highlighting the geopolitical and economic circumstances that have prompted migration from Hong Kong and mainland China to Canada, The Transcultural Streams of Chinese Canadian Identities examines the Chinese Canadian community as a simultaneously transcultural, transnational, and domestic social and cultural formation. Continue reading

Novel collection to commemorate 70th anniversary of PRC

Source: Xinhua (9/24/19)
China releases novel collection to commemorate 70th anniversary of PRC founding

BEIJING, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) — China has recently published a collection of 70 novels to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

The selected novels, unveiled Monday in Beijing, are outstanding literary works that reflect the changes in China and the lives of Chinese people in the last 70 years, depicting the progressive spirit of the people in promoting the country’s development.

The novels vary greatly in terms of style, genre and theme, consisting of historical novels, biographical novels and works of science fiction. Continue reading

Who wrote Jin Ping Mei

Source: LARB, China Channel (9/13/19)
Who Wrote China’s Most Notorious Erotic Novel?
By Tristan Shaw
Tristan Shaw unpicks the controversial authorship of Jin Ping Mei

A pornographic Ming Dynasty painting (public domain image from Wikicommons).

For over 400 years, the Ming-era novel Jin Ping Mei  known in English as The Golden Lotus – has been celebrated by some readers as a literary masterpiece, while others condemn it as a salacious influence. Chronicling the life of a decadent merchant named Ximen Qing in the Song dynasty, the book’s notoriety comes from its graphic descriptions of sex, covering everything from adultery to sado-masochism. As Ximen rises up the social hierarchy, his lust for power and sex becomes increasingly depraved. Over the course of the story, he takes six wives and numerous concubines and servants, before eventually dying during the passionate raptures of sex from an overdose of aphrodisiacs. Continue reading

Poetry in the Age of Global Media

Dear colleagues,

I am delighted to announce the publication of my book Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media, which is just out from Columbia University Press. I am extremely grateful to the MCLC scholarly community for helping make the book a reality.

Make It the Same explores how poetry—an art form associated with the singular, inimitable utterance—is increasingly made from other texts through sampling, appropriation, translation, remediation, performance, and other forms of repetition.

Two chapters deal primarily with poetry in Chinese, including work by Yi Sha 伊沙, Hsia Yü 夏宇, and Yang Lian 楊煉. The book as a whole offers a novel account of modern and contemporary literature that is of relevance to scholars of Chinese literature and culture. It shows how modernist and contemporary literature is defined not by innovation—as in Ezra Pound’s oft-repeated slogan “make it new”—but by a system of continuous copying. In Make It the Same, I argue that the old hierarchies of original and derivative, center and periphery are overturned when we recognize copying as the engine of literary change.

For more information on the book, see https://cup.columbia.edu/book/make-it-the-same/9780231190022, where you can use the code CUP30 to receive a 30% discount. Though the book is a bit pricy at present, I hope you might consider ordering it for your institution’s library.

Warmest wishes,
Jacob Edmond

Out now: Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media (Columbia University Press, July 2019)

Ban Yu’s Fiction of Northeast China

MCLC Resource Center Web Publications is pleased to announce publication of “Frozen Waters and Deathly Wells: Ban Yu’s Fiction of Northeast China,” by Qi Wang. The first few paragraphs of the essay appear below. The whole essay can be found here: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/qi-wang/.

Kirk Denton, editor

Frozen Waters and Deathly Wells:
Ban Yu’s Fiction of Northeast China

By Qi Wang

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2019)

Ban Yu

In my wandering around in the cinematic and literary world of East Asia, I have come upon many echoes and parallels among cultural imaginations across national borders. One such example is that of the comparable pulses I find in the films of South Korean maverick director Hong Sang-soo (b. 1960) and the stories of a much younger Chinese writer Ban Yu (班宇, b. 1986), even though their works deal with very different social subjects. Hong made his debut film, The Day a Pig Fell into the Well (1996), when Ban was still an elementary school kid in Shenyang. Hong weaves a cinema out of numerous rounds of wandering and drinking of frustrated Korean artists and intellectuals; Ban crafts a literary world in which laid-off workers in northeast China and their families try and fail to adapt to life in the reform era. Over the years, Hong’s arthouse corpus has continued to spin tales around waiting and wandering, creating thinking time between stops. This rejection of story efficiency and plot mechanism in which every step is not necessarily a preparation for the next step tends to characterize the art of a number of East Asian filmmakers and storytellers, a propensity that is worth pondering in terms of alternative paths for development. Different rhythms of life, usually appearing slower and more contemplative, seem sorely needed in the contemporary world. The young Chinese author Ban Yu (b. 1986), who started his writing career as a music critic, is a recent example of an East Asian cultural imagination that continues and refreshes this particular inclination for narrative realism. This current essay discusses Ban’s first literary collection, Winter Swim (冬泳), and presents the author as a brilliant thinker and stylist.[1] His prose features an alternative rhythm that is made manifest through kinesthetic arrangements such as waiting, wandering, and swimming. The last, in particular, is the author’s unique invention and characterizes the inner life of some Chinese in northeast Asia from the 1980s to the present. Continue reading

Alai’s In the Cloud

Source: News China (Sept. 2019)
Requiem on the Ruins
By Liu Yuanhang

Book launch for In the Cloud, May 25, 2019

In his latest novel In the Cloud, award-winning ethnic Tibetan writer Alai breaks his decade-long silence on his experience with death during the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. In an interview with NewsChina, Alai discusses past trauma, his literary transformations and social challenges to come

Alai was working on his mythological novel The King of Gesar at his home in Chengdu, Sichuan Province when the ground violently trembled under his feet.

“At that moment I was writing about the fury of the gods, who make the entire world quiver in fear. It took me a few seconds to judge whether the violent quake was real or my imagination. I felt the tremor instantly spring up from the ground to my desk and it almost flung me to the floor. Then I realized it was not from my hallucination. It was a real earthquake,” reads the preface of In the Cloud, Alai’s latest book released on April 30. Continue reading

Revisiting Liaozhai zhiyi

I am glad to announce the publication of the first issue of Ming Qing Studies. Monographs:

Revisiting Liaozhai zhiyi 聊齋誌異  



This book is the first of a series of volumes that accompany the annual publication of Ming Qing Studies. The series will publish a volume for each issue, and this is a supplement to MQS 2018. Every volume consists of a focused essay, or collects a few essays on the same topic. Mini-monographs, research reports, and occasional papers of length comprised between 20,000 and 60,000 words are also considered for publication. Monograph n. 1 is:

Revisiting Liaozhai zhiyi 聊齋誌異, by Paolo Santangelo Continue reading

Fu Ping review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Elena Martín Enebral’s review of Fu Ping (Columbia UP, 2019), by Wang Anyi and translated by Howard Goldblatt. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/martin-enebral/. My thanks to Michael Berry, MCLC literary translations book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Fu Ping

By Wang Anyi
Translated by Howard Goldblatt

Reviewed by Elena Martín Enebral
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2019)

Wang Anyi, Fu Ping. Tr. Howard Goldblatt. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. 296 pp. ISBN: 9780231193221 (Hardcover); ISBN: 9780231550208 (E-book)

The novel Fu Ping (富萍) was first published in the literary magazine Harvest (收获) in 2000. Wang Anyi (王安忆, 1954-) described it as reflecting almost a decade of inquiry, the result of which satisfied her as much as her acclaimed novel Song of Everlasting Sorrow (长恨歌, 1995), for which she obtained the supreme Chinese writing award, the Mao Dun Prize, that same year.[1] With good reason, therefore, we can welcome the recent publication in English of this novel, essential as it is to understanding the creative evolution of one of the most emblematic figures of contemporary Chinese literature, and most especially when translated by the renowned Howard Goldblatt.

The English edition opens with a note from the author that reveals some of the sources of inspiration for the novel. A trip to Yangzhou (扬州) reminds Wang Anyi of a beautiful poem by Li Bai (李白) that takes her back in time to her childhood and her nanny, who was originally from that town. Poetry and memory fuse to evoke, before her eyes, the image of a face belonging to the heroine of her novel: Fu Ping, a young woman from a village near Yangzhou. Fu Ping moves to Shanghai in the mid-1960s to meet Nainai (奶奶), the adoptive grandmother of her future husband whom she has only seen on a handful of occasions. Wang Anyi links the fate of her heroine with another personal memory: a tranquil journey along the Suzhou River (苏州河) in one of the motorized scows that workers from Subei (苏北) use to transport waste daily outside the city of Shanghai. Continue reading

My Mountain Country

Ye Lijun’s My Mountain Country
Translated from the Chinese by Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Foreword by Christopher Merrill

Contemporary Chinese poet Ye Lijun’s My Mountain Country in Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s translation, with a foreword by Christopher Merrill and an essay by the poet-translator, is just published by World Poetry Books.

Read some poems here and here. To order: SPD (pre-order: Amazon)

In this remarkable English debut, award-winning Chinese contemporary poet Ye Lijun offers readers a lyrical diorama of nature and the inner world. By turns intimate and profound, Ye’s poems in Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s masterful translations make music of everyday silences, and illuminate the invisible openings in our lives. In this vital collection by one of China’s essential literary voices, each encounter is an invitation, wherein a village, a nest, a telescope, or a book proves to be a transient guide to the unknown.