Xi Xi dies at 85

Source: SCMP (12/19/22)
Hong Kong author Xi Xi, often credited with putting city on literary map, dies aged 85
A prolific writer of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and screenplays, Xi Xi led a life that was ‘wonderful, happy and meaningful’, a publisher she co-founded said. Her imaginative writing often gave mundane events a fairy tale twist. She famously called Hong Kong a ‘floating city’ in 1984 when its return to China was sealed

A scene from “Women Like Us”, a chamber opera commissioned by the Hong Kong Arts Festival last year is based on two short stories by Xi Xi. Photo: Hong Kong Arts Festival

A scene from “Women Like Us”, a chamber opera commissioned by the Hong Kong Arts Festival last year is based on two short stories by Xi Xi. Photo: Hong Kong Arts Festival

Hong Kong author Xi Xi, whose whimsical tales became a defining portrait of a city transitioning away from British rule, died on Sunday, according to a publisher she co-founded. She was 85.

One of the most beloved names in Sinophone literature, she published more than 30 books of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and screenplays in a career spanning six decades.

She was often credited with putting Hong Kong on the map in the literary world.

Xi Xi died of heart failure at a Hong Kong hospital on Sunday morning surrounded by family and friends, publisher Plain Leaves Workshop said in a statement on Facebook. Continue reading

Translation, Disinformation, and Wuhan Diary

New Publication: Translation, Disinformation, and Wuhan Diary: Anatomy of a Transpacific Cyber Campaign, by Michael Berry


During the early days of the COVID-19 health crisis, Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary provided an important portal for people around the world to understand the outbreak, local response, and how the novel coronavirus was impacting everyday people. But when news of the international publication of Wuhan Diary appeared online in early April of 2020, Fang Fang’s writings became the target of a series of online attacks by “Chinese ultra-nationalists.” Over time, these attacks morphed into one of the most sophisticated and protracted hate Campaigns against a Chinese writer in decades. Meanwhile, as controversy around Wuhan Diary swelled in China, the author was transformed into a global icon, honored by the BBC as one of the most influential women of 2020 and featured in stories by dozens of international news outlets.

This book, by the translator of Wuhan Diary into English, alternates between a first-hand account of the translation process and more critical observations on how a diary became a lightning rod for fierce political debate and the target of a sweeping online campaign that many described as a “cyber Cultural Revolution.” Eventually, even Berry would be pulled into the attacks and targeted by thousands of online trolls.

This book answers the questions: why would an online lockdown diary elicit such a strong reaction among Chinese netizens? How did the controversy unfold and evolve? Who was behind it? And what can we learn from the “Fang Fang Incident” about contemporary Chinese politics and society? The book will be of interest to students and scholars of translation, as well as anyone with special interest in translation, US-Chinese relations, or internet culture more broadly. Continue reading

Qiyue and Ansheng

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Linshan Jiang’s translation of and introduction to Anni Baobei’s “Qiyue and Ansheng.” You can read the full text at the following url: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/qiyue-and-ansheng/. A teaser appears below. My thanks to Linshan Jiang for sharing her work with the MCLC community.

Kirk A. Denton, MCLC

Qiyue and Ansheng

By Anni Baobei 安妮宝贝 (aka Qing Shan 庆山)

Translated by Linshan Jiang [*]

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright December 2022)

Anni Baobei

Anni Baobei is the pen name of Li Jie 励婕, who was born in Ningbo in 1974. She started writing online in 1998 and worked as a writer for the online literary portal, rongshuxia.com (Under the Banyan Tree 榕树下), in 2000 (see Hockx 2015). In the same year, she published in print her first short story collection, Goodbye Vivian (告别薇安; 2000), which includes the story I translate here, “Qiyue and Ansheng.” The collection was an immediate commercial success. Since then, she has published dozens of writings, including novels, short story collections, essay collections, and photo collections. She has also worked as an editor of a literary journal, Open (大方), and a translator of picture books for children. In 2014, she changed her pen name to Qing Shan (庆山), reflecting a shift in her thinking and writing toward meditation and religious beliefs. Most of her works have traditional Chinese versions published in Taiwan. In 2007, Izumi Kyōka (泉京鹿) translated nine stories in the short story collection of Goodbye Vivian into Japanese. In 2012, Nicky Harman and Keiko Wong translated three of her short stories into English. Relative to her popularity in the Chinese-speaking world, Anni Baobei’s works have not been widely translated into foreign languages.

Poster for the film adaptation Soul Mate.

Anni Baobei’s “Qiyue and Ansheng” is a coming-of-age story of two girls from their days in junior high school to their adulthoods. Although it seems to be firmly in a heteronormative framework—both girls love the same boy—the story entails “the ambiguity of the homosocial and homosexual distinction in the female-centered relationship” (Wang 2021: 128). Additionally, as this story was published at the beginning of the new millennium when “cyber writing” emerged as a new literary phenomenon, the story shows the “urban fashion of the ‘petty bourgeois’ (xiaozi 小资) frenzy” as China embraced capitalism and globalization (Yang 2006: 121). In 2016, the story was adapted into a film entitled Soul Mate (七月与安生), directed by Derek Tsang (曾国祥) from Hong Kong, which brought renewed interest and expanding popularity to Anni Baobei and her writings. The two actresses in the film, Zhou Dongyu (周冬雨) and Ma Sichun (马思纯), who performed the two female protagonists in the story, won the Best Leading Actress category of the Golden Horse Awards, which made a history to have joint winners. The film was nominated for and awarded by various film festivals.

In this translation, I choose the revised edition published by Tianjin Renmin (天津人民) in 2020, which is different from the earliest edition published in 2000. Anni Baobei has a unique style that makes use of a variety of techniques and literary strategies, the most obvious of which might be her use of punctuation. The author seldom uses question marks; instead, she usually uses commas and periods to enclose a question. Using more commas and periods than question marks in the text, the story offers a sense of monologue for the whole text, and even a sense of certainty sometimes. For example, Ansheng asks Qiyue if she likes a simple life; Qiyue says yes. As readers, we have seen Qiyue express her wish to live a simple life from the beginning to the end, so only an terse confirmation is needed, rather than a long explanation. The story also lacks quotation marks, even though there are many instances of dialogue. It creates a sense of monologue and even of stream of consciousness. The way I deal with this is to render conversations in the present tense, and all other facets of the narrative, including characters’ mental activities and indirect dialogues, in the past tense. In this way, I try to maintain the style of the author, which can convey a sense of strangeness in the reading process. One dimension of its formal style that has changed is its use of periods. In the earliest version, the author used periods almost for every pause, creating a choppy, staccato feeling to the language. Although this is less true in the version I translate here, a sense of simplicity and restraint is still manifest. … [READ THE FULL TRANSLATION HERE]

Donning Cosmopolitanism

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Su Ming Marian Chia’s “Donning Cosmopolitanism: Expressions of Modernity in Chinese Symbolist Poetry,” which introduces and translates poems by Li Jinfa, Fei Ming, Dai Wangshu, Bian Zhilin, and Ji Xian. The piece appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/mari-chia/. My thanks to Marian Chia for sharing her work with the MCLC community.

Kirk A. Denton, MCLC

Donning Cosmopolitanism:
Expressions of Modernity in Chinese Symbolist Poetry

By Su Ming Marian Chia[*]

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright December 2022)

Cover of Li Jinfa’s 1926 poetry collection Songs for Happiness (為幸福而歌).

Within the history of modern China lie histories and inflections that puzzle and provoke us. I am especially interested in the inflections that lie at the interstices of language, between the sign and signified, as they “speak” through the discordance between the ostensible aims and principles of cultural translation in modern Chinese poetry, and the tensions elicited by the pursuit of translated modernity.[1]

Liang Qichao’s clarion call to “renovate” the literature of a nation so as to “renovate the people of a nation” epitomizes how far early-twentieth century Chinese intellectuals were willing to go with literary reform.[2] In fin-de-siècle China, literary reform was a predominant agenda and earnest instrumentality undergirded its pursuit, as is evident from Hu Shi’s eight “modest proposals for the reform of literature,” but those who appreciate the discipline will recognize that literature, an interplay of authorship, readers, text and culture, defies prescription. Accordingly, the ideals of New Poetry—verse written in vernacular rather than classical Chinese—evolved as its practice came to life and a growing number of poets contributed to the debate on modernity and literature. The fervent iconoclasm of the early 1900s was replaced by fresh calls to reinvent, rather than reject, classical Chinese tradition in the 1920s, and an impetus to balance East and West began to replace a heavy reliance on importing foreign models. Continue reading

Ghost Town review

Source: NYT (12/10/22)
A Family Drama, Taiwan History and Murder Case, Rolled Into One
“Ghost Town,” a novel by Kevin Chen, recounts the overlapping — and hotly contested — memories of a Taiwanese family.
By Peter C. Baker

Credit…Jui Chieh Chang/EyeEm, via Getty Images

GHOST TOWN, by Kevin Chen | Translated by Darryl Sterk

Kevin Chen’s “Ghost Town” is the literary equivalent of a suitcase jammed full to the point of bursting. Characters, memories, regrets, choices, consequences, secrets, history, politics, real estate, sex: They’re all pressed together close, like unwashed clothes after a long trip. Open the case up even a little bit and the dirty laundry starts spilling out.

The character at the center of it all is Keith Chen. He has just returned to Yongjing, the countryside town in Taiwan where he grew up, from Berlin, where, we learn early on, he served prison time for murder. In Yongjing, he heads to his childhood home, hoping to see as many of his four living siblings as possible. The perspective shifts among the siblings, plus the ghosts of other family members no longer living. The narration has an associative fluidity that mirrors, often to thrilling effect, the mechanics of memory, a common but elusive writerly target.

Each family member — “five elder sisters, one elder brother, a father who never talked, and a mother who never stopped” — along with many others, gets a back story. They unfold so quickly that they sometimes feel thin, more like bullet points than lives. There are sexual awakenings (Keith learns he is gay, for starters), sexual assaults, marriages, affairs, births, business schemes, political schemes, suicides, a police raid, escapes to the comforting big-city anonymity of Taipei — and, oh yeah, there’s that murder in Berlin. Continue reading

Lu Xun on Fire

Suorce: The China Project (12/8/22)
Lu Xun on Fire
By Eileen J. Cheng

Illustration for The China Project by Chelsea Feng

The translator of a recently published collection of Lu Xun’s work makes observations about the man behind China’s literary titan.

For China watchers, Lǔ Xùn 鲁迅, pen name of Zhōu Shùrén 周树人 (1881-1936) — anointed “the sage of modern China” by Chairman Mao — will always be relevant. The “father of modern Chinese literature” and writer of national allegories is detached, clinical, and China-obsessed, as critical about his society and people as he was of himself. An adjective commonly used to describe Lu Xun and his writings is lěng 冷 — cold.

But where is the human behind the titan? Is there a way to go beyond the platitudes we recycle and see his works afresh? To use an analogy from Lu Xun’s short piece “Dead Fire” — which I translated and is excerpted below — how about the fiery flame burning inside that ice?

Lu Xun was most certainly a brilliant writer, restlessly experimenting with diverse linguistic registers and literary forms. But his engagement with art was all-encompassing and went far beyond the short stories he is most known for. He was a classical Chinese poet and scholar of classical Chinese literature, writing a textbook and editing anthologies of classical Chinese fiction. A calligrapher and designer, he paid close attention to cover art. He illustrated some of his own books and for others. He collected, exhibited, and avidly promoted woodcut art — mostly Eastern European — and sponsored woodcut-making workshops for local artists, revitalizing a native art form in the process. A significant portion of his vast collection of books included Buddhists texts and world literature.

Perhaps his most overlooked literary contributions are his translations. Attuned to the need for “new voices” to inspire local art, he was a prolific translator. His translations exceeded his own voluminous literary output. His first, Jules Verne’s De la terre à la lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865) was published in 1903, translated from the Japanese version, itself rendered from English. On his deathbed, he was translating Nikolai Gogol’s Mjórtvyje dúshi (Dead Souls, 1842), unfinished, from the German and Japanese renderings.

Continue reading

Why Do We Tell Stories?

The article features Amy Chua, Liu Cixin, and Fang Fang, among other writers.–Kirk

Source: NYT (12/8/22)
The Big Question: Why Do We Tell Stories?
Some key figures in literature, the performing arts, science and more ponder the purpose and vitality of storytelling in our lives.
By the NYTimes

This article is part of a series called Turning Points, in which writers explore what critical moments from this year might mean for the year ahead. You can read more by visiting the Turning Points series page.

We have been telling stories since our beginnings. Some researchers posit that the origins of language date back more than 20 million years, while writing surfaced around 3200 B.C. Today, elaborate cave paintings, ancient parchment scrolls and centuries-old poems have evolved into literature and operas and Twitter threads, but our innate drive to recount narratives about who we are, where we come from and what we mean to each other remains an essential trait of being human.

We asked a group of luminaries from various fields to answer a fundamental question: Why do we tell stories?

Their responses below have been edited and condensed.

Amanda Gorman: ‘We Tell Stories Because We Are Human’

In elementary school, I was told there are only a few reasons to write: to explain, persuade or entertain an audience, or to express oneself. As a young girl passing through the educational system, those purposes suited me for a time; I could write the assigned essay and receive an A grade. But as I continued to grow and challenge myself as a poet and activist, I soon found that those purposes I had unquestioningly absorbed weren’t enough for me.

While I’ve been writing ever since I can remember, I was around 8 when my love for language started to kick in full throttle. In third grade, my teacher read chapters of Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” to my class, and every day I’d sit, enchanted and enraptured by the sweeping words of this literary great. While it was prose, not poetry, the makings of poetry in this novel were clear and intoxicating to my elementary school mind: metaphor, simile and rhythm. I didn’t choose poetry, but rather it chose me. In it, I found a safe place where I could write — literally — outside the lines, break the rules and be heard. Continue reading

A Dialogue with Ban Yu

How to Tell the Good Dongbei Story? A Dialogue with Ban Yu 讲好东北故事?班宇谈小说
December 9, 8-10pm (EDT)

Ban, Yu (Writer)
Cui, Qiao (Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation)
Michel Hockx (University of Notre Dame)
Huang, Ping (East China Normal University)
Liang, Hai (Dalian University of Technology)
Liu, Yan (University of International Business and Economics)
Zhang, Xuexin (Liaoning Normal University)

David Der-wei Wang (Harvard University)
Weijie Song (Rutgers University)

Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University 哈佛大学费正清中国研究中心
Asian Languages and Cultures, Rutgers University 罗格斯大学亚洲语言文化系
Center for Chinese Literary Criticism, Liaoning Normal University 辽宁师范大学中国文学批评研究中心
Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation 北京当代艺术基金会
Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation 蒋经国基金会

Registration Link:

Dinner for Six

New publication: Dinner for Six by Lu Min, translated by Nicky Harman and Helen Wang (Balestier Press, Nov 2022)

Under the stench of factory skies, two single parents and their four teenaged children gather together for Saturday dinners. But can widowed accountant Su Qin ever publicly acknowledge her socially-mismatched relationship with Ding Bogang, a laid-off manual worker? Can she bear to see her ambitious and studious daughter form a romantic connection with his son? Can her obese son create the perfect family he craves? Will Ding Bogang’s silly married daughter ever get pregnant?

In a story about growing up and the complications of family life, two generations of lonely individuals come together against the odds, learning to love as they traverse the long and arduous journey of life.


Lu Min is currently author of the month at the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing https://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/book-club/november-december-2022-lu-min-鲁敏/

Malaysian Crossings

Dear MCLC readers,

I’d like to announce the publication of my book, Malaysian Crossings: Place and Language in the Worlding of Modern Chinese Literature. This book uses Malaysian Chinese (Mahua) literature to propose that local literary formations are capable of fostering meaningful styles of covert globality by capitalizing on their own internal diversities and connected histories. Columbia UP is offering a 20% discount on their website with the code CUP20.

The book will be launched on Nov 26, 2022. Colleagues in Singapore are very welcome to attend.


Cheow Thia Chan <chscct@nus.edu.sg>

The Routledge Companion to Yan Lianke

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Martina Codeluppi’s review of The Routledge Companion to Yan Lianke, edited by Riccardo Moratto and Howard Yuen Fung Choy. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/codeluppi/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, MCLC

The Routledge Companion to Yan Lianke

Edited by Riccardo Moratto and Howard Yuen Fung Choy

Reviewed by Martina Codeluppi

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2022)

Riccardo Moratto & Howard Yuen Fung Choy, eds., The Routledge Companion to Yan Lianke. London and New York: Routledge, 2022, ISBN: 9780367700980 (cloth).

Putting together a comprehensive volume about one of the most interesting, prolific, and internationally recognized voices in contemporary Chinese literature is not an easy task. This work, edited by Riccardo Moratto and Howard Yuen Fung Choy, makes the most of its 519 pages to retrace Yan Lianke’s 阎连科 literary production from its origins to the present day, providing a generous number of essays on the author’s poetics in theory and in practice, as well as on the challenges of its translation and reception.

The ambition of the project is self-evident, and it takes no more than one glance at the table of contents to realize it: the volume comprises 32 chapters divided into four parts, each of them addressing two specific aspects of Yan Lianke’s literary production. The table of contents is followed by a list of illustrations and then that of the contributors, which shows a considerable degree of diversity in terms of academic position and nationality, thereby ensuring a multifaceted perspective. The volume has multiple levels of introduction. The foreword by Carlos Rojas provides a retrospective view on Yan Lianke’s main works, focusing on the key elements that characterize his literary production. In particular, Rojas employs the metaphor of darkness to bring forward the relationship between Yan’s works and censorship, leading the way for the following essays, just like the flashlight Yan himself talked about on receiving the Franz Kafka Prize in 2014 (xxii). Subsequently, Yan Lianke’s preface—translated by Riccardo Moratto—introduces the collection of essays by quoting from both Western classics, such as The IliadThe MetamorphosisThe Divine Comedy and The Bible, and Chinese ones to show that literature emerged out of human experience. Yan then goes on to analyze how the relationship among writers, critics, and readers has changed across the centuries, and raises the question of where the truth and the “story field” of twenty-first century literature are to be found (xxxv). In doing so, he shows an aspiration to move beyond realism and seek the truth by transcending real-life experiences. Following Yan’s essay, the editorial preface by Riccardo Moratto and Howard Yuen Fung Choy provides some background information concerning the birth of the project and a description of it parts. Finally, two sections of acknowledgments—one by Yan and one by the editors—brings the introductory section to a close. Because of the richness of the volume and the variety of its contributions, I address each of its parts separately and provide a brief overview of each chapter. Continue reading

‘Cocoon’ review

Source: Wall Street Journal (10/21/22)
‘Cocoon’ Review: Scars of the Cultural Revolution
In a novel by the young writer Zhang Yueran, two old friends confront the legacy of China’s tumultuous past.
By Boyd Tonkin

Chinese Red Guards parade victims through the streets of Beijing, ca. 1966. PHOTO: EVERETT COLLECTION/ALAMY

On a visit to Beijing to confront the father who has quit their home, Li Jiaqi picks up an anthology of Chinese fiction he edited decades before. Jiaqi, one of the two narrators of Zhang Yueran’s novel “Cocoon,” finds a downbeat story there about a divorcee. Repelled, she promises herself she’ll never read anything else by the author. Given the tale’s title—“Love in a Fallen City”—Ms. Zhang is surely having a sly joke at her heroine’s expense. For that landmark novella was written by the great Eileen Chang (born Zhang Ying in 1920), a taboo-busting titan of modern Chinese fiction and one of Ms. Zhang’s most obvious forerunners. Not for the first or last time in this book, Jiaqi struggles to learn from the past.

The trauma and tragedy of China’s recent history obsesses the 1980s-born protagonists of “Cocoon.” Fixation is one thing, as they painfully discover; true understanding quite another. Jiaqi’s boyfriend scolds her: “You don’t know why you exist, so you hide in your father’s era. You feed on that generation’s scars. Like a vulture.” The alternating narratives of Jiaqi and her childhood friend, Cheng Gong, track these two mid-30s drifters as they disinter the shame and sorrow of their families’ past. Both feel they belong to “a species of beast that hunted secrets to survive.”

Chinese writers of Zhang Yueran’s vintage (she was born in Jinan in 1982) started to publish at a time when the dark allure of a bloodstained history vied with the spangled glamour of the present. The epic suffering inflicted by Mao’s Cultural Revolution lay open to artistic scrutiny. Official culture began to tolerate the probing of those wounds and the genre of so-called “scar literature” emerged. Continue reading

Cybernetic Poetics and New Approaches to Understanding Lit–cfp

2023 ACLA CFP: Cybernetic Poetics and New Approaches to Understanding Literature

We are organizing a seminar called “Cybernetic Poetics and New Approaches to Understanding Literature” for the 2023 American Comparative Literature Association annual meeting, which will take place in Chicago March 16-19, 2023. Please consider submitting an abstract (around 25o words) to our seminar via the ACLA online portal by October 31, 2022. Feel free to reach out to the organizers with questions!

Here is a link to the CFP on the ACLA website: https://www.acla.org/cybernetic-poetics-and-new-approaches-understanding-literature

Organizer: Yiren Zheng (Yiren.Zheng@dartmouth.edu)

Co-Organizer: Jack Chen (jwc8v@virginia.edu) Continue reading

How to Read Chinese Poetry videos

The Advanced Institute for Global Chinese Studies is pleased to launch the HOW TO READ CHINESE POETRY VIDEOS (HTRCPV), a companion program of HOW TO READ CHINESE POETRY PODCAST. As a matter of fact, its first episodes are cross-listed as special video episodes (eps. 37-39) of the Podcast. Unlike the Podcast, HTRCPV does not track Chinese poetry’s historical development but presents episodes in thematic clusters. Due to the much greater technical challenges in producing videos, we will not be able to release episodes at regular intervals. We ask for kind patience from our viewers.

The first episode of HTRCPV has been uploaded to our official YouTube channel. You may click the link to view it: https://youtu.be/bxp6Au7JKHE.

Taking advantage of ppt charts and animation, this episode shows viewers how to follow the three basic rules of tonal patterning to construct tonally regulated lines, then couplets, and finally quatrains. The episode ends by inviting viewers to write out quatrain tonal patterns on their own.

Posted by: Advanced Institute for Global Chinese Studies
Lingnan University aigcs@ln.edu.hk

Frederik Green book talk

Book talk and reading by Frederik Green on his book Bird Talk and Other Stories, a volume of translations of short stories by the Shanghai and Hong Kong-based author Xu Xu
2022 Asian Studies Symposium, Western Conference of the Association for Asian Studies (WCAAS)
Friday, October 21 from 4:00-5:30 pm MDT via Zoom (please register in advance using the link below)

This panel will feature a talk by Professor Frederik Green of San Francisco State University on his recent translated volume Bird Talk and other Stories by Xu Xu (Stone Bridge Press). Xu Xu, who began his career in Shanghai, China, relocated to Hong Kong in 1950 and established himself there as a writer, critic, editor, and professor. While he also wrote poetry and plays, he is best remembered for his short stories that bring together the modern, the romantic, and the exotic. In the post-1949 era, many of his works were adapted for film and television in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Professor Green will introduce the writer and the cultural and historical milieu in which he worked, read from and discuss his translations, and then field questions from the audience.

Please register in advance using the following link:


Posted by: Steve Riep <steven_riep@byu.edu>