Vigil: Hong on the Brink (1)

MCLC readers interested in Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink, publication of which was previously announced on the list, may also find this podcast that Jeff Wasserstrom did at UCLA a few months ago as part of a roundtable with Bellette Lee (UCLA) and John Mok (UCI).

There is also an excerpt from Vigil available here:

Warm regards,

Michael Berry <>

Headscarf Girl, by Cao Kou

Source: China Channel (6/12/20)
Headscarf Girl
By Cao Kou, translated by Josh Stenberg

“Chinese boatwoman wearing a headscarf, Canton” circa. 1870 (Wellcome Images/Wikicommons)

Cao Kou’s short fiction often masquerades as the casual recollection or chatty anecdote of a youngish male first-person narrator. People who have lived in Chinese cities will recognize this streetscape, with its gritty locales and paucity of private space. Non-Han Muslims are a visible part of that landscape, especially in eateries like the one where this Han narrator has started taking meals. The protagonist is attracted to the “headscarf girl,” but he combines this with an incuriosity so fundamental that he likely doesn’t know her name; her vanishing at the end earns only a shrug. This brief anti-romantic tale speaks volumes about the realities and anxiety of the intersections of gender, ethnicity and religion in the contemporary Chinese metropolis, and it is likely this unease which had led to it being published here for the first time, rather than in China. – Josh Stenberg

I’m not even exaggerating when I say that I’ve eaten at all the places to eat near where I live. And there’s one or two where I’ve eaten lots of times, so there’s an owner and a waitress, both women, that I’ve gotten to know. I couldn’t tell you about their looks, I mean they’re alright, definitely not ugly, or else why would I get to know them, right? I just remember that one of them was from Tianchang in Anhui province, and one is from Huaiyin which is in Jiangsu but further north from here. One of them’s already married, and her husband was the one cooking up the twice-cooked pork and all that shit; and the other one’s not married, and she keeps a pink OPPO cell phone in her back pocket. Continue reading

Bird Talk and Other Stories by Xu Xu

Bird Talk and Other Stories by Xu Xu: Modern Tales of a Chinese Romantic (Stonebridge, 2020)
Translated by Frederik H. Green

Xu Xu (1908-1980) was one of the most widely read Chinese authors of the 1930s to 1960s. His popular urban gothic tales, his exotic spy fiction, and his quasi-existentialist love stories full of nostalgia and melancholy offer today’s readers an unusual glimpse into China’s turbulent twentieth century.

These translations–spanning a period of some thirty years, from 1937 until 1965–bring to life some of Xu Xu’s most representative short fictions from prewar Shanghai and postwar Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The Afterword illustrates that Xu Xu’s idealistic tendencies in defiance of the politicization of art exemplify his affinity with European romanticism and link his work to a global literary modernity. Continue reading

Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink

List members might be interested in the following recent publication–Kirk

Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink, by Jeffrey Wasserstrom 
On the frontlines of the battle for democracy in China

The rise of Hong Kong is the story of a miraculous post-War boom, when Chinese refugees flocked to a small British colony, and, in less than fifty years, transformed it into one of the great financial centers of the world. The unraveling of Hong Kong, on the other hand, shatters the grand illusion of China ever having the intention of allowing democratic norms to take root inside its borders. Hong Kong’s people were subjects of the British Empire for more than a hundred years, and now seem destined to remain the subordinates of today’s greatest rising power.

But although we are witnessing the death of Hong Kong as we know it, this is also the story of the biggest challenge to China’s authoritarianism in 30 years. Activists who are passionately committed to defending the special qualities of a home they love are fighting against Beijing’s crafty efforts to bring the city into its fold—of making it a centerpiece of its “Greater Bay Area” megalopolis.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, one of America’s leading China specialists, draws on his many visits to the city, and knowledge of the history of repression and resistance, to help us understand the deep roots and the broad significance of the events we see unfolding day by day in Hong Kong. The result is a riveting tale of tragedy but also heroism—one of the great David-versus-Goliath battles of our time, pitting determined street protesters against the intransigence of Xi Jinping, the most ambitious leader of China since the days of Mao.

Vol. 32, no. 1 of MCLC

I am pleased to announce publication of vol. 32, no. 1 (Spring 2020) of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture. Find below a table of contents for the issue, with links to essay abstracts. Subscribers will be receiving copies in the next couple of weeks. If you would like to subscribe, or if you have any questions about the status of your subscription, please contact Mario De Grandis at

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture
Volume 32, Number 1 (Spring 2020)


Made in China 5.1

Dear Colleagues,

I am glad to announce the publication of the latest issue of the Made in China Journal. You can download it for free at this link:

Below you can find the editorial:

The Work of Arts: Aesthetics and Subaltern Politics in China

‘Art must not be concentrated in dead shrines called museums. It must be spread everywhere—on the streets, in the trams, factories, workshops, and in the workers’ homes.’–Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1918

With these words, the great Soviet poet addressed the key question of how to bring art to people and people to art in a new world in which old aristocracies, elites, and their aesthetic privileges were fading away. In the words of art theorist Boris Groys, ‘the world promised by the leaders of the October Revolution was not merely supposed to be a more just one or one that would provide greater economic security, but it was also and in perhaps in even greater measure meant to be beautiful.’ Walking in these steps, the Chinese Revolution was a project of further experimentation and creation in the realm of the relationship between art and the people. The world it created was at once utopian and disfigured, radiant and desolate. While today that world is no longer, the questions it raised about the relationship between the working class, artistic production, and aesthetic appreciation remain with us. This issue of the Made in China Journal offers a collection of essays that examine the ‘work of arts’, intended as the extension of art beyond the confines of the museum and into the spaces of ordinary life and production. Continue reading

The flowers blooming in the dark

Source: NYRB (3/26/20)
The Flowers Blooming in the Dark
By Ian Johnson

(Getty Images) A visitor reads ‘One Day in 2003,’ a diary story also broadcast over a loudspeaker at The Factory, which housed exhibitions during the first Beijing International Art Biennale, in northern Beijing, September 21, 2003.

Voices from the Chinese Century: Public Intellectual Debate from Contemporary China
edited by Timothy Cheek, David Ownby, and Joshua A. Fogel
Columbia University Press

Rethinking China’s Rise: A Liberal Critique
by Xu Jilin, translated from the Chinese and edited by David Ownby
Cambridge University Press

Minjian: The Rise of China’s Grassroots Intellectuals
by Sebastian Veg
Columbia University Press

Ever since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, Chinese people have sought to give voice to how they would like their country to be run. In 1956, Mao Zedong announced a brief flourishing of free speech called the “Hundred Flowers Campaign,” referring to a vibrant era in antiquity that gave rise to Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism, and other ideas that went on to dominate Chinese thought for thousands of years. Of course, Mao didn’t really want such an atmosphere to take hold; it was a trap, and people who spoke out in favor of political reform or against government abuses were quickly snapped up by the security apparatus. China entered a 20-year period of brutal policies that only ended with Mao’s death and the purging of his allies in the late 1970s.

In 1978, Deng Xiaoping began to relax government control over the economy and society, allowing a freewheeling decade of spirited discussion in which the country’s future seemed up for grabs. It ended with the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, setting China on what many people now take to be its inevitable course: that of a development dictatorship, in which economic growth is guided by a repressive state that brooks little opposition. Continue reading

Karma: Poems by Yin Lichuan

Karma (Tolsun Books, 2020)
Poems by Yin Lichuan; Translated from the Chinese by Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Karma (Tolsun Books, 2020) is Yin Lichuan’s volume of poems (bilingual edition) in Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s translation:

Spanning over a decade, these are poems of deep irreverence and relentless questioning. With an air of unrestrained freedom in both form and content, Yin Lichuan establishes an immediate intimacy with her reader. She prods at expectations and disdains concealment, as a youth looking at old age, in the earliest poems, and later as a mother. Throughout, she maintains her restless distrust of convention. In these English translations, poet and musician Sze-Lorrain presents an arresting chronological sequence of Yin’s fresh and fearless revelations. (Carolyn Kuebler, editor of New England Review) Continue reading

In the Clouds: COVID-19, Dystopian Reality, and Online Carnival

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of “In the Clouds: COVID-19, Dystopian Reality, and Online Carnival,” a panel discussion edited by Shiqi Lin and Kaiyang Xu. A snippet appears below; to read the whole thing, go to My thanks to the two editors and to the other panel participants for sharing their thoughts on this important topic.

Kirk Denton, editor

In the Clouds:
COVID-19, Dystopian Reality, and Online Carnival

Edited by Shiqi Lin and Kaiyang Xu

Participants: Jenny Chio | Belinda Kong | Shiqi Lin | Carlos Rojas | Kaiyang Xu

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright May 2020)

Shiqi Lin and Kaiyang Xu

This collection of short essays and Q&A series derives from an online panel, “In the Clouds: COVID-19, Dystopian Reality and Online Carnival,” which was put together in response to the global spread of the epidemic since February 2020. Convened by Shiqi Lin (UC Irvine) and Kaiyang Xu (USC), this panel was held on Zoom on March 26, 2020[1] with an audience across the world. Drawing inspiration from “cloud clubbing,” a creative practice engaged by self-quarantined Chinese web users during the pandemic, this “cloud panel” was an experimental endeavor to discuss digital media, societal fears, and the responsibility of humanities scholars in a time of crisis. The panel brought together scholars working on biopolitics, media studies, video ethnography, urban studies, diaspora studies, and Chinese cultural studies to discuss the sources of pandemic anxieties; humor, care and intimacy animated by creative uses of social media; and the implications of social media in border-crossing. As the spread of the pandemic coincided with a transitional period of remote teaching in academia, the panel was also set up as a space for exploring alternative modes of intellectual collaboration during the pandemic.

The panel was carried out under two shared beliefs. First, in the face of a global crisis, collaboration and dialogue are needed more than ever. Acknowledging the limits of individual strengths brought the panel together, as a reminder that we all need to think collectively, draw expertise from each other and learn from each other in a time of radical uncertainties. In honor of various academic conferences disrupted by the global spread of the pandemic in March 2020, this panel was conducted as a gesture to carry forward the spirit of dialogue and broaden the possibilities of engaging academics in turbulent times. . . . (click her to read all the essays and comments)

Interview with Yan Lianke

MCLC Resource Center is please to announce publication of Haiyan Xie’s interview with Yan Lianke, entitled “An Age without Classics and the Writer’s Anxiety.” The interview appears below and at its online home:

Kirk Denton, editor

An Age without Classics and the Writer’s Anxiety:
An Interview with Yan Lianke

By Haiyan Xie

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright May 2020)

Yan Lianke and the author at the International Culture Center of Capital Normal University in Beijing.

The Multiple Dimensions of Anxiety

Haiyan Xie[1] : Professor Yan, thank you for taking some of your precious time to do this interview. First of all, when seeing you, I immediately think of two words that you mentioned on separate occasions: drift and stability. These form a pair of antonyms in some sense, but they seem to have been paradoxically projected onto yourself. If we take the “stable countryside” as the platform from which you write and the high ground from which you perceive the world, indeed, standing on that platform and high ground, you always seem to be in a state of internal drift.  Whether engaging with your novels, prose, or lecture collections, I can feel a lingering anxiety and unease in them. I felt this emotion or sentiment more intensely in your novels such as The Odes of Songs (风雅颂) and Want to Sleep Together Quickly (速求共眠). The feeling of anxiety I detected in your writings also reminds me of your talk entitled “In Search of the Lost Yan Lianke” given at the Perth Writers’ Festival in Australia. I would like to know if your persistent anxiety and restlessness, as stated in this talk, stem from your lost or never-gained independent spirit and existence as a writer? Or, while standing on this literary high ground and looking back at the world, you have felt the tremors that a drifting modern life brings to the countryside in your writing, which makes you anxious and restless? Continue reading

Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary essay

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Marco Fumian’s essay “To Serve the People or the Party: Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary and Chinese Writers at the Time of Coronavirus.” The essay appears in full below and at its online home:

Kirk A. Denton, editor

To Serve the People or the Party: Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary
and Chinese Writers at the Time of Coronavirus

By Marco Fumian[1]

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April 2020)

Fang Fang in Wuhan during the coronavirus pandemic. Source: Sina News

In an article published online a few weeks ago, Yan Lianke 阎连科 lamented that Chinese literature, in the face of the raging epidemic and given its incapacity to bring material comfort to those in need, has already become powerless and marginal. What he really meant, was precisely the opposite: in these tragic events, literature can definitely play a certain role, if only Chinese writers decided to finally speak out, “to write about those who are afflicted or alienated” or bear witness to the “absurdity” of the ongoing historical circumstance. But Chinese writers, bounded as they are by the “choices of political correctness,” “fragile and weak like penguins at the South Pole,” and comfortable, after all, in their warm “padded jackets,” are, according to Yan Lianke, mostly turning a deaf ear, and in some cases are even taking part in the ritual of collective celebration singing their “hymns of praise” and “applauding” their own very impotence. Continue reading

Intoxicating Shanghai

Intoxicating Shanghai’ – An Urban Montage. Art and Literature in Pictorial Magazines during Shanghai’s Jazz Age by Paul Bevan (Brill, China Studies series vol. 41), published 14 April 2020

In Intoxicating Shanghai Paul Bevan explores the work of a number of Chinese modernist figures in the fields of literature and the visual arts, with an emphasis on the literary group the New-sensationists and its equivalents in the Shanghai art world, examining the work of these figures as it appeared in pictorial magazines. It undertakes a detailed examination into the significance of the pictorial magazine as a medium for the dissemination of literature and art during the 1930s. The research locates the work of these artists and writers within the context of wider literary and art production in Shanghai, focusing on art, literature, cinema, music, and dancehall culture, with a specific emphasis on 1934 – ‘The Year of the Magazine’.


Yu Kwang-chung essay “Dear Music”

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Sunny Tien and Ivan Wong’s translation of “Dear Music: Spare My Innocent Ears!,” by Yu Kwang-chung. The essay appears below and at its online home: My thanks to the translators for sharing their work with the MCLC community.

Kirk Denton, editor

Dear Music: Spare My Innocent Ears!

By Yu Kwang-chung 余光中[1]

Translated by Sunny Tien and Ivan Wong

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April 2020)

Once when the famous Chinese vocalist Xi Mude was traveling by taxi, popular music was playing loudly in the car. When she asked the driver to turn down the volume, he asked, “You don’t like music?” to which Xi Mude said, “No, I don’t like music.” It’s rather ironic for a vocalist to face such a question. First, there are many types of music. The prevalent loud noise that plagues Taiwan, though also called “music,” is not appreciated by true music lovers. Second, the beauty or quality of music is not determined by its volume. Some “aficionados” of popular music seem more interested in the machinery than the music itself. In the tight confines of a taxicab, such loud music is simply excessive. Further, music is not like air, to be taken in at every moment. Must music be forced upon us every time we enter a taxi? People with ceaseless tunes in their ears aren’t necessarily true lovers of music. Continue reading

Crows and Sparrows

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Christopher Rea’s translation of the script Crows and Sparrows (烏鴉與麻雀), the 1949 film directed by Zheng Junli 鄭君里. The translation includes many stills and an embedded version of the film that includes Rea’s subtitles. The translation’s can be read at:

Our thanks to Christopher Rea for sharing his work with the MCLC community.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Why You Should Read Bi Shumin’s Novel Coronavirus (1)

Xiaomei Yu’s detailed synopsis of Bi Shumin’s Coronavirus brings to mind another, older work which is timely: Hu Fayun’s 如焉@sars.come, still available ;-) in English as Such Is This World@sars.come. Mr. Hu’s recent interviews for Dutch and Austrian periodicals (unfortunately paywalled)

contain some gems. He said that the fate of Dr. Li Wenliang exceeded anything he could have imagined as a novelist:

Und Li Wenliang? “Er war kein Whistleblower”, sagt Hu. “er hat Kollegen informiert. Seine Nachrichten wurden dann aber nicht einfach nur gelöscht, die Polizei zwang ihn, ein Schuldeingeständnis zu unterschreiben, dass er falsche Behauptungen verbreitet habe. Er wurde zurück zur Arbeit geschickt, an einen Ort, an dem er sich anstecken konnte. Genau das passierte, und er starb.” Was mit Li geschah, übersteigt Hus Fantasie, er habe sich das nicht vorstellen können, auch nicht, als er seinen Roman schrieb. “Das übertrifft alles, was ich während der Sars-Epidemie erlebt habe.”

And Li Wenliang? “he was no whistleblower,” says Hu. “He passed the word to his colleagues. And then not only were his posts deleted, the police made him sign a confession that he had spread false statements. He was sent back to work in a place where he could get infected. And that is exactly what ensued, and he died.” What happened to Li exceeded Hu’s wildest imagination. He could not have dreamed it, even when he was writing his novel. “It goes beyond anything I saw during the SARS epidemic.”

Both of the interviews were written by Julie Blussé.

A.E. Clark
Ragged Banner Press