How to Read Chinese Drama in Chinese


Patricia Sieber (The Ohio State University) is co-editor (together with Guo Yingde, Wenbo Chang, and Zhang Xiaohui) of a new book entitled How To Read Chinese Drama in Chinese: A Language Companion (Columbia University Press, 2023). Intended as a language textbook complementing How To Read Chinese Drama: A Guided Anthology (Columbia University Press, 2022), it is the first guided primer that focuses on traditional drama. Featuring excerpts from iconic traditional plays, individual chapters supply an English introduction, extensively annotated excerpts, a modern Chinese translation, bilingual cultural exercises, and a bilingual roster of dramatic conventions. The book is designed to be alternatively used as a textbook in the advanced modern Chinese or in the classical Chinee classroom, as a companion in a Chinese literature course for advanced learners and native speakers of Chinese, or as a springboard for deeper engagement with traditional Chinese theater for specialists and interested general readers alike.

Changpian 25

长篇 // Changpian // Longform

Welcome to the 25th edition of Changpian, a selection of feature and opinion writing in Chinese. Changpian includes any nonfiction writing, from stories and investigations to interviews and blog posts, that I found worth my time — and that you might like as well. It aims to be relevant to an understanding of Chinese society today, covering topics in and outside the news cycle. The selection is put together by me, Tabitha Speelman, a Dutch researcher of Chinese politics. Feedback is very welcome ( or @tabithaspeelman). Back issues can be found here.

Welcome to another issue of this extremely unreliable newsletter. There might be more Changpian in 2023 (if you still wish to receive it), but this 25th edition was motivated by a dose of nostalgia. Breaking with my tendency to read either ‘everything or nothing’, it mostly includes some recent reads. For now, a happy 兔年! I very much hope the recent waves of the pandemic have not hit you and your loved ones too hard. (Since I have been dealing with long Covid these past years, on the off-chance it is needed, these books, or this review if you just want the research, might be helpful on longer-term symptoms. Feel free to contact me on this too.)

干货// Ganhuo // Dry Goods

In this section I highlight any (loose) themes that stood out in my recent reading.


Following events from faraway Europe, it seemed that as the extreme uncertainty and stress around China’s pandemic measures built up, so did a collective sense of living through something extraordinarily hard that should be remembered. From the Xi’an lockdown in early 2022, written about critically by the writer Jiang Xue when public opinion was still more divided on the measures, to the protests across cities and campuses in November, I saw more people expressing anger and frustration but also writing long messages recording what they had gone through. As one journalist in my timeline wrote on November 18, sharing an article on ‘养码’ or the practice of traveling to a low-risk area to regain a green health code that would (hopefully) allow you to go where you actually needed to be : “记录记录记录,就是不要忘记啊.” Continue reading


Chinese Literature, Essays Articles Reviews (CLEAR) v. 44 (Dec. 2022)


Yi ZHENG, “Definition by Comparison? Yun and dhvani: A New Perspective on the Old Question, ‘Why Compare?’”
David McCRAW, “Dwelling on Place in Du Fu’s Late Verses”
Chen ZHANG, “Poetry as Everyday Life in Lu You’s Late Years”
Karin MYHRE, “Borrowed Voices and Double Vision in Du Renjie’s ‘A Country Bumpkin Does Not Know Theater’”
Alexander C. WILLE, “Disnarration in Late Imperial Chinese Fiction”
Aude LUCAS, “Dreams Caused by Desire in Xiaoshuo and Biji of the High Qing”
Binbin YANG, “Anchoring Identities in Yangzhou: Xú Deyin (1681–after 1760) and the Re-Invention of the Huizhou Legacy”
Keru CAI, “Maxim Gorky in China: 1920s Commentary and Shen Congwen’s ‘Three Men and One Woman’”
Wenjin CUI, “‘Usefulness without Use,’ Or, the Power of the Virtual: Lu Xun on the Vital Efficacy of Literature”

Kidder SMITH, “Interdependence of words, texts from early China”

Huiwen Helen ZHANG, “Upon the Eagle Mound: Hauge’s Cathay”

William H. NIENHAUSER, Jr., “Qu Yuan and Company: A Note on Translating the Chuci
YIM Tsz-kit, “Worlding Classic Chinese Novels: Translation, Adaptation, and Affective Network in the Age of Global China”
Christopher LUPKE, “The Moral and Metaphysical Ubiquity of Xiao (Filiality) in Late Imperial Fiction”


Further details at:

Into the Light

NEW PUBLICATION: 《在幽昏中显影:港中对话中国独立纪录片2014-2020》 (Into the Light: Discovering Chinese Documentary Film in Hong Kong 2014-2020), co-edited by Zeng Jinyan, Wen Hai, Ying Liang, Li Tiecheng and Cheung Tit-leung

Amazon Kindle link:
Google Play link:
House of Pele Press website (where educators and libraries can purchase a licensed copy of the book):

Here is a bit of introduction to this title:

This book discusses the independent films screened, produced, and distributed by the Chinese Independent Documentary Lab (Hong Kong) from 2014 to 2020, in conversations between directors, scholars and audiences. This collection has chosen to discuss the relatively well documented independent documentaries in the three screening sections of Rebel China, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Desiring China. The book also includes 18 post-screening discussion texts or director interviews on issues on the survivors’ testimonies of Jiabiangou Rightist Labour Camp, Uyghur and Tibetan issues, the three self-churches, the underground intellectuals, former senior government officials, and workers’ resistance. Continue reading

Semantics of Tea Drinking

List members might be interested in my recent publication “Semantics of Tea Drinking: Online Writing and the Shaping of Counter-public Spheres in Xi Jinping’s China.” positions (2022) 30 (4): 865–893. Find the abstract below, along with a link that should give access to the entire essay.

Lorenzo Andolfatto


Recent discussion concerning the Chinese government’s autocratic practices has been orienting public attention toward the large scale of its surveillance apparatus. Observed from afar, the integration of digital and material infrastructures for discipline and control–whether in the form of factory/detention complexes in the Xinjiang region, face–recognition technology, or the Great Firewall–cannot help but convey the impression of a faceless authority acting upon statistics and data. Yet data and statistics refer to individuals and communities, whose interactions with the powers that be are negotiated daily on concrete grounds, such as over a cup of tea. The expressions hecha 喝茶 (drinking tea) and bei hecha 被喝茶 (being asked for tea) long ago acquired a chiefly political connotation and are now commonly used to imply being approached by the State Security Police for a forced interrogation. As the everydayness of the expression suggests, this type of state interventions in civil society attests, in Foucault’s terms, state power’s “capillary form of existence, the point where [it] reaches into the very grain of individuals.” This article makes use of an extraordinary corpus of online texts presenting firsthand accounts of bei hecha experiences to explore questions of everyday governance and governmentality in contemporary China. Adopting a text–based approach to matters conventionally pertaining to the realm of political science, it argues for an understanding of hecha ji texts (written recollections of tea–drinking sessions) as a distinctive form of writing that is functional to the construction of counter–public spheres of dissent in the tightening authoritarian environment of Xi Jinping’s China today.

China’s Global Strategy as Science Fiction

MCLC LIST members may be interested in my stab at comparative literature. It’s a short essay called “China’s Global Strategy as Science Fiction,” published by the London School of Economic’s think-tank, IDEAS.


Xi Jinping is leading China in a new direction, but how are we to understand his global strategy? For most countries, to understand domestic and international politics we would analyse authoritative sources – leaders’ speeches, official documents and statistics, elite interviews and essays, and public opinion surveys. In the 2000s these methods worked well to probe Chinese politics. But since civil society and independent thought have been severely restricted under Xi, it’s necessary to go beyond such “factual” sources. To understand China’s global strategy, it’s best to read fiction, especially Chinese science fiction. This essay critically analyses Liu Cixin’s novels, The Wandering Earth and the Three Body Problem trilogy, to probe how Chinese sci-fi pushes us to think creatively about key topics: the relation of humans and technology, the relation of science and politics, and the relations between political communities, i.e. are we doomed to existential struggle, or can we engage with difference in creative and productive ways?

William A. Callahan

MCLC 34.2

We are pleased to announce publication of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 34, no. 2 (2022), a special issue on “Taiwan and Hong Kong’s Global Connections.” Find the table of contents below, with links to abstracts. See here for information on how to subscribe.

Natascha Gentz and Christopher Rosenmeier, Editors

Table of Contents
Volume 34, Issue 2, December, 2022

Note from the Editors, by Natascha Gentz and Christopher Rosenmeier
34(2), pp. v–vii
Full Text | PDF/EPUB

Beyond Party Politics? Visitors and Meaning-Making in the National Museum of Taiwan Literature, by Emily GRAF
34(2), pp. 241–290

The Making of Small Literature as World Literature: Taiwanese Writer Wu Ming-Yi, by Kuei-fen CHIU
34(2), pp. 291–312

“World Literature” between Transcultural Poetics and Colonial Politics: Yang Chichang, Le Moulin, and Surrealism in Taiwan, by Fangdai CHEN
34(2), pp. 313–344
Abstract Continue reading

JEACS vol. 3

We are pleased to announce the publication of vol. 3 of the  Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies (Volume 3, 2022). You’ll be able to download all articles here (open access, no registration):

Table of Contents

Alexis Lycas, Marie Bizais-Lillig, Laura De Giorgi, Alison Hardie, Sascha Klotzbücher, Frank Kraushaar
Editorial: New Views on Visual Materials 視覺影像刮目相看

Kenneth Hammond
Visual Materials in Chinese Local Gazetteers 中國視覺方志

Xin Yu 余 欣
Scenic Views of Administrative Units in Ming China 明代方志中的府州縣景致研究

Sander Molenaar
Locating the Sea: A Visual and Social Analysis of Coastal Gazetteers in Late Imperial China 給海洋定位: 明清時期沿海方志的視覺及社會分析 Continue reading

Ming Qing Studies 2022

We are glad to inform you about the publication of Ming Qing Studies 2022.
Edited by Paolo Santangelo
December 2022 ISBN 979-12-5544-007-9


Paolo Santangelo
Lee Cheuk-Yin;
Tommaso Previato;
Ying-Kit Chan
M. Paola Culeddu;


by Paolo SANTANGELO (Sapienza University of Rome)

Founding Fathers: Qing Consul-Poets Zuo Binglong and Huang Zunxian in Singapore
by Lam LAP 林立 (National University of Singapore)

Individual Autonomy and Dissent in mid Ming China: The Case of the “Four Talents of Wu”
by LEE Cheuk Yin (Universiti Brunei Darussalam)

Fortifying the Maritime Frontier: Diagrams of Coastal Garrisons (Yingxun Tu) in the Qing Empire
by Ronald C. PO (London School of Economics and Political Science)

The Jiaoshan Tripod and the Reconstitution of the Scholarly Community in Early Qing China
by Yun-chen LU and Henning VON MIRBACH (DePaul University & University of California, Santa Barbara) Continue reading

The Specter of Materialism

The Specter of Materialism: Queer Theory and Marxism in the Age of the Beijing Consensus
By Petrus Liu

Abstract: In recent years, queer theory appears to have made a materialist turn away from questions of representation and performativity to those of dispossession, precarity, and the differential distribution of life chances. Despite this shift, queer theory finds itself constantly reabsorbed into the liberal project of diversity management. This theoretical and political weakness, Petrus Liu argues, stems from an incomplete understanding of capitalism’s contemporary transformations, of which China has been at the center. In The Specter of Materialism Liu challenges key premises of classic queer theory and Marxism, turning to an analysis of the Beijing Consensus—global capitalism’s latest mutation—to develop a new theory of the political economy of sexuality. Liu explores how relations of gender and sexuality get reconfigured to meet the needs of capital in new regimes of accumulation and dispossession, demonstrating that evolving US-Asian economic relations shape the emergence of new queer identities and academic theories. In so doing, he offers a new history of collective struggles that provides a transnational framework for understanding the nexus between queerness and material life.

Comedies in East Asian Media

New Publication
Comedies in East Asian Media: Laughing in Bitter Times, a special issue of Archiv orientální
Archiv orientální Vol. 90 No. 3 (2022)
Editors: Ta-wei Chi, Elaine Chung, and Jessica Siu-yin Yeung

Table of Contents

Introduction/ Ta-wei Chi, Elaine Chung, Jessica Siu-yin Yeung

Cultural Memory, the Trope of “Humble Wage Earners,” and Everyman Heroism in the Hui Brothers’ Comedies and Their Remake/ Jessica Siu-yin Yeung

Laughter Suspended: Japanese Surreal Comedy and the Ends of Progress/ David Humphrey

Neoliberal Subjectivities and Cynicism in China: Feng Xiaogang’s Dream-play Comedies/ Yung-Hang Bruce Lai

A Tale of Two Dragons: Politics of the Comedic Kung Fu Body in Chinese Cinema/ Wayne Wong

YouTube Vidding and Participatory Memories of Stephen Chow’s Stardom in South Korea/ Elaine Chung

“I wish my films would bring hopes to the spectators”: An interview with Michael Hui/ Jessica Siu-yin Yeung

City of Laughter: On the Traditions and Trends of Hong Kong Comedy Films/ Fiona Yuk-wa Law

A Brief History of Taiwanese Comedy Cinema/ George Chun Han Wang

For query about access, please contact the editors:

Ta-wei Chi (
Elaine Chung (
Jessica Siu-yin Yeung (

U of Zurich lectures

The University of Zurich has put online two lectures that may be of interest to the MCLC community.

Maghiel van Crevel, “Poetic Tightrope Walks. Time, Space, Bodies and Things in Contemporary Sinophone Poetry,”
Konferenz, Donnerstag, 29. September bis Samstag, 02. Oktober 2022

We also have a podcast of Song Hwee Lim’s TRCCS lecture (also Oct. 2022) based on his new book: Taiwan Cinema as Soft Power: Authorship, Transnationality, Historiography.

Tupelo Quarterly translations

Attention, fans of Chinese literature in English translation:

The latest issue of online magazine Tupelo Quarterly features translations of an excerpt from Sheng Keyi’s novel, The Metaphor Detox Center, and several poems by poets such as Aku Wu (a member of the Nuosu branch of the Yi people), Wu Niaoniao, Li Suo, Shu Buyu, Huang Fan, Yang Xiaobin, Li Shaojun, Hu Xian, Hei Feng and Wang Jiaxin.

Contents page:

Bruce Humes

Trans Asia Photography 12.2

We are thrilled to announce that the Fall 2022 issue of Trans Asia Photography is now available online!

VOL.12, NO.2 (FALL 2022)

Introduction, by Thy Phu

Research Articles

Karen Strassler, “George Floyd in Papua: Image-Events and the Art of Resonance”
Shimrit Lee, “‘Then and Now’: The Making of a Visual Frontier”
Zoé E. Headley, “Three Histories, Seven Lives: Investigating the Archives of South Indian Photo Studios (Tamil Nadu, 1880-1980)”

Visual Essays

Tong Lam, “At the Borderland of History”
Deborah Nixon, “Invisible Journey”


Morris Lum and Brandon Leung, “Tong Yan Gaai: A North American Chinatown Vernacular”


Hye-ri Oh, “In Pursuit of a Synthesis of Documentary and Aesthetic Vision: Interview with Korean Photographer Joo Myung Duck”


Joanne So Jeong Chung, “Photography and Korea: History and Practice”

We hope that you enjoy the latest issue and invite you to share it with your networks.


Deepali Dewan, Royal Ontario Museum & University of Toronto
Yi Gu, University of Toronto
Thy Phu, University of Toronto

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