Remembering Peng Xiaolian

Remembering Writer-director Peng Xiaolian
Louisa Wei

November 2003, Xiaolian (right) and Louisa (middle) were filming with Komatsu Ran (left) in Keio University, Tokyo Japan.

Film director and writer Peng Xiaolian 彭小莲 passed away on June 19, 2019. Below I share some memories about her.

In May 2003, Shanghai film director Peng Xiaolian called me and asked if I was interested in working on a documentary about the “Hu Feng Counterrevolutionary Clique” case (the PRC’s first large-scale literary persecution). By that point, I had only met her once at the Hong Kong International Film Festival of 2002, but we had been writing to each other for about two years. What’s more important is that I had already read her book about her parents: Their Times (他们的岁月). I agreed to work with her on the documentary almost right away and told her I would start to look for funding. I called her back after just a few hours, because I found that we could apply to the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam’s script development grant, but we only had one week before the deadline. Xiaolian sent me a story in Chinese the next day, and a day later I came up with a proposal and a working title for the film: Storm under the Sun (红日风暴). I couriered the proposal four days later. At the end of June, we were notified that we were one of the 17 recipients of funding out of 180 applicants, though it was only 4000 euros. In July, we started filming in Shanghai. We got a fast start indeed. The path of my life as an assistant professor suddenly changed. Continue reading

A Dark Blue exhibit

Source: New Haven Independent (6/7/19)
Art Of Darkness

Fiona Sze-Lorrain and Fritz Horstman

Fiona Sze-Lorrain and Fritz Horstman

The words are surrounded by billows of shade that could be smoke, or clouds, or particles moving through water. The color seems both kinetic and serene at the same time, capturing light and shadow. The words are written by hand: “Scooping up handfuls of fresh / silence from a mirror of oblivion, / I gather from the well / that night disguises his guests. / It pleases him that wind / must wait. Even rain. Misled / the tempered dark takes a false / step. So many shadows. / So few ghosts — I was lonely / but curious / in this imperfect end.”The above poem-painting is one of several pieces in “A Blue Dark,” a collaboration between Paris-based poet, translator, and Zheng harpist Fiona Sze-Lorrain and Connecticut-based artist Fritz Horstman running now at the Institute Library on Chapel Street through Sept. 7, with a guided walk-through by Horstman on June 9. Continue reading

Princeton China Initiative

The letter below is from the Princeton China Initiative, which is collecting donations for the Tiananmen Mothers.




三十年过去了,对于我们大多数人来说,“6.4”已经成为尘封的记忆。在此期间,“天安门母亲”却从来没有停止抗争。她们要求中国政府平反“6.4”,承认他们的孩子不是“暴徒”,而是反对腐败、争取民主的爱国青年。但是,她们的声音如此微弱,很少被人听到,投给政府的信函亦石沉大海。还有许多遇难者留下了年轻的妻子和年幼的孩子,多年来,他们的遗孀承受着巨大的精神和经济压力,独自把孩子养大,甚至身患重病时也无法放弃微薄的劳动收入。许多孩子由于幼年丧父而始终生活在阴影之下,难以像普通孩子那样享受无忧无虑的快乐生活。 Continue reading

Nicholas Clifford, 1930-2019

In Memoriam: Nicholas Clifford, 1930-2019

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury today mourns the loss of Nicholas R. Clifford, who, as a scholar, professor, administrator, trustee, and driving force behind the study of Chinese language and East Asian studies at the College, has left a lasting impact on the institution he so dearly loved and served for more than half a century.

“He was, quite simply, one of the most admirable and beloved members of the widespread College community,” said John D. Berninghausen, the Truscott Professor Emeritus of Chinese Studies. “A real junzi [Chinese for ‘gentleman’ or ‘cultivated person’], Nick was a man of honor and integrity, personal as well as professional. He was one of the wisest, fairest, most judicious, and intelligent people I have ever met.” Continue reading

Wu Ming-yi at Pen World Voices Festival

Taiwanese writer Wu Ming-yi joins 2019 PEN World Voices Festival

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York is pleased to announce that Taiwanese writer Wu Ming-yi will join two events at the 2019 Pen America World Voices Festival in New York from May 6 to 12.

Tuesday, May 7, 6:30-8:00 pm
“Meditations on War, presented with The Guardian”
Venue: Albertine (972 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10075)

Wu joins Laurent Gaudé (Hear Our Defeats) and Sinan Antoon (The Book of Collateral Damage) for a discussion on how humanity endures the memories of war and struggles to rebuild. Moderated by Julian Borger, world affairs editor for The Guardian.

Thursday, May 9, 6:30-10:00 pm
“Literary Quest: Westbeth Edition”
Venue: Westbeth Artists Housing and Center for the Arts (55 Bethune St., New York, NY 10014)

Salon-style readings and discussions led by Festival authors at the Westbeth Center for the Arts. Wu will read selected passages from his book The Stolen Bicycle.

For more information, please visit PEN World Voices Festival.

Posted by: Yu-Kai Lin

Simon Leys: Navigator between Worlds review

Source: Commonweal (5/6/19)
The Generalist: Philip Paquet’s ‘Simon Ley’
Reviewed by Nicholas Haggerty

Simon Leys: Navigator between Worlds
Philippe Paquet
Translated by Julie Rose
La Trobe University Press, $59.99, 692 pp.

Mathew Lynn, Portrait of Pierre Ryckmans (Simon Leys), 2010 (Courtesy of the artist)

In the second half of the twentieth century, the definition of a public intellectual underwent a gradual but profound change, as generalists gave way to academic specialists. Sinology makes for the perfect case study of this transition. From its origins in the Jesuit missions until the mid-twentieth century, sinology favored breadth over depth; it presumed that an individual scholar could take the whole of Chinese civilization—including its language, art, and history—as his or her subject. This romantic way of approaching the study of China came to an end during the Cold War as sinology, at least in the United States, was fully assimilated into the academic field of China studies. Within this field, there were major disagreements on the proper relationship between scholarship and American foreign policy—but there was, at least, fundamental agreement about what kind of research and books counted as genuine scholarship. As the study of China was professionalized, those who did not specialize were generally looked down upon as dilettantes. Continue reading

Founding of the Society of Sinophone Studies

Founding the Society of Sinophone Studies
May 4, 2019

Following the successful “Sinophone Studies” conference held in April of this year at the University of California, Los Angeles, we announce the formation of the Society of Sinophone Studies to promote the study of Sinitic-language communities and cultures around the world. The Society seeks to provide support for scholars with an interest in Sinophone studies and welcomes any regional, disciplinary, and topical expertise. More details about the Society will follow; please contact Howard Chiang ( for preliminary inquiries.

Inaugural Governing Board

Chair: Howard Chiang, University of California, Davis 
Vice Chair: E.K. Tan, Stony Brook University
Secretary-Treasurer: Rebecca Ehrenwirth, New York University Shanghai 
Program Director: Brian Bernards, University of Southern California
Communications Director: Lily Wong, American University

Posted by: E.K. Tan <>

Mainstreaming Stories: A Day of Solidarity with Uyghurs

Dear colleagues,

I am writing to notify signatories to the Xinjiang Initiative of a global event being held April 26, 2019.

[To sign the Xinjiang Pledge:]

The event is being called Mainstreaming Stories: A Day of Solidarity with Uyghurs. Participation is simple: each volunteer delivers a talk about the crisis in western China at her/his home institution (no money, travel, jet-lag, expensive meals, etc.). We’ve already established rapport with our colleagues and students, so this type of intimate talk may be more effective in encouraging action than organizing large symposiums and publishing more op-eds.

The event borrows from some of the organizational and advertising strategies used by the annual China Town Hall meetings. In other words, we give a “local” talk, but promote the event as an international, coordinated program. We already have several volunteer speakers representing three countries.

Officially, the event will begin at 12PM EST on April 26, but timing is of secondary importance. It might even be powerful to have a day in which there are several hours devoted around the world to the crisis.

Also, if you know of anyone else who may be interested in speaking this day, please, by all means, feel welcome to share this idea with them.


Tim Grose
Via Xinjiang Initiative

2nd Annual Flushing Poetry Festival


The 2nd Annual Flushing Poetry Festival (2019法拉盛詩歌節) will be held on Saturday, April 20, 2019 at the Queens Public Library in Flushing, NY, from 11 am – 4 pm.  The event celebrates contemporary Chinese poets living overseas, writing in Chinese, and it encourages cross-cultural conversation and translation of poetry from diaspora poets. Winning poetry from the juried competition will be published in a subsequent online publication in Chinese Poetry New York (纽约诗刊).  The event is free and open to the public, and will be in Chinese and English.

The day’s agenda includes an award’s ceremony, a poetry reading, a small poetry book stall and an afternoon panel discussion.

The poetry reading will include a selection of poems in Chinese and English read by invited guests.

The panel discussion includes the following poets and translators: WANG Yu [王渝], YAN Li [嚴力], ZHANG Er [張耳], XIE Jiong [謝炯, Joan Xie], and Denis Mair [梅丹理], and will be moderated by Connie Rosemont.  Panelists will explore challenges translators face – both philosophical and practical, and they will talk about how they navigate the profound difference between the Chinese and English languages, including issues of syntax, sound, meaning, and the written word itself, and the role of translation in promoting cross-literary culture. Continue reading

An Open Letter to Tsinghua University

An Open Letter to Tsinghua University
Dr. Qiu Yong
President, Tsinghua University

Dear President Qiu,

Tsinghua University, one of the most highly ranked universities in the world, has suffered severe damage to its academic reputation as a consequence of the university’s punishment of Professor Xu Zhangrun.

As members of the international academic community, we urge the university to restore Professor Xu’s normal status in the university, including his teaching and research duties, and to refrain from any further sanctions against him.


To sign this letter, please email your name and affiliation to:

This letter is open until April 19, 2019, after which it will be sent to Tsinghua University. It will also be made public.

Initial signatories:

Geremie R. Barmé, The Australian National University
Jean-Philippe Béja, CNRS/CERI-Sciences-Po (Centre de Recherches Internationales)
Ian Buruma, Bard College
Steven I. Levine, University of Montana
Perry Link, University of California, Riverside
Andrew J. Nathan, Columbia University
Orville Schell, Asia Society

Institution names are for identification purposes only.

Interview with Wilt Idema


Insects in Chinese Literature: A Study and Anthology by Wilt L. Idema was just published and launched at the 2019 AAS conference in Denver two weeks ago. There was much interest in this unusual book, and so we have conducted the following interview with Professor Idema.

Cambria Press: In the introduction to your book, you mention that that insects, especially “anthropomorphized insects that talk to each other,” are quite rare in animal tales. What sparked your interest in this rare subset of animal tales?
Wilt Idema: I have always been interested in animal tales, animal fables, and beast epics, likely because Van den vos Reynaerde (Reynard the fox) is one of the most famous and enjoyable works of Dutch medieval literature. Perhaps because I was frustrated by the near-absence of texts involving talking animals in Chinese literature, I have been keeping track of those tales I did encounter. Once I thought I might have enough for a book on the topic, I only intensified my search. When looking for insect tales, I was quite surprised to find a considerable number of tales about the weddings of insects, the funerals of insects, their battles and wars, their disputes and court cases in Chinese popular literature, and once I had found those materials I wanted to compare the depiction of insects in popular tales to those in classical poetry and in vernacular prose. The result in my Insects in Chinese Literature. Continue reading

Ko Ch’ing-ming (1946-2019)

Scholars devoted to modern literature from Taiwan will be very saddened to learn of the passing of Ko Ch’ing-ming (Ke Qingming) 柯慶明 (March 12, 1946-April 1, 2019). Professor Ko was a voluminous publisher of books of literary scholarship, prose essays, and poetry. His knowledge spanned the premodern and modern periods and both sides of the Taiwan Strait. For over thirty years, his wide-ranging essays on poetry and aesthetics were a regular feature, especially in journals such as Chung-Wai Literature, Lianhe Wenxue, Shi Tansuo, and other prominent venues. Professor Ko was a beloved teacher and mentor to countless students at National Taiwan University and served in a number of leadership roles, including as Director of the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature and the Taiwan University Press as well as a consultant to the government on cultural, literary, and linguistic matters. All of this would be enough for an illustrious career, but Professor Ko will likely be best known for his ebullience, warmth, and supportive attitude in his interactions with all sorts of students, colleagues throughout Taiwan, mainland China, and Hong Kong, and internationally in Japan, North America, and Europe. He was especially talented in public settings where he would offer his unique blend of intellectual acumen, stunning humor, and gentle treatment of others. He was a delight to know and one of a kind. The last couple years he had been encountering health issues and was mainly confined to a wheelchair. Despite this, he was still always bubbling over with enthusiasm, insight, and kind words. Recently, he participated in a ceremony awarding an honorary doctorate to the scholar Pang-yuan Ch’i (Qi Bangyuan 齊邦媛). I was really looking forward to seeing him during a planned visit to Taiwan in September and am sorry that we won’t have that chance. Colleagues can find more details on his life from the Department of Chinese Literature, National Taiwan University, which has posted a lengthy tribute and a bibliography, and most major newspapers in Taiwan. A very large tree has fallen. Rest In Peace, 慶明兄.

Christopher Lupke <>
University of Alberta

AAS statement on Xinjiang detentions (2)

“Concerned” — Really? It is certainly appropriate for AAS to have something to say about the deplorable situation in Xinjiang, but “concerned”? Surely there is more to be said about the mass detentions of people who make the Beijing authorities insecure in their governance. AAS is clearly aware of the persecution of academics in Xinjiang, but limiting its response to that alone as a matter of “concern” seems quite weak. Where is the powerful voice of Western intelligentsia?

Ron Janssen <>

AAS statement on Xinjiang detentions (1)

The AAS statement on Xinjiang is an excellent statement, but in my view still does not go far enough.

We should decry the mass detentions, including how the Chinese state targets the cultural elite of the Uighurs, Kazakhs, etc., with mass arrests of academics, artists, poets, and so on. But, the wholesale targeting of ethnic culture and language, means that this is now much bigger than even the up to 2 million people locked away in the concentration camps system.

Millions more face a concerted forced-assimilation campaign of which the detentions is a part: They are forced to denounce and abandon their culture and adopt Chinese ways, break food taboos, go into forced marriages, to stop speaking their own language (as mentioned below), and many children are taken and sent to Chinese -only ‘orphanages’ while parents are in camps. The list goes on. Continue reading

AAS statement on Xinjiang detentions

AAS Statement on Extra-Judicial Detention of Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, PRC
March 27, 2019

The Association for Asian Studies expresses its strong concern over the detention of at least 800,000 and up to 2 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in political “re-education centers” in Xinjiang, Northwest China.1 Turkic Muslims have been interned, imprisoned, or forcibly “disappeared” since April 2017.2 Such detention constitutes a major violation of human rights and, in the case of our academic colleagues, a clear disregard for academic freedom.

We are particularly dismayed at the disappearance of at least 386 Uyghur intellectuals and scholars, including 21 staff of Xinjiang University, 15 staff of Xinjiang Normal University, 13 staff of Kashgar University, 6 staff of Xinjiang Medical University, 6 staff of the Xinjiang Social Sciences Academy, 4 staff from Khotan Teachers’ College, and 101 students.3 Turkic Muslims have been denied the freedom to use their mother tongue, to pursue Qur’anic studies, or to study and research abroad.4 Those returning to China from periods of study or research have been recalled, detained, questioned, or caused to disappear into internment camps.5 Five deaths of students and scholars while in custody have been confirmed during this period.6 Continue reading