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

Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary translations

Source: Bruce-Humes.com (4/10/20)
Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary: Dissed for ‘Washing Dirty Linen’ before Foreign Eyes
By Bruce Humes

German edition launch date: June 4, 2020 (六四)


It was bad enough that author Fang Fang (方方) has regularly posted her popular Wuhan Diary (武汉日记) on China’s social media, offering her personal — and not occasionally, critical — comments on the effects of the deadly epidemic during the lockdown, penned at Ground Zero. Reports The Diplomat (Conscience of Wuhan):

. . . each entry in Fang’s Wuhan Diary has been consistently deleted by Beijing’s censors within an hour or so of it being posted on Fang’s social media page. Yet each post has gone viral before being struck down, being shared by millions of WeChatters within China and abroad.

But now there is even worse news for the ongoing global PR campaign to position China’s anti-Covid-19 strategy, specifically its vacuum-sealed lockdown of Wuhan, as successful, heroic and a model for the rest of the world. Reports China’s Global Times (Publication of Wuhan diary in English):

Now some people are wondering if Fang received a certain amount of money from overseas to let the book be published for some reasons. 


And it appears to be true. HarperCollins Publishers has announced the launch of Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City, translated by Michael Berry, for end June 2020. Continue reading

Mai Jia’s The Message review

Source: SCMP (4/10/20)
The Message, Mai Jia’s flawed wartime novel, can be read as disguised criticism of Chinese Communist rule
A fiction about the hunt for a spy among wartime codebreakers combines with a metafictional narrative about a writer looking for the story. The popularity of this bloated book is puzzling until it is read as a comment on the trauma of the Cultural Revolution
By Mike Cormack

Chinese author Mai Jia, whose best-selling novel The Message was recently translated in to English. Photo: Getty Images

Chinese author Mai Jia, whose best-selling novel The Message was recently translated in to English. Photo: Getty Images

The Message [風聲], by Mai Jia, tr. Olivia Milburn
Head of Zeus

Mai Jia’s books, now being translated and published in English, make great play of his huge sales in China. With global sales of 10 million, he is “the bestselling author you’ve never heard of”, according to the market­ing hype.

His first novel, Decoded (2002), earned positive reviews from English-language media when it was translated in 2014 and has now been published in 33 languages. A large part of Mai Jia’s appeal, no doubt, derives from his background in the Chinese intelligence services, with Decoded focusing on crypto­graphy and espionage, although it is set during World War II, which eases matters when publishing in the mainland.

The Message, which was published in Chinese in 2007, has a similar premise. In 1941, five codebreakers (Chief of Staff Wu Zhiguo, Section Chief Jin Shenghuo, cryptographer Li Ningyu, Secretary Bai Xiaonian and Gu Xiaomeng, a subordinate of Li) are taken to a comman­deered villa in occupied Hangzhou by the Imperial Japanese Army. They are informed of communist activity in the area and given an intercepted message from a Commander Zhang to decode. Continue reading

Chinese Film Classics

I hope list members are keeping well. I am writing to share English-subtitled versions of twelve early Chinese films, which I have made available open-access on the YouTube channel “Chinese Film Classics”:


The films currently available are: 

  1. Laborer’s Love 勞工之愛情 (Zhang Shichuan, dir., 1922)
  2. Daybreak 天明 (Sun Yu, dir., 1933)
  3. Goddess 神女 (Wu Yonggang, dir., 1934)
  4. Sports Queen 體育皇后 (Sun Yu, dir., 1934)
  5. The Great Road 大路 (Sun Yu, dir., 1934 [released 1935])
  6. New Women 新女性 (Cai Chusheng, dir., 1935) (translated by Eileen Cheng-yin Chow)
  7. Street Angels 馬路天使 (Yuan Muzhi, dir., 1937)
  8. Song at Midnight 夜半歌聲 (Ma-Xu Weibang, dir., 1937)
  9. Long Live the Missus! 太太萬歲 (Sang Hu, dir., 1947) (also available with filmscript and stills on MCLC Publications: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/long-live-the-missus/)
  10. Spring in a Small Town 小城之春 (Fei Mu, dir. 1948)
  11. Wanderings of Three-Hairs the Orphan 三毛流浪記 (Zhao Ming and Yan Gong, dirs., 1949)
  12. Crows and Sparrows 烏鴉與麻雀 (Zheng Junli, dir., 1949 [released 1950]) (also available with filmscript and stills on MCLC Publications: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/crows-and-sparrows/)

Continue reading

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: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/dear-music/. 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

Studies in Translation History–cfp

This e-mail is the call for submissions for the latest publication project “Book Series: Young Researchers’ Studies in Translation History” planned by the Research Centre for Translation, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. For more information, please click here.

本電郵為香港中文大學翻譯研究中心最新出版計劃「新芽翻譯史研究論叢」徵稿宣傳郵件。如未能看到以下內容,請點 此處

Eleanor Goodman wins Hanan Prize

Source: Notes on the Mosquito (3/13/20)

The Hanan Prize for Translation (China and Inner Asia) was established in 2015 and is given biennially to an outstanding English translation of a significant work in any genre originally written in Chinese or an Inner Asian Language, from any time period.

This year’s winner is Eleanor Goodman, for The Roots of Wisdom by Zang Di 臧棣 (Zephyr Press).

The Awards Ceremony was going to be at the upcoming AAS annual conference in Boston, MA on Friday, March 20, but the conference has been canceled.

Click here for all this year’s AAS awardees.

Three Brothers

The review neglects to mention that Carlos Rojas is the translator.–Kirk

Source: SCMP (3/8/20)
Yan Lianke’s Three Brothers honours his family and the struggle to survive in mid-20th century China
The book is a memoir of the author’s father and uncles, with a portrait of the young Yan woven in between. Poverty, love and the luxury of happiness are all explored in a poignant story as affecting as any of Yan’s fictions.
By James Kidd

Chinese author Yan Lianke, whose new book, Three Brothers, remembers his father and two uncles. Photo: AFP

Chinese author Yan Lianke, whose new book, Three Brothers, remembers his father and two uncles. Photo: AFP

Yan Lianke is no stranger to writing about himself. He appeared, in subtly altered form, in his 2018 novel, The Day the Sun Died. His new book, Three Brothers, is a memoir, although on more than one occasion readers might find themselves wondering what separates Yan’s fiction from his non-fiction.

The germ of the idea, as he reveals in a preface, was a sudden realisation in 2007 “that four men in my father’s generation – which included three brothers and a cousin – had now departed this world, seeking peace and tran­quillity in another realm”. The specific occasion was the death of his “Fourth Uncle”. It was while the family were paying their respects that Yan’s sister said, “Our father’s generation have now all passed away. Why don’t you write about the three brothers? […] You can also write about yourself – about your youth.” Continue reading

Li Suo poem

Hi, Happy Women’s Day!

Here is a poem by Li Suo 里所. She lives in Beijing and works with books, in connection with Shen Haobo. She was born in Kashgar, left after primary school. Last year she was at Vermont Studio Center, together with Lucas Klein, who translated her poems.

This poem is part of the huge response by Chinese poets to the virus crisis. I found it in a compilation circulated on WeChat that was soon deleted. Many, many links, websites and so on have been deleted in the last few weeks. Don’t know if Cuijian.com is still down. Can’t have Chinese rock’n’roll quoting The Internationale to all eternity, can we. Anyway, poetry matters. There was a heated discussion about Tang poetry on boxes from Japan with relief goods form Wuhan. An article in the 长江日报 on February 12 argued against quoting poetry in this context, because Adorno had said writing poetry after Auschwitz was barbaric. That guy received a lot of flak in the following days, some in poems. The poem by Li Suo was probably inspired by a hospital boss in Wuhan who said they didn’t need to care if the women working there had their periods. Don’t remember exactly when. Anyway, huge response. Great poems. Some of it can be found on Poemlife, compiled by 左右: https://www.poemlife.com/index.php?mod=showart&id=81584&str=1985&from=timeline&isappinstalled=0 Continue reading

Qinghe Prison

Source: China Channel, LARB (3/3/20)
Qinghe Prison
A short story by Bei Ling, translated by Scott Savitt

Header image by leks from Pixabay

It’s afternoon. I’m being transported in a military jeep. On the road I ask the undercover officer: “Where am I being taken?”

“To a hotel,” the plainclothes officer scoffs.

The jeep is speeding down a newly paved freeway in Beijing’s faceless western outskirts.

The jeep slows down and enters a compound surrounded by a towering wall. An electric fence lines the top of the wall, and armed soldiers man the guard towers.

Next to the iron gate is a sign that says: Qinghe Prison.

I feel like an explosion has gone off in my head. Continue reading

Tang Junyi novella

Source: China Channel, LARB (2/14/20)
Love Tips from a Himalayan Forest
Excerpts from a forgotten Chinese love tract, translated by Jonathan Keir
By Jonathan Keir

In his 1940 novella Aiqing zhi Fuyin, Tang Junyi’s lapsed Zoroastrian protagonist, the deracinated “world philosopher” Delas, embodies the author’s disgust for both communism and capitalism, and his search instead for wartime refuge in a “spiritual philosophy.” Instead of explaining love away in Freudian, Darwinian or other ideological terms, Tang sought to persuade readers that “what we need to do is the opposite, namely to explain the lower spheres of human movement in terms of the higher ones.” Love, for Delas, is best understood as a transcendental source of mystery and wonder – not a predictable, Tinderesque outcome, but a triumph of human free will over such bleak determinism. – Jonathan Keir

The Morality in Love

At this point one of the youths stood up and asked: “Master, allow me to ask a random question. Love should have a single focus; I have seen examples of it in others and experienced it for myself: a concentrated love is the most precious. But I do sometimes wonder why this must be so. I mean, every young person, before she settles on a partner for marriage, considers an enormous field of options; she might at different moments turn her amorous needs and energies on any number of targets. We might even say that she loves all these possibilities. But from the moment she has chosen a long-term partner, her love is suddenly concentrated on one person. Isn’t it a major loss to move from a plethora of potential targets of love down to just one? Why can’t we just live pan-amorously and enrich our love lives accordingly? I don’t need a moral lesson; I need a real reason.” Continue reading

Translating reform era fiction

Source: China Channel, LARB (2/12/20)
Translating Reform Era Fiction
Kevin McGeary talks to the translator of Empires of Dust by Jiang Zilong

Set in the fictional village of Guojiadian, Jiang Zilong’s Empires of Dust is a seven-hundred page tome that chronicles the rise and fall of Guo Cunxian, who transforms from impoverished peasant to formidable businessman. Described by the South China Morning Post as being “as epic, grandiose, ambitious, complex and turbulent as China itself,” this is the tenth novel by Jiang, who is often described as the father of China’s ‘reform literature,’ literature dealing with the reform and opening period after 1978. I caught up with co-translator Christopher Payne to discuss the novel, and the work involved in rendering it into English.

Of all the characters, Guo Cunxian goes through the biggest trajectory, from rejecting the sexual advances of Sister Liu to habitually committing infidelity, from eking out a living making coffins to becoming powerful and corrupt. Does he represent both the heroic and reprehensible qualities that made China’s economic boom possible?

Guo has very humble roots. His family did not participate in the Communist revolution – so no Red history to claim as their own – nor did they join up with the Party to become cadres or other revolutionary workers after 1949. They were the quintessential poor peasant family. This earthiness set Guo’s moral compass: he was the good family man, the good son who led his family after the death of his father. Indeed, his motive for departing Guojiadian in the first instance is to earn money to send back to his mother and younger brother. He does embody the heroic qualities of China’s economic miracle – the initiative, the drive, the thirst to bring wealth to his town, yet it is that very same wealth and power that destroys his moral compass. He loses his earthiness. It’s rather tragic. So yes, I think he does represent what has been both heroic and reprehensible about the dramatic changes China has endured over the course of the reform era. Continue reading

Two new ‘ethnic’ novels from China for 2020

Source: Paper Republic (1/26/20)
Two New “Ethnic” Novels from China for 2020
By Bruce Humes

cover image

Two potentially controversial novels — one by a Uyghur author, and the other by a Tibetan — have recently been published in English. They are part of the Kaleidoscope Series of China’s Ethnic Authors sponsored by China Translation & Publishing House, a dozen or so novels by authors that highlight tales in which non-Han culture, motifs and characters play a key role (民族题材文学).

Patigül’s Bloodline (百年血脉) relates the semi-autobiographical tale of a Xinjiang native, daughter of a Uyghur father and Hui mother, who marries a Han, and struggles to bring up a family in mainstream Chinese society. Told in the first person, it unflinchingly describes her mother’s mental illness, her brother’s agonizing death from an STD and tribulations of a “mixed” marriage. For an English excerpt, visit here.

Tsering Norbu’s Prayers in the Wind (祭语风中) narrates the subsequent life of a Buddhist monk who attempts — unsuccessfully — to exit China in the wake of the 1959 Tibetan uprising and the Dalai Lama’s flight to India. For an excerpt, visit here.