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

White Snake: Origins review

Source: ACAS (6/24/19)
Queering an Icon, Becoming a Demon: A Review of White Snake: Origins
By Liang Luo

The 2019 animated film White Snake: Origins (Baishe yuanqi), co-produced by Beijing-based Light Chaser Animation and Warner Bros., premiered on January 11 throughout China. It opens with an innovative, hybrid style of ink-painting 3D animation.[1] In the one-minute opening sequence, two snakes who have transformed into beautiful women, White Snake and Green Snake, and their surrounding environment are outlined in charming ink brush strokes. This distinctive aesthetic style is reminiscent of traditional landscape paintings as seen in China, Japan, Korea, and India, as well as in Mizoguchi Kenji’s reinvention of this style in the 1953 live action film Tale of Moonlight and Rain (Ugetsu), one of the first postwar Japanese films with a “White Snake” theme.[2] Continue reading

Taiwan and World Literature–cfp

Bulletin of Taiwanese Literature
Topical Section: “Taiwan and World Literature”
Organizer: Association for Taiwan Literature 

Call for Papers

The study of world literature has drawn much attention and interest in recent literary studies. The boom of academic journals (e.g. Journal of World Literature), special issues (e.g. “Chinese Literature as World Literature,” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture), and book series (e.g. Bloomsbury’s Literatures as World Literature) speaks volumes about the vitality of this field. The concept of “world literature” provides scholars with a theoretical framework on Taiwan literature and culture different from that provided by national, postcolonial, and Sinophone literatures. World literature studies often engage issues and methods that are different from those found in other literary frameworks. Continue reading

Fact in Fiction review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Johanna Ransmeier’s review of Fact in Fiction: 1920s China and Ba Jin’s Family, by Kristin Stapleton. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the book to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Fact in Fiction: 1920s China and Ba Jin’s Family

By Kristin Stapleton

Reviewed by Johanna S. Ransmeier
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2019)

Kristin Stapleton, Fact in Fiction: 1920s China and Ba Jin’s Family. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016. Iv-ix + 280. ISBN: 978-1-5036-0106-2.

For Kristin Stapleton, Ba Jin’s 巴金 most famous novel, Family (家), offers more than a lens on the collision between traditional Confucian values and Republican China’s revolutionary May Fourth era. From its publication as a serial between 1931 and 1932 to the present, early twentieth century activists and later scholars have employed the novel as convenient shorthand for the weaknesses of traditional China. The Gao household came to epitomize the unreasonable and backward demands of traditional family life in a modernizing world. In Fact in Fiction, Stapleton deftly expands on the novel, using its characters, Ba Jin’s life, and his own family, to launch her own finely wrought exploration of the author’s rapidly changing world.

In her introduction, Stapleton observes that critics at the time observed how Ba Jin’s novels failed to sufficiently capture the city in which their events are set. Instead, they contributed to the creation of “a stereotypical ‘traditional’ China that could be attacked by political and social activists of the 1930s and 1940s” (5). Yet, even given its universal critique of Chinese patriarchy, Stapleton demonstrates how Family, along with subsequent books in the Turbulent Stream (激流三部曲) trilogy, are deeply rooted in the particular culture of Chengdu in the 1920s. Continue reading

Uighur author dies in ‘re-education’ camp

Source: The Guardian (6/19/19)
Uighur author dies following detention in Chinese ‘re-education’ camp
PEN America condemns death of Nurmuhammad Tohti, who had been held in a Xinjiang internment camp, as a grave example of China’s violations of free expression
By Alison Flood

Nurmuhammad Tohti, sitting at a scholarly gathering in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, China. Photo courtesy of Abduweli Ayup.

Nurmuhammad Tohti, pictured in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. Photograph: courtesy of Abduweli Ayup

The death of the prominent Uighur writer Nurmuhammad Tohti after being held in one of Xinjiang’s internment camps has been condemned as a tragic loss by human rights organisations.

Radio Free Asia reported that Tohti, who was 70, had been detained in one of the controversial “re-education” camps from November 2018 to March 2019. His granddaughter, Zorigul, who is based in Canada, said he had been denied treatment for diabetes and heart disease, and was only released once his medical condition meant he had become incapacitated. She wrote on a Facebook page for the Uighur exile community that she had only learned of his death 11 days after it happened because her family in Xinjiang had been frightened that making the information public would make them a target for detention. Continue reading

Shanghai professor tells grads to fight for liberty

Source: Inkstone (6/19/19)
Shanghai Professor tells graduates to fight for liberty
By Qin Chen

Qu Weiguo went to Harvard University in 2004 as a visiting scholar for the Fullbright program.

Qu Weiguo went to Harvard University in 2004 as a visiting scholar for the Fullbright program. Photo: Weibo

It’s graduation time around the world, including in China, where students don their caps and gowns and listen to speeches that endeavor to offer insight into the meaning of life.

Qu Weiguo, the head of the English department at the prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai, took this opportunity seriously.

This week, he gave the class of 2019 an audacious speech praising the importance of fighting for individual liberty, talking with the world outside China and encouraging students to think independently. Continue reading

Chan Kin-man and the spirit of dissent in HK

Source: Dissent Magazine (6/18/19)
Chan Kin-man and the Spirit of Dissent in Hong Kong
Chan was given a sixteen-month sentence in April for his role in the pro-democracy protests that began in 2014. While he remains imprisoned, his successors have taken to the streets.
By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Chan Kin-man in 2017 (Flickr/inmediahk)

On this long and distant road, sometimes I feel that the road ahead is boundless and obscured, and sometimes the light is very dim. What can I do in this dark night? All we can do is look at the stars. –Chan Kin-man, November 14, 2018

The best panel I attended at the 2015 Association for Asian Studies meeting in Chicago was on dissent. Chan Kin-man, a sociology professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), was a fitting person to include in the session, which featured a mix of activists, journalists, and academics. He was one of the three main organizers of Occupy Central with Peace and Love, a nonviolent civil disobedience campaign that morphed into the Umbrella Movement when Joshua Wong and other student activists in their late teens and early twenties began to take leading roles in the struggle. Continue reading

A letter to my son

Source: Cha Journal (6/16/19)
[“A Letter to My Son” will be included in the “Tiananmen Thirty Years On” feature of the June 2019 issue of Cha.]
Dear Meatball,

Sorry I haven’t written in so long. Although, for you reading this, it’s probably just moving from one email to the next. In about four days, you will have been in our lives now for 6 months. It’s really been a wonderful and happy time for us both. Mom’s maternity leave ends on Friday, so we won’t all be at home all day with you anymore. But it was really nice while it lasted. Of course we will spend the rest of our lives together as a family, but these six months being with you nearly every moment has been really special and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Right now, it’s 3 am and I’m sitting on a footbridge that connects the Hong Kong legislative council building to an office building. It offers a great vantage for the protests that are starting and will continue over the next few days against an impending extradition bill that would allow the mainland Chinese government courts to compel the HK courts to send people in Hong Kong to China to be prosecuted. Of course, it doesn’t sound like a really big deal on the surface, but it would allow courts in China (which are not transparent and do not follow a clear rule of law) to persecute people here for political reasons. So for example, if one day you are in Hong Kong and decide to exercise your right to express your political opinions, a court in China could come up with a reason (valid or not) to have you tried there, and the HK government would then be expected to deliver you to that court. This type of agreement erodes the autonomy of Hong Kong, which is supposed to be a completely separate political system until 2047. Continue reading

The 800 Hundred pulled from Shanghai Film Fest

Source: SCMP (6/17/19)
Why the first Chinese Imax war film The Eight Hundred was pulled from Shanghai film festival
By Elaine Yao
The film, telling the story of the defence of the Sihang Warehouse against the Japanese army, was cancelled for ‘technical reasons’. The cancellation led to online anger with some saying the film was cancelled for glorifying the Chinese Nationalist army.

Wang Qianyuan (top) and Zhang Junyi in The Eight Hundred, a film about the Battle of Shanghai which was pulled from the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Wang Qianyuan (top) and Zhang Junyi in The Eight Hundred, a film about the Battle of Shanghai which was pulled from the Shanghai International Film Festival.

The official release date of China-produced World War II epic The Eight Hundred is in the balance after its world premiere at the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival was cancelled. The decision came to light one day before the opening of the festival, which runs from June 15 to June 24.

The official Weibo account of the film said the premiere, scheduled for its opening day, was cancelled due to technical reasons. A series of promotional events planned for the film at the festival were also cancelled. They included a screening on Tuesday at Tongji University in Shanghai, and sessions at which cast and crew members were to meet the media and public in Shanghai. Continue reading

Tang Xiaoming exhibit

Source: China Daily (6/13/19)
Exhibition sheds light on painter of Lu Xun portrait
By LIN QI | China Daily

Never to Cease Fighting, a portrait of Lu Xun by painter Tang Xiaoming, is on display at the National Art Museum of China. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Never to Cease Fighting [永不休战], a portrait of Lu Xun, a leading figure of 20th-century Chinese literature, is familiar to many Chinese people because the painting of him produced in 1971 has frequently been published in school textbooks over the years. But few people know much about its painter Tang Xiaoming [汤小铭], a devoted educator who has long been based in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

With a career spanning six decades, Tang, 80, is honorary chairman of the Guangdong Artists Association and has created dozens of portraits both of luminaries like Lu Xun and ordinary people from different walks of life. He exemplifies a realistic approach to painting that used to dominate the Chinese art scene for decades, and the figures he has depicted show the archetypal faces of a country in the throes of progress. Continue reading

2 million protest in HK

Source: SupChina (6/18/19)
Two million Hong Kongers march on the streets

Photo credit: Anthony Wallace / AFP


For the third time in a week, enormous numbers of people in Hong Kong took to the streets on June 16 to demand government accountability to their voices and the permanent cancellation of a controversial extradition bill.

  • As many as TWO MILLION attended, organizers said. Given the way people spilled out onto and filled multiple parallel streets (last week’s protests were mostly confined to one thoroughfare), the number seems reasonable.
  • That makes this the largest protest in Hong Kong history, and a stunningly large demonstration by percentage of population: About 25 percent of the city protested on one day — Hong Kong has 7.5 million residents.
  • The extradition bill that the people feared would fracture Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and give Beijing the ability to scoop up dissidents in the city has been shelved, for now. The city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é), has given a public apology. But the protesters have clear and specific further demands, for example:
  • “Withdraw the extradition bill. Carrie Lam step down. Drop all political prosecutions!” is what Joshua Wong (黃之鋒 Huáng Zhīfēng), the famous student protester, tweeted as he left prison the day after the protests. (Wong is one of several leaders of the 2014 Occupy protests to be sent to jail for “unlawful assembly” back in 2017.)

Continue reading

Vol. 31, no. 1 of MCLC

MCLC is pleased to announce the imminent publication of vol. 31, number 1 (Spring 2019). Find the table of contents, with links to abstracts, below. If you subscribe to MCLC, you should be receiving your copy in the next few weeks. For those of you who don’t subscribe, isn’t it time? Keep in mind that back issues of the journal are available through JStor, but with a two-year lag. If you would like to subscribe or order a single copy of this issue, please contact Mario De Grandis (

Kirk Denton, editor


Protest forces public apology

Source: SCMP (6/17/19)
‘Nearly 2 million’ people take to streets, forcing public apology from Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam as suspension of controversial extradition bill fails to appease protesters

  • Centre of city brought to a complete standstill as the masses march to chastise Lam for refusing to withdraw bill or apologise when first asked to
  • Six hours after protesters transform Central, Wan Chai and Admiralty into a sea of black, public apology comes in the form of government statement

By SCMP Reporters

Hongkongers of every age, profession and background, from every corner of the city, march in a massive show of solidarity and defiance. Photo: Sam Tsang

Hongkongers of every age, profession and background, from every corner of the city, march in a massive show of solidarity and defiance. Photo: Sam Tsang

Nearly 2 million protesters flooded the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday, organisers claimed, delivering a stunning repudiation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s governance and forcing a public apology out of the city’s leader over her campaign to bulldoze a controversial extradition bill through the legislature.

A day after Lam suspended her push for the bill, expecting it to defuse a crisis that has seen violent clashes between mostly young protesters and police, the centre of Hong Kong was brought to a complete standstill as the masses marched to chastise her for refusing to withdraw the bill or apologise when first asked to, and declaring that nothing short of her resignation would satisfy them now. Continue reading

Shen Haobo ‘Hong Kong’

Shen Haobo

for thirty years
every single year
spring days waning
cicadas come calling
that one day
people there
come out in the streets
light candles for us
observe our memory
for us
they do not forget

the only city on earth

Translated by Martin Winter, 6/15/19

“I don’t dare to share this poem in my WeChat groups. Unfortunately, most people in mainland China have no idea at all what happens abroad. They don’t know anything. Least of all that Hong Kong is a very special city with a great heart full of love and freedom. And for us Chinese people, that single one city on earth is slowly disappearing.”–Translated by MW, 6/15/19 Continue reading