Essay

The Coldest Winter in Hong Kong

The geopolitics of a film banned – Aaron Mc Nicholas

In early 1981, a virulent anti-communist film produced in Kuomintang-controlled Taiwan passed inspection by Hong Kong’s film censors for public screenings in the city. In reaching their decision, the censors reasoned that the film covered the Cultural Revolution, which was an historical episode “now condemned as much in China as elsewhere” and the film avoided direct criticism of past or present Chinese leaders. Therefore, there were not sufficient grounds to block the film being shown in Hong Kong.

Such a decision would have been unthinkable for much of Hong Kong’s colonial history. As much as the current generation of Hong Kongers discusses the effect of measures such as the National Anthem Law on freedom of expression, the city’s creative space has never been able to escape geopolitical constraints when it comes to sensitive topics. And there was no doubt that The Coldest Winter in Peking was a piece of political propaganda, produced by Taiwan’s government-run film studio with the aim of painting an unflattering picture of life on the mainland under the Communist bandits.

Chinese Literature Podcast

China’s First Feminist

Rob Moore and Lee Moore read Ding Ling's groundbreaking short story Miss Sophie's Diary

Finding a “first” of anything is a tricky proposition, but if we had to pick a “first” great work of feminism in modern Chinese literature, it would by Miss Sophie’s Diary, by Ding Ling, published in 1928. An absolutely fascinating work that takes full advantage of the diary format in a way Lu Xun’s own Diary of a Madman didn’t, Ding Ling explored the psychology and sexuality of her protagonist with both sensitivity and intensity, and penned a work that, nearly a century on, is still a fascinating read:

Video

Portrait of a Beijinger: Call of Duty

An amateur collects war relics in his bunker – Tom Fearon

In this second episode of the four-part series ‘Portrait of a Beijinger,’ Tom Fearon and Abel Blanco profile Yang Guoqing, a deli owner who sweeps for war relics in the mountains near Beijing. The video is viewable on Youku for streamers in China, and on Vimeo as embedded below. Keep reading for Tom’s essay on meeting Yang, and why he is so fascinated by wartime China.

Chinese Corner

Smartphone Dialects

When tech meets heritage – William Sack

As a young Kentuckian, I once came home from kindergarten pronouncing my name, Will, as “Whee-y’all,” a three-syllable word – my mother was horrified. The correct pronunciation was learned before I left for school the next day. In China and the US alike, you speak your social role.

I recently went on a multi-month escapade to learn the Northeast dialect of Mandarin, also known as Dōngběihuà (东北话), literally the “speech” (huà) of the Northeast (Dōngběi). During that time I came across a surprising answer to a seemingly simple question: How are dialects passed on in China?

Q&A

I Can Only Go by My Gut

A conversation with Singaporean novelist Jeremy Tiang

Nick Stember: You’ve said before that you dislike talking about your work, and I guess this is a little bit of an ironic or awkward place to start an interview, but I wonder if you could elaborate on this.

Jeremy Tiang: I think the work should stand on its own, and by the time it's out in the world, I don't have much more to say about it. I also don't like talking about work-in-progress, because I believe that if you say something out loud too much, it starts to feel limp and worn out by the time you come to write it. Really, I'd be much happier if author panels could just consist of me showing the audience pictures of my cat.