Essays

The Origins of China’s National Drink

Baijiu and the myth of the national liquor – Derek Sandhaus

No one casually happens upon Xinghuacun, but many are driven there by drink. A dusty backwater in north-central China’s Shanxi province, for centuries its residents have made a dry and herbaceous distilled spirit called fenjiu. The road in from the provincial capital of Taiyuan presents a bleak, repetitive landscape of belching smokestacks punctuated by the occasional missionary church steeple, leftovers from another time. Turning off the main drag toward the town’s largest distillery, I travelled down Jiudu Dadao, or “Liquor Capital Avenue.” I was here in search of the birthplace of baijiu, China's beloved national spirit.

Yet thousands of miles southwest, nestled deep in the mountains of Guizhou province, I later found another Liquor Capital Avenue outside of Maotai, whose namesake distillery produces a pungent savory baijiu sometimes affectionally known as the guojiu, or “national liquor.” You can smell the liquor even before you see the factories.

Bangdong

The road to Bangdong

How rural transportation networks are changing lives in Yunnan – Matthew Chitwood

Ed: By popular request, we are running a further selection of dispatches from Bangdong, a village in rural Yunnan province, by Matthew Chitwood, a research fellow with the Institute of Current World Affairs who has been living there for two years since fall 2017, researching rural perspectives on life and China’s economic transformations. – Alec Ash

My stomach turned as I stepped aboard. It had been over ten years since my first overnight bus ride in China and the scene before me instantly brought back why that time had also been my last. A row of metal bunk beds lined the windows of both sides of the bus and a third row stretched down the middle. The beds were no wider than my shoulders, each one with its own mint green travel pillow and folded orange blanket. The driver handed me a small plastic bag as I boarded, which seemed both thoughtful and ominous. I was finally on the road to Bangdong.

Reviews

Crossing Borders

Cameron White reviews The Crossing, a new film of Hong Kong

Hong Kong has reached boiling point. In June and early July, millions of young residents took to the streets, protesting a proposed law that would allow extraditions to mainland China. They say the change would undermine One Country, Two Systems, the doctrine supposed to guarantee Hong Kong a high degree of freedom in an otherwise authoritarian country.

One Country, Two Systems was first proposed by Deng Xiaoping as a theoretical model for merging mainland China and Taiwan. The vision: separate legal and economic frameworks could allow disparate regions to coexist within a single, unified China. While never implemented in the context of Taiwan, the model was used to reintegrate Hong Kong in 1997. Since then, perceived violations of that arrangement have been at the heart of nearly every major public demonstration in Hong Kong, including the 2003 protest against national security legislation, the 2012 protest against national education, the 2014 protests against Beijing’s proposed election reform package, and the 2019 protests against the extradition law.

Translation

The Picun Writer’s Group: Part Two

More stories from a migrant workers’ village collective – translated by Jeremy Tiang

This article from One-Way Street Magazine is published in collaboration with Paper Republic. The translation was made possible with support from Sinocism and individual readers via Patreon – donate now to join the effort and help us raise $300 a month to fund more!

Editor’s note: This is the second of two posts (read the first here) that brings stories from the Picun Writers Group, a collective of migrant workers who live in Picun (皮村) on the outskirts of Beijing, into English. The group came to international attention when an essay by one of its members, titled ‘I am Fan Yusu,’ went viral in April 2017 – which Ting Guo writes about here. But there are many other essays, vignettes and poems that the group has produced, which we believe deserve to be read. Here are a few more of them. – Alec Ash

Essays

A Migrant Pen

How Fan Yusu wrote dignity back into migrants’ lives – Ting Guo

In April 2017, an article written by a migrant worker named Fan Yusu went viral on Chinese social media. The piece, titled simply ‘I Am Fan Yusu,’ was published by Beijing-based new media outlet NoonStory and recounts Fan’s family life in a small northern Chinese village, as well as her own story of running away to the southern island province of Hainan, returning home, and becoming a country teacher – all by the age of 12 years old.

Fan goes on to illustrate her present life as a domestic helper in booming, cosmopolitan Beijing. She details how a mistress to the husband she works for begs for his love; how the capital’s migrant children struggle to obtain an education; and how her fellow migrant workers gather together in local reading groups. Many college-educated urban intellectuals and journalists have said they feel “humbled” by Fan’s command of language, her obvious literary talent, and her sharp insight into the marginalized social class to which she belongs.