Diaspora

The Past is a Foreign Country

Finding a vanished Chinese home in Vietnam – Connie Mei Pickart

With children at least, balloons are still popular here. A little girl has a big red one tethered to her wrist. When I was seven I had one like it on Chinese New Year. I recall the bang when my father burst it with his lit cigarette. A boy nibbles on a dripping popsicle that looks and tastes like watermelon. I know the taste because it was one of my summertime favorites. Nearby, a woman stirs a bucket of gooey maltose with a pair of wooden sticks. The old man outside my primary school sold these for 10 cents a stick. “Maiyatang!” The woman hawks at me in Chinese, as if she knows.

It all seems familiar. For a moment, I feel like I am transmitted back in time, to the heartland of China where I grew up.

Oolong Podcast

Reporting China’s Religious Revival

Ian Johnson on China's new religious rise

In the second episode of the Oolong Podcast, host Lev Nachmann talks to Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Ian Johnson, who most recently has documented religious life in today’s China in his book, The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao. Ian delves into his writing process, what it’s like to research religion in China, and some of his thoughts on recent Vatican-Chinese relations.

Review

The Banished Immortal

Rui Zhong reads Ha Jin’s biography of Li Bai

The rumors of how Li Bai (also known as Li Po) met his end are greatly exaggerated. The specifics are murky, ranging from alcohol poisoning to drowning while chasing after the moon’s reflection on the surface of a river. It may seem troubling how easily the pertinent details of one of China’s best-known literary icons are lost. However, given that Li often embellished his speech and never liked to stay in one place for too long, his multiple-accounts demise is oddly appropriate.

Hidden History

The Peking Aesthetes

An alienated community of foreigners in interwar Peking – Jeremiah Jenne

In 1935, American scholar George N. Kates settled into a courtyard home in a Peking hutong just north of the Forbidden City.  “No electric light, no wooden floors, no heating apparatus except several cast iron stoves, and no plumbing did I ever install,” he wrote in his memoir The Years That Were Fat: Peking, 1933-1940, which Kates published in 1952 (and which later inspired the title of Chan Koonchung’s sci-fi novel The Fat Years). Long before anyone had coined the term “Hutong Hipster,” Kates and a group of like-minded cultural enthusiasts – dubbed the Peking Aesthetes – were learning Chinese, raising crickets, studying painting from elderly neighbors, and shunning the distractions of the city’s international community. Interwar Peking was a city divided along lines that would not be unfamiliar to foreign residents of Peking almost a century later.

Translation

Searching for Bodies

New reportage by Ma Jinyu, translated by Kate Costello

This is a translation of an article from One-Way Street magazine, with their support, translated by and published in collaboration with Paper Republic; it was made possible by Sinocism and individual supporters of China Channel on Patreon.

On October 11th, the village hosted a big show. This was always the most lively time of year in the village. Stalls selling mutton soup, beef meatballs, oil-cakes and hand-shaved noodles crowded around the stage. The steam swirled and the oil-cakes bubbled in their pot, the mutton soup at a rolling boil. The drums of the opening scene pulled at the villagers’ heartstrings, as the soulful arias of ‘Orphan Zhao’ resounded in the heavens. But Old Man Liang shut himself indoors.

For many years Old Man Liang had held back from the village festivities, even though he lived only a dozen meters from the stage. Occasionally, if he walked past the road in front of the stage, the villagers would turn to look back at him, shouting their hellos. He said that he wasn’t willing to participate, but judging by his expression I guessed that it was more likely that he thought that a man of his profession might dampen the mood.