Red Dynamite

Why China’s patriotic action films are exploding in popularity – Cameron L. White

In late February, Hollywood insiders went through the routine of checking the trades for that month’s new releases. Top billing went to Black Panther, which had bagged $83 million the previous weekend. Yet the weekend’s real winner was a film most Americans had never even heard of. Raking in $106.4 million, Operation Red Sea (红海行动) had conquered global box office rankings, despite barely surpassing $1 million outside China in the same period.

Directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Dante Lam, and a loose follow-up to his previous film Operation Mekong, Operation Red Sea was inspired by the 2015 evacuation of Chinese nationals from Yemen. The film begins with the members of Jiaolong, a Chinese naval special ops force, liberating a hijacked cargo ship off the coast of Africa. From there, the plot pivots into another rescue mission.


A Dream of Grey Mansions

Back to the land – Nick Holdstock

In 1979, 80 per cent of China’s population lived in the countryside; by 2010 this proportion had almost halved. Of all the convulsions that have shaken Chinese society in the last hundred years, the shift towards becoming a primarily urban society has arguably been the most revolutionary. Though the countryside witnessed huge upheavals during the Maoist era, first with collectivisation, then with the terrible famine that followed, neither of these led to the removal of almost an entire generation from rural communities. But the great rush towards the factory towns in south China has removed the majority of people of working age from the countryside. In many villages, the only people left are grandparents and their grandchildren.

I wanted to see how the continuing exodus to the cities had affected rural life in Hunan, so in 2014 I accompanied a friend of mine on a trip to his village.

Chinese Literature Podcast

The One on the Left is on the Right

Rob Moore and Lee Moore on Zhuangzi and the happiness of fish

They’re one of the best-known duos in Chinese literary history (after than Rob and Lee, of course): Zhuang Zi and his less-than-intelligent foil, Huizi. In this classic parable on how we know (or, ‘Hao’ we know...) what others really feel, nothing is what it seems to be. Check your preconceptions at the door, and get ready to question everything:

Chinese Corner

Meek Mill’s Beef, Spicy Chicken’s Duck

Nicknames for popstars on the Chinese internet – Christina Xu

I went spelunking on the Chinese internet today. What started off as an innocuous search for Chinese Nicki Minaj fans quickly turned into a hunt for the ingenious, hilarious, and often slightly insulting nicknames created by Chinese fans for the American pop stars whose names they can’t pronounce.

After an inappropriate amount of time on Weibo and the Chinese equivalent of Yahoo Answers, I present the greatest of my findings:

Málàjī 麻辣鸡 – Nicki Minaj

A slant transliteration of “Minaj.” Means “spicy chicken” (ma la is a spice combo commonly used in Sichuan cooking).


Essence and Form

Chinese architecture struggles to find its identity – Matt Turner

When Xi Jinping called for an end to “weird buildings” in a 2014 speech, journalists raced to point out their favorite offenders, from showpieces of contemporary architecture like Beijing’s massive CCTV tower or the Olympic “Bird’s Nest” Stadium, to less known (but no less striking) examples: buildings shaped like coins, sages, various teapots, and even the USS Enterprise. In comparison to these architectural oddities, Xi praised traditional Chinese architecture and the values it inspires (primarily loyalty to the state).

But while it’s not hard to read between the lines of his speech, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly Xi means by traditional Chinese architecture. Most Chinese cities are hodgepodges of styles: not only the showpiece buildings and skyscrapers nestled next to old courtyard homes and lanes, but also shopping and office complexes, such as Taikoo Li Sanlitun in Beijing (site of the infamous Uniqlo sex video that surely violates traditional values), or the SOHO complex across the street from it, which looks like a set from Logan’s Run