Staff Picks

Staff Picks: China Sources8 min read

One more round of recommendations for the road, from our editors

Ed: Since the launch of the Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel in September 2017, we have occasionally featured a staff picks column of recommendations from our masthead of editors and advising editors – from new China works to overlooked gems (even rice crackers and Finnish saunas). We’re resurrecting the feature for one final hurrah: recommendations of China sources of knowledge, from websites to podcasts, new newsletters to online collections of academia, photography and translation. Watch this space for a special announcement from the China Channel in a few days. – Alec Ash

Jeffrey Wasserstrom (Founder)

I was torn between suggesting a site that features engaging writing, a site that features a podcast, or a site that was useful as a different sort of resource relating to China. Then I realized that there was a recommendation that would not mean having to choose: the NüVoices site is all those things and more. There you’ll find a magazine, a podcast, and an ‘expert directory’ that includes the names of hundreds of women with expertise on different China-related topics. Readers of the China Channel will find many familiar names among those involved.

Alec Ash (Managing Editor)

While The World of Chinese will already be on some readers’ radar, I am ever surprised at how little it is referenced and appreciated in China-watching circles. The themed monthly publication may be backed by a state publishing house and so is rarely ‘edgy’, but it puts out consistently well-reported fare on topics that mainstream media tends not to have the bandwidth to cover, from features on mental illness in China, to a round-up of female Chinese film directors (not just Chloé Zhao), translated sci-fi stories, and the always entertaining viral week posts (“88-year old Shanghai resident eats decorative koi worth 50,000 RMB” etc.).

Anne Henochowicz (Translations Editor)

Bandcamp, where artists make at least 80% from purchases instead of fractions of pennies from streams, is a refuge for indie Chinese music. Or rather, it was until the platform was shoved behind the Great Firewall a few weeks ago. It’s too bad that the Chinese Communist Party hates good music. But if you try – and with this latest ban, you really will have to try if you’re inside China and don’t have easy access to a VPN – you can discover some of the more-than-one voices of China. Listen to some noise with WV Sorcerer, return to melody with The four Seasons (四季歌), and seek out new stories.

Nick Stember (Contributing Editor)

My recommendation isn’t particularly recent, but it’s something that I’m surprised more people don’t know about. The Mao Era in Objects is a digital collection of material culture in the PRC between 1949 and 1976, curated by Jennifer Altehenger in association with King’s College London, with essays from historians specializing in the period. There are some really great entries on popular culture, for example on borrowed books or hand-written fiction. The most surprising entries though, are on more prosaic things, like one on bricks, or another on chairs and stools.

Brian Spivey (Assistant Editor)

Reading the China Dream is a collaborative translation project run by David Ownby, Timothy Cheek and Joshua Fogel that is dedicated to translating the writings of influential “establishment intellectuals” (ie not dissidents) in contemporary China. The translations, created jointly by Western and Chinese scholars, cover an array of topics, from commentary on current events in the United States such as Black Lives Matter and political correctness to an essay on the threats of artificial intelligence. Updated roughly every two weeks, their growing collection provides a crucial resource for understanding Chinese ideas, and the fault lines of Chinese intellectual debate (which is perhaps not as cowed as many assume).

Olivia Rebecca Humphrey (Editorial Assistant)

My recommendation is the online collection of Sidney D. Gamble’s China photography at Duke University Libraries. These photographs were taken by Gamble, a sociologist and renowned scholar who traveled widely in China, between 1908-1932, and they mostly try to capture “daily life” during these inter revolutionary years. They stand out for a fewreasons: they are visually stunning, some have been rendered in color, and many of them also come with additional audio, video and textual materials.

Eileen Chow (Academic Editor)

I’d like to recommend a few podcasts that are explicitly on cultural and literary topics. Loud Murmurs (小聲喧嘩), a US pop cultural discussion with a Chinese feminist bent; in-betweenness (時差), a more scholarly discussion of all topics Sinophone; and As If There is Light (彷彿如有光), readings and discussions of famous passages from modern Chinese literary works. Along with everyone else, I’ve also been fascinated with Chinese Clubhouse, though less for the hot-button political discussions but for the intimacy of Chinese regional language rooms in Sichuanese, Tianjianese, Cantonese, Shanghainese and Taiwanese – a range of diasporic longing voiced in hometown dialects and languages.

Mengfei Chen (Advising Editor)

I was excited last week for the launch of Chaoyang Trap House, a substack-newsletter about everyday life on the Chinese internet, compiled by Krish Raghav, Yan Cong, Caiwei Chen, Simon Frank, Yi-Ling Liu and ‘Jaime (bot)’. They say their first few issues will cover, among other things, “Rich Kids English Police,” “Luo Xiang Detective Club,” “Ryuichi Sakamoto Cringe,” and the “Cold Showers Blockchain.” I can’t pretend I know what this means, but I think it will be anarchic, informative, weird, fun, and rabbit-holey in the best of ways.

Jason Y Ng (Hong Kong Editor)

The film Twilight’s Kiss (or Suk Suk) by director Ray Yeung is a love story between two older men, Hoi and Pak, who struggle to keep a secretive relationship in traditional Hong Kong society. While much of LGBT cinema – and in many ways the queer community itself – gravitates toward the young and the beautiful, this throws the spotlight on men in their twilight years whose biggest challenge is beyond prejudice and intolerance: time. One of the film’s most affecting scenes involves Hoi gifting Pak a friendship bracelet so they can find each other in the afterlife – both a sweet gesture and bitter acknowledgement that they have found each other far too late.

Maura Cunningham (Legacy Editor)

The team at Black China Caucus has been doing tremendous work to promote diversity – and awareness of existing diversity–in the China space. Built on the values of “collaboration, empathy, and inclusivity,” BCC’s resources currently include a mentorship program, a ‘China 101’ community, and a directory of Black China professionals, with more offerings in the pipeline. A recent issue of the Politico China Watcher newsletter, guest edited by Melissa K. Chan, spotlighted BCC and “the genuine benefits when more voices contribute to our understanding of China.” ∎