Support the China Channel’s Future for Christmas

A year of anniversaries for China has passed, and the China Channel celebrates its third year as we break for Christmas. We’d like to take this opportunity to ask you to support our future by donating – however small an amount – on Patreon. Whereas we have been funded by grants in the past, we rely on your support to directly fund our translations of Chinese essays and stories into English. The money that you give is set aside and goes expressly for this purpose; all those small gifts tot up to pay translators, authors and publishing partners we work with, so as to bring writings into English that would not otherwise be possible to read.

We won’t keep asking after this, promise. But do consider donating the price of a pint this holiday season to bring Chinese voices to a wider readership (and if any generous souls want to support at a higher level to fund the future of the site as a whole, feel free to reach out directly.) Below is a selection of a dozen translations we have published over the last year, funded by your generosity, for which we thank you. – The Editors


20 China books to read (and 5 to avoid)

Essential reads for your China library

'Tis the season of merriment and listicles. Before we break for Christmas, we've updated our list of essential China books, in case our latest staff picks weren't enough for you. We’ve split this into five lists of five: books on contemporary China; books on Chinese history; books from Chinese voices; Chinese classics; and a new fifth section, China books to avoid. (We don't mean that these books have no value – they are all informative – but that they are ultimately misleading and so you should avoid them in favour of others.)

We hope this is useful as an open sesame for new China watchers, or for old China hands to plug holes in their bookshelf. The lists are designed as all-you-need to pack your bag/Kindle to grasp that aspect or perspective of China, without being overwhelming. Naturally, we have missed out a plethora of wonderful books. But, we hope, this is only the beginning of your reading. See also our lists of 12 must-read Chinese fiction books, and a dozen Chinese films to watch.

Staff Picks

Christmas Staff Picks

It’s not too late for some last minute Christmas shopping – so the editors of the China Channel are stepping in with the third installment of our winter staff picks. From books to films to music and audiobooks, these recommendations are of the overlooked fringes of Chinese society – junk, gangsters, domestic workers, Turkic beats – and so not your traditional festive fare. But who needs It’s a Wonderful Life when you can watch a slapstick Sino-Russo romcom instead?  – The Editors

Recommended by Jeff Wasserstrom (founder):
Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale, by Adam Minter

I’ll begin this recommendation with a disclosure and a confession. The disclosure: Adam Minter is a friend whom I have enjoyed meeting up with and talking to about China since the scrap metal beat, of all things, took him to Shanghai about a decade ago. The confession: I’ve only had the chance so far to read the first part of his second book. There are three reasons, though, while I still feel confident suggesting Secondhand as a gift. One: it is written in the same unpretentious yet informative, personal yet knowledgeable style as his debut book. Two: that first book, Junkyard Planet, on a similar topic of China’s trash and recycling, was excellent. Third: while blurbs should always be taken with a grain of salt, climate-change writer Elizabeth Kolbert’s endorsement speaks volumes: “Minter’s travels through the afterlife of stuff are revelatory, terrifying, but ultimately hopeful.”


Bookworm Debates: Ming v Qing

A clash of two dynasties at the Beijing Bookworm

At the China Channel we were saddened to hear of the closure of the Beijing Bookworm, a bookshop and events space at the heart of Beijing’s literary scene since 2002, which is now the latest victim of a cultural clean-up campaign in the capital. To remember this purveyor of knoweldge – and wish it luck in its next incarnation – we’re running a few recordings of their events, beginning with the last debate they hosted, on Sunday 10th November. Organised by the Royal Asiatic Society of Beijing, this debate – also syndicated on Sinica – pits journalists Ian Johnson and Francesco Sisci, on the side of the Ming dynsasty, against historians Michael Aldrich and Jeremiah Jenne for the Qing. A dynastial bout for the ages! Enjoy:


The Dirty DA of Shanghai

US judge Leonard Husar’s sordid judiciary in 1920s Shanghai – Douglas Clark

Milton Purdy, upon arrival as the US Judge in Shanghai at the hearing to welcome him, commented on “how fortunate had been the U.S. Government in getting men of such excellent quality and ability as the officials of this court.” At the very end of 1926, he learnt how wrong he had been. The US Court for China saw the trial of two of its officials for engaging in serious criminal misconduct.

First, Purdy had the sad duty to pass sentence on the former Clerk of the US Court, William Chapman, who had pleaded guilty to embezzling $15,000 from the court. He had originally fled to Seattle, but was caught on arrival in the US and was brought back to Shanghai for trial. Purdy sentenced Chapman to three years and five months imprisonment. Having arrived in Shanghai to be sentenced, Chapman was then put back on the same boat, the President Roosevelt, heading back to Seattle. Long-term US prisoners were now imprisoned at the federal penitentiary on McNeil Island in Puget Sound just near Seattle.