Story Club

Discussion: Pain

Chen Xiwo answers questions on his agonizing story

Editor’s note: In January we republished the story ‘Pain’ by controversial Chinese writer Chen Xiwo. If you haven’t read this brilliant and thought-provoking short story already, we advise you do so now, as below Chen answers questions from readers and our editorial team, alongside the story’s translator Nicky Harman and its publisher Harvey Thomlinson. If you’re curious to read more, buy Chen’s collection in translation, The Book of Sins. - Alec Ash

Chen Xiwo: Interpersonal relations matter in China. Modernity’s break with tradition was incomplete and old ways persist, so China is still a society based on interpersonal relations. That’s ‘interpersonal’ and not ‘human’ relations. Human relations are intimate, while interpersonal relations are instrumental. This is one root of China’s current moral crisis, which is far from just a modern malaise. Even where there’s love, there’s a dearth of deep communication. Did you notice that my protagonist is an only child? China’s lack of mutual understanding was made more acute by the one-child policy.

Story Club

Discussion: Convince Me

The author and translator answer your questions on Jiang Yitan's 'Convince Me'


Olivia Humphrey: How do you think through the tensions between the emotions and physiology that play out so beautifully in your work?

Jiang Yitan: The inspiration for 'Convince Me' came from a small article describing the dissection of a crocodile. Suddenly I knew the identities of the two main characters in the story. I have always believed that every animal has a spirit and that animals are the observers and witnesses of humanity. They are unable to change humanity but their presence is enough to show people their selfishness and ugliness.

China History Podcast

Confucius Reborn

Part eight in the History of Chinese Philosophy podcast series

This is an all Neo-Confucian episode. Last episode, Laszlo introduced three of the five founders of Neo-Confucianism: Zhou Dunyi, Shao Yong and Zhang Zai. This time we finish off with the remaining two founders: the Cheng Brothers, Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi. And taking this rich harvest to the next level is Zhu Xi. The basic tenets of Neo-Confucianism are introduced, with a focus on (principle) and xīn (mind) and how these two concepts caused a great divide in the two main schools of Neo-Confucianism.   (life-force) is also examined, and how that fits into the big picture. The episode closes with an introduction to the extraordinary life of Wang Yangming, and his contributions to Neo-Confucianism:

Staff Picks

Christmas Staff Picks

Your holiday shopping sorted – by the China Channel editors

That time of year is rolling around again, like an old yule log. ‘Tis the season to shop, and however you celebrate the festivities or don’t, it’s a good moment for another round of recommendations with a China twist. So here they are, from the China Channel extended family with warm wishes for a happy holidays and speedy Amazon delivery:

Alec AshChinese Philosophy comic strips

Ancient Chinese philosophy is one of those inviting mysteries that is both inscrutable and gives the illusion of simplicity. So I was delighted to discover a series of Taiwanese comic books that make it easy to follow the thought of the old masters, plus with funny pictures to boot.

Story Club

Discussion: Finished

We invite experts to answer reader questions about ‘Finished’ by Han Song


Steve Bewcyk asks: Did Han Song specifically make the statement that this story refers to migrant workers? Or is the story an allegory of the petition system of China?

Nick Stember: As far as I know, Han Song hasn’t gone on the record anywhere saying that this story is about migrant workers or the petition system. I don’t think it would take a huge stretch of the imagination to conclude that he is gesturing in this direction, though. In a 2011 interview, for example, Han Song talked about using the subway as a metaphor for contemporary Chinese society: