12 Best Modern Chinese Films

Must-watches for the China cinema connoisseur

Next up in our listicles is cinema – a dozen of the most essential films from contemporary China. As with our literature list, we are focusing on recent works, after 1980, from mainland China. That means we miss out Taiwanese films such as the work of Edward Yang, Ang Lee or Hou Hsiao-Hsien, not to mention Hong Kong directors including Wong Kar-Wai or the wacky genius of Stephen Chow. But it should be a good springing board for those looking to watch their way through the last decades of China’s cinematic history.


12 Best Chinese Contemporary Fiction Books

Must-read novels and short stories from modern China

The China Channel is selling its soul and running a short summer series of listicles: on literature, film and China books. We begin with the fiction, focusing on contemporary fare from the last decades, to better give a feel for modern China through its novels. The list is selective and subjective, and partly determined by what is available in translation.

We deliberately left out Chinese writers overseas – Gao Xingjian, Ha Jin, Ma Jian, Guo Xiaolu, Amy Tan and Yiyun Li to name a few, all of whom could have formed another list of their own – to focus on novelists and short story writers living in the mainland. We also favoured an urban rather than a rural focus, as it's so much more relevant to the China that most visitors see. For sure there are plenty of fantastic titles that we’ve missed – but this will be a good start for the curious, and we hope it inspires you to find new favourites and rediscover old ones.

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.