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.


Two Years of the China Channel

We’re delighted to have reached two years since we launched the China Channel on September 25th – Lu Xun’s birthday, in celebration of his iconoclastic spirit – in 2017. Since then, we’ve published 435 stories, bringing you essays, translations, photography and fiction on Chinese society, culture, history, politics and more. To celebrate that and look forward to the future, we’ve collected a dozen of our best or most read posts from last year, listed below.

We’re still working on securing funding for the next calendar year, and give thanks to everyone who is supporting our translations on Patreon. (And if there are any generous souls who want to support at a higher level, do feel free to reach out directly). In the meantime, we’re committed to bringing you two to three quality posts each week, filling in the white spaces of China coverage. Do follow us on email or social media to keep up to date. Thanks for reading. – The Editors

Staff Picks

End of Summer Reading

Staff picks from the masthead of the China Channel

Another year behind us, and a second year of the China Channel. It has been a full and exciting year, and we’re taking a summer break next week before returning in September. First, another round of staff picks to kickstart your back-to-school reading list, from Chinese characters to Chinese cooking. Thanks for following us, and do become a patron if you want to see us continuing to publish in 2020. – Alec Ash

Anne Henochowicz – Contributing Editor
The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy
John DeFrancis (University of Hawaii Press, 1984)

Whenever I hear a cringe-worthy comment about “pictographic” Chinese characters or on the “dialect” of Cantonese, I summon the spirit of the late John DeFrancis and begin my counterpoint. I first encountered Professor DeFrancis, one of the most innovative and influential modern scholars of the Chinese language, through his book The Chinese Language: part primer on spoken and written Chinese, and how the writing system spread across East Asia; part take-down of every myth and mystical notion about the language.


Help Make More Chinese Voices Heard

Join our translation fund drive by donating on Patreon

Since our launch in fall 2017, the China Channel has published over 400 articles, from book reviews to essays to narrative dispatches. We’ve also featured dozens of original translations of the best contemporary non-fiction, fiction and poetry, bringing new work from Chinese into English for the first time. In doing so, we have worked in partnership with Read Paper Republic, One-Way Street and The Initium, as well as commissioning original pieces – most recently new translations from the Picun Writers Group.

Our translations are funded in part by readers like you on Patreon. Your support allows us to commission Chinese authors as well as translators, so that Chinese writing that would otherwise remain inaccessible can be read by you. We are grateful to all our sponsors for making this happen, in especial Bill Bishop of Sinocism, and to Stephen O. Lesser, who has supported the Diaspora column. To date, 17 readers are currently donating a total of $161 per month. We thank all of these patrons for their continued support.

As we approach our third year, we are again calling on you to help us continue to fund original translations and meet our other commissioning costs. This July, we’re looking to hit our funding goal of $300 per month in contributions via Patreon. That extra $140 is will allow us to commission more translations from both emerging and established authors. If just two dozen of you committed $5 or $10 a month – as more than that did already in our recent reader survey – then we will hit that goal easily.