Chinese Literature Podcast

China’s First Feminist

Rob Moore and Lee Moore read Ding Ling's groundbreaking short story Miss Sophie's Diary

Finding a “first” of anything is a tricky proposition, but if we had to pick a “first” great work of feminism in modern Chinese literature, it would by Miss Sophie’s Diary, by Ding Ling, published in 1928. An absolutely fascinating work that takes full advantage of the diary format in a way Lu Xun’s own Diary of a Madman didn’t, Ding Ling explored the psychology and sexuality of her protagonist with both sensitivity and intensity, and penned a work that, nearly a century on, is still a fascinating read:

Chinese Literature Podcast

The Great Maudgalyayana

Rob Moore and Lee Moore dust off a Buddhist classic 

In a tale for the ages, Mulian, an Indian Buddhist monk, uses his spiritual currency in order to rescue his mother from one of the worst of the Buddhist hells. Not only is the story one of the first examples of vernacular Chinese fiction available, it is also one of the best examples of the cross-current of cultures that was China during the period when Buddhism was expanding. Rob and Lee discuss the shady dealings that led to the earliest version of this story being uncovered in the Dunhuang caves, debate the possible influence of not only Confucian but also Christian morality, and draw comparisons to Dante's Divine Comedy as a point of reference for unfamiliar Western readers.


Sympathy for the Devil

Lee Moore reviews Luo Guanzhong’s Quelling the Demons’ Revolt

Full of blood-thirsty demons, corrupt officials, and doe-eyed beauties popping out of paintings, Patrick Hanan’s posthumously-released translation of Luo Guanzhong’s 14th century novel, Quelling the Demons’ Revolt, is arguably a novel in name only, at times feeling more like a collection of short stories that have been strung together. Unlike later Ming novels, like the Plum in the Golden Vase, Quelling the Demons’ Revolt lacks the narrative tightness that modern readers have come to expect. But, setting aside the lack of a cohesive ending, the novel remains a rollicking ride through the weird and wacky world of the early modern Chinese supernatural.

Chinese Literature Podcast

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

Rob Moore and Lee Moore unpack Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem


In the first of a new partnership with the Chinese Literature Podcast, brothers from another mother Rob Moore and Lee Moore take a break from Li Bai and Du Fu to look at Liu Cixin’s three-part science fiction epic. First serialized in Science Fiction World in 2008, The Three Body Problem became a global phenomenon when it was published in English translation by Ken Liu and Joel Martinsen. In the podcast, Rob and Lee discuss the main event of the first book (rhymes with ‘vulnerable elocution’) and share student responses, before highlighting the age-old divide between official popular and official literature in China: