Chinese Literature Podcast

Rebel Rebel

Rob Moore and Lee Moore read Zhang Yingyu's Book of Swindles

No matter how law-abiding we all are, there's always that part of us that wishes we didn't have to be. It turns out that just about every culture has its stories that celebrate that. Robin Hood, anyone? How about Ocean's 11 and its sequels? China has its own long history of outlaw stories, and we talk about one on this podcast: Zhang Yingyu's late-Ming classic, The Book of Swindles, available now in English thanks to a superb translation by Christopher Rea and Bruce Rusk. Join us as we talk about shady Daoist priests, idiot university students, and how a 500 year-old guide to thieves is still a page-turner:

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.

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:


Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Rob Moore reviews The Book of Swindles by Zhang Yingyu

"These moral degenerates are extremely crafty, so the gentleman needs to make his defenses airtight."

So goes the commentary appended to ‘Stealing Silk with a Decoy Horse,’ the first tale in Christopher Rea and Bruce Rusk's abridged translation of The Book of Swindles, a Ming dynasty collection originally penned by Zhang Yingyu. Like with any good heist story, ‘Stealing Silk’ allows the "gentleman" reader to straddle both sides of the line, disapproving of the obviously unethical actions of the swindler while at the same time waiting with bated breath to see just how the swindle came off. Zhang's solemn pronouncement is made with a nudge and a wink, since the success of the collection upon its publication in 1617 demonstrates that the author knew too well that the only thing better than alerting the reader to nefarious criminals is to let them in on the crime.