Dispatch

Searching for Home

Family footsteps retraced – Peta Rush

It’s Chinese new year, which means auspicious red paper decorations and lanterns are being hung up, and fireworks can be heard going off every evening. For those who live away from their laojia, or ancestral home, it also means taking the bus, train or plane in the largest annual human migration in history, as people return to their family homes for the holidays.

I might do the same, if I knew where mine was.

Dispatch

My Father

The first gaokao after the Cultural Revolution – Karoline Kan

For years, I despised my father. In my eyes, he was the most irresponsible dad in the world. He wasn’t earning money to support us. He didn’t enjoy family gatherings, and was always the first to leave the table. He didn’t care whether his kids were happy in school or not, but would be angry if we didn’t perform as well as he expected. He often quarreled with my mother, for reasons I didn’t understand.

“Who can you blame? It’s your own fate!” My mother would shout at him. Father would just stay silent, turn to the other side of the room and light a cigarette, while my mother again repeated the story from more than thirty years ago which in her mind led to father’s bitterness. Through the cigarette smoke, I remember seeing tears in his eyes as mother reminded him of the pain.

Dispatch

This Way, Gentlemen

Single-gender security lines at a Beijing train station – Neil Thomas

China boasts the world’s longest high-speed rail network. Its train stations, in kind, house probably the world’s lengthiest security lines. These lines are not genteel queues. Hundreds of anxious travellers, corralled by metal barriers that wind into a joyless maze, jockey for position in a passing eternity of squeeze, stress, and quite some sweat. I often arrive hours before my train is due to leave; such is my fear of getting stuck in line.

So I should have felt glad to save some time when, trudging through security at Beijing South Railway Station earlier this year, I encountered a sign I hadn’t seen before.

Dispatch

Generational Firewalls

Gifting a VPN for Father’s Day – Mia Li

One Wednesday in early June my father called me at work and said, “I heard it’s going to be Fathers Day soon.”

Alarmed, I sat up in my chair and tried to make sense of this. My father had always said that the invented foreign festivals were decoys imported from America to sell cakes and carnations to China’s new middle class gullibles. Even still, in recent years it had become customary for Chinese children to buy their parents gifts on Fathers and Mothers Day. Pressure from both Confucius and the consumer industry had become insurmountable, let alone guilt trips from mum and dad. Starting the year I got a job, each year my mother dropped hints about what gift she wanted (at least she didn’t make me hand over a portion of my salary like some other Chinese mothers do). But my proud father would never ask me for anything, so I thought.

Dispatch

Slow Burn

The rise of Chinese-American rapper Bohan Phoenix – Yi-Ling Liu

On a chilly spring day in a quiet neighborhood of East Beijing, Bohan Phoenix lounges on the divan of his hotel room. The twenty-five-year-old rapper flew in from Shanghai the night before, and is enjoying a pause after several whirlwind weeks promoting the launch of his new album Overseas. For a brief moment, dressed in a white long-sleeved shirt, black joggers, and a gold hoop on his left ear that once belonged to his grandmother, Bohan lies still, a Portrait of a Reclining Rapper in Repose.