Essay

China’s Literary Obsession with Soccer

From Maradona to Mo Yan Dave Haysom

The author Chen Cun had a good line about the twin failures that seemed destined to forever vex the population of China: the failure to have any success at the World Cup, and the failure to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.

That line had to be revised when Mo Yan brought home the Nobel in 2012. But the connection between the two prizes must have stuck, because two years later someone had the bright idea of shipping Mo Yan out to Brazil to offer his thoughts on the World Cup. This year’s competition, he concluded, had a hint of magical realism about it (“as if some invisible hand in the heavens was moving the ball around”), while the scale of Germany’s 7-1 defeat of Brazil was “unexpected.”

Essay

Waves Against the Dawn

Annetta Fotopoulos reads a poetry anthology in commemoration of Liu Xiaobo

A hot-blooded expression of collective grief and grievance at a time when such politically incorrect expression is being systematically silenced and erased from public consciousness, The Contemporary: A Poetry Anthology in Commemoration of Liu Xiaobo is at once a political statement, an artistic achievement, and a platform for the expression of uncensored human emotions. Inspired by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s definition of “the contemporary,” the collection shows Liu Xiaobo—the poet, thinker and political activist at the vanguard of the pro-democracy movement in China who published dozens of essays incisively analyzing and criticizing contemporary Chinese society and politics— to be an exemplary “contemporary”: removed enough from his own time to truly understand it, and bold enough to face down the darkness of contemporary China, place it in juxtaposition to international democracies past and present, and hold it up to the light of public scrutiny.

Essay

Children of Tiananmen

Coming to terms with 1989 as a young Chinese – Catherine Wang

For a long time, the only significance 1989 held for me was that it was the year when I was born, in the coastal city of Tianjin. By the time I went to university, I had heard about the other thing that happened that same spring. The term used for it when I grew up was not “June 4th”, let alone “Tiananmen square massacre”, but more simply “the student riot”.

“When did our youngest son get married again?” my grandfather would ask my grandmother, when he was flicking through the family photo album.

Essay

Forbidden Portrait

When Chiang Kai-shek was in place of Mao Zedong on the Forbidden City – Frank Beyer

In 2016, at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, I saw a black and white photo that didn’t compute at first. The photo featured a portrait of the Generalissimo, Chiang Kai-Shek, hung above the Tiananmen gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Chiang’s upright military posture was evident, even though he could only be seen from the shoulders up. His expression was serious and piercing; his shaved head and moustache gave him a look of grim determination. The portrait was put up to celebrate victory over the Japanese in 1945 – before which it was Sun Yat-sen’s face that had graced Tiananmen square ever since his death in 1925. Mao Zedong’s portrait replaced Chiang’s in 1949. Mao has been up there ever since, except on the odd occasion when another figure has been honoured  – like Joseph Stalin on March 9th 1953, to mark his death.