Short fiction by Xie Hong – translated by Ding Yan and Ray Hecht

Wu Ming and Liu Xiang chatted while walking along the pedestrian line to cross the road. A taxi drove past quickly, and they both waved for it to stop just before it was too late.

The driver must have seen them out of the corner of his eye, and he braked hard, but the car slid past quite a distance before it came to a complete stop.

Wu Ming grabbed his wife Liu Xiang and the two ran towards the taxi. Losing her balance, Liu Xiang almost fell. “What’s the rush?” she grumbled.

Wu Ming slowed down after that. As they strode toward the taxi, a woman with a child waiting at a bus stop caught his attention, and he froze: The woman was none other than Liu Qing.


The Smog Society

Science fiction by Chen Qiufan – translated by Carmen Yiling Yan and Ken Liu

Lao Sun lived on the 17th floor facing the open street, nothing between him and the sky. If he woke in the morning to darkness, it was the smog's doing for sure.

Through the murky air outside the window, he had to squint to see the tall buildings silhouetted against the yellow-gray background like a sandy-colored relief print. The cars on the road all had their high beams on and their horns blaring, crammed one against the other at the intersection into one big mess. You couldn't tell where heaven and earth met, and you couldn't tell apart the people, either. Passels of pedestrians, dusty-faced under filter masks that made them look like pig-faced monstrosities, walked past the jammed cars.


The Storytelling Robot

Fantastical sci-fi by Fei Dao – translated by Alec Ash

Once upon a time, there was a King, who loved neither the beauty of his domain nor its women, but only took pleasure in listening to stories. He kept a storyteller in his palace, but the number of tales that any one person can know is limited, and whenever a minstrel had told them all the King would exile him far, far away. After a while, no one dared tell any story.

And so the King convened the most ingenious scientists in the land, and ordered them to build a storytelling robot. At first, the stories that the robot told were lifeless, but it had the ability to learn independently, and under the supervision of the scientists it slowly perfected the quality. Its brain was installed with every story that was known of, and each night the King, tired from the affairs of state and wanting to relax, ordered the robot to spin him a yarn. If the King could not hear two or three short stories before retiring, he was not able not sleep.


A Fortune Teller in a Modern Metropolis

An old profession out of place in new China – nonfiction by Liang Hong, translated by Michael Day

This is a translation of a Chinese-language article from One-Way Street magazine, with their support, translated by and published in collaboration with Paper Republic; it was made possible by Sinocism and individual supporters of China Channel on Patreon.

Xian Yi wears brown-framed glasses and a permanent smile, holding a strand of prayer beads in his hand. While he talks, eats and walks, the beads slip silently through his fingers. Something in the arch of his brow exudes peace. I am curious, sensing in him something artificial, something affected, yet his tranquil expression can’t be a put-on.

It seems unbelievable, but Xian Yi is a fortune teller. I’ve never really shaken off the shock of it. I can’t quite convince myself that Xian Yi has taken up a folksy, out-of-its-time occupation rejected by the modern world. If you’re anything like me, you envision a fortune teller as a dark, slender figure with a black skullcap and fingers like dry twigs, an old man with a whiff of black magic about him. That’s the image I saw instinctively when I heard Xian Yi was a fortune teller. But as far as I can see Xian Yi is cheerful, cultured, understated, good at conversation, his looks and mannerisms exuding intelligence. Only when I watch the prayer beads sliding rhythmically through his fingers do I catch a glimpse of the occult.


How I “Grew” My Business

Numbers aren’t always what they seem, says Mou Zongyou – translated by Yakexi

Jack Ma, the richest man in China as of 2018, once asked: “Do accurate statistics even exist in China?” In 2007, Li Keqiang, then vice premier, said that China’s GDP numbers, as reported by China’s National Bureau of Statistics, are man-made and not trustworthy. In 2017 and 2018, the authorities in Liaoning, Inner Mongolia and Tianjin all acknowledged that they had made up their GDP data. As a small business owner, I’ve had personal experience with “Chinese numbers.”