Translation

Chairman Mao Is Dead!

A personal history by Tang Danhong – translated by Anne Henochowicz

When Chairman Mao died, I was looking at caterpillars.

Here's what was going on when it happened: every summer break, my terrifying father went to the Aba Valley to collect botanical specimens and research the cultivation of the native yellow Himalayan fritillary. It was just my mother and me at home. As my parents used to say, when the cat’s away, the mice come out to play. I always liked summer best, but that summer was especially great, because everywhere it was all about the earthquake. Everyone was anxious. An “earth wind” even tore through Chengdu, and we all had to move into earthquake tents. So kids all sat around waiting for the ground to move, not wanting to miss the chance for a good show. Finally the earthquake came to Songpan and Pingwu, and then the earth winds were done, and it was decided that all the children “might as well” be moved back into their houses. They wailed, “That was it? We didn’t even feel anything!”

Chinese Corner

If You Sprinkle While You Tinkle

When Vulgar Meets Sublime in Mandarin – by Liz Carter

There is a special genre of Mandarin verse near and dear to my heart. I call it “admonishment poetry.” Like English poetry of the same kind, it appears most often as a rhyming couplet with a simple meter, not too long and not too complicated. The use of poetic devices drives home messages that others feel worthy of the reader’s attention - all variations of “don’t be an asshole.”

Bathroom poetry is one variety of admonishment poetry, and seems to be universal. The most commonly known bathroom poem in the English language is a four-line verse, made up of two rhyming couplets:

Review

Republic of Letters

Eleanor Goodman reviews A New Literary History of Modern China, edited by David Der-Wei Wang

One evening this summer as I was waiting for a table at a restaurant, I overheard a well-dressed woman describing a bike trip she was planning to take to Japan. “I’m so excited about it,” she told her companion, “that I just picked up Memoirs of a Geisha.” That literature is a window onto a culture – a point of access that can be utilized even from afar, a safe mental space in which one’s own attitudes, prejudices, preconceptions, and expectations can be challenged and even altered – is an idea that is not only true but important. In an era in which globalism is a simple fact and travel to previously remote places is easy and ordinary, while simultaneously xenophobia and racial fear-mongering are on the rise, there is an increasing need for exposure to other cultures in many forms. Then again, reading a book written by a white man about sex workers in the 1930s and 40s does not necessarily offer the most accurate picture of Japan as it exists today.

Little Red Podcast

Muzzling the Academy

Censorship emboldened, at home and abroad – by Louisa Lim

For University of Melbourne doctoral candidate Dayton Lekner, it was supposed to be his last day of fieldwork interviewing elderly survivors of the Anti-Rightist movement. Instead, he found himself in a Shanghai police station undergoing a three-hour interrogation about his research. His experience in February 2017 illustrates the challenges faced by Western academics researching China, who are encountering increasing levels of intimidation both of themselves and their sources. Though recent headlines have focused on the controversy surrounding Beijing’s demands that at least two Cambridge University Press journals censor their archives inside China, it is clear that attempts to shut down academic inquiry go far deeper.