“The Young Companion” and modern China

First published the same year Hugo Gernsback came out with his legendary science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926, The Young Companion《良友》catered to the tastes of young middle class people, but it was also a force for social change. This fascinating article (in Big5) talks about 《良友》the “natural breast movement” 「天乳運動」 among young women in the 1920s-30s, and this sohu article (GB) discusses the fashion sense displayed in the pages of the magazine. In this pic you can see that the bobbed, flapper hairstyle we associate with the West was popular in China of the 20s also. The Young Companion is often thought of as product of Shanghai’s hybrid culture, but this article talks about its founding by a Guangdong native, Wu Lian-de (伍聯德).




Chinese sf stories from Clarkesworld: 2014-15

Xia Jia “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler,” trans. Ken Liu (Nov 2015).
Liu Cixin “Another Word: Chinese SF and Chinese Reality,” trans. Ken Liu (Nov 2015)
Han Song “Security Check,” trans. Ken Liu (Aug 2015)
Chen Qiufan “Coming of the Light,” trans. Ken Liu (Mar 2015)
Zhang Ran “Ether,” trans. several (Jan 2015)
Xia Jia “Tongtong’s Summer,” trans. Ken Liu (Dec 2014)
Xia Jia “Spring Festival: Happiness, Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy,” trans. Ken Liu (Sep 2014)
Cheng Jingbo “Grave of the Fireflies,” trans.Ken Liu (Jan 2014)

Chinese SF authors and the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign (ASPC)

Both Ye Yonglie (葉永烈) and Zheng Wenguang (鄭文光) were “struggled” during the ASPC of the 1980s. Zheng was a Vietnamese astronomer and emigre SF author of “Pacific Ocean Man” 《太平洋人》 and Mirror Image of the Earth 《地球的鏡像》– the latter of which is about aliens who have developed an interest in the Cultural Revolution. Meanwhile Ye was singled out for ridicule in the official press for promoting “quack science,” and later condemned for writing a story in which AIDS has reached China.* In addition to Ye and Zheng, the archaeologist Tong Enzheng (童恩正)wrote very popular SF works and ran afoul of the authorities–only in Tong’s case it was a few years later, when he supported the students during the June 4th 1989 protests. Tong was a truly fascinating scholar and made a definitive contribution to Chinese SF with his highly influential personal essay “My Views on the Art of Science Fiction” (1979): 「我對科幻文藝的看法」 *

*Hussman, Mikael.“Hesitant Journey to the West: SF’s Changing Fortunes in Mainland China.” Science Fiction Studies, Volume 27, #80, Pt 1 (March 2000).
* Ed. Chinese Pen. 「中国科幻为何在80年代陨落?

The strange story of the Zhong Kui

The Zhong Kui (鍾馗) story:

According to Song Dynasty sources, once the Emperor Xuanzong was gravely ill. He had a dream in which he saw two ghosts. The smaller of the ghosts stole a purse from imperial consort Yang Guifei and a flute belonging to the emperor. The larger ghost, wearing the hat of an official, captured the smaller ghost, tore out his eye and ate it. He then introduced himself as Zhong Kui. He said that he had sworn to rid the empire of evil. When the emperor awoke, he had recovered from his illness. So he commissioned the court painter Wu Daozi to produce an image of Zhong Kui to show to the officials.

Chen Qiufan: “Science Fiction is the Height of Realism”

Holy cows, in this interview  the author exactly affirms what I claim in my paper…Excerpt:

2015-09-10 鈦媒體


Another interview with Chen: “何平访谈陈楸帆 :它是面向未来的一种文学

Chen Qiufan and Stan Lee

As i’m tweaking my paper for the fast approaching ACCL conference in Changsha I’ve run across a lot of interesting things on Chen Qiufan (陈楸帆, whose work I’m writing about), with perhaps the most intriguing being this (uncredited) image of the author posing in shades with the legendary Stan Lee.

October trip to “Beijing October Academic Forum”

Just a very ex post facto post about my conference trip to Beijing last October. The conference was co-organized by my old prof, Dr. M, and Beijing Transnational Studies University on the topic of “Philosophy as World Lit.”

So I arrived in Beijing somewhat late, a little after 9pm, and there was no one there to pick me up, despite assurances that there would be. That was a hassle because I kept walking back and forth trying to find my hosts and wondering why my roaming wasn’t working for domestic calls. It was getting near around midnight and the last buses were leaving so I decided, fuck it, I’ll just go to the area around the university and find a hotel there. This was a bad, bad idea.

I should have led by saying it was bitterly cold in Beijing that night and it seemed some kind of Siberian cold front was sweeping in. The bus let me off at the end of one of those giant, 6 lane thoroughfares you see all over the city. Stepped off the bus into one of the most frigid and unwelcoming winds I’ve ever felt and it was past midnight, so everything was closed and abandoned-looking. Spotting a convenience store I dashed across the giant thoroughfare (with almost no traffic on it) and scooted my ass into that thankfully well-heated oasis.

My Taiwan-in-China internet was working sluggishly but I was able to send off an email to the organizers at BTSU, and to discover that there were no hotels to be found anywhere in that area…That’s when I called the wife who, god bless her soul, helped me find one in less than half an hour. (Outbound calls to Taiwan were working, but not domestic ones to my friend at Renmin Univ. for some reason). The place she found for me, the Five Pine Trees Hotel, felt less like a hotel than a state post-office: the woman at the counter eyeing me suspiciously even though my wife had already called her to book the room, the gate with a guard booth, the slightly military-looking decor…I’d stayed at a place like this in Vietnam, but this one was about 10 times less comfortable and far more government dormitory-like. Paid about $100 for the room but it turned out to be a suite with wood paneling, a sofa and chairs in one room and a decent-sized bedroom + bath.

Slept quite well under the heavy down blankets and went out roaming early the next day. About half an hour into my walk I got a call from a woman from the Uni telling me to stay put, they would come pick me. I went back to the hotel, sat in the lobby, tried to read my still incomplete paper on “Thumos and the Post-Truth Humanities,” and waited. The guy who showed up was a friend of Dr. M’s, a nice enough guy in charge of Beijing-side organizing, explained that he’d sent me an email saying my flight was coming too late for someone to pick me up…(Discovered later it was true, I didn’t receive that email because it was blocked by my school’s server). Anyway, this ZHANG H guy took me and a female professor (from Shanghai I think) to the university, where I finally met up with Dr. M and Dr. S (my MA thesis advisor from Carolina). That’s when I discovered we’d be boarding a bus to go to a resort hotel far, far from Beijing. I forget how long it took to get there but it was nightfall by the time we arrived.

The conference was an extremely unremarkable, slapdash affair, and Dr M almost lost his patience when they told him his keynote (along with the keynotes of 5 or 6 other professors!) would have to be limited to 10 minutes. I gave my talk the next day to a group of about 10 people huddled in a small but comfortable conference room. No one asked any questions or made a comment, which was weird considering the grad students there seem a lot smarter and more outgoing than ours (in Taiwan). Maybe it just sucked, but oh well. Later that night I hopped a bus with some grad students and went to see K., an actual friend, at Renmin University. Next day it was still bitterly cold but we walked around the area near his school (where he bought a teddybear for Meredith) and saw Bei-da at length–very scenic school actually, with a large park that we walked around.

All in all it was a pretty sloppy conference but a good chance to see some old acquaintances and check out some of the capital. And have to say I wouldn’t want to live there: a huge bureaucratic, cold city with bad air? The clincher was that there were no street vendors, local food, or signs of “old Beijing” to be found near universities–just bland shopping malls and government buildings all over. Asked K to take me to a used bookstore but he reacted- “uh, see, we buy those online now…” Granted he’s the worst person on earth to act as a guide because he’s half hermit, even though he actually worked as a travel guide for years back in St Petersburg, but it would have been very nice to see more of the real city…And will there be a next time?


Su Shi (蘇軾, 1037–1101), Song Dynasty (960–1279)

Handscroll, ink on paper, 34.2 x 199.5 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei

In terms of semi-cursive script, the size of the characters here ranges considerably. Su Shi once said of his own calligraphy that it is “everything from short to long, plump to bony (短長肥脊各有態).” Here, the size of the characters is sometimes reserved, other times bold. Characters that particularly stand out include those in lines 2 (年), 5 (中), 11 (葦), and 13 (紙) from the right, where their last vertical stroke trails down for some distance to stand out against the blank paper. The variation in the thickness of and distance between the lines as well as the size of the characters help to give this work a uniquely individual quality. In fact, Su Shi’s calligraphy represents one of the more personal styles of the period. Furthermore, another great Song calligrapher, Huang Tingjian (黃庭堅, 1045–1105), wrote a colophon for this work sometime before the ninth lunar month of 1100. The sizes of the characters in Huang’s colophon are even larger than Su’s, creating an ideal complement to this masterpiece of calligraphy.This piece represents two poems that Su Shi wrote during his exile to Huangzhou in 1082. It was transcribed into a work of calligraphy sometime thereafter. Despite Su’s upbeat character, the poetry has an air of dejection to it. The characters and the distance between them, for example, seem to vary rhythmically according to the emotional content.


Ssu-ma Kuang













–司馬光, <資治通鑑>