Forgotten

The largely forgotten history of the Chinese Labour Corps, the 140,000 Chinese men who travelled from the other side of the world to the battlefields of Europe, to carry out supplies and repair work, in aid of the Allies during the First World War, has recently resurfaced in the media and public attention. Few would be better suited as a scriptwriter to a play dedicated to the CLC than Daniel York Loh (“Fu Manchu Complex”, “The Good Immigrant”), who has, among many things, become a leading figure in Britain in raising awareness of and fighting against entrenched racism and discrimination against East Asians.


Posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , by

Jin Yong: An Orbituary

Jin Yong, one of the greatest Chinese writers of the twentieth century, passed away earlier this week on Tuesday the 30th of October. Aged 94, he died of organ failure after battling  long-term illness, at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital.


Posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , by

Next Gen

I don’t just love China and culture. I like robots and movies too, so I’ll always take the opportunity to look at any area where these loves collide.

“Next Gen” is an animated film currently available on Netflix, set in a futuristic society in which advanced robots look after every stage of human existence, from home appliances, to drones, doors, even education. Justin Pin, the man-bunned CEO of IQ Robotics is adored like a superstar, and his Q-Bots are the must-have personal assistants. Angry, disillusioned high school student Mai Su (Charleyne Yi), bullied at school and trying to cope with her father’s abandonment, made worse by her robot-obsessed mother Molly (Constance Wu), ends up dragged along to a product launch for the latest bot. Getting lost in the labs, she accidentally activates a prototype robot, codenamed “77”, who becomes attached to her, and escapes the lab to find her. The two begin an unlikely friendship, whilst the robot’s original creator finds more sinister things afoot than a missing robot.


Posted in Blog and tagged , , , , by

National Day Thoughts: Calendar Poster Art

Tomorrow is China’s National Day, established on the 1st of October 1949, when the country gained its independence. Nowadays in the West, most people’s association with this occasion is Golden Week, one of the few times of the year when China takes a break. Another connection that Westerners have with the founding of the People’s Republic is Xuan Chuan Hua, Chinese Propaganda Art, which is now iconic around the world. This art style would never have existed without the decades of commercial artistic development that preceded it. This year I’m taking a look at 月份牌 Yue Fen Pai, Calendar Posters, an art form centred around early 20th century Shanghai.


Posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , by

Crazy Rich Asians: There’s A Lot to Chu Over

“Crazy Rich Asians”, has made a huge impact in the short time since its release, not only because it’s based on an international bestseller by an East-Asian author, Kevin Kwan, but because it features an almost entirely Asian cast, (with only five white guys even getting a speaking part). In a U.S.-originated movie, it’s a rare thing for East-Asians to take centre-stage.

With screenplay by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, this is the story of quintessentially American Chinese Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who embarks on a trip with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to visit his home, Singapore. It turns out to be the trip of a lifetime. Rachel discovers that her laid-back, low-profile boyfriend is a billionaire whose family built half of Singapore. Between head-on cultural clashes, and the brutal matrimonial realities within Asian family clans, Rachel is way out of her depth, and must sink or swim.


Posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , by

The Modern Mid-Autumn Festival

Zhong Qiu Jie, or Mid-Autumn Festival has come round again. I hope you have been enjoying my article and video on the origin and traditions of this wonderful Chinese harvest celebration, finding them useful for your festive preparations. This year, I’m writing about how the Moon Festival is celebrated in China today.


Posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , by

Ghost Month Focus: Remembering Puoh Puoh and Old Canton

It’s currently Zhong Yuan, or Ghost Month, when it is traditionally believed that spirits of deceased visit their loved ones in the world of the living for a brief sojourn before returning to the underworld. In the old days, people placed offerings of fruits, meats and other treats on their household shrines or on the roadside to welcome “hungry ghosts” home, burning paper money so the spirits may take it with them to use in the other world. Nowadays, you can transfer over just about any object that can be made out of paper.

In my household, it’s become a Ghost Month tradition to remember one person in particular. She was an important part of my early life and inseparable from a certain way of life. We were unable to say a proper goodbye to each other. So I think of her this time every year. This year, I’m finally going to take the plunge and share those precious memories with you. She is my “Puoh Puoh” (Cantonese for grandma), whom I refer to in English as my Cantonese Grandma.


Posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , by

Big Fish and Small Gods

With the release of Big Fish & Begonia, Xueting Christine Ni looks at China’s diverse pantheon that influenced the animation… As a public speaker who saw the oncoming wave of Chinese animation in the early 2000s, and who spent the last decade promoting these to West, it was my absolute joy to introduce Big Fish & Begonia this spring to the general public at various venues in London for the cinema release. Summer brings the home media release, set for the 9th of July, which coincides with the UK publication of my new book From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao: An Essential Guide to Chinese Deities. Many of the beings I have written about are also featured in this 21st-century animation, and one of the reasons I have written the book is to demonstrate the contemporary relevance of these deities. In this article, I take a look at their origins and their reinterpretation in the film. China has a long tradition of taking inspiration from its Shen Hua (mythology) for the creation its Dong Hua (animation), from classics such as the 1964 Uproar in Heaven and Nezha Conquers the Dragon King (1979), to The Calabash Brothers (1986) and recent renditions of Investiture of the Gods. Certain deities, such as ones that have evolved with urban entertainment, tended to be focused on. Big Fish & Begonia takes a fresh angle on the subject. The story is set in the Undersea, the world of Chun, heroine of the story. Based on the concept Gui Xu from the 4th to 5thcentury BCE Daoist text Lie Zi, Undersea is the final Continue Reading →


Posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , by

The Path to Freedom

Tang Fei is a writer of speculative fiction born in Shanghai and currently living in Beijing.

In modern Chinese, “story” (故事) and “fiction” (小说) are not exact equivalents. A story is more rooted in the folk and oral traditions, and thus possesses more resilience and vitality. This is why I’ve always called myself a storyteller. Story, for me, is a word infused with magic. Every time I say it, I feel a joy in my spirit and pleasure in my senses.

—Tang Fei 


Posted in Blog2 by

Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings

As one of the major directors in Chinese cinema, any new work of Tsui Hark’s is exciting news, let alone any work released outside China and Chinese-speaking regions. As relatively more Chinese films make their way to Western cinemas, some top-bill Wuxia titles are now sharing the summer slot with Hollywood Blockbusters. This summer sees the global release of “Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings”, the third film in Judge Dee series (after “Mystery of the Phantom Flame” and “Rise of the Sea Dragon”), produced by renown and award-winning producer Nansun Shi (Infernal Affairs, Seven Swords, Chinese Ghost Story). Five years would have given this film considerable build-up, especially after the second one, which, despite the bold steps it took, was by far the weaker of the two.


Posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , by