On Chinese Horror VI: Contemporary Writers

Horror is one of my favourite genres. Previously during Zhongyuan (Ghost Month), I’ve written about different types of Chinese ghosts and spirits, classical Chinese horror literature, and horror films. This year, I’m taking a look at contemporary Chinese horror writers. Here are eight significant writers in the kongbu genre. 


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Daughter, Warrior, Woman: The Evolution of Hua Mulan

In the first part of my Mulan article, I discussed what the Disney animation meant for the Chinese in China, as well as for global audiences; looked at the initial trailer of the new live action film and talked about what I hope to see in it. To understand Mulan’s significance as a cultural icon fully, we need to go to her origins and see how she evolved. I will focusing on two relatively recent film adaptations that have made the greatest impact around the world (China included), so we could see where Mulan is culturally, particularly in terms of her representation in cinema, just before a new major work comes out. 


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LGBTQ+ and Chinese Society

In the third article of my LGBTQ+ series, I put the subject into the context of traditional and modern Chinese society, and look at the challenges faced by China’s queer population, governmental approach as well as factors that are changing public perception. 


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China’s LGBTQ+: Landmark Cases

A few years ago I started a series on LGBTQ+ in China. Despite the cancellations and shut-downs, it was a hopeful time, the internet had brought the public closer to the concept of queerness, established groups organisations were supporting communities whilst improving public awareness. Campaigners were continuing to sue for change in educational materials and the few festival were braving the storms. A few years later, the clamp-down has tightened, especially in the media and on public events. All in all, the enthusiastic bubbling of activities seemed to have quieted down. This doesn’t mean that communities no longer exist, or groups are no longer at work. In fact, many legal battles have been fought in the last few years, some more successful than others, but they have all generated a lot of public debate and amply demonstrated the gaps in China’s legislature with regards LGBTQ+ rights.


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Disney’s Mulan: Past and Present

When Disney announced the live action Mulan film, there was huge excitement around the world for its release. However, the film has had its run of bad luck, first delayed due to controversy surrounding the lack of diversity in its casting decisions. Once that was rectified with a now stellar cast and an excellent lead that represents the story’s original culture, it became embroiled in political controversy and its highly anticipated release was then, cancelled as the pandemic broke out. On the 4th of September, the film will be finally released in cinemas in certain countries and on directly on Disney Plus in others. Despite the set backs and much dampened public energy around this film, I intend to give Mulan some major coverage. For she is an important cultural symbol not only in China but around the world, starting with some thoughts on the significance of the original animation and of this new live-action film to those in China.


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Beef Chow Fun: the Taste of Home

Anyone who’s been born into one culture, and transplanted into another, will understand that the idea of one’s hometown becomes more defined after one leaves it. There are many ways in which home can be remembered, some of the most distinct ways are smells and tastes. For the gourmet and food-obsessed Chinese, everything is closely connected to food. There are tens of thousands of ways in which my hometown lives within me, many of them associated with Guangdong’s world-renown cuisines. There is one dish which, if I tasted anywhere else in the world, would bring me right back to Guangzhou, this is the 干炒牛河, Gon Chau Au Hoh, known in English as the Beef Chow Fun. Beef Chow Fun is a speciality of the Guangdong region, and consists of slices of beef, spring onions and bean sprouts flash fried with fresh (not dried) hofun – wide, flat rice noodles from Sha He (Sa Hoh in Cantonese), a town in the city Guangzhou. It’s a very common dish in restaurants and street stalls alike, popularly eaten at lunch or shared along with some congee during Yum Cha (Cantonese morning tea, or dim sums). As a child in Guangzhou, I had consumed it countless times and in countless places, ever since I could remember. My most distinct associations with the dish are: carrying it home from my mother’s work canteen (government bureau canteens housed some of the country’s best chefs) in an aluminium lunch box for wuxiu (lunch and siesta),  the unmistakable Continue Reading →


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The Untamed and the Philosophy of Chinese Music Part 2: Music as A Form of Healing and Kungfu

In part one of my article on Chinese philosophies of music as explored in The Untamed, I looked at the role of music in cultivation and zhiyin culture. In the second part, I’ll be discussing concepts surrounding music as a way of healing, and in extending this further, as a form of kungfu.


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Baitanzi: China’s Street Vending Culture

Recently, Chinese street vending has made it into the news again. These hawkers that dot the streets of China have had a long, and ambivalent relationship with its development and its government. After frequent regional directives to purge them from the streets since the country opened its doors, they are being encouraged by the government, as a means of post-COVID_19 micro-economic recovery. China’s tradition of baitanzi, or setting up stall on the street, goes back a long way.


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School Bar 10th Anniversary Collection: A Documentary

This is a fun documentary about the recording of the compilation album for the 10th Anniversary of School Bar in Beijing, a small bar and refuge for alternative music run by some of China’s rock veterans. It’s a short film that really conveys the atmosphere and bond between groups of musicians on this scene. Sadly, there are no English subtitles, but the gist of it is that the production was a long and hard journey that tested the patience of the team. Xu Chen the Ops manager, even postponed his wedding to finish it, hence the ceremony at the end. The bands, who seem more used to playing live, went through sessions that lasted for hours on end where one song was recorded over and over again. The album’s producer, Wang Di, one of China’s rock pioneers who’s worked with the likes of Cui Jian and He Yong, is clearly still a highly respected figure among younger musicians. The production of this album is full of rock history significance. The recorded edition took place at the Baihua Studios ( Baihua meaning “hundred flowers”, those familiar with Chinese history will appreciate the revolutionary reference), in Baihua Shenchu Hutong, near Beijing’s Xinjiekou with its streets full of instrument shops, where many of China’s classic rock albums were born. The live recording lasted for days, following the bar’s usual format of five bands per night til midnight. Personally, I’m excited about the ceiling mic used in this live recording, that Wang Di had Continue Reading →


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Ye Yonglie: An Obituary

On the 15thof May 2020, one of the forefathers of Chinese science fiction, Ye Yonglie, passed away.

Born in 1940 in Wenzhou (Zhejiang), Ye was a literary prodigy who published his first work at the age of 11, and his first book at the age of 19. After graduating in chemistry from Peking University, he continued his love of writing, and went on to create a wide range of short stories, journals and longer fictional works.


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