Congee Concepts

I like congee. When my western friends reach for pizza or tomato soup as comfort foods, I do find myself missing that fragrant rice porridge with its accompanying bowls of tasting toppings. It seems I am not alone.  I’ve been seeing a lot of social media and articles discussing this south-east Asian dish. They mainly focus on it being the secret of a healthy life, and a pick-me-up when you’re ill. Whilst all of this is true, I can’t help but feel that these representations are somewhat missing the main point, and perpetuating some misperceptions. The Chinese, for one, eat congee as an everyday staple, some even consider a delicious treat. With family roots across central, northern and southern China, I have grown up with a variety of experiences of the 粥zhou (Mandarin for congee).


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Taiping Hou Kui (Nothing But Tea)

As there was so much interest and enthusiasm surrounding the tea panel I appeared on at this year’s EasterCon21, I’m publishing a series of mini reviews on the spring teas I’m drinking this year, provided by the lovely NothingButTea.


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Cyborg Ghosts, Space Dragon Boats, and the Deep Roots of Chinese Sci-Fi

Science fiction is about the future, or at least that’s how it’s usually perceived. In fact, the genre is one of the most versatile forms of speculative fiction, allowing the writer to draw from all manner of dimensions — past, present, and future — for their world building. A brief glance at recent stories from around the world confirms this, whether it’s Adrian Tchaikovsky’s exploration of non-human sapient worlds or Rebecca Roanhorse’s adaptation of Native American stories to a futuristic setting.

This is particularly true of the current golden age of Chinese sci-fi, or kehuan, one of the most distinctive features of which is the clever use of concepts, constructions, and imagery from traditional and classical Chinese culture.


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The Untamed: Why Here? Why Now?

Though I have very much appreciated The Untamed and Modao Zushi, and have written about both the works, and the phenomena of their success, I have generally avoided being drawn into the fandoms, (though there’s nothing wrong with enthusiastic love for a show) or dampening any gushiness with my cultural critique. However, I knew that I would invariably be talking about it professionally at some point, as I ended up doing on a panel discussing the show at 2021’s Eastercon, ConFusion2021, along with two enthusiastic fanfic writers, and a moderator who turned out far more interested in joining in the discussion than facilitating it.


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The Pandemic and SFF: Thoughts on the Eastercon21 Panel

Despite Covid restrictions, I returned this year to convention life, at least virtually, as a guest at EasterCon, and in an event driven to digital by a global pandemic, it couldn’t have been more appropriate to talk about how all this has affected science fiction and fantasy works. The hour-long panel featured myself, along with the editor and authors of New Con Press. There was a lot to talk about in the one-hour slot, and with so many of us having lived near hermit like existences for the last few months, personal take-aways from lockdown becoming a central topic for some of the more loquacious guests, and there were so many points that were left unexplored.


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Half the Universe: Female Writers of Chinese Science Fiction

Through a year of quarantines and lockdowns throughout the world, many women are finding that hard won progress in their emancipation has somewhat diminished. Their roles regressed to the main caregiver, or manager of the house, regardless of their other responsibilities. On this year’s International Women’s Day, it’s important to remember the capabilities and achievements women have pushed forward with, both in spite of gender stereotypes and male bias, and in light of freedoms won. I have recently researched China’s net novelists, and was amazed at the creative output of women who were writing whilst also holding down full time jobs, and labouring under the yoke of domestic responsibility. Science fiction is another realm still primarily considered to be the domain of men, where women’s contribution is often overlooked, especially in China.


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The Hesuipian

As Chinese New Year draws close, it’s worth spotlighting a relatively recent tradition, the ‘Hesuipian’, literally, “film to celebrate the birth of a new year”, the New Year Movie, which has now become a tradition of four decades.


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Takeaway Drivers, Stuck In the System

Over the pandemic and lockdown measures, online orders, couriers and delivery drivers have been a lifeline around the world for life to have a semblance of normality, nowhere is this more so than in China, where quarantine procedures have been one of the strictest.  One of the articles that went viral this autumn is a People (renwu) magazine coverage of the condition of takeaway delivery driver and the extraordinary pressures they’ve having to face. This article is, of course, written in Chinese, but it’s a piece that the world needs to read. So I present a quick translation in instalments. It’s the end of the year now, but as the virus rages on, we’re still having to rely on these unsung heroes. So I hope that after reading this article in translation, you’ll think about these people over Christmas, while enjoying the festive treats that have been delivered to your door, and opening gifts that were bought at the click of a button, and perhaps hold back from sending that complaint on the app, the next time your goods are a day or two late. Thank you to Radii for their coverage. 


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Shang-chi: Racist Stereotype or Legendary Kungfu Superhero?

I did some work on Shang-chi for a project last year, which didn’t materialise due to the pandemic. The filming of the MCU movie was delayed, also due to COVID_19. Now that it’s finally in the can, I’m celebrating its shaqing by reworking the contents of that unfortunate project into an article that looks at the pitfalls and potential of Marvel’s cultural representation of a character whose origins were so problematic, and yet whose development through the decades of comics has been so interesting.


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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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