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.


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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.


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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.


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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 →


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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.


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Bao: A Review

After the delays due to the World Cup, I am very happy to see “Incredibles 2” released at last. The major reason for my anticipation for seeing this film in the cinema, is the short preceding the main feature, “Bao”, the first Pixar production with a female director, and one of Chinese heritage, no less. Needless to say, my expectations were high, and this adorable work has met them.


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Digital Deities and Galactic Guardians – Why China is Invoking Ancient Gods in Cutting Edge Tech

In the recent past, China has been known to the West for its Great Wall and its Terracotta Warriors, a great ancient civilization that gifted the world with revolutionary inventions such as the compass, fireworks, and beautiful silks, that was subsequently torn apart in the early 20th century and closed off. Even when it re-emerged and became a global manufacturing powerhouse, by and large in the Western consciousness the country still remained a land enshrouded in legends and mystery, about which not much is known beyond the Cultural Revolution.

Now, in the 21st century, China is once more truly becoming the author of its own fate. A new technological golden age seems to be dawning, from innovations in AI and 3D printing, to developments in biomedicine and space exploration — both via private investment and state funding. With this new-found confidence, China has also begun to re-connect with its past and create a Chinese version of modernity that it didn’t have the chance to before. And it is doing so in in fascinating ways — sometimes this means reaching back thousands of years, to draw that connection.

In this article, I look at 13 (a lucky number to the Chinese) pieces of new technology that demonstrate in their conception and nomenclature how China is mapping out its gods and traditions in the cyberverse and the stars.


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The Culture Behind the Pantheon: Exclusive with RADII

Though often portrayed in Western media as a monolithic, atheistic monoculture, China has one of the most complex histories of religion and spirituality among the world’s civilizations. Understanding the histories, myths, and enduring spiritual and pop-cultural appeal of China’s long list of deities is essential to understanding the country as it exists today, says Xueting Christine Ni, who has a book on the subject out on Friday (June 1).

Ni, also somewhat of an authority on Chinese pop culture (she wrote about ghosts and ghouls for us around Halloween), has put together a “shortlist” of 60 beings — gods and goddesses, along with “spirits, immortals, heroes, elementals, sages, guardians and so forth” — showing the connective tissue of deep-seated spirituality connecting figures From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao as the book’s title has it, to Chinese society and culture.

Ahead of the book’s release, RADII caught up with Ni for a dive into China’s complex canon of mytho-historical legends, and to hear why she thinks getting a handle on them can help anyone hoping to understand the country’s role in the world today.


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A Brief History of Dong Hua: Taster

It all began in 1922. Between 1922 and 45 was a period when China discovered and explored animation for itself. The main force behind early Chinese animation were three classically trained art students from Shanghai, the Wan brothers, who taught themselves the techniques of animation from studying 20s American cartoons such as Out of the Ink Well, Popeye and Betty Boop. The very first Dong Hua movie, “Uproar In the Studio”, was born in 1926 in a 7 square metre room in Zha Bei district of Shanghai.


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Yao Gun: Chinese Rock Part I

Long before Star Wars ever entered the Chinese consciousness, May the 4th was celebrated in China in a similar spirit, but for very different reasons. The passionate, patriotic and pro-reformist movement of May the 4th, 1919, has been remembered in history as a representative of the spirit of youth. On this May the 4th 2018, I’m starting a mini series of articles to look at a musical form that is inseparable with Youth, rock n’roll. As a musical genre that is entirely Western, and hardly heard of the 1980s, Rock Music took root in China, an extremely conformist society where alternative lifestyles were virtually unheard of, against incredible odds, in bizarre and unexpected ways, and became Yao Gun. It is the story that arose from the world’s plastic dumping ground, a tale of hungry minds, bleeding wallets, tireless transcriptions, countless disseminations, long sweaty bicycle rides, makeshift drum-kits, close encounters with the authorities, and much more.

Are you ready to Yao Gun?


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