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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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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A Quick Guide to Wangluo Xiaoshuo

This week was World Book and Copyright Day. I wanted to write a little about Chinese internet novels. A phenomenon that came into being in the early 2000s, as the world entered the Age of Internet, the wangluo xiaoshuo had a particularly deep impact on Chinese literary creativity, due the relatively scarcity of commercial fiction published in China before this time. As its arts become more and more available to the world, it’s also become apparent that doesn’t necessarily mean more accessible For many genres have developed in China that don’t exist in the West, or are different from our understandings of them. Here’s a quick guide to the main genres of wangluo xiaoshuo.


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The Danwei Community

Last week, we received the terrific news that Wuhan, a city that I and many others around the world have been cheering on for months, has officially come out of quarantine. As I watched some videos during the quarantine period, the organized volunteer help in local compounds really demonstrated to me how China’s old-style residential living have come in useful during this time of crisis. Known as the Danwei community, this remnant of the Communist Era had still been the prevalent style of living in China until the early 1990s, and it was very much part of the first dozen years of my life.


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Cheeseburger Jiaozi

Usually, “fusion food” is a worrying term for me. However, having come across the cheeseburger dumpling, it seemed like a dongsi recipe that could work well, so we tried making them at home.


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Tientsin Mystic: A Review

I really enjoyed Tientsin Mystic back in 2018 and wanted to wait for a suitable occasion to write about it. Now that we’re in Novel Coronavirus lockdown, I am, as usual, working my hours in publishing, as well as being in the middle of a Chinese culture project, in this case, my new book. However, apart from staying in and social distancing, looking after your mental welfare, is something that I can use my particular skills to contribute to. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the series, but this means I can write about the salient themes that have stood the test of time, without spoiling much of the plot.


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The Philosophy of Chinese Music Part 1: Zhi Yin Culture in The Untamed

If you like your Asian historical dramas, Eastern magic fantasy, or Kungfu shows, you’ll have seen, or been watching, or at least heard of, The Untamed. With gorgeous costumes, props, sets; fantastic script, filmography and storyline, a great cast, and queer representation to boot, no wonder this mainland Chinese series, an unexpectedly domestic hit, has also achieved unprecedented global popularity. Originally a Xianxia (genre featuring humans interacting with supernaturals) web novel named Modao Zushi by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, the series is steeped in Chinese culture. One of the central themes that really stands out is the multiple roles of music in the story. (Heads up, this article contains spoilers). 


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