Guan Hanqing and A Dream of Splendour

Cdrama now enjoys a global following, and one of the most popular shows at the moment is Tencent’s A Dream of Splendour (directed by Liu Yang and staring Liu Yifei, Chen Xiao, Liu Yan and Lin Yun), a historical fiction series set in dynastic China. Unlike a lot of other cdrama which are based on contemporary novels, this series has been inspired by a 13th century opera of Guan Hanqing, one Yuan Dynasty’s best-loved playwright, 赵盼儿风月救风尘 (zhào pàn’ér fēngyuè jiù fēngchén), Zhao Pan’Er Courageously Saves A Lady of the Night. Instead of outlaws, notables and royalty, the frequent subjects of a lot of other historical fiction, it tells the tale of three ordinary women surviving the hardships of life through their resourcefulness and friendship, eventually turning a small teahouse into a very successful restaurant. 


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The Awesome Panda Power of Turning Red

There is something special about seeing yourself on the big screen, and if not yourself, then someone who you can see yourself as, or recognise yourself in. This is one reason why Pixar’s Turning Red has been such a big thing, coming out at a time when it looked as though the studio would sooner do another movie following Bugs’ Lives, than putting an East-Asian in the protagonists driving seat.

Now, I’ve never been a ‘Disney kid’, so I was still cautious as I sat down to watch the film, having been stung twice by the mouse’s Mulan. But… I was charmed, enthralled, and thoroughly entertained by the story, and of course, characters who looked like me.


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Introduction to Chinese Animation with Screenings (Amecon 2008, Leceister)

Donghua (Chinese for animation) has spread its wings internationally over the last decade, so impressive have been the currents it’s generated that even big Western studios like Disney, are capitalising on the trend. But its history of donghua goes all the way back to the early twentieth century. This is a talk I delivered for at Amecon in 2008, at the UK premier of Storm Rider: Clash of Evils. Having discovered that certain ageing white academics have helped themselves to my talk for ‘research’ without crediting me, I removed it from Myspace. Today, I’m making it available, in honour of the release of Domee Shi’s Turning Red. If you do use it for whatever project, put my name in the sources, and in return, put a little towards my research materials, or, buy me a cup of tea. 


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Net Novels and the She Era: How Internet Novels Opened the Door for Readers and Writers in China

It’s International Women’s Day and also the publication day of Tordotcom’s The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories: A Collection of Chinese Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation (ed. Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang). As a collection that spotlights contemporary SFF by women and non-binary writers, I thought it would be appropriate to contribute an essay on the story of the amazing growth and diversification of China’s female web literature output.


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Fiction Fans: Translating and SFF

It was so lovely to be on the Fiction Fans podcast with hosts Sara and Lilly. The episode was focussed on Sinopticon, the anthology of Chinese science fiction I’ve curated and translated, but we discussed so much more – tea, reading, SFF, the fine techniques of translating. Highlighted stories include Meisje met de Parel by Anna Wu, The Tide of Moon City by Reging Kanyu Wang and The Last Save by Gu Shi. As with most delectable discussions, the conversation meandered into all sorts of topics, but the episode was loosely based on the following questions. Follow the link below.


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Hesuipian 2022

For those of you finally seeing the back of the Christmas weight gain, have some sympathy for those of us who live with a foot in both China, and the West, and are now heading again into further festivities. With nearly two weeks of celebration, mainly marked by meals, snacks, and other culinary over indulgences, it’s no surprise that China has collectively decided to escape into cinema for a respite from food and family.

As usual, anticipation has built up over the last few months for the greatest annual celebration in the Chinese calendar, and among the food shopping, clothes buying, and decorating, bookings have been flooding in to cinemas by the millions, reserving seats during what is now the busiest cinema season of the year. Hesuipian, or “films to celebrate the birth of a new year” are now integral part of Spring Festival, but the tradition only really established itself in the late 90s.


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The Shengxiao and Chinese Horology

The Chinese Zodiac, 十二生肖,Shi’Er Shengxiao, has existed ever since the first dynasty of Qin. There are many theories surrounding its origin. Some suggest that it was a way of counting time created by neighbouring tribes of herdsmen who intermingled with the Han Chinese in various ways throughout history; others that the zodiac was based on the twelve animals ridden by Indian gods. Anthropologically speaking, the zodiac seems to combine our primeval worship of totems with early astrological observations. 


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The Legend of White Snake: From Cautionary Tale to Tragedy, and Beyond

Recently, White Snake 2: The Tribulation of Green Snake came out on Netflix. This release brings us a unique experience of the Legend of White Snake in a contemporary adaptation, in the most accessible of media and platforms. As the tale of these (literally) millennium-old snake spirits become part of the global cultural consciousness, here’s a quick look at how they came into being.


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The History of Manhua: The Modernist Era

After exploring the ancient beginnings of the Chinese comics tradition, I take a look at manhua in the early 20th century. 


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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: A Reaction

As a culture writer, a Chinese person, and a comics nerd, I’ve had a deep interest in the character of Shang-Chi, and the way he has been used over the last half century. I’ve written about him in the build up to Marvel’s first Asian led movie, but now that I have seen the film, and had a chance to really digest it, I’ve got a lot to discuss.


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