Reclaiming Yellow: What does it Mean to be Chinese

I have always been proud to be Chinese. Growing up in Britain during the 1990s, surrounded by a mix of Chinese family, friends of mixed ethnicity, and generally accepting people all round, it was not something I felt I needed to defend or actively promote. It wasn’t until I went to university, and came into contact with a wider public, that I began to see a problem.


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On China’s LGBT

Whenever LGBT issues are mentioned in connection with China, they are almost always reported as negative. LGBT Apps and events being shut down, and one map published during Pride Month coloured China black, as “Persecuting LGBT”, alongside countries like Iran and Nigeria, where homosexuality is still a capital crime. This is of course an outdated and selective view of the country, and whilst it still has a way to go, I think it’s important to set the record straight as to its actual current position, and the history behind it. Like most things about China, its attitude to LGBT issues needs to be understood within the country’s very unusual and unique historical and cultural context. The ancient Chinese had passing acceptance of queer relationships, with homosexual love appearing in written records as early 650 B.C. As with most agricultural nations, where progeny are a necessity, society tolerated homosexuality mainly as a casual penchant of royalty and the aristocracy through the dynastic periods. As society modernised, the political climate during the 1960s and 70s, meant it became politicized as a “bourgeois decadence”, and was outlawed as a crime against the country. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that the Chinese really began to interact with the concept of LGBT, in a way that lead to mass inherent misunderstandings. In the late 1990s, legislative progress began to be made. This was slow going, beginning with decriminalisation of homosexuality, but not extending to the removal of trans and queer issues from the list of mental Continue Reading →


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The Cats of Canton

This article is dedicated to the cats of Canton. Cats were introduced into China via Persian Empire and Egypt. The Chinese term for cat “mao”, phonetically resembles very closely the Egyptian “mau”. To this day, the predominant pedigree in China, tends to be the Persian Longhair. As a child in Guangzhou, I remember spending a lot of time with a white Persian named Tao Tao, whenever my frantically busy mother deposited me at the neigbour’s for the evening or the weekend. Tao Tao, whose name means “naughty”, was anything but. In fact, she was rather timid and skittish, my over-enthusiastic playfulness sometimes sent her scuttling to a dark corner of the flat to hide.


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Iron Fist or Ham-Fist?

A dramatization based on Marvel’s Iron Fist took a long time coming. The comics themselves which began in the 1970s only came into being with the craze for kungfu films in the US at the time, and even with its blatant cultural appropriation and lumping together of all non-white cultures, it was a beacon as a Western comic with a semblance of diversity. The Fraction/Brubaker series in the 90s paid its dues to diversity, nodding to a long line of warriors from different backgrounds, who held the title of Iron Fist, though still representing in quite stereotypical terms the nation the culture of which it owed so much of its world building.

In the 21st century, with the popularity of superheroes TV series, and the success of the “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage”, many have been anticipating one on the warrior of K’un-Lun, and there has been calling from fans and celebrities alike for an Asian casting of its protagonist Danny Rand. The series had been delayed, due to creative debate on the on-screen depiction of the hero’s fiery powers. At last, it was released on Netflix on the 17th of March, and I watched through it all in one go to bring you a continuous commentary on social media. Owing to the positive response I’ve received, here’s a write up of the various themes and points of interest that have come to light.


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On Chinese Identity

A recent conversation on Twitter about books on Chinese history turned into a much deeper discussion of China and identities. The two issues that have come up are fractured diaspora identities, and the idea of a “unified China”.


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Children of China

Today (June 1st) is international Children’s Day in most countries around the world, a day set to commemorate the children who died in the Lidice Massacre of 1942 during WWII. China began celebrating this day for its children in 1949. On this day, children all over China will be pampered with toys, sweets and taken out for treats. They have always been a vital part of Chinese society, although in the last hundred years or so, attitudes towards them have vastly changed. In traditional Chinese society, ancestral lineage is paramount, and one’s offspring are the means of passing on one’s lineage. One of the primary duties of children is to carry and protect the family name, magnify its glory by uniting with another great lineage, and passing it on to offspring who can then take up the mantel. Children were instruments to the ultimate goal. 子孙满堂, to have a household full of children and grandchildren, was the traditional ideal for happiness. After urbanisation, and policies put in place for population control in Modern China, having a household full of offspring is no longer an option for most families in cities. Considering the cost of raising a child in modern China, very few parents would want a dozen children. Now, in China’s boom years, when structural and social developments occur too quickly to allow mental adjustment, the single children of China have become the primary focus of love, money and hopes for so many parents.  Allowing each family only one priceless little treasure, or in Continue Reading →


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