FangCun Tea Market Part 3

It has become a tradition, on my trips to Guangzhou, to visit Qixiu tea market in FangCun, south-west of the city. I have written about this wonderful wholesale market a couple of times, where bulk-buyers and tea lovers alike may find their heart’s desire, and if not, at least taste delicious tea in good company, away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.


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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 This is of course an outdated and selective view of the country, and whilst it still has a way to go, I think it’s important to set the record straight as to its actual current position,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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Please Don’t Call Me Human: A Review

It’s not hard to tell from the cover that this book is going to be an unpalatable sort of satire. Whilst I find Wang Shuo very interesting as a writer, I found myself waiting for the suitable moment to start this book. When I finally did, the stark committee meeting scene it opens with put me off a couple of times. Having been exposed to the Chinese media in my childhood, there is something in the tone of official committee meetings that is inevitably soporific and dulling to one’s senses. It was not until the plot device of the Big Dream Boxer is revealed at the end of the first chapter, that I really started to engage with the story.


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On Chinese Children’s Sci-Fi

Chinese science fiction is still a relatively new concept for Western readers. It is not so in China. An encounter during my trip to China earlier this year vividly illustrates domestic attitudes to science fiction. While browsing at a major national book shop, I asked the assistant where I could find the science fiction. She directed me to one end of the shop, where I found children’s literature and educational books. Baffled, I returned to the assistant and inquired again, providing an example of the sort of books I was looking for. “Liu Cixin’s Three Body? Oh, why didn’t you say so before?!” I was re-directed to a section at the end of a row of shelves, where, albeit small, I found the selection an elegant sufficiency to keenly pique my interest.


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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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Little Lantern Buns: The Xiao Long Bao

Following this week’s news on the Xiao Long Bao and seeing so many Chinese people so endearingly (and all the more because it’s so rare) express their passion and love for this dish, I want to tell you a bit more about its history and the way it’s made, for it is truly a demonstration of Chinese culinary excellence.


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Raiding China’s Tomb Adventures

Our penultimate post is about popular Chinese fiction of the ghostly, grave-robbing kind. We are thrilled to post this piece by writer and translator Xueting Christine Ni, who is currently working with the fantasy and science fiction author Tang Fei, and writing a book on Chinese deities. Having studied English literature in London, and Chinese literature in Beijing, she is now based mainly in the UK.

As a writer on Chinese culture, specialising in pop culture, I’m often asked about genre fiction. “Do the Chinese do science fiction?” or “Does China have Horror?” Over the last two decades or so, Chinese pop culture has grown exponentially. Economic growth and relative political stability have allowed writers and artists the space to let their imagination run free and to create in readers a taste for such entertainment and variety.


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Manuscript of a Century: an Extract

From the father of Pinyin, Zhou Youguang. Because I liked his introduction.


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