From Sandmonks to Spirit Bombs: A Taster

In the 7th century, the monk Xuanzang traveled from the capital of China to the middle of India. He journeyed through hundreds of states and countries, over 17 years and brought back 657 sutras. He recounted his experiences to the imperial court, and these were transcribed as Records of Western Regions Visited During the Great Tang. Xuanzang’s disciples / then wrote his biography, embellishing it with encounters and examples of Buddhist teaching. In the same way that any story told often enough begins to grow, the story of Xuanzang’s journey to the west would become the stuff of legends.


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Condors and Falcons

When I heard that Jin Yong’s Wuxia classic “The Condor Heroes” was being published in English, (translated by Anna Holmwood, and first volume released earlier this year), I was delighted. As a Chinese cultural commentator, I was happy to read the articles that this publication had generated, even by the old white academics who seem to have recently discovered the existence of Wuxia. One article however, did leave me mulling the content. In its use of journalistic shorthand, Vanessa Thorpe’s article in The Guardian a few weeks ago, described Jin Yong as being “China’s Tolkien”. Whilst I understand the reasoning for this, I feel that she’s missed the mark. In terms of story, character, genre, not to mention cultural significance, the world of “Condor Heroes” can be more appropriately described as China’s Star Wars.


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Contemporary Chinese Cinema Lecture, QMUL, 5th December 2017

Like its turbulent history, Chinese cinema has undergone many upheavals throughout the twentieth century, from an art form that was virtually non-existent at the beginning of the century, to a tradition that developed its own aesthetic, studio systems and language. It was employed by the state to further war efforts and revolution, after which it became a medium of response and rebellion. Privatization of the industry towards the end of the century eventually led to a new interdependence between the state and filmmakers that propelled Chinese cinema into the twenty-first century, with an explosion of genres, production and distribution methods.


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Chinese Ghosts III

And here is the finale of my mini article series on Chinese ghosts, with links at the end to more devilishly delicious reading on featured beings, if you wish!


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Chinese Ghosts II

Welcome to the second in my mini article series on Chinese ghosts – “Friendly Fiends”!


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Chinese Ghosts I

Tomorrow is Halloween or All Hallows Eve, the biggest festival featuring supernatural phenomenon in the West. The closest thing on the Chinese calendar took place this year about a month ago. That was Zhong Yuan, or Ghost Month, the biggest of three festivals of the dead. China has a rich history of ghosts and spirits, as many as 1520 have been compiled. To celebrate the global love of ghosties and ghoulies, I’ll be publishing a mini series of articles on the collection 33 ghosts I talked about over this year’s Ghost Month, to give you a flavour of Chinese ghosts and an idea of just how wide a range there is.


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Jian Bing Guo Zi

It has been lovely to hear about Brian Goldberg, who studied in Beijing in his youth and had grown to love the Jianbing so much that he spent almost 14 years studying the art of making this delicious pancake breakfast, and now brings it to the public on the streets of NYC, offering adaptations of the dish with more filling that are great for lunch or dinner. Let me tell you a little about the origins of the Jianbing.


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Traditional Chinese Clothing

Qi Xi, the Chinese Valentine’s Day that is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, is also known as Qi Qiao, the festival of skills. On this day, women pray and perform rituals in the hope that they could improve their skills in clothes making. As I already have written about the origins of Qi Xi, this year’s piece will be an introduction to those wonderful Chinese traditional garments that required such skills from tailors and weavers in their making.


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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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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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