Takeaway Drivers, Stuck In the System

Over the pandemic and lockdown measures, online orders, couriers and delivery drivers have been a lifeline around the world for life to have a semblance of normality, nowhere is this more so than in China, where quarantine procedures have been one of the strictest.  One of the articles that went viral this autumn is a People (renwu) magazine coverage of the condition of takeaway delivery driver and the extraordinary pressures they’ve having to face. This article is, of course, written in Chinese, but it’s a piece that the world needs to read. So I present a quick translation in instalments. It’s the end of the year now, but as the virus rages on, we’re still having to rely on these unsung heroes. So I hope that after reading this article in translation, you’ll think about these people over Christmas, while enjoying the festive treats that have been delivered to your door, and opening gifts that were bought at the click of a button, and perhaps hold back from sending that complaint on the app, the next time your goods are a day or two late. Thank you to Radii for their coverage. 


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Shang-chi: Racist Stereotype or Legendary Kungfu Superhero?

I did some work on Shang-chi for a project last year, which didn’t materialise due to the pandemic. The filming of the MCU movie was delayed, also due to COVID_19. Now that it’s finally in the can, I’m celebrating its shaqing by reworking the contents of that unfortunate project into an article that looks at the pitfalls and potential of Marvel’s cultural representation of a character whose origins were so problematic, and yet whose development through the decades of comics has been so interesting.


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On Chinese Horror: Contemporary Writers

Horror is one of my favourite genres. Previously during Zhongyuan (Ghost Month), I’ve written about different types of Chinese ghosts and spirits, classical Chinese horror literature, and horror films. This year, I’m taking a look at contemporary Chinese horror writers. Here are eight significant writers in the kongbu genre. 


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Daughter, Warrior, Woman: The Evolution of Hua Mulan

In the first part of my Mulan article, I discussed what the Disney animation meant for the Chinese in China, as well as for global audiences; looked at the initial trailer of the new live action film and talked about what I hope to see in it. To understand Mulan’s significance as a cultural icon fully, we need to go to her origins and see how she evolved. I will focusing on two relatively recent film adaptations that have made the greatest impact around the world (China included), so we could see where Mulan is culturally, particularly in terms of her representation in cinema, just before a new major work comes out. 


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LGBTQ+ and Chinese Society

In the third article of my LGBTQ+ series, I put the subject into the context of traditional and modern Chinese society, and look at the challenges faced by China’s queer population, governmental approach as well as factors that are changing public perception. 


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China’s LGBTQ+: Landmark Cases

A few years ago I started a series on LGBTQ+ in China. Despite the cancellations and shut-downs, it was a hopeful time, the internet had brought the public closer to the concept of queerness, established groups organisations were supporting communities whilst improving public awareness. Campaigners were continuing to sue for change in educational materials and the few festival were braving the storms. A few years later, the clamp-down has tightened, especially in the media and on public events. All in all, the enthusiastic bubbling of activities seemed to have quieted down. This doesn’t mean that communities no longer exist, or groups are no longer at work. In fact, many legal battles have been fought in the last few years, some more successful than others, but they have all generated a lot of public debate and amply demonstrated the gaps in China’s legislature with regards LGBTQ+ rights.


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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 Chinese Music II: 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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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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